Thursday, July 31, 2008

WOW! PoW Retro

PoW Retro (that is Picture of Wealth, not prisoner of war) is a look back at some of my favorite posts over the past year and a half. I hope you enjoy these!

This was the very first post on this blog. Dated March 25, 2007. Wow, has it been that long. And, reading this again I was surprised at how much I have learned since that first post. I can answer all of the questions I posed there…. Can you?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Replace, Repair

I can't imagine what life will be like when my daughters are my age. Even I have become somewhat corrupted by today's technology which is awesome.... but disposable.

A few days ago our washer quit working. The agitator would not agitate. And, our clothes were not getting clean. My knee jerk reaction was that we were going to have to use our emergency fund to buy a new one. And, our dryer was not really working all that well either so I may as well replace that too.

I forgot that there are these guys (and gals) known as repairmen. And, they can actually fix things that are broken instead of you having to replace them. Now, this would not work for a cell phone or a cd player, but they can fix your major appliances.

So the repairman came today and for $160 I now have a working washer. I just wanted to remind you all that sometimes you don't have to replace, you can repair!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back to Basics Series- Getting Started Post 1

First let me say that I love almost every personal finance blog I come across. I love the how-to’s, the out of debtors, the still in debtors, even the bread recipes. However, for the newbie just getting their finances in order some folks are forgetting that there are still people who need the basics. This is for you!! Over the next eight weeks, I will be running a series called “Back to Basics”. I will go over the basics of money management. So check back each week, or better yet, SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss anything.

Maybe you are reading this because you are in debt. Maybe you are not in debt but are sick and tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Getting out of debt and getting your finances in order takes a lot more than reading and planning. It truly is a new mindset. The first thing you need to do is clearly define WHY you want to get out of debt or get control of your finances.

DO THIS: Get an old notebook (DO NOT BUY A NEW ONE) or create a new file on your computer. Write down all the things you HATE about your current financial state. You can write things like, “I am tired of owing people money”, “ I hate living paycheck to paycheck”, or “I hate having to donate plasma to supplement my income”.

Now, think about why you want to get your finances in order (no more negatives here). What is the end goal of getting better control of your money? Being debt free? Going on a vacation? What is going to motivate you? (You are going to need a LOT of motivation)

The point of this exercise is to think about what upsets you about the present and what you want to see happen differently in the future.

One more thing before I go…. You must make one promise to yourself right now. You cannot go any further until you do this. STOP CREATING MORE DEBT. Now. Today. This very second. No more debt.

If this has you worried about how you are going to afford groceries you have a big problem. You need to start thinking right now about what items you can cut out. We will talk more about that next week.

Our Winner! And, an Update!

The winner of the Snowflake Challenge is Tammy!! Yea, Tammy!! I will try to get in touch with you through your blog but if you read this please send my your address via email to

On another note, I am getting back to work here this week!! Ahhhh.... you know what that usually means... no new posts. However, I am working hard to have some things up for you all during my transition back to work. I am planning for at least two new posts per week and hoping for three. We will see how it goes! If you have any ideas about what types of things you would like to see discussed here I would LOVE to hear it.

Also, as always I am still offering my services for budget help. If you are having trouble coming up with a budget please email me and I will be happy to assist you with that. Please see the email addy above.

Have a great week. I am not sure exactly when the first of the new posts will be rolling out but it will be no later than next week!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not Debt Free, But at a Major Financial Milestone

I wish I could report that we are now debt free, but that is still a little far off. However, I can now report that we are no longer living paycheck to paycheck.

That's right, we are now officially spending less than we earn. Most of the extra money is going to be going toward the debt, but if I had a month where we needed the money for something else we now have it!!

On top of that, we are finally saving for the inevitable. Like car maintenance and medical expenses. I know it is not 100% foolproof yet, but our budget is getting better by the month!

