Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Couldn't Log into My Blog Yesterday...And A Really Dumb Thing to do with Your Refund

I don't know what was going on yesterday but blogger was NOT letting me in!!! Sorry about that.

Anyway, I just wanted to comment on something really stupid I have been seeing lately. H&R Block has this new thing. It is a refund anticipation loan, which is stupid anyway, but now they will put it on a little pre-paid card for you. They even offer the lowest interest rate. Now, this is something that a couple years ago I would have thought was "neat" and I probably would have gone there just for the novelty.

Anyway, first off, you are taking a loan against your refund. So you will not be getting all the money that is coming to you. This is AFTER you pay them to do your taxes. They have just charged you twice. Next, they put it in THEIR account which you have access to with your little card. So you cannot make any interest on the money that you do get back. Money maker number 3 for HRB!! Then, I bet if you read the fine print, if you fail to spend all of the money within a specified period of time they probably start deducting money from the card.

I have no idea if you get any protection if the card is stolen, but this has got to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. I hope no one is falling for this. However, like I said, a few years ago, I sure would have. I would love to see some real life numbers on this to see how much money you actually could stand to lose based on your refund amount.

My husband and I have never taken an anticipation loan and we have always had the money within a few weeks. To me it is well worth the wait to make sure I get ALL of my money back.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cool Freebies from around the Web

I saw this article the other day about some freebies offered by Google. I don’t know about any of you but one of the worst ways I raise my monthly cell bill is by calling information for numbers. Google now offers this service for FREE!! You just have to program the number into your phone. The number is 1-800-Goog-411 (1800466411)

The other service is a text message search function. For example if you need an oil change, you type that in plus the city and it will send you search results in a text message. See the original article if you want this number. Since it is text messaging that isn’t really a freebie for some people.

The next thing I came across was a free investment seminar. I haven’t been to it, and I know nothing about it. I just came across it and thought it might be worth posting. So, this is kind of an “at your own risk” freebie.

And finally, my favorite site to check weekly. Freebies from Walmart. I have gotten almost everything I have ever signed up for. And, it does not matter if you put in your email or agree to the surveys or not. You will still get your freebie as long as they are in stock.

**I notice they don’t have much at right now and these freebies have been up for a while. They will probably change within the week.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Fun... Ways to Save Money or Lose a Few Friends

Alright. It is time to start being uberfrugal!!! Here are some great tips that will DEFINITELY save you money. Are they worth it? You decide.

Don't shower as frequently. This is the motherlode of frugal savings. You save on water, electricity or gas, AND, shampoo and soap!!! That is a whopping four areas you will save in if you stop taking so many baths or showers!! It is also better for the environment... in general. Not really good for the environment immediately surrounding your body.

Wear your clothes several times before washing.* So what if everyone KEEPS noticing that ketchup stain? You are saving BUCKS, honey!!! Again, water, electricity, and soap!!! Heck you are also saving on clothing costs because your clothes will last longer (although they won't smell as nice).

Invite yourself to dinner. Make it a habit of asking your friends and family members what they are having for dinner every night. When you find someone having some good eatin' invite yourself over. You can have a meal on them. If they start asking you what's for dinner in return always reply "ramen noodles". Just make sure they are within walking distance... you don't want to have to use gas to get a free meal!!

Fill 'er up! You never have to buy condiments again. Just help yourself to those little packets of ketchup, mayo and mustard when you see them. You can refill your own bottles at home. And, if you get down to the very bottom just add a few drops of water and swish it all around... good as new.

Free Gifts!!! There are lots of freebie sites on the internet. You can order all types of free samples. From fiber supplements to fish oil. Put them all together to make a nice little gift basket for someone (not-so) special. I am sure they will appreciate it... I mean it is free stuff, right?

Now, you're pushing it!! Why pay to stock your home office. Just bring home some supplies from work. Oh, wait... that is stealing... better skip this tip!!

I know some of you have some more great tips... feel free to add them!!

*This is actually something I do, although not to the point where they are stained, lol. This is not really an attempt to save money but to keep from having to do as much laundry. :)

Just in case you didn't pick up on it, this IS a joke... Happy Friday!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Making the Most of Your Money....Expecting or Not

It has been really tough making decisions on what to buy, what not to buy etc. With a baby on the way there are a lot of things that we truly do need. And a lot of things that are just extras… for example, yesterday’s stroller. Here are some ways I have chosen to save money and how you can relate it to your life even if you aren’t expecting.
We have decided against getting the 3D ultrasound. It is $175, and is not medically necessary. While it would be really cool to see, I don’t feel I am missing out. We will get to see and actually HOLD the baby soon enough. Plus, we already know it is another girl, so waiting to see her makes it a little more of a surprise on her birthday.

