Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wow! Cool Freebie!!

Wow- Freebie

I stumbled upon PearBudget while over at ZenHabits. I downloaded a couple of different budget spreadsheets to try out from different sites. The one I got from PearBudget has me saying, “THIS is free?” Ha, ha, well, I have downloaded it now, so it is mine mine mine! I suggest you do the same before this guy comes to his senses.

Here is what you get:
A start-up guide/page that allows you to enter your own categories. I really like this because pre-made budget spreadsheets often do a lot of assuming.
A year’s worth of spreadsheets. I am going to save a blank copy along with the copy I will actually use so that each year I can start with a blank spreadsheet. For each month you just click the appropriate tab at the bottom.
An analysis page. It will automatically update itself as you enter more information.

Here is what I LOVE about it:
You set your own categories.
Variable expenses have a monthly tracking log. If you spend $50 on groceries on the 15th you just type it in there and it automatically adds it all up and puts it in the program for you.
It tells you how much you save or have left over each month.
Your envelope categories also have their own area under “irregular expenses” You can either use the envelope system and save this much each month, or you can write it in only when you use it.
If you haven’t spend it all of the money in a category it tells you how much you have left for the month. Kind of like my notebook system without needing a calculator.
You can change the budgeted amount for variable expenses each month on the month page (but not fixed or irregular)
It is FREE!

What I don’t like:
I didn’t find it sooner.
I will have to load the program to track my expenses, but it does come up faster than MS Money.
It is somewhat limited in how many items you can enter. I had plenty of room but some might not.
It took me a while to figure out where to enter income (Column M, also by the exact day you deposit it, which is cool if you have a garage sale, get several checks per month, etc.)
I also noticed after playing around some more that whatever you enter for your fixed expenses, it automatically calculates. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you enter the amount or not, it figures in your original input. This kind of scared me because I thought all my money was gone before I was finished spending. Not really a problem once you understand it.

As you can tell, I am a big fan, and I haven’t even used it for a real month yet. The reason I like it is because it is my exact notebook system on my computer. I also get the added bonus of an analysis of my spending. I suggest you at least check out the webpage because it really is a great tool!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This week's carnivals

Carnival of Personal Finance- This link is working now. I was sent the wrong one.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

My favorites from the C of DR.

Debt Free Revolution says Credit Cards are Bad Math…. So leave Dave Ramsey alone

When I checked this poll it was almost dead even 74 to 75 in favor of high interest being paid first. My readers do not agree. You will save some money going high rate first, but I tend to agree again with Ramsey on this one… lots of debt snowball posts in this carnival! Check it out at NCN network

Finally, what is the main reason we are trying to pay off debt? Paid Twice says to spend more money! So true! My main motivator is so that we can buy things out right instead of taking out loans for everything. A good tip here if you want to save is to make it automatic. The first thing I did after getting my degree and getting a job was to earmark a nice chunk for retirement. I have never seen it therefore I never spent it, I saved it.


Wow, do you ever have those moments where you just go, DUH?? I had one yesterday. I was looking through the back of Dave Ramsey's TMM book and there were several budget categories with astricks beside them. I figured out that it meant for you to use the envelope system for those. If you are not familiar it is very simple. Get an envelope- write a category on the outside- each month you put money in. If you don't spend that money you leave it in and put in the same amount next month. For example, you don't get your oil changed every month, but if you put away $10 a month in an envelope you will have money for when you do get it changed.

The DUH moment came when I realized that one reason I go over budget is because I don't budget for these "seemingly" small costs, but they add up. DUH, I know. But, I really never put two and two together. I always thought all of that money should be going to my debt. No wonder I have to tap into my emer fund so often. DUH DUH DUH

But, as GI Joe would say, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!" Then he always said YO JOE... probably not as appropriate in this post.

Debt Snowball Intensifiers!!

Okay I don't even know if that really is a word, but you get what I mean. I am going to say it again CASH4BOOKS ROCKS!!!

I just put in a new order today and I am getting over $30 for 9 books. That works out to a little over 3 dollars per book. (some are actually worth 6 and one only .50) Tell me how much you charged for your books at your last garage sale? I usually charge 25 to 50 cents. Sometimes I try to get 3-5 bucks for textbooks. But I have NEVER sold thirty dollars worth!