I guess I should admit that we added a bit more debt to be able to do this, but at the same time we will be able to pay off all of our debt much faster now. We got out from under a leased vehicle (which I could have killed my husband for doing in the first place!) and bought a repossessed vehicle from our credit union. So, we got a pretty sweet deal on it.

We were going to need another vehicle when the lease was over anyway, we owed less turning it in than if we continued making the payments until January, and now we have some breathing room!!

This is also a result of me changing my w4 and taking out some other deductions from my paycheck. I will make another change in October when our open enrollment takes place at work which will add even more money to our debt snowball.

For the first time in a long time, I feel really good about our finances. It was not that it was that bad before, but we were not able to put say, $20 a month aside for pet vet visits etc. Now we will have that money accruing each month in different categories so that we don't have to use our emergency savings for non-emergency purchases.

And, in true fashion, just as we have gotten to this point our washer broke down, lol. We will have a repairman coming out on Monday. This is one of those things that I COULD use emergency fund money on, but I don't have to because we have the extra in house maintenance fund! (Unless the repairs are really expensive of course)

In other news... I will post the winner of the David Bach book tomorrow, but it seems pretty obvious who it will be since I only have ONE entry... No one was snowflaking this week? You have until 11:59 tonight to enter the contest!!! See the post directly below this one for details.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Snowflake Challenge

Ok, here is your chance... Last week I started the Snowflake Challenge. The winner, via drawing, will get a copy of David Bach's Start Late, Finish Rich. Like I said before, even if it does not apply to you, you could always use it for credit on Paperback Swap, etc. But, if you are over the age of 30 there are a lot of good "catch up" tricks in the book.

Here are the rules again. Add a link to your blog post telling about how you snowflaked you debt this week. If you don't have a blog you can enter by adding what you did to the comment section.

I will put all entries into a drawing this Wednesday, so you have until Wednesday night to add your post or comment.

There are extra entries for the following...
1st Person to post a linky or comment gets 1 extra entry

Most creative entry (as decided by me) gets 4 extra entries for a total of 5
Second place gets 2 extra entries for a total of 3
Third place gets 2 entries total.

I can't wait to see what you have done. Oh, and don't worry if you don't have the money yet. You can still enter. I got to thinking, I have a rebate coming, money for my cell phones coming, etc. They are all things I did this week but I won't get the money right away. So, if you did anything that you will use to snowflake your debt please go ahead and enter.

If you haven't logged on to Cash Crate Recently

Cash Crate

They have some new easy registrations for Home Depot and it goes straight to their website so I am pretty sure it is not going to spam you.

Also, if you fill out your info profile it will automatically give you a dollar... no waiting for offer pending etc. If you haven't joined yet you should. I got my first $10 check last month!!

Points for everyone!!!

I just joined a new site called It is for anyone 13 or older to join and take surveys. I just joined a few minutes ago and I already have 2,200 points!!! They are also giving away gas cards when you meet a certain point goal. The prizes are mainly gift cards but you can also redeem points to have $25 put into you Paypal account which is the best option as far as I am concerned. This reward costs 29, 000 points but like I said, in one day I have earned over 2000 points!! The reason I say pay pal is best is because they have other gift cards for $25 that cost more points ??? If you just have it added to your PayPal you can buy any gift cards you want. If you are thinking of joining I can get you some extra points!!!
This is my referral code 2151995221
It says on the application that you will earn 500 points for entering this code but I only got 100. I told them about it but it may have to do with the first quick survey being validated which takes a few days. Anyway, code is 2151995221 go here to join.... SayNation This is a direct link to the application.

Also, if you are interested in joining MyPoints (more free gift cards) will you please email me pictureofwealth @ so I can refer you? Thanks!!

Rethinking the Debt Savings Account

I hate to say I am wrong about things. But, I think I was wrong. Hmm, that wasn’t too painful.

I think the reason finances are so HARD to deal with is that there is no right answer for every situation. I think it is a great idea for everyone to begin with a $1000 emergency fund, but even Dave Ramsey says some folks only need $500 and others need even more.