This could be similar to deciding to get professional pictures taken of your family. The portrait studios lure you in with a great sounding price, but once you see all those great photos it is hard to get out the door for under $200. So, set up your camera and take some great shots yourself or using your timer. My family always does this for our Christmas photo and it has actually become a comical family tradition.
We are waiting on the “waitable” items. I already talked about the stroller, but we also decided to wait on a highchair because we won’t need one for a while. This gives us time to save specifically for that item, while keeping more money in our emergency savings.

What can you wait on? I love the idea of putting things you want on a 30 day waiting list. This is where you write down the item the price and the date you decided you wanted it. If after 30 days you still can give yourself a good reason to buy it, it is all yours. Nine times out of 10 you will have talked yourself out of it, or put a bigger and better item on your list J
I have about a week’s worth of maternity clothes. I had several tops and two pair of jeans left over from my last pregnancy. That was not going to cut it so I did have to buy a few more items. However I have exactly 4 pair of work pants, plus my jeans on Friday to get me through the work week. I would LOVE to have a whole maternity wardrobe, but I couldn’t justify the cost for clothes that I would only be able to wear for maybe 7 months of my pregnancy and a few months after it. I have had to remind myself of why I am not getting any more many times, but I have probably saved myself well over $200 on the items I have placed back on the rack after talking myself out of it.

This doesn’t just apply to maternity clothes. Anyone who works knows that after a while you get tired of wearing the same old thing. Try to find many pieces you can mix and match to cure the monotony then STOP buying. I also take pieces out of my regular wardrobe at certain times of the year and actually box them up. When I reopen the box, it is like going shopping. If you are into all the latest trends this won’t work for you. I suggest getting some timeless pieces and only adding trendy things to them a few times a year. Remember, trendy clothes go in and out very quickly so you will not get as much of your money’s worth on them.

I have finally learned to appreciate second hand items. I was really kind of grossed out when my mother-in-law gave me a used Diaper Genie when I was pregnant last time. It had been used by my sister-in-law so that made it not so bad for me. However, I swore I was going to buy a new one as soon as I could get to Walmart again. Guess what… three years later that Genie is about to fall apart, but we are still using it. We will be getting a new one for this baby, but only because the other is really falling apart.

I have never really minded second hand items except when it came to my children. I would often go shopping at the thrift store for clothing, craft supplies, video games, tapes, and cd’s…. but never wanted anything for the baby to come from there. Why? I guess the thought of a new baby brings thoughts of new “stuff”. However we soon found out that the thrift store also contained the same VHS tapes we had been buying at the store for $10 for a whopping $0.99!!! That pretty much cured me. Except for the car seat, we will probably be doing some garage sale shopping for this baby after my shower. Again I am talking about baby items here, but if there is something you want and can possibly get at the thrift center or a garage sale, go for it!!! If it is useable and saves you money what is the problem?
Don’t get me wrong. I still splurge occasionally. I got a baby sling for close to $70, but I figure this might also keep me from needing that tandem stroller. I also found a cute maternity top the other day, but only bought it because it is a style that can be worn after the baby and well after I am back in regular clothes. However, saving where we can has made it easier to handle my $500 worth of new brakes that HAD to be purchased, and my diabetic testing supplies that I now need to keep my sugar in check while pregnant. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about some of the changes you have made since getting your own finances in order. Share them with us, or just give yourself a big pat on the back. I am proud of you... and me!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Making (not-so) Major Decisions

Okay, so the decision I made is not THAT major, but in the scheme of things it is. I was also really impressed with myself for not just “going” for it since I had the money. The decision I am talking about is whether or not to purchase a tandem stroller.

We have a toddler and will soon have an infant. I have been looking at tandem strollers on the internet and I had found one that cost about $225. I liked it, but I had held off because that is a big chunk of change for a stroller. Well, today I was surfing and I came across another one that was even better! It had not only the sit and stand option, but also had a second seat that was removable.. Not only does this make it have more options, but it probably raises the probability that I could sell it later on at a garage sale, etc. This one was only $150. And, I now have the money to buy it.

My final decision was to WAIT. But, I came up with some really good reasoning, and I will share it here in hopes that it may help someone else, whether you are looking for a stroller, a computer, a car…. whatever.