So far my sales to Cash 4 Books have totaled almost exactly $100. The hardest thing about it is finding a box to ship the books in. Here it is step by step on how it works:

1. Gather up old books you don't want. (non-fiction) Hell, if you are trying to pay off your debt you might even gather up some you DO still want. (How bad do you want to be debt free?)
2. Go to the website here and enter the isbn for each book. Do it all at once then highlight the list and copy it just in case.
3. See which books they are or are not buying. If they are not buying one check back in ONE week. They update weekly. If you don't want 50 cents for your copy of Yoga for Dummies take it off your list and try again in a week. I did this with one book and it went from two bucks to five. (they can go down though)
4. Once your list is ready to go check out.
5. Print your packing list and FREE shipping label.
6. Find a box (hardest step I promise)
7. Pack them up (see website's tips) and send them off.

If you choose PayPal for your payment you get a 3percent bonus, but PayPal does take a percentage of the sale (I think 3percent, lol)
I don't miss the books I get rid of and if I do I can always go to the library and check them out- which is what I should have done in the first place.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Objects in the Rear-View Mirror May Appear Poorer than They Are

I passed a woman while driving the other day. She was in a convertible with a beautiful scarf around her head to combat the actions of the wind while she drove with the top down. She was turning into a casino parking garage. My first thought as I passed in my "soccer mom mobile" was, "wow, I'd love to have a car like that, it looks fun." And surprisingly, for the first time EVER, my second thought was, "I bet she's in debt up to her eyeballs like the guy in that commercial." Of course his next phrase is, "Somebody help me."

I began to think what a turn around this was for me. From reading, both on the internet and finance books, I have come to truly understand that you never know what is going on just based on what you see.

Maybe that woman is in debt. Maybe she is married to a very rich man who just buys her whatever she wants. Maybe she saved every penny for that car (while taking care of all of her other financial responsibilities) and is now enjoying the fruits of her hard labor. It really doesn't matter what her situation is, it shouldn't have any bearing on MY life.

What it made me realize is that for ME in MY situation, I could not afford a car like that and still meet my other financial goals. For that reason, I am fine with my "van" (it isn't a van but my husband and his friends call it one to tease me) More than that I realized that I have finally gotten my priorities straight. Now when I see someone with expensive clothes and accessories, I imagine what her credit card balance must be- always higher than mine of course. And in all actuality, it probably is.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More on Groceries

Let’s see. Do I really have to count today as the first week of my “new” way of grocery shopping? Yes, I guess I do. And, how did I do? TERRIBLE! First, I took my husband and kids with me. MISTAKE NUMBER ONE! I also bought a few items that were not grocery but we needed, like diapers for the baby. However, I also bought some things that we did not need at all. Add in to that my daughter begging for junk food, my husband saying yes most of the time and well, we spent just under $200. However we definitely bought more than a week worth of food. So when I go back next time, BY MYSELF, I think it will be much much better. Let’s hope!

Funny, when I posted my last post on groceries, Trent at the Simple Dollar and JD at Get Rich Slowly both had grocery articles up too. Here they are because they were both really good and related. Trent’s article JD’s article I have deemed August “Grocery Savings Month” because, well, I want to. I will try to keep everyone updated on MY progress. Please share your own tips too!

Sorry if the updates are a bit slow this month. I will be starting back to school ( and have actually been working the last two weeks ). The first few weeks of school are always hectic and library is a new position for me. If you don’t want to miss any updates you may want to subscribe so you will be notified by email. Thanks!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grocery Update!

I don't start the "real" experiment until next week, but I tried it out Sunday and it went pretty well! In total I spent $50.50 for a week's worth of groceries. Here are some of the things I did:

  • I went through our pantry and decided what we already had that could be used for meals.

  • I wrote down all of the meals so I would have a list to refer to.

  • At the store I bought only store brands where possible.

  • I actually did make a few impulse purchases, but they still didn't break the bank.

One thing I could have done differently was to buy store brand cookies instead of the lunch variety pack. I didn't think of it until I was out of the store and YES that was one of my impulse purchases. I could have saved $3 if I had gone with the store brand.