A week or so ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar talked about a Debt Savings Account. Basically instead of snowballing your debt to the creditors you roll all the money into a savings account. Once you have a certain amount of money (depends on what you are doing) you take the money out and pay off some debt.

I have done this before. In fact, I just did it last week. We were not certain how much money I would need to a) cover my salary while on maternity leave, and b) cover our medical bills without going into more debt. So, what we did was to save and save and save, and wait and wait and wait. When I got the final bills from everyone, I paid them off and put the rest toward other debt we had outstanding. It worked great. We were safe because we had the money so that if the hospital had charged a couple thousand more than we anticipated we could have still paid them off. Yet, once we got the true amount we had the extra money to pay off some debt. So, we got both of the things we wanted… no new debt and some old debt paid off.

Now, my original plan once we finished up with the hospital was to start a debt snowball with our other outstanding debts. But, as they say, life happens.

We are now expecting two more bills that won’t be outrageous but will be in the hundreds of dollars category. There is also a little situation that may be coming up soon which would cost us a minimum of $1500. Now, we have our emergency fund, but since we KNOW these expenses may be coming up soon we should do the smart thing and start saving for them instead of paying off debt right now.

So, here is what I plan to do. There is one more card that I plan to pay off. It is a small balance and it will add $50 a month back to our income. After that I will pay one of the small bills that we are anticipating. This will take us down to almost $0 in savings EXCEPT for our emergency fund which we don’t plan to touch. Then instead of beginning to pay down our debt at snowball speed, I will put money into savings until we reach probably the $2000 just to give us some room. After this we will begin our snowball. We should know what is going on with that possible other expense by Christmas. If we have not used the money by then, I plan to put that toward our debt as well.

So, I guess I will be using a Debt Savings Account after all, even though I said I wouldn’t. There really are some cases where it is necessary to use this method. For some reason we just keep running into them. I still don’t agree with the notion of saving 3 to 6 months salary first because for us that would take a really long time and we would be paying interest on all the debt. But, I do believe if you know an expense is coming up you should stop debt payments (except min. of course) and save so that you don’t have to dip into the emergency fund for these “unexpected, expected” expenses.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Get That Man (or Woman) on Board

I honestly don’t know what I would do without my husband. He is an awesome guy! He helps around the house, in fact last night he made dinner. We complement each other pretty well. He is a talker, I am a listener (until I decide to give him what for, lol) He is outgoing. I am shy. I am the eternal optimist and he is rather pessimistic. Sounds like those two would not go together but actually we keep each other in check. He keeps me from thinking I can fly if I jump off the roof, and I keep him from thinking that the sky is falling.

One area where our styles don’t exactly meet is with finances. He is the spender. I am the saver. Yeah, you can see where this is going. He has been so brainwashed by “them” that he really thinks it is impossible to get ahead with the jobs that we have. He thinks we need to make more money. I have tried telling him how much more money we will have when we are out of debt, or done with daycare, but he has a hard time grasping the idea.

Recently he watched me write 7 checks. I paid off seven creditors (with money from our crisis plan) this was mostly medical bills but it also included my first credit card. I don’t know what happened. It was like some little switch finally clicked in his head. He finally “got” it. He decided he wanted to help!!!!

The only thing I can think of here is that he is a visual learner and actually seeing the debt going away made him realize that it WAS possible. Maybe something like this will help you get your significant other motivated. Let them SEE where the money is going. Let them enjoy that little taste of freedom when you have gotten out from under another creditor.

Think about this. Spenders have to be visual people. Part of the problem they have is they SEE a product, they go into the store and are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. When they leave they have something tangible in their hands that they can show off.

Here is how things were happening before. I would get online, pay our bills, say nothing to my husband, and go on with my day. He was not involved in any part of the process. It was not a purposeful thing. I just never realized he needed to be part of it. He needed to SEE it for himself.

