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6 Tips for Finding a Good Mechanic Who Won’t Break the Bank

finding a good but cheap mechanicFinding a mechanic that you can rely on isn’t easy. While there are undoubtedly some great mechanics out there, knowing who to trust can be difficult, and making the wrong decision can be costly.

Here are 6 tips for not getting stung when you need a mechanic:

1. Stay Local
When deciding where to take your vehicle, you have three main choices: a big national auto chain, a dealership, or a local mechanic. At an auto chain or dealership, you’ll find mechanics who are particularly skilled at working with your make of car, but this comes with an inflated price tag in most cases. With a local mechanic, you’ll often get more personalized service as well as lower prices, and will be able to have much closer contact with the mechanic who is actually doing the work on your car.

Moreover, because local mechanics rely on a good reputation and positive word-of-mouth to bring in new customers, there’s a much bigger incentive for them to perform quality services and gain your trust. They won’t develop long-term relationships with customers if they sneakily add on extra jobs to bump up the final bill, so it’s in their interest to play fair. Dealerships and national auto chains are less reliant on this type of relationship, so they’re not as bothered if you don’t use them again. That’s not to say that all dealerships and big auto chains are necessarily out to sting you, but one of the disadvantages of going to a dealership for a service is the strong emphasis on getting maximum profits rather than looking to build relationships with customers. They are more about quantity than quality.

If you decide to go the local mechanic route, ask around and see if any particular names come up multiple times. If you notice the same mechanic being recommended by different people, that’s probably a great place to start.

2. Check their Reputation and Affiliations
Once you’ve got a name or two to go on, head over to the Better Business Bureau website to see what kind of reviews a particular garage has received. You might also want to take a look at the Mechanic Files tool on the Car Talk website. You can search for mechanics in your area (including those who specialize in particular makes) and see what ratings they’ve been given. Ratings on this site are based on factors such as how much they charge, how quickly you can expect them to complete work on your car, how trustworthy they are, and their level of skill and competency.

It’s also a good idea to check their affiliations. Is the repair shop affiliated with the likes of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Automotive Service Association (ASA), or the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It’s no guarantee of trustworthiness, but it may indicate that the mechanics have received a certain degree of training or that the repair shop has demonstrated acceptable levels of ethics.

3. Do Your Homework
If you’ve got some idea of what might be wrong with your vehicle, you’re less likely to be seen as a potential victim who can be walked all over by the mechanic. Doing some background research on the potential causes of your problem can give you a rough idea of what you should be spending, and it will allow you to speak intelligently with the mechanic.

4. Get the Quote in Writing
Once you have your quote, get written confirmation so that the price can’t be jacked up on you. This also reduces the likelihood of finding adds-ons tacked onto the bill for work that wasn’t part of the original quote.

5. Gut Check: Do they Seem Legit?
Are the prices prominently displayed? Is it easy to find information on the warranty terms? A good mechanic will have this kind of information on display so that customers will not be confused. You’re right to be wary if you don’t see evidence of this!

Are you given any alternative options to reduce your bill, or are you just given the one solution? Depending on the problem that brought you to the mechanic in the first place, there may be more than one way to fix it, and some options will undoubtedly cost more than others. It can’t hurt to ask!

Are you allowed to stay and watch while work is performed on your car? If they don’t have anything to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with you waiting around to assess the situation.

6. Are Problems Resolved?
If you do run into problems, you can learn a lot from how the situation is handled. An honest mechanic will want to resolve the problem as quickly as possible and retain your business rather than run the risk that you’ll warn others against using them. How they handle any unexpected obstacles is a telltale sign of the shop’s dependability and quality.

Final Word
What are your tips for finding a good mechanic that can be relied on without having to pay a small fortune? On the flip side, how can you tell if a mechanic is going to be a nightmare to work with? As always, I’d love to get your thoughts on the subject!

(photo credit: Alan Vernon)

Christmas on a Budget

The holiday season has officially begun with the hustle and bustle of retail shopping, pulling the boxes of decorations from the garage, and families planning their seasonal meals (now if California would just drop below 78° so I could light the fireplace).

But are you nervous about spending money during the holidays? Well, if so, you are not alone. While retail sales are showing a promising sign this year, it’s my gander that people are putting a more conscientious thought into their purchases. It just means there is a frugalite in training – taking that hard earned money and finding the best buy.

A frugal holiday can still be high in cheer if you think like a pioneer, plan the holiday budget, instill some frugal fun, research some great sales and take up that free shipping. Yup, free shipping! Read all the way down for details. Check out my giant holiday post.

Pioneer Christmas

How do you have a real frugal Christmas? Think back to how our Old West ancestors celebrated – with a Pioneer Christmas.

Taking the consumerist out of the season is not easy. I really had to consider this one. With everyone so geared to opening retail gifts, is it possible to have an enjoyable simple holiday with our loved ones?