Now the only problem is getting myself to cook the food :)

Next time I go shopping I plan to look at the cost of making my daughter's lunch versus having her buy it at school. Last year the cost was $1.50 a day. I think it may be more now. I have to determine how many lunches I can make out of the food I buy then divide that cost by the number of lunches it makes. I will let you know what I come up with. If anyone has already done this I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Did I Ever Tell Ya About the Time I Had My Identity Stolen?

I recently polled readers and asked if any of them had been a victim of identity theft. I got a huge NO. Although some knew someone who had been a victim, they had not been themselves. I am very glad that for most of you identity theft has just been something you have heard of or read about. For me, it became a frightening reality in December of 2003.

I was the victim of a burglary and my purse was stolen. Luckily my debit card was in my possession, but the thief did get a credit card (which looked like a debit card) , a full book of checks, my driver’s license, and social security card. Let me take a very quick break and say NEVER EVER carry your social security card on your person unless you KNOW you will need it. It is not a necessary piece of identification and it is VERY tedious to get it replaced.

So, what were my first actions? While my husband notified the police (and he is an officer himself), I called my credit card company. I have a card that looks like a debit card because it is issued by my credit union. I had the option of setting up a PIN for it, but never did because I did not want the option of cash advances. When I called the company, the thieves were actually trying to get my card to give them money from an ATM. They had already tried it 30 times in 4 different ATM’s in the hour since it had been stolen. They were pretty smart. They would only go to ATM’s that allowed you to swipe the card so it would not be confiscated. However, the representative told me that it was locked after three unsuccessful attempts. It kind of made me feel good that they were wasting their time.

The next day I called out sick at work and went to the bank as soon as it opened to cancel my checks. Unfortunately, they felt that was not enough since the thieves had so much of my information. I had to close an account I had opened when I was 13 years old and get a new one with a new number, etc.

I thought that was enough. I thought I had done everything I could do to make this nightmare stop, but I was wrong. A few days after I closed the account, I began getting letters from Wal-Mart, and even a call from a lawyer representing a local restaurant asking me to make good on my bad checks. Everyday after that I would open the mailbox to 5 or 6 angry letters. Well, I began to get angry.

The cops had no leads, and I began to think these jerks were going to get away with it. I had gotten a list of the ATM’s that my card was tried at. I started calling banks and asking if I could have them send the security tapes to the police. They said they would only do so if the police requested it. As soon as the bad checks had been processed by my bank I went down and got copies. I can’t tell you how unnerving it is to see your signature in someone else’s handwriting. I broke down in tears in the middle of the bank. Then I got even more angry.

I called Wal-Mart and asked if THEY could pull some security tape. They said YES! I gave them some codes that had been on the back of my checks. They said their security guard would look at the footage and be on the lookout for the people in the video. My husband KNEW the head of their security. He was a reserve officer with the same police department. He looked at the footage and RECOGNIZED the thieves, a male and female, as a couple who frequented the Wal-Mart. Now it was all a waiting game.

On December 24, 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Identity Theft were seen in the store. They went around and shopped for quite a while (actually buying Christmas gifts) When they got to the register, Mrs. IT pulled out my checkbook and used my last check to “try” to purchase the merchandise. When she handed the check to the cashier, my husband’s friend told her she would have to come with him. They were arrested on Christmas EVE! The male was release that night, but the female (the one who had been forging my name) was not released until Christmas afternoon. I told my husband even if they didn’t serve another day in jail THAT had given me the retribution I felt I needed.

Well, the male was not charged in a deal that got my husband his off-duty weapon back (he had stolen that in the burglary also). The female was charged with felony forgery and finished serving her 1 month sentence on my husband’s birthday last year. (she was actually in jail for Christmas again) Had I not been so active in looking for these goons they might have gotten away with it. If you are ever the victim of identity theft here are some tips to help you:

  • Call all credit card companies immediately.

  • Cancel any checks that you are sure they got away with, if you are not sure your bank can help you determine what you should do.

  • Work with law enforcement. Give them any store codes off the back of checks or any information from the ATM’s at which your cards were used. Your bank or credit card company will have this info but they probably will not immediately share it with the police.

  • Also remember the police have other cases that may be more pressing. Normally what will happen is your case will be assigned to an investigator who will get to it when he/she can. The more work you can HELP them do the better. In my case if I had not done it, they would not have been caught because they had run out of checks.