I asked myself these questions…

Do I have an alternative that I could use instead? Or Do I already have something very similar?
Yes, I have a stroller that will probably hold any new infant carrier that I will buy. Plus, we have an umbrella stroller. This does not solve the problem of holding two children at once, but it does mean that if I had to go out the baby would have a stroller and my toddler could walk.

How soon do you need it?
This is another question that has kept me from buying a new highchair as well. With the stroller, I probably will not really need it until months after the baby is born. Same thing with a new highchair, that is even further down the line. Why is the timeframe important? Well, our budget is still going to be quite tight. If I can save this money for a few more months I am earning interest instead of seeing my money sitting in the garage. Plus, I may find I don’t really need the item after all.

How much will you really use it?
The final decision on whether to get the stroller or not came when I thought about exactly that. I need to take the baby and my older child on an outing before I decide. I will take the baby in the stroller we already have and let my toddler walk. If it doesn’t work out, then I will go ahead and buy the tandem stroller, but if it isn’t a big deal, I have saved myself $150!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Will You Do Your Taxes?

There are three ways that I know of to do taxes. You can do them completely by yourself, with an IRS guide and a 1040 form, use a program like TurboTax or go to an accountant. I have used all three. I will tell you when and which have gotten me the most money back from Uncle Sam.

When I first started doing my taxes, I did them myself. I was divorced, had a child, was going to school, and working full time. I did make use of Earned Income Credit for a couple of years, but those first few years I really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t claim any of my school expenses, I didn’t claim daycare, in fact I probably didn’t get half of the money back that was coming to me. Unless you are studying to become an accountant, or are single with no children… I don’t suggest this method.

Then there is the TurboTax route. First you have to pay for a program. It is pretty easy to use, but some of the things in it I still didn’t understand. You still have to know a little about taxes to make it give you your full refund. For example, the year I used it I was still a college student. Since I had told the program that, it asked me for all types of college documentation, but I still didn’t know what it meant. My husband wanted to go to an accountant that charged $100 to do our taxes, but I thought I could save us $75 doing it this way. He kept pushing me to go to the accountant. I had figured up our refund which looked really good, but in the end, before I finished it, we went to the accountant.

Wow, imagine that, MY husband suggesting a smart financial move. He had had his done by a professional for years and I had looked back on his old taxes and seen that she had gotten him some deductions that I had never heard of and that were not in my “computer accountant’s” list of questions. I was a little upset at having spent around $25 for the TurboTax program then turning around and spending $100 on an accountant… but it actually increased our tax return by over $1000!! I couldn’t argue with that. Even with the cost, we still got an extra $875 more than we would have with TT, and I knew that it was all legal, etc. I have never gone back to doing my taxes myself or wasting money on any of those programs. I think this method is best for anyone with dependent children, going to college, or who have extra businesses on the side.

In the end you have to decide what is best for you. If you owe money, Turbo Tax is probably the way to go because it is less expensive than hiring an accountant. However, I also like the fact that now when we go in it takes very little time because most of our info from the year before is the same. And, again, if you are single without any investments, kids, or college expenses you can probably do them for the cost of a stamp by yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I will keep posting this....

Everytime I see a commercial for I will post this message.... First of all.... IT IS NOT FREE.....

You get your free report at And I really feel like they should be forced to swap names.... or at least give "free" to the site that really is. At annualcredit repot you can access your free report from each of the three reporting agencies once a year. The best way to do it is to get ONE every four months. This way you can check it throughout the year. Most of the companies then offer you your credit score for a fair amount.

However, going to freecreditreport requires you to enroll in a credit monitoring program BEFORE they hand over the free report. I am so tired of this misleading commercial. Please bookmark this so you will always know how to get your report completely free of charge... you do not have to enter any credit card information, etc.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Tuesday

It is Tuesday isn't it? I did so good last week!!! I added a lot of new stuff which hadn't happened in quite a while and now... nada. Well, I have had some new medical issues to deal with that were quite unexpected, but don't worry I am doing fine. I am also having a SUPER crazy week at work, requiring me to work later hours... which is not at all common for me. And, to top all of that off, my in-laws are coming this week, so I am trying to get things ready for that. Is this enough of an excuse? LOL.... I will try to get some new content up soon... here is a quick little story though....