He isn’t trying to sell his most prized possessions or anything yet, but now that I know this will help, I will make SURE to include him any time I am making a big payoff. Currently he is working on finding a vehicle that is not going to put us further behind and he is actually doing a really good job. It took a few dirty looks from me when he kept going back to wanting a brand new vehicle, but now he gets it and I actually heard him telling his dad the other day…. “The monthly payment doesn’t matter, it is the TOTAL cost we are worried about.” Yea!!! I am so proud!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are you getting ready?

The Snowflake Challenge will be posted Monday for you to add your own stories. I will close it on Wednesday. Be sure you post about what you did by Wednesday!! More info here.

I just wanted to get your creative juices flowing by letting you know what I have been up to. I sold two items on Ebay that I got for FREE. So I made a little cash off of those. I also got my Single Check Rebate from Rite Aid. That will be going toward the debt. I have a box here ready to ship off full of some old cell phones. I found a site that pays a pretty good price for them. If they don't pay for some reason it won't be a big deal because the shipping is free and the phones would never be used again anyway.

What are YOU doing to snowflake? Don't post it yet!!! Wait until Monday!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Final Hypermiling Report with/without Hypermiling MPG

Alright, my hypermiling experiment probably got more comments than any other post I have ever written. I think it got 3, lol. So, I wanted to publish my final report on the matter.

I did things a bit backward. I hypermiled a tank of gas first and found my mileage. Then I realized I needed an up to date baseline because the last time I had checked my MPG was a few years back.

So, my regular driving tank of gas earned me 19 MPG. My hypermiling driving tank of gas was 22 MPG. An increase of 3 miles per gallon. At first it does not seem like a lot, but remember we have to multiply that by the number of gallons my tank holds which is 16. So my efforts in hypermiling earned me and extra 48 miles on one tank of gas.

So is that good? For me YES!! Forty-eight miles is the equivalent of more than one day’s driving to me. I am extending my gas for an extra day each time I fill up. Say I fill up once a week. In one year I will have gotten an extra 52 days worth of gas.

I will include links to my other hypermiling posts at the bottom of this one so you can see what I did exactly.

I think I can do even better though. I mentioned in my last report that several times I had “forgotten” to use the techniques. If I can keep from doing that so much I will definitely improve my mileage even more.

Here are some more posts on this topic:
Gasoline Experiment
Final Results
More Tips

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New This Week

I hope everyone is thinking up some great ways to snowflake this week!!

Check back soon for my final report on Hypermiling. I finished my regular tank of gas and you will be surprised by the results.

That report was supposed to be posted today, but I have had a lot of "life" happening lately!!

It will very likely be up tomorrow, but definitely before the week is out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Snowflake Challenge- Win a Free Book!

What is it? The Snowflake Challenge is a contest of sorts. You come up with creative ways to earn money toward snowflaking your debt. The winner will receive a copy of David Bach’s book, Start Late, Finish Rich. (If you don’t like the book you can use it to get a credit on Paperback Swap or something.)

For example: You dress up like a clown on the side of the road and make balloon animals for passing cars at $0.50 each. (This is just a joke, but hopefully it will get the gears turning.) You take the $2.00 you made from folks who felt really sorry for you and put it toward your credit card debt. Have someone take some pictures of you and post them on your blog (not required, but it would lend more validity to your entry)

How do I win? On Monday (21st) I will post another Snowflake Challenge entry with a Mr. Linky for you to add a link to your blog post about your Snowflake Adventure. You can also post your info via a comment in that post. I will pick a winner from these entries. Believe it or not, you win just for playing because you will get some extra debt paid down.

How can I improve my chances? I will choose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for most creative ideas (if there are enough). First place winner will get an extra 4 entries (total 5) Second place will get an extra 2 entries and third will get one extra entry.

Do I have to do something stupid or embarrassing? NO…. as long as you post a linky or a comment about what you did you will be entered. It doesn’t matter what you did, but you DO have to tell us about it. Entries saying, “sign me up” will not be posted or counted.