  • If you feel your social security number has been compromised call one of the credit reporting agencies and put a fraud alert on your card. It is an automated process that takes minutes plus they send you a free credit report.

Here are some tips to KEEP you from being a victim in the first place-

  • Carry minimal ID- only your driver’s license if possible.

  • If your state uses social security numbers for DL numbers have them change it (my state still does this and I am going to have it changed when it comes up for renewal again)

  • DO NOT carry your SS card for any reason. You only need it when filling out paperwork after getting a new job or registering for school as far as I know. Take it with you only when you need it.

  • Keep credit cards at home. You shouldn’t be using them anyway, but if you need to only carry them to the store and back home. Hey this tip will even keep you from impulse purchases. Kill two birds with one stone.

I hope none of my readers ever has to deal with this, but if you do, just remember it isn't the end of the world. Consumers have much better protection against this kind of thing now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Finally Did IT!

I cut up my last "emergency" credit card. After reading page 121 in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book, I stopped, grabbed my "emergency" card that I almost used yesterday, that has $4000 of debt on it, and I chopped it to bits. I had been reading the book, but something about that section finally spoke to me. I'm done. I have decided to "Live like no one else now so later I can live like no one else" Much thanks to JD at Get Rich Slowly for pointing out what an excellent book this is. Instead of running out and buying it I PATIENTLY waited for the library to get it back in so I could check it out! You know what is funny? I kept that stupid card around thinking it was giving me a sense of security but now I actually feel more secure. Now I can really say NO when my husband wants to buy something we don't NEED, or when a friend asks me to go out and I think... well I'll just put it on my card. I do have ONE thing to say if you are considering doing this... I do have a small emergency fund saved up right now so I have a true "emergency" fund I can use instead of having to charge it.

Wow, I'm really done. Finally done with those stupid cards.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


HERE it is!!!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Want your own Debt-o-meter?

I am not sure how large this will appear on your computer, but you are welcome to use it for your own site. To see a finished product, scroll down to the bottom of my page. Not very technical, but fun and motivational for sure!

Is a Free Degree Truly Free?

I must say I have been very lucky when it comes to financing for college. I was awarded $20,000 in grants when I first started going to school. I got married while still atteneding and had to take out loans since my income shot up (well, not really MY income but they don't care). My loans totalled a little over $18,000. Now I have the chance to go back and get my Master's for free. That's right, I said FREE. As a teacher/librarian this is the ONLY way for me to increase my income. Teachers have a fixed pay scale in my district. You get a raise for each year of experience and what type of certificate you hold (I have A, Master's would be considered AA) At first glance it seems like I should go for it right now and get it over with. However I am sure there are expenses I am not thinking about that will make it more expensive than I anticipate.

First, there will be the extra gas. The closest campus to where I live is about a half hour drive and that is using the interstate. It is also possible that I might have to take classes as far away as the main campus and hour and a half away.

Next, there is food. I would have take night classes because I have to keep my full time job. This seems like an easy fix, make something and take it but with two kids, work, making food for lunch, I seriously doubt I would have time to do this on a regular basis. And, I can't just stop back by the house on the way to school because that is already a really long drive for me.

I guess what I have to find out is the lowest number of hours I can take and still have it paid for by the Institute of Higher Learning.

So, I am trying to decide if going to school is worth possible having to put my debt repayment plan on hold. Right now I really don't want to do that. But,there is no real way to know how much it will cost me until I am actually there an doing it. I guess this just proves the old saying about nothing truly being free.

I also have to consider the benefits. My income will increase but not until I am completely finished. WHen I was an assistant I got to bring in my transcript after every semester and I got a raise. This doesn't work once you have your bachelor's. So, I guess right now I am just going to wait and see. If you have any more tips on how to minimize expenses while going back to school I would love to hear them!

Carnival of Personal Finance

Located HERE this week at the Mint blog. My article is featured under the tips section.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

Good morning! One of my posts will be featured in the Carnival of Debt Reduction HERE at From the Unknown. There are always a lot of great posts so check it out!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Groceries - Let's go shopping!