My husband went on vacation to visit his parents a while back. While he was gone I decided to do one of those room makeovers for him. I worked my behind off for three days getting it all ready. We had a futon frame in this room with no mattress so I went out and bought an air mattress for it. It actually fit really well, and it was one of those that blows itself up which is great! Well, long story short.. he didn't really care for the room that much. We decided to get rid of the futon frame so he deflated the mattress and while he finished other things he put it out on the back porch... of course it rained and he had forgotton the mattress was on the porch... So it was ruined. Well, with his parents coming down he decided we needed to buy a new one... OH NO, I said.... I thought my mom had one we could borrow... She did and we did so now we have what we need without spending money!!! Moral of the story- Don't leave expensive stuff out in the rain, but if you do see if you can borrow one instead of buying one all over again.... and this time keep it out of the rain :) Have a great week everyone. I will try to post again if I can this week!!!!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Biggest Money Accomplishments

Well, you know about my mistakes, but over the last year I have made some great progress. Here are some of my biggest accomplishments. Please list your own. I find them very motivational.

1. I stopped adding to my debt. Probably one of the best things I have done for my financial situation. I do not use credit cards anymore. I can’t say I have done this consistently for an entire year, but everyday gets me closer to that mark.

2. I cut up my credit cards. Obviously this is in direct relation to the first one. However, I can’t tell you how freeing it is to cut up your cards. We were dependent on them. We used them every month for things as necessary as groceries… but I don’t miss them. It has also lowered my stress level significantly because the option to use them is gone.

3. I found money. Yup, every month I was paying more than I needed to for things. I did this in several ways. I combined my cable, internet and phone service saving fifty dollars a month. I also changed my cell phone plan which was only supposed to save me ten dollars a month but it somehow turned into fifteen. I stopped contributing to a couple of savings plans in order to get my debt paid down faster.

4. I have never stopped contributing to my retirement for any reason. Technically I have been doing this for 8 years. That is my mandatory state retirement though. Two years ago when I graduated college and got a new job I began contributing to a 403b. I have not let anything keep me from doing that and I love opening that envelope every month and watching those numbers get bigger and bigger.

5. I just pay more attention. And, I think that can make all the difference in the world. I think about purchases now. I think about how much something is actually costing me in terms of how much I will use it and how much interest that money could be accruing in the bank. I analyze my accomplishments and my mistakes to see where I need work and where I am doing okay.

Please add your own accomplishments to this list. I know if you really think about it you have made some progress somewhere!!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Biggest Money Mistakes

Mistakes are awesome. Not at the time of course, but once you are passed the problems they have caused they are great because you can look back and see what you have learned. Here are some of my biggest mistakes along with how they helped me. Feel free to add your own too by commenting below. We can all learn a little something from other’s mistakes.

1. I paid off a credit card with my emergency fund. ALL OF IT. I think I may have been left with $50. That was dumb. Why? Well, I hadn’t been keeping up with my bills very well. I had been using some of the emergency fund almost every month to cover expenses but I hadn’t thought about that. Sure, I lost the credit card bill, but I still wasn’t making enough to cover everything.

How I fixed it- I stopped contributing to my deferred comp plan and stopped putting money into my children’s college fund. I don’t intend to continue either of those until all of my debt is paid off, so it would have happened eventually anyway.

2. I put $8000 of furniture on a store credit card. Yup… that was about the time I started this blog. I am extremely lucky that the interest rate is only 4.9% However, I am sure if I am ever late on a single payment it will go up to twenty something percent.

How I fixed it- Well, I am still paying on it. I pay a little more than the minimum, but right now I am working on my lowest balance credit card. When that is paid off, all of the money left will to toward this to pay it off sooner.

3. I raised the limits on my credit cards. I don’t remember the exact reason why, but I know I wanted to buy something and didn’t have any room left, so I asked for an increase and of course got it.

How I fixed it- I am still working on this one as well. I have stopped adding to my debt and am paying above the minimum to get this paid off.

4. I went for many months without tracking my spending. I was using credit cards and my emergency savings to make ends meet toward the end of each month.

How I fixed it- I now track my spending monthly. I have a notebook and each month I write down my bills and my budgeted for items. As I spend out of the budget categories I write down my new totals. For automatic withdrawals, I write down each of them and check them off as they clear the bank. This system works very well for me and I am glad to have finally found something that is easy and works so well.

I could probably make this list much longer but I will stop here for now. I would love to hear some of your mistakes and what you did to correct them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Donate Option

As you can see I have added a donate button to the sidebar. I have always donated when I could to websites that I found useful so I wanted to add that option to my site. What I will NOT be doing is adding paid content to the site. I remember several years ago I donated money to a free photo site only to find the next week they wanted you to pay for some of the free services. I was kind of mad I had donated!! I will not be doing that here. Every bit of info is free as always!!