Tell me what you think and if you plan on entering. I would like to get an idea of how many people might be playing. Thanks!!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Little Vacation

Most people took a little vacation last weekend, but Picture of Wealth kept going with some stories to keep you busy. Well, it is my turn now. I am taking this weekend off. So have a nice weekend and check back next week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Warning for Parents That MAY Save You Money

I got this information over two months ago, but never thought to share it until now. On a recent visit to our pediatrician he made a comment that was pretty unbelievable. If one product were to be outlawed he would probably see 400 less cases a year!

That thing was plug in type air fresheners. He said it also would help if people did not use products like Febreeze and other spray fresheners too. However, the biggest culprit to children's allergy and sinus problems that he saw were the plug in fresheners.

Our new baby had been having sinus trouble. Her little nose was stopped up so bad it made it hard for her to eat.... imagine when you have to have a constant suction going on with your mouth to eat and your nose is clogged!!! The doctor asked if we had any plug ins which we did. Two very close to her sleeping area. As we were speaking to the doctor my husband blew his nose and sneezed at least 5 times. Thinking back, we had just changed out all the refills and our 3 year old had to be kept out of daycare that same week for bad sinus problems.

Of course we immediately came home and took them all out of the wall. We had probably 6 or 7 throughout the house. Well, our electric bill went down about $20 the next month. I couldn't believe how much money we would save by getting rid of these stupid things (I hated them anyway because the refills for the type my husband likes are $7!!) So here is the math.

$15 a month doctor copay for at least ONE of our kids needing to go to the doctor. (that is about what it was because before the baby came we were taking our 3 year old constantly)

$7 X 4 refills every two months (about what we would buy) $28 every other month.

$20 a month in electricity. (kind of hard to believe it was that much but that was how much it went down... possibly other factors. Plus I didn't include allergy meds which is expensive too, so I'm going with this)

That is roughly $588 a year!! Now seriously how bad does your house smell? Because we haven't missed them at all!! My husband and 3 year old are breathing much better. The baby is still having problems so there is something else bugging her but she is still much better than before. I was never effected by them and you may not be either, but if you have kids with allergies this may be the cause!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

They Made Fun of Me... I Guess That Is A Good Sign

In Total Money Makeover (see sidebar), Dave Ramsey says that when people start making fun of you or thinking you are crazy that is a good sign. It means you have "gazelle intensity" on paying off your debt and getting your finances in order.

Well, this weekend I was talking to some family members about thinking I had lost some coupons. One was for buy one get one free of something I use a lot, so I was really upset at the thought that I had lost all of these. (I found them later).

Anyway, as I was telling the story, I looked over and one of them was rolling her eyes at the other. It really hurt my feelings, and I immediately shut up about my coupons. I was thinking about it later (almost in tears) and realized this was in fact a GOOD sign.

I happen to know a little about these folks' finances, and I know it is NOT good. So, while I am using my coupons and saving money, getting great deals for my family, and building a secure future, they can roll their eyes all they want.

When I read TMM, I thought I would never see anyone making fun of me because of the kind of family (I thought) I had. But, now I know for sure I am on the right track, and it has just made my efforts that much stonger. In fact, I went home and listed a couple of items on Ebay!!

Yea me!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Carnival of Debt Reduction

Picture of Wealth is featured in this week's Carnival of Debt Reduction. An editor's pick too!!!! How cool!! I will try to post back with my faves later. You can check out all of this week's submissions here.

Why I Love Stockpiling

I posted a while back about what stockpiling is, how to do it etc. I am really beginning to reap the benefits of it now.

Current items that I have stockpiled are meat (in the freezer of course), cereal, other breakfast items, snack foods, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, and DIAPERS!! (yea, diapers!)
We also have what will be for us a year's worth of shampoo and dish liquid. And I paid a grand total of $4.25 for it all (shampoo and soap) after coupons and rebates.

I cannot tell you how much easier this makes my day to day life. Yes, it saved me money because I paid less money for these items because they were all on sale. However, the thing that makes me want to keep on keepin' on... is the fact that when I run out of something I can simply open another pantry instead of having to run to the store.