I was inspired by this post over at FreeMoneyFinance. I don't know if it is really possible to save $2000 by buying store brands. However, I have noticed that I am hemorrhaging money in the grocery budget area. I know what the problem is. Here are some of our really bad habits:

1. Going to Taco Bell for dinner.
2. Not eating things we buy and actually throwing out food because it has gone bad.
3. Not paying any attention to what we have at home and could add to to create meals at a lower cost.

Whew, I got if off my chest finally! Now granted Taco Bell is probably the cheapest fast food chain around, but there are some weeks where we eat there 3 times a week or more. (not the kids, just my husband and I) The other two are really just being lazy and a lack of planning. Well, I am going to try an experiment for next month and I will let you all know how it goes. First, I am going to plan our meals. At least 5 meals per week. I will also buy some "lazy night" things like hotdogs that we can do on nights when I don't feel like cooking. Also, I am going to try to implement FMF's idea of buying store brand where possible. Finally, I am going to try shopping once a week.

Why I am choosing some of these things:
Well, I used to cook a lot. I don't do it as much because I have just been lazy. It is healthier for me and my family not to be eating all of that over processed junk. I will shop once a week because what I try to do currently is shop for two weeks. This isn't working. I either forget what I had planned to cook and food spoils or I don't buy enough. This causes us to go to Taco Bell or back to the grocery store where more impulse shopping happens etc. Hopefully, if I go with a list once a week with meals already in mind this will work.

As I said I will start trying it in August and we will see! If you have any tips that you think might help, please post them!

We Only Do it Once a Month!! :(

I am the kind of person who likes to make things happen quickly. I have read a lot of articles recently about people needing more discipline or will power to get rid of their debt. And, I am not going to say this is not a key point. But, for someone like me, one of the biggest issues I have is that I am only able to do anything with my "bills" once a month. I am paid monthly obviously, so on the last day of each month (or sometimes a few days into the new month...eek) I sit down and figure everything up, see how much extra I can afford to pay on my debt and then I wait. I wait for another 30 days to do it over again. Don't get me wrong. I am glad that I CAN do this once a month and that my situation is not so bad that I have creditors ringing my phone off the hook. But, it can be so frustrating to see things happen so slowly.

The problem for me is not that it is taking so long to repay debt, I mean hey I did all the shopping! What I hate is that I can't do more. Like something every couple of weeks or so. And, honestly I am trying to do that by finding new ways to supplement my income.

So what is the problem? For me it is that the further I get away from my last payday the less I think about paying the debt and the more I start to think of all those things I want, want, want. And, to be honest, I get bored. That is a major reason for starting this blog. Even if I can't DO anything toward my debt at least I can get my frustrations out about it. I also find it comforting to read others' stories and hear the reassurances that eventually you do get it paid off and can start saving and investing more vigorously.

So, how do you deal with the fact that debt takes so long to repay, or that it is so long between paychecks? (For some of you it may not be) I would love to hear your ideas!!

*** Notice off to the side I have started a poll. Please vote! You don't have to enter any info to do so. I am hoping to use the information for an article somewhere down the road. Thanks!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Opened a CafePress Store!!

This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Most of the items I have created kind of relate to this blog, but I have ideas for a lot more. I love to create things so I hope some of you enjoy some of the things I have designed. Jenn's Shoppe

Completely Debt Free in Less than Five Years???

I have been reading the Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt, 2E (The Complete Idiot's Guide) I really hate that title. Anyway, it is a pretty good book. My main concern was that it wouldn't really have any new information in it, but it does. Not all of it is so great. After the time I spent on my previous post telling you things to do to avoid spending and their suggestions is "go fly a kite" eh... let's just say they didn't put a lot of time into ALL of the sections of the book.

But, who cares about the book... more about me! :) I was reading the section about setting goals, etc. And I decided to actually prioritize my own goals. I wrote the following-

Pay off all Debt.
Save 3 months worth of salary- roughly 12,000
Start saving for a down payment on a car (you know a new used car... cuz I'll never buy new)

Well, then I started thinking... what is a goal without a plan of action. Heck, businesses do it even for simple stupid things. I should do it for my own financial future. I could not BELIEVE what I found out. My original plan looked like this.