Please only donate if you find something here useful, has saved or made you money and are able to do so.

If you are not capable of donating, keep reading... maybe you will find some new ways to make or save more money. I hope we all do!!! Thanks for reading. I really appreciate you all!!

Things You Never Wanted to Know About This Blog

How the title came to be.

Obviously it is a play on the phrase "picture of health" which actually is the title of my personal blog. But it is more than that.

When I started blogging on Blogger I did so with a blog on The Secret. That book that everyone was buzzing about for a while. I wanted to try using the principles, trying to make them work, but reporting on my findings in an objective manner. Well, I found as I worked with it, that it had a major flaw. It only focused on getting stuff. I found the principles went along with a lot of teachings of yoga and other mind-body focused ways of thinking (minus the focus on "stuff"). So I knew it worked to an extent. But, I didn't want to be so focused on "stuff". I knew "stuff" would not make me happy.

However, there is one good thing that I took away from it and I still use to this day. And, that is that your mind set has a lot to do with how well you do. If you focus on debt all the time, I do believe you will attract more of it. (Not to the extent those people make it out to be, but still a little). So I named this blog Picture of Wealth, even though I wasn't, in hopes that one day I would be.

My tagline "join the journey" really fits because this is a journey. I have picked up a lot of cool things along the way, dropped a lot of bad habits, and am still working on the others. I hope for those who have joined me you have picked up a little something along the way.

So now you know... even if you never wanted to!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I Couldn't Do It....

I actually could not let myself put my car repairs on my credit card!!!! I can't even believe it myself, but I cashed out some other money which I will have in a few days. I did have to put it on my card, but it will be paid off before the next bill is due so it will not accrue any finance charges. I am really proud of myself and wondering if maybe it isn't such a bad idea to have a credit card for emergencies.... I may keep it at my parents' house though!!!

Is Jen Trying to Get Rich Quick?

No, I am not. Pretty simple. But, some might question why I am so caught up in taking surveys online. Well, I’m not really that caught up in it. I do post about it a lot because I was surprised that I actually made money off of it.

In 2007, I made a whopping grand total of $45.50 and that was beginning in the month of May which is nearly half way through the year. On top of that, there were many surveys I did not complete because I felt they were not worth my time, for example $1 for a 20 minute survey. I made an additional $50 from eRewards which I was able to cash in for three magazine subscriptions.

So, it is possible to make money with surveys although not anywhere near enough to quit your day job. I like the fact that for very little work I am making money. I have used it to splurge on small items that my budget wouldn’t allow for. Now, I am putting it all toward my emergency savings. Some of that money will eventually be used to buy things for the baby. Have I actually made enough to buy anything for the baby. Yes, so far this year I have made $8. That is at least enough to buy a couple packs of bottles, or some baby wipes, onesies, etc. So, that is why I keep bringing it up. I think if you have the time it is well worth the small effort. So here, I am going to go back through the companies I am a member of and talk about what I think of them now vs. when I was just starting out. I will also add a couple that I recently joined.

The writing in black is what I originally said in my first article. The red comments are my opinions now.

Survey SavvyThis one doesn't send as many but they do pay quickly.This company has begun sending more. As I complete more of their profile type surveys (unpaid) they find more that I can complete. In fact $6, of the 8 I just mentioned is from them within the first week of January. They will credit to paypal.
Esearch.comThis company sends good surveys and pays well for what they ask you to do. Pay quickly.
I still agree with this statement. I would say I get maybe one survey every two months from them You earn points which can later be redeemed for cash or prizes.
Not too fond of this one anymore. I have only earned 200 points, but you have to log in each day to check for surveys which is a drag. Also, that 200 points is equivalent to $2.00 and you must have $10 before you can cash in. This one is not worth the work involved to get the money.E-RewardsThis is for prizes only, but the prizes are pretty good and this site has sent me the most surveys of all. I am already up to $30 in rewards currency which can be redeemed for airline miles, yearlong magazine subscriptions, money off different retailers etc.
Still agree with everything I wrote here. Just wanted to add that I am going to continue to do these surveys and use my prizes as Christmas gifts this year.Full disclosure- some of these are affiliate links (not all -these truly are the best I know of). Once you join you can also become an affiliate.

I just joined and have already earned $2. They do not pay by cash or check but they will send you a prepaid debit card once your balance reaches $10. You can also opt for magazine subscriptions, restaurant gift cards or an Amazon gift card. $10 survey dollars equals $10 cash on any of these rewards.
This company pays $5 for you to review products you use etc. The registration was a bit lengthy. I have not gotten any surveys yet, but I just signed up yesterday. I will edit this post if I find them not up to par!!