The biggest thing I am saving here is time and money! Who can't use extra time and money?

Here is a quick recap on how I got started. I took a small amount of my grocery budget and began earmarking it for stockpiling. That way it was there if I needed it for groceries, but its hopeful main use was stockpiling. Then I watched sale ads. It is helpful to have a price list to know what a good price is, but a little research on the net will tell you too. When items went on sale, I would search on line for coupons and buy them when they were at low prices.

Soon, I had begun my stockpile! Although I spent a little more each week than usual at first, soon my grocery bill was going down because we had things like cereal and meat on hand already. When a new sale happened, I stocked up again. It sounds a lot harder than it is. I encourage you to research stockpiling (and you can ask me questions right here) to see if it is right for you!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Answer I Have Been Looking For

Trent at the Simple Dollar recently posted about starting a Debt Savings Account.

My first thought was, this would not work for most people because the minute something came up (not an emergency) they would be tempted to spend it. I still feel that way, but I thought of a great way to make this work for me in a few years.

First of all, I have done this before. You will remember it as my crisis plan. This was where I continued paying only the minimums on my debt and saved like crazy for the baby. I still have the huge chunk of money because we are now fighting with the hospital just to get our claim filed. However, my plan for this money once that happens is to pay off a LOT of our debt. That is still my plan.

Trent, however, asserts that for emergency purposes it may be better to save up the money and once you have a nice sized emergency fund and have cash that goes above and beyond that you should throw a large chunk at your debt.

Here is my problem with that. Because I was not staying on budget so well the past few months, several times we have dipped into savings to cover groceries etc. (I am talking $20 not $200) So, that temptation to use the money for "other" things is huge. And, I believe it is mostly subconscious. For example, I was not planning on spending that money, but I knew it was there so I was NOT as careful with my grocery budget. If the money were gone, and all I had was my small emergency fund, I would make sure the money was not touched. I guess this would be a decision based on your personal will power... but all of us debtors got here the same way!

Now, having said that, this is a GREAT idea for my final debt. My student loans!! Instead of paying more money on it when I get to that point, I will put it in savings. This serves two purposes. One, of course is that I will still have the money to pay the debt off no matter what happens. The other thing is that IF I am allowed to have $5000 forgiven, I won't have paid that already. That money will just be extra savings and will be a great start to my bigger E fund.

So, read Trent's post and see if there is a way this can work for you. I made it work with my crisis plan and hopefully I will get it to work for my student loans too. Let me know what you think!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not Worth My Time

I recently posted about using CVS to rack up some great savings. It is true that you can do this, and you can save a lot of money. However, I found I was going for things we did not need. I have decided that it is just not worth my time to work up deals (moneymakers or not) for things we don't use. CVS still has some GREAT sales.

Two weeks ago my husband's coffee was $2 cheaper than we can get it at Walmart. This week they had toilet paper for half the price it was at Walmart! I had a coupon too, but they were already out when I went on Monday. Anyway, I guess my point is, I will continue to use CVS for the great sales, but I will no longer waste my time on anything that we don't use... moneymaker or not.

That being said.... I have found a great time SAVER. is a great FREE service. They have circulars from all of your local stores and you can compare deals all on one page!! It is great! This is a great way to use sale ads to plan you trips. One problem- they don't add coupons into the mix and I think this is something they could do really easily. This is now featured on the Smartsource website and I know it would be nothing for SS to add the printable coupon links to the products on the page. Maybe they will do this at some point.

And finally.... HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!!!!!! Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Financial Tip Friday- Hypermilin' Ain't Easy Edition

I am getting away from the basics this week to update you on my Hypermiling Experience. Remember, you can add your links at the bottom, but please be mindful of the RULES
1. Post a link to your post NOT your blog.
2. Your post MUST mention Financial Tip Friday and include a LINK back to this post or my blog.

Any posts not following the guidelines will be deleted! But, it isn’t hard!! Please join in!!