Pay minimums on all debt except for credit card 1. Pay $150 on that card. (yeah, can you believe that is over the minimum, lol)

When card 1 is paid go on to card 2 now paying $310 on the debt.

Move onto car pay $610 per month.

Move onto student loan paying $750 per month.

Then I decided I wanted to know how long it would take. Well, for the first two debts it would take about 3 years. When I started figuring out for the next debt, I got a number higher than what I owed that would be paid after 3 years.... that is because while in the process of paying my first two debts my car will already be paid off.. duh, I only have three more years on it!!!! So all that will be left is my student loan and after the first two, I will have that paid off in 17 months!!!! Now these are very rough figures, but WOW.... I mean my student loan is a TEN year loan... I can have it paid off in less than FIVE???

I was shocked. And, that is without considering that I might have extra money to pay toward my debts at some point in time. I plan to put part of my tax return and extra money from conferences or teaching summer school toward it, so hopefully it will be sooner than 5 years!!

I am excited about the prospect of that. I find it hard to believe that I bought a car for $18000 and it will have taken 6 years when it is finally paid off, but I currently have $40000 and I can do that in 5 years???? Crazy what paying more than the minimum can do!

However you know with all good news something decides to break! Our air conditioner finally went kaput and the best estimate so far is that it will cost $5500 to replace it- however the new unit will reduce our costs for electricity. Supposedly we get $500 from the electric company for switching it out also. I am not really sure what we are going to do. My dad is coming to look at it now and see if he can at least get it running again. My husband's dad may help out a little with the cost. But, my credit card is $1000 away from it's limit so I can't use that. And basically we don't have room for another monthly payment.

Where's an emergency fund when you need one? Oh, yeah, we spent it all on stupid crap. But, not anymore!!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ATTENTION Shopaholics: Alternatives to Spending While You Are Trying to Save

I decided to make this list as much for myself as for readers. Hopefully when I have the itch to spend I can come back to it and find some ideas of what to do instead. Honestly I was inspired by this article by Trent at The Simple Dollar. He talked about not spending a cent for an entire day. I actually did it the day I read the article. It was neat as I added up- I didn’t stop at the gas station for a bottle of water $2, ate something for lunch that I already had at home instead of fast food at least $5. It has also really helped me think about what I am buying before I just go spend. I decided to come up with some other alternatives to shopping because I know eventually it will get harder.

*Shop your closet. Go through all the stuff you have already bought and make up as many new outfits as you can. Still have something with the tags on? FIND something to pair it with and make it a point to wear it within the next week. This would also be a great time to get some things together for a yard sale!

*Shop your bathroom. Ok, I have to explain. If you are anything like me you probably have a ton of beauty products that you bought, used once and tossed under the cabinet. Go through all your beauty booty and pull out stuff to have a “spa night”. Bath salts, a face mask, bubbles, the works! Treat yourself with products you already have. (This one is geared more toward women I guess)

*Shop your own DVD collection. Again, if you are like most people you have a growing collection of DVD’s. Instead of adding to your collection or going and spending too much at Blockbuster, go through your own collection and pull out an old favorite. Pop some popcorn that you probably have way back in the back of your pantry and make it a movie night!

*Get to those long lost projects. Make yourself a list of little things you have been meaning to get to but never do because you are out SHOPPING for more stuff to do. Knit that sweater, put those pictures in the album or scrapbook, defrag your computer, the possibilities are endless. If you have a list to refer to when you have the urge to spend you will actually get things done. (Personally I use this for cleaning and it really works!)

*Take the kids out. But not to Chuck E Cheese’s! Take the kids out to the park or the beach. It is FREE and you get to have some quality time together. Quality time does NOT have to mean buying them things. Go to the museum or library… which takes me to the next item….

*Go to the library. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this one out. I AM a librarian (children’s library though). I have spent so much money on finance books. I could have checked them all out at my library and saved myself a ton of cash! In fact I just sold some of the books I bought here and only got $70 for them. I probably paid close to $200 when they were new. I could have had all of that information for FREE!!!

*Have a party. Hey being broke doesn’t have to suck. Get together with a few friends and have everyone make a dish with things they already have at home. They probably have a few bottles of alcohol to contribute too (if you are into that kind of thing). Enjoy each other’s company without paying ridiculous restaurant prices.