So there you have it. My research ought to save you some time in finding a good company to join. As I have mentioned before there is one other company I belong too but I am forbidden from mentioning it. If you go to and check out the message boards you are sure to find info about it. If not then wait a few minutes and an ad will eventually pop up on the very top of the screen. It starts with a P J

Monday, January 7, 2008

Carnival of Personal Finance is Up !!!

I love the way this is set up. It is really long... as usual, but if you scroll down you can see the topic headings in bold and that will help you decide where you want to go!!

Carnival here!!!!!

Car Problems the Budget Killer

I swear it is just some kind of cosmic law that when you have everything planned out your car acts up. Well, add mine to the list. I am going to have to pay probably over $500 to get it fixed. I am having a hard time trying to decide how to do it. I still have that credit card they sent me because mine expired so I could use that. If I use my emergency cash right now it will take ALL of it to pay off the bill. I still have other accounts I could liquidate but it will take a while and on my TD account I will lose the $100 bonus. I think I am going to use the card... eeek.... and once I get my tax return back pay off the amount I added for the car. That way I do have some emergency cash left. I MAY do part cash and part on the card. That might lessen the blow a bit. We will see. I don't think I have to decide until tomorrow. Any reader input would be great!!

Frugality or Hoarding?

I have noticed a lot of posts on Frugality lately. Trent has discussed when it is stealing. JD asked for some frugal stories in exchange for a chance to win a free book. (And, I am sorry but some of those people really DID steal things, lol) I don’t know exactly how I would classify this post. Maybe, the difference of frugality and hoarding.

I have long known that many people suffer from hoarding. If you have ever watched an episode of Clean Sweep on TLC you know what I am talking about. There are many things at work here.

1. Buying something because it is a good deal is a waste of money if you don’t need it.
2. Stockpiling things that you never end up using is also a waste of money, and a waste of your personal space.
3. Collecting a bunch of ugly mismatched containers is also a waste of space, and in my opinion makes you feel bad which I will explain in a minute.

The first one is so obvious I don’t really need to say much about it. This is one reason coupons can be bad. Coupons save you money but if you go out and buy an item just because you have a coupon then it didn’t save you a thing. And, even if you use that item the advertisers have probably just added a new product that you can’t live without (even though you did before) and they will be making the price of that coupon back tenfold.

Ah, stockpiling. When you don’t keep up with what you already have and you buy more before it is used up, two things are going to end up in the trash. The item you bought and the money. This is true when you just buy a ton because it is on sale. It can also happen without spending any money. For example, after the hurricane we had so much donated food that we were not going to eat. I loaded up all of the stuff we wouldn’t eat and gave some of it to a poor family I knew and the rest to a church to use to feed the homeless. However, I know of more than a few people who refused to do this and still have some of that food. Most of it went bad and was tossed. So someone who could have used it never got the chance.

***The third is kind of a stretch. And, I get my feelings from being a member of for so long. But, I have a big problem with saving a bunch of butter tubs under your cabinets. Every time you look at one of these you are reminding yourself that you don’t have the money to buy yourself a small set of storage containers (even if you do have the money). What is worse is if you actually have these AND your own set of storage containers. You are not being frugal, you are collecting junk. (and yes, I used to be guilty of this too) Now I know everybody is going to have some, and if you only have what you actual use on a weekly basis, fine. But, if your cabinets are about to burst, toss them!! And this is not reducing the amount of stuff in landfills, it is only delaying it. If you want to truly be recycling, you will have to buy a cow and start churning your own butter. J

Well, this has come out much longer than I wanted, but the point is hoarding is not frugality. In fact it encourages the opposite. If you let go of the things you don’t need you are welcoming more into your life. Throw out those old butter tubs and see what happens. J

***The butter tubs are really a metaphor for anything you collect in bulk and do not use. Chunk that junk!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Better Late than Never... or February, lol

Okay, so I am a bit behind this month… but please forgive me!!!

Here are my favorite Picture of Wealth posts from 2007.

When You Don’t See Eye to Eye on Finances

Credit Agencies Make Me Sick- with a link to get your truly free credit report.

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

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

I Finally Did IT!- My proudest moment

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

**10 Ways I’m Saving Myself- One Piece at a Time

The "BIG" News...- It doesn’t get any bigger than this!!!!