Well, I am willing to try! Here are some tips to bring you back to the roots of celebration:

  • Cooking all day. There is nothing better than having the family cook a great big meal together. It’s especially great at my aunt’s house because we cook Filipino, Mexican and a traditional American meal.
  • Use natural materials found anytime of the year, such as evergreens, pinecones, holly, nuts, and berries. The great Adirondack Christmas – simple, natural, and cozy.
  • Decorate the tree with ribbon, yarn, berries, popcorn or paper strings, and homemade decorations. Sounds like a great craft for the children to string popcorn or berries! My daughter and I are making colorful paper chains this year.
  • Give gifts of jam, preserved fruits and vegetables. If you are a crafty, make gifts of dolls, sachets, knitted scarves and hats. Gift making was a craft that lasted through the year in the pioneer days. Since I have not been so crafty this year, the farmer’s market and craft fairs will make a great place to stock up on gifts with love. Time to ponder on next year’s gift giving list.
  • Sing carols with friends and family around the Christmas tree or fireplace. I remember as a child, we used to take hayrides around the neighborhood to sing Christmas carols. What fun! Does anyone do that anymore?

Christmas Budget Worksheet

You may start realizing, as Christmas dawns, that you forgot to get a gift for Aunt Sallie or Uncle Bob. If you don’t plan accordingly, the holiday “forget me’s” can’t wreck serious havoc on your finances. Save the stress and have a merry holiday by using the Christmas Budget Worksheet by Simple Living.

Advent Calendar

With all the hard work that goes into preparing for the holiday. Make it shine each day with opening a small give from the advent calendar. Yes, even adults can enjoy a bit of chocolate or a script of love.

Last year, I finally remembered to buy my daughter an advent calendar before they were sold out. Trader Joe’s sells a great chocolate candy advent calendar every year. But, I wanted to craft an advent calendar so I could have to take out each year. So, bring a bit of frugal happiness to a person each day in December by creating a matchbox advent calendar. Those small pieces of left over scrapbooking paper or gift wrap now have a purpose!

Five unique ways to make and display them:

 

Plan a Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Whether you plan to host a few friends or a large gathering of family members, planning a Christmas dinner requires some thought, and a little creative shopping. Fear not. Following these tips will allow you to plan a Christmas dinner on a budget.

  • Host a potluck. Big gatherings can be expensive. Especially when everyone has a hearty holiday appetite. To stay in budget, our family hosts a potluck. The hosting family will provide the main course – usually a turkey or ham. Then family members will bring all the side dishes and desserts. It works out great, as there are always tons of left overs to take home.
  • Change the main course. A traditional thanksgiving dinner may not always the frugal choice. Consider mixing up the menu to fit within the budget. Most people will welcome the change. With my family, there is no shortage of ethnic flare.When it comes to holiday gatherings we have lumpia, enchiladas, mochi, adobo, sashimi, and a traditional turkey dinner (p.s. I have a large family and that sashimi is fresh, as my uncle is an avid fisherman).
  • Check out your cupboards. Plan your side dishes by checking out your cupboards. If you have a can of green beans, a green bean casserole could be a start. Or a can of chickpeas, you can easily make hummus for a starter. Then start looking at your grocer’s sale ads to start saving on the other necessary ingredients.

Free Shipping Day 2010

On Friday, December 17, an estimated 1,000+ participating merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Check out Freeshippingday.com for more details.

Free shipping day isn’t the only perk. Did you know you can score unadvertised specials from 40 Merchants?

I am so happy to be able to share these unadvertised specials with you. Because fewer people know about the sale, Freeshipping.org betters their chances of closing the deal at cut-rate prices.

(Credits: freeshippingday.com, legendsofamerica.com, and inspireco)

The Kardashian Sisters Launch Their Own Prepaid Credit Card

Beauty, fashion, reality TV, frangrance and now a financial product?

Mobile Resource Card, a provider of custom prepaid card programs, has partnered with the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Khloe, and Kim – to add a prepaid credit card to their empire of products.

The Kardashian sisters say, “We are excited to partner with mobile Resource Card to create our very own financial products. Now our fans will be able to take us with them everywhere.”

According to the NYPost, the new Kardashian PrePaid Credit Card is being marketed as helping parent keep their kids safe by allowing them to monitor their teens’ spending through their cellphones.

PrePaid Credit Cards for Teens?

While I do not condone the possibility it may be released to teens as young as 13 years old and that credit cards should be a sign of glamour with bling and celebrities, I do think cards – whether debit or credit cards – will far out weigh ‘cash is king’ in the near future. It might be worthwhile to teach teens how to responsibly use a prepaid credit card.

How do you teach a teen the concept related to using a prepaid credit card? Let us consider a few things.

Prepaid Charges

As parents, you need to teach your children about fees, charges, penalties, and any other associated costs that come with the card. What are some of the fees and additional charges?

Most prepaid cards impose transaction fees every time a cardholder withdrawals money from an automated teller not associated with the card issuer. The cardholder may also be required to pay declined transaction fees if they fail to replenish funds on their prepaid credit card.

Sit down with your child to read the terms and conditions associated with the card. Help them understand the fees and costs that come with being a responsible card holder.

Prepaid Card Rates

Now that you discussed the fees and costs associated with having a prepaid credit card, the next things to help them understand is the interest rates. Although, a prepaid credit card does not impose interest rates because there is not a hold balance with the card company, it does impose interest for overdrawn transactions.