Hypermiling Tips

First of all, I have been told that hypermiling is really meant to be done with hybrid cars. However, I think the principles do work with regular cars, they just don’t change your MPG as significantly.

During my two week trial of hypermiling, I learned quite a few things about successfully and unsuccessfully doing it. It is not as easy as it sounds. If you missed the first few posts, you can read the things I did here. My final results are here.

1. It is easy to forget about. You jump in the car to run to the store for a much needed item and totally forget you are supposed to be coasting and using your cruise control. Or, you are late for something and get on the highway and SPEED, eek!! It is very easy to forget to apply the principles of hypermiling when you drive. I would suggest a little sticker or something on your steering wheel or close to the speedometer to remind you to do it.

2. It takes practice. There are times where I thought I could coast up to a stop, only to find myself irritating the person behind me because I was going 20 MPH and was quite a ways from the stop. This would cause me to use gas to get up to speed a bit only to stop soon after. OR I would take my foot off the accelerator too late and end up wasting gas by braking when I could have been coasting. I found it much easier to hypermile on familiar roads than on routes I took irregularly. In fact, on my regular routes I started using landmarks, like signs or patches of grass on the side of the road to help me remember where to start coasting.

3. Not all hills are created equal. Some hills will give you upward of an extra 5 mph by coasting. Some, believe it or not, will actually decrease your speed if you take your foot off the accelerator. This didn’t happen too often, but a couple of times it did and I was really shocked. The incline has to be such that the weight of the car counteracts it.

4. People can get mad. I didn’t really have this problem much at all, but when you coast up to a stop you will find the guy behind you starts really riding your tail. Not on purpose, of course, but you are coasting and they are still using gas. This can irritate other drivers, but it is also a safety issue so be careful. Sometimes if I found another driver behind me I would just keep up speed to avoid this situation.

5. YOU may get impatient. After using gas to get to stop signs or lights, it can be very frustrating to coast to a stop. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t feel right. Your foot REALLY wants to hit the gas. This takes some getting used to. The best cure for me was to look at my speedometer. Even though I felt like I was doing 10mph usually I was doing 20 or more. So, my best advice is to just fight the urge to use gas and after a few times you will get used to it.

I hope this tips help you out. Like I said before, I think I would have done better had I remembered every single time I was driving. But, driving takes your undivided attention, so I recommend starting out with routes that you travel very often first, then adding irregular routes. A distracted driver (even by something like hypermiling) can be a dangerous thing on the road!! Keep that in mind and enjoy your new found MPG increases!!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Final Results- Hypermiling Experiment

Well, the numbers are in and have been carefully calculated using a special formula. Ok, so not that complicated just miles divided by gallons. Anyway, my final MPG total is 22 MPG. Wha wha wha…. Actually it isn’t that bad. If I figure that I was getting 20 to 21 MPG a few years ago (the last time I checked) this means on average I am getting an extra 1-2 miles per gallon of gasoline. My tank holds at least 16 gallons so that is 16-32 extra miles on each tank of gas.

However I suspect it may be more than that. It has been a good three years since I calculated my MPG. I know as cars age they lose some of their performance so now I am going to try to drive as I normally do on this next tank of gas and see how my MPG changes. I will update on that when it happens. It may be a couple weeks though. I don’t plan on driving much in the next couple weeks.

Another thing to add to the mix- I didn’t hypermile the whole tank. I will write more about that tomorrow, but the main point is, hypermiling ain’t easy!

One thing IS for certain though. This tank of gas lasted me longer than any fill up in the past several years. That has to mean something. Had I waited until tomorrow to fill up it would have been exactly two weeks. This completely changed my financial situation last month. I was expecting to have to use $60 from savings for an extra tank of gas, but I didn’t have to. That rocks!!

Final opinion… It definitely works. I just think I have been getting way less MPG than I has first posted (20-21) based on calculations from a few years ago. Still, it takes work and for some it may not be worth it.