** I still refer to these articles to keep me motivated!

Will I Ever Be this Wealthy? I Doubt it.

There is a great article over at Get Rich Slowly. Basically a guy who never made much more than $10 an hour is now a millionaire due to saving and not spending. I think the story is great. I think this guy did himself a huge favor and now has significant wealth because of it.

However, I have been thinking lately that my husband and I had made some really poor choices. I was looking around at some of our possessions the other day, and yes, there are many we could do without. I was starting to feel like all of this was a waste and thinking of all the money we could have saved without it. While it is true that the money could still be in the bank earning interest, I don’t regret these purchases. (I do regret not saving for our furniture first, because it is a large chunk of my debt, but we were in dire need of new furniture.)

I try to be frugal where I can. If I was buying whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted then I would have no chance of building any wealth at all. And, I certainly agree that things do not make you happy, and “life is not about the bling”. But, is there a point where frugality becomes too extreme? Should I pinch every last penny today and live with very little so that I can have huge amounts of money when I am older? I guess this is a personal choice.

I am doing a little experiment. I won’t know if it works or not until I am much older, but to me it is worth it. I intend to spend my money in moderation while I continue to save. I would love to be a millionaire by the time I retire, but not if it means I can’t enjoy my life the way I want to right now. That doesn’t mean I buy every thing I want. I have given up many things that I love to do. I no longer go to movies at the theater, I rarely rent them. I wait until they come on cable now and record them on the cable box. I don’t go out to dinner very often actually less than once a month (probably less than once every three months). I will never buy a new car. Ever. And, those are just some examples. There are things that I am comfortable giving up. But, I don’t want to feel guilty for every penny I spend. I don’t want to feel like I am robbing myself in the future. I have decided that I will continue to live as frugally as I can, but not to the point of misery.

As I said, it is a personal decision. The man in the article may have still felt he lived a comfortable life. If he did, then he has earned a great reward. However, if he was miserable all those years and is only now, at 78, enjoying his life… well, I find that pretty sad.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Free Gifts for Next Christmas

Ok, ok... I know the last thing you probably want to think about right now is Christmas, but I have a great tip that you have to start on now if you plan to use it in December. And, this is not just for Christmas obviously. You can use this for birthday gifts, etc. I wish I had realized it sooner but I didn't so on to next year!!!

What I am talking about is This is a survey company I have talked about before. They do NOT give cash, but the rewards are actually quite cool AND they can be given to other people. Mainly I am thinking of the magazine subscriptions they offer. These are really good subscriptions!! They are popular magazines that you HAVE heard of. I have already gotten a subscription to Redbook and Shape magazine and they also have Fast Company, TV guide, etc. THere are other rewards, like certain amounts of cash off of places like eBags, Omaha Steaks, etc. You can also get airline miles for Northwest and others (don't know because I would only use miles from NWA)

Anyway, you must spend your rewards at the end of the year, but this is a great way to take some surveys and get some extra gifts for Christmas. The surveys are fairly simple and quick to take. Also, you can decide how many you get each week. (Although if you want more you won't necessarily get them if they aren't available)

I was a bit upset with myself because I had stopped taking the surveys and once I started looking at all the subscriptions they offered I wished I had gotten a few more. I still had over $50 worth of reward cash to spend and this bought me 3 subscriptions.

Currently the highest amount you can get is $100. SInce I have begun taking the surveys they have added, I'd say at least 50 more rewards so they are getting more sponsors all the time. I have not gotten any spam from other companies, etc. from this and they do not offer an affiliate program so I am just telling you this because I think it is great. If nothing else, when you are trying to save money it allows you to buy a few "extras" for yourself just by taking some surveys.

If anyone is more interested let me know and i can try to get a list of more of the rewards. (Many may be sold out right now because they just made everyone use their rewards, but more should come online soon!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Resolutions vs. Goals... yeah I gotta weigh in too!

I have been reading a lot lately about resolutions for the new year vs. having actual goals. Is there even a difference? And, how does it relate to finances when things seem so tight?

Well, I agree with the consensus. Resolutions are basically those phrases you utter when everyone else is spouting out what they "plan" to accomplish in the new year. The problem is few get passed the resolution and to the planning phase.

The planning phase is when the resolution has the potential to become an actual goal. I recently sat down with my trusty notebook and came up with a revised plan for my emergency savings. I had not been saving like I should have. I needed to know how much money I had, how much more I needed and if it was even possible. I answered all of those questions and found out it was possible if I really buckled down.