*Do a toy swap. Hey this can be for the kids OR the adults. Kids can borrow each other’s toys to have something new to play with and adults can borrow DVD’s or video games (yeah, not those kinds of toys…sheesh) Just be sure you trust the people you are swapping with and DON’T swap anything that would devastate you was it broken, etc.

*Use some of the junk you bought. I don’t know how many times I look at my Nintendo Wii and think, wow, I should really play that. So often we go and shop because we are bored. Meanwhile all of the things we bought while out shopping are sitting in our closet collecting dust. You bought it so USE it or SELL it!

Whew… that is all I can think of for now. Please feel free to add your own ideas. Others will definitely appreciate it. Well, I’m off to “shop my bathroom”. I think I am going to make it a spa night tonight!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wow, the First Nine Days of July were GREAT!

And now all of my extra money is gone. Um.... I kind of shopped my butt off. I don't know what I was thinking. Ate out twice, bought some dumbells, books for my daughter's trip, magazines for me, and on and on. I actually do have a little extra money because I don't have to pay for two weeks of daycare that I thought I would have to. I also still have my gas budget and my other daycare budget, so I am not OUT of money, just out of my extra money.

I thought this month would be really good because I got a check I had forgotten about and so I had some extra money on top of the extra I budgeted for. Well, I decided to get some new work clothes too and blew $100 on 4 tops. Yup, that is all I got, 4 freakin shirts.

I guess all I can do is promise myself to do better next month. It won't be as easy though. I don't get any more extra money until the end of August. Then I get my raise and some money for conferences I went to. I think I am going to split that evenly between my emergency savings and my credit card.

Hope you are all doing better than me!!

Monday, July 9, 2007

How Truthful are YOU About Debt? The $40,000 Question.

While putting together this week's carnival I saw that Blogging Away Debt had an interesting post about whether or not you should share your financial situation with your family. That is always a big decision for people. One of the readers commented that it depends on if you are doing it to request help, or just so that you can get moral support.

This got me thinking about my own finances. If you had asked me a few days ago how much debt I had, I would have said $4000. Period. That was my debt.

I didn't count my furniture because that is a fixed amount every month. (but it is on a Bassett credit card) I didn't count my student loans because technically that is good debt, right? Plus, I will be paying on that thing for like 10 years, so what can I do about it? And I didn't coun't my car loan because, hey, I could always sell the thing and get "some" of that money back (and I guess pedal my bicycle with my two kids on the back 30 miles to work each morning.)

Maybe it was helping me to only look at one little piece at a time. MAYBE if I had paid off the $4000, I would have turned to the next debt and started paying on it (I actually did plan to do that however....) But, more than likely as I got that 4 grand lower and lower it would have given me more reason to buy something else, or commit to another "monthly" payment for something I don't really need.

So, what is my grand total? My total debt, no more fooling myself, is $41,000. Wow, that is over ten times what I was "telling" myself. Surprising as it seems though, that number doesn't scare me. It pisses me off. Which is a good thing. It has revitalized my debt paying efforts, lol. Now I know for sure the credit card it going to be put away, (I am trying really hard to cut it up, but emergencies???), then on to paying off the furniture, then the car, and finally my student loans.

I added up all of my monthly payments and I am throwing $700 a month at my debt. Imagine how awesome it will be when I am saving that amount each month. That is my goal now. Pay off the debt then save the money!

I have been planning for a while to pay off my car and then keep it as long as I can so I don't have to worry about a car payment for a while. Then this next time I will actually SAVE up for the next car....

So how honest are you? Do you actually know how much debt you have? I had no idea until yesterday. It was truly a wake up call!

***** On the UP SIDE- my debt repayment efforts have RAISED my credit score 14 points in 4 months! Yea!

95th Carnival of Debt Reduction at Picture of Wealth!

Welcome to the 95th Carnival of Debt Reduction! We have some great articles this week on a wide range of topics.

On Debt and Credit Cards…..

Paid Twice has done some serious credit card research. Check out this plan for using 0% interest on balance transfers to your advantage. It is broken down into several scenarios that you may just be contemplating yourself.

Free Money Finance warns us to be leery of debt settlement services. Read here to see why it could actually backfire on your debt reduction efforts.