Can I Just Say......

How cool was it that one of Dave Ramsey's web people helped me last week! I feel somehow closer to being debt free now..... lol j/k!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How are you all so early in the morning?

This is just a test post to see what is going to happen with some changes I made via Feedburner. I just didn't want to put a true "test" post up there. So I just thought I would say hello... instead of "testing".

I really appreciate all those who subscribe and read and comment on this blog!! You all ROCK!!! Ok, now to submit this and make sure my blog doesn't go all topsy turvy again.

Get Your Links Added -------->

I am getting ready to update my blogroll. There are some there that I don't really read anymore, some that I no longer agree with, and some I plan on keeping. However, I only do this once in a blue moon. And, once I get it all done, I won't be doing it again for some time.

SO, if you have a personal finance blog, or other productivity blog etc. Feel free to leave a comment and I will check it out.

I am going to follow in the footsteps of BostonGal and ask that if you want to be added you already have a link to Pic of Wealth. So, leave a comment or send me an email (see my new address added at the top there) and I will get back to you. I will probably work on this Sat. or Sun. so get those links in!!!

Defining Debt Free

Shelby T recently asked in a comment:

Have you thought about how you would define "debt-free"? I have been asking everyone I am comfortable with, and have recieved some interesting theories and opinion...especially with married couples.

My thoughts on this would be too much for a comment response, but this is a great question so I thought it deserved a post all its own.

There is really only one "true" definition of being debt free. That is not owing anyone any money at all. Pretty simple. However, the definition of "debt free" is really not that simple. My definition of it is being at a point where you can begin to save or invest. Meaning, you have paid most of your debt down to a point where you are able to pay more than the minimums and still have room to save or invest for retirement.

There are still MORE definitions of that though. The Dave Ramsey definition would be having all debt paid except for your mortgage. At this point, according to his plan, you are debt free. I tend to agree here. A mortgage takes a while to pay off whether you are paying more than the minimum or not. And, at this point many people are able to pay more than just the minimum and still save or invest. So, for most people, this is a good definition of being debt free.

In my case, I will drop it down another notch. For me, debt free will be when I have paid off all of my debt except for my student loans. I have two reasons for this. First, my student loan debt is at 4% and I feel I could get better than 4% returns on my retirement savings. I recently stopped saving into retirement, but I will start up again when I have nothing left but student loans. The second reason for this is that I qualify to have $5000 of my loans paid back when I have been a teacher for 5 years (two and a half years away). I am not 100% sure I still qualify because my job title has changed but technically I am still a certified teacher. So, I will see when I get to that point, but no reason in me paying off all that money if I could simply have it forgiven.

When I get to that point, I will still be able to pay more than the minimum on my loans while investing in retirment. When the loans are finally paid off, then I will begin saving for 3-6 months worth of salary. My plan is a little backward from Ramsey's babysteps, but it is what I feel comfortable with.

So, a definition of being debt free is a very personal definition. Of course we have the literal definition, but few people truly follow that. It really depends on someone's personal situation. That is the reason there are so many answers to this question.

I will finish by saying this. I believe all debt is bad debt. You never know what is going to happen in life and the less you "owe" the better off you are. In my case I will still try to pay off my loans as quickly as I can and I believe those with mortgages should do the same. I know many people after Katrina who were making payments on slabs... so get that debt paid off. Then you can truly be debt free and no one can question your definition! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's All About the End Result

Today I was reading back through the journal I have kept over the past year. I am the type of person who HAS to get things out of my head or they drive me crazy and keep me up at night. One thing struck me today as I read and I thought I would share.

I was actually referring to cleaning house and other chores, but the statement I made was no one does these things for the pleasure of doing them. We do things like cleaning or going without "toys" for the outcome. A clean house or debt free finances.

If you are like me and are not going out to dinner or movies etc, this may help you stay motivated. You are not doing without because you like it. You are doing this so that later you can be debt free. It gave me a little motivation today. Hopefully, it does the same for you!