I think this is one place where even goal setters mess up. A goal should not be carved in stone. It should be something that you are constantly updating and working with.

One thing I started doing last year that has worked really well for me was setting up some small notebooks for different purposes. I have one for my finances, one for journaling, and one for making lists and getting my to do's out of my head so I can think of other things. Not only do these help me keep records of what has happened in the past, that information can be used to further my goals and let me see when I messed up and possibly why. (Obviously December was not a big savings month for me. That is the only page in my entire notebook that is covered in writing, lol)

I also use these notebooks for motivation. I can look back and actually see what I have accomplished when I start feeling like I am not getting anywhere. That is a major problem with most goals. If they are too big, you don't notice progress. If they are too small you are always working on them and remaking them, etc.

So what are some good guidelines for making and accomplishing goals?

Don't set too many.
Make them measurable in some way. Finances are easy here.
Write them down.
Then don't worry about them constantly, but do what you can to work on them.
Put a time limit on them.

The last one can be touchy. If you don't accomplish a goal in a set amount of time have you failed? Only if you haven't made any progress. The purpose of a time limit is so that you can look at that goal again and make changes if they are needed. Had I not looked at my emergency plan I might have continued some of my bad habits that were zapping my savings.

So what are your thoughts on goals? Any tips for helping them stick?

Happy New Years... a few days late :)

Wow. It has been quite a while since I have even thought about money. So how have I been doing? Well let’s see. There were several things I was working on.
My crisis plan
My emergency fund
Staying out of debt
Paying off existing debt

Well, let’s begin with my crisis plan. Not too bad, but not as great as it could be right now. I used about $100 extra for Christmas from my emergency fund and also $100 for things that had to do with the baby and some issues that have come up from my pregnancy. (I feel SOME of that money was well spent) So right now, I am about $100 below the $500 mark I promised I would stay at. I will be replenishing all of that this month. I am happy that I am able to do that this month, but still upset because if I had not overspent that would have been EXTRA money.

So I guess that killed two birds with one stone, but really that is not my entire emergency fund. I have two other accounts that I absolutely never touch and the combination of all three equals about one month’s salary right now. That is good, but seeing as I will be out of work for almost two months with the added expenses of the hospital bills means that I need at least three months saved up.

Staying out of debt. Well…. I have not added ONE PENNY to my debt since I cut up those credit cards!!! I did use a card in December to buy some groceries, but I immediately paid it back as soon as I got paid and did not owe any finance charges. How did I get a credit card you ask? Well, the old one expired and they had sent me a new one. It was kind of an emergency due to a little mix up on the finances so I used the card knowing it would be paid back only days later.

Paying off existing debt. Well, I am still paying, and paying and paying, but there is not much to say on this front. For the last two months to have a little extra cash for Christmas I paid only the minimums on my cards. However I just paid them for the month of January and I bumped them back up to the original amount I was paying before.

I wanted to write about my progress because I remember a time last year when I thought that it was impossible for my husband and I to not use credit cards. I thought that we really needed the extra help. However, I have been going without for several months and so far so good. I can’t stress how scared I was to cut up my cards and quit using them but when I did it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. The choice to make more debt was taken away from me. It was no longer an option. Before I found out I was pregnant I had a plan that was going to have my card paid off and pretty much all of my other debt in just 5 years. It is now going to take me 2 years just to pay what I owe on my credit card. However, since I am no longer adding to it I can see the end in sight!! My husband has also started chipping in. He has agreed to sell his motorcycle… if we can find a buyer and next January we will purchase his truck when the lease is up making our payments on that considerably less.

This year will be an interesting one. It is going to be tough to scrape together enough cash to have two kids in daycare. At first the baby will probably have to go to a center that takes babies and that will cost more. When she is old enough to go to daycare with our other daughter we will get a discount for having two kids in the same center. I plan on changing my deductions with my payroll department when this baby is born. We currently get a pretty fat refund each year, but I need that money throughout the year now. I have another 8 months before I will get another raise so until then it will be very tight. Luckily we have made some room for ourselves. For example the money that I pay extra on my credit cards “could” be cut back if absolutely necessary. I am also saving $50 a month in the Suze Orman Save Yourself Plan with TD ameritrade. In March it will mark one year I have been saving and I will get the $100 bonus. After that the money can go towards bills instead of savings if need be. We also have two other loans that will be paid off this year. We currently have direct deposit paying them so the direct deposit will continue going into the bank and that money will be there when we need it.

Whew, so that is how it has been going with me. How are all of you?