The Credit Analyst wants you to be careful when applying for store credit cards. Not only can it negatively affect your credit score to open up so many new accounts- those special offers that reel you in may not be so sweet either. Here’s why…

The King of Debt at We’re in Debt paid off $35,000 of credit card debt in ONE year. Granted they had a little luck on their side, but he has some awesome tips than anyone can use to supercharge their debt payment efforts.

Trent at The Simple Dollar takes on saving for retirement vs. repaying debt. Should you do both at the same time? One before the other? This is something I struggle with myself (don’t we all?). Read here to see his ideas.

On Life and Money…..

Stephanie doesn’t want to be rich! And, she has some pretty good reasons why. Maybe reducing debt so that you can live more comfortably (and happily) is a better goal than being able to outspend Bill Gates.

The Happy Rock ponders what role your current relationships are playing in your finances. Do you have friends who simply accept you or friends who encourage you to better yourself? Which is best? Read here and decide for yourself.

Inspired by a reader’s comment, Tricia at Blogging Away Debt explores the question of whether you should tell family members about your debt situation. Her own commentary is very insightful as are her readers’ comments…Check it out!

And on the Business side of things….

Do you have your own business? Maybe just thinking about starting one? Bootstrapper has an interesting article on how to turn $5000 in startup money into $200,000

This week Money Walks has some great tips on how to Maximize Tax Deductions on Travel. He tells you what is and is NOT an acceptable deduction, plus, other tips you might not be aware of.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Supplementing Income Part 3- WOW! So easy!

I was over at volition just surfing around last month and I came across a thread for Cash4Books. A lot of the people said that none of their books were listed but (being a book junkie) I thought I would try some of mine. (you can search by isbn #)The first book was accepted, then the second, third time lucky too! I ended up sending them around 15 old books I had lying around and I got just under $70!!!

I thought okay, yeah it says I will get $70 but when I send them in they will all have "something" wrong and they won't pay me. NOPE! I sent them in with the pre-paid label I printed off my computer and within about a week, they deposited the money into my Paypal account (paypal does charge a small fee on your payment).

Well, I thought maybe I could turn this into a little side business by going to my local thrift store and finding books, checking them on my Blackberry while I was in the store and only getting books that were worth more than what I was paying. Well, I walked into my thrift store only to find that they were going out of business... nice. But I think I will hit up some of the local yard sales. People are always trying to get rid of old textbooks (one of my best sales was for an OLD textbook $20)

A few tips- They only take non-fiction books.

Also, if you don't like the price, check back in a week. Their prices change weekly. I had a Rachel Ray cookbook that they were not even buying the first time I put it in. Then I tried again later and they accepted it. ALso, I had a book that they were going to pay around $1.75 for, when I reentered it a week later to add it to the actual invoice it was worth almost $5!!

You only have one week from the time you submit your order to get the books to them because like I said the prices change weekly.

Try this out and if you have any questions please ask! I would be more than happy to give my experience!

OOPS, ALMOST FORGOT!!! You actually get a BONUS for using Paypal to accept payment. Like 3% I think!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Last Chance!!!

I will be hosting the carnival of Debt Reduction next week. If you have a good article to submit please do so HERE!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

End of June Report

Well I DID IT! I did not use my credit card a single time this month! GO ME! I also paid $500 toward my balance. It kind of sucks because last month I had to shell out $400 for new tires so it kind of just balanced that out. But, at least I didn't add any more expenses this month.

I also finally got a little money in my emergency fund, that way if something (like tires) comes up again I'm covered. And, I just got my bill for car taxes so I will be using some for that.

I am trying something else new as well. I set up a notebook that has all of the amounts I set for certain categories. I don't really have a strict budget but I do allot for gas, day care, etc since I only get paid once a month. In the notebook I wrote down all the amounts and left space so that I can subtract whatever I spend and know how much I have in each specific category. I know it would be easier to have it on the computer but for some reason that wasn't working for me so hopefully this will.

I am also working on a spreadsheet that will allow me to do what I normally do on paper on the computer. Kind of hard to explain, but if I get all the bugs worked out I would be more than happy to share with everyone.

Be sure you check back next week, as I am scheduled to host the Carnival of Debt Reduction!!