Parents need to encourage their children to spend less than the available balance on their prepaid cards. This way, they can avoid learning about interest the hard way.

Teach them to Budget

As with any card holder, there also comes the responsibility of maintaining a personal budget. This is the most important lesson you can teach any child to help them manage their finances more effectively.

As parents, help them draft a simple budget that will track:

  • Money earned through household chores, allowances, and odd jobs
  • Balance available on the prepaid card
  • Money spent during the month

Teach your children to track it frequently to stay on budget, spend no more than fifty percent of their available card balance, and to pay it in full each month. This will help them build a great credit score in the future.

If the lesson of building a budget is embedded in their minds at a young age, for sure they will become financially responsible individuals in the future who can handle their finances and plastic cards responsibly.

Review the statement

Some of the prepaid credit cards will send you a monthly statement. And almost all the card issuers offer online account management tools, where you can help your teen track their spending and transaction time in accordance with their budget.

Sit down with your teen once a month to review if they are staying within the budget and spending plan; review any fees or costs. Continue to guide them in using a credit card responsibly.

The the Kardashian PrePaid Credit Card will be available the day after the official launch, on November 10, 2010.

{photo credit: starpulse}

Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

A few years ago, our family lived by being dependent on receiving a weekly paycheck. Both the husband and I maintain great jobs, but we were hardly able to pay the bills. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul – we would push one bill to lapse its due date to pay another we ‘forgot’ about. We were never able to get ahead. It took me painstaking long years to realize that the debt ridden life was all our own making, due to poor financial habits and choices, and that I was no longer going to stand for it.

Today, things have gotten better, although we are still not in the black yet. We have an emergency fund, paid off several smaller debts and work diligently to pay off the big accounts (like the student and debt consolidation loans), and hope to pay off the Lending Club loan by the beginning of next year. We are on track to be debt free in two years and half years, with a good future in the forecast. We have also increased our contributions for retirement, learned to plan for weekend staycations, and live with a frugal mind. Our finances are much better off today than they were three years ago. It amazes me how far we have progressed and how indulgent becoming debt free feels.

If you are in a state of financial despair, like my family once was, you can climb out of it to become a your own success story. Stop living paycheck to paycheck. Take control of your financial life. I would like to share my thoughts about what has worked for our family, what I know works by having lived through this experience.

To begin, many financial advisers and blogs, typically recommend to start by tracking your spending on a daily basis. It is definitely worthy advice, but not always practical as keeping track of daily spending can be difficult. I advise you to track your expenses, but if you don’t, for whatever reason, do not let that stop you from fixing your finances.

Here is my recommendation, whether or not you track your spending (but you should), at least do the following:

Learn to walk before you run

Set up your accounts. Consider setting up one savings account, a checking account strictly for bill pay, and an account for your variable expenses (like groceries, gas, and entertainment). This method has worked great for my family. You can find about more about my bank account set up, here.

Halt. Stop using your credit cards immediately! Cut them up, or put them in the freezer in a ziploc bag filled with water, effectively freezing your cards. Also stop taking other loans, either from financial companies, banks, or family and friends. Stop getting into more debt!

Save now! Yes, you do have money to save (even if it starts out with a very small amount). The next most important step you can take, in the beginning, is to start a small savings account if you haven’t already. Begin by depositing into it regularly, at least 10 percent of your gross paycheck. If you can’t find the 10 percent then see the next step how. Set up a payroll deduction with your employer’s benefits department to have 10 percent automatically deposited from each paycheck to your savings account. If you don’t see the transfer of money, you don’t feel the pain. A savings account will help you bare the waves of Murphy’s – when an emergency comes up, like your car breaking down, you won’t be thrown back into debt trench or end up broke. You will have some cash to pay for that emergency, and you can use your regular paycheck for regular expenses.

Look at voluntary spending. If you can’t find 10 percent to save per paycheck, then you need to cut some things from your spending. This is where tracking your spending comes in handy, but even if you don’t, you know some of the extras you spend on — coffee, snacks, eating out, shopping for gadgets and clothes, going out – these are just a few of the examples. You don’t need to cut everything out, but if you can cut a few of them, that can add up (pay extra attention to your food budget). Then, take the money you didn’t spend on those voluntary spending items and add that amount into your savings each payday.

Start a debt snowball to get out of debt. Yes, there is debt tsunami and the the cash cascade, but those are for seasoned debt free adventurers. If you have not tried a debt snowball, it is easy. List out your debts and arrange them in order from smallest balance at the top to the largest at the bottom. Then focus on the smallest balance first, putting as much as you can into it, even if it’s just $20 extra. When the amount is paid off, celebrate (frugally)! Then take that total amount you were paying (say $30 minimum payment plus the $20 extra for a total of $50) and add that to the minimum payment on the next largest debt. Continue this process, with your extra amount snowballing as you go along, until you pay off all your debt. This could take several years (will be 6 1/2 years for us to be debt free), but it is very rewarding. By focusing on the smaller debts first keeps you motivated on your debt free journey.

Walk a steady pace

After taking those first steps, it’s time to pick up the pace. Time to start on these steps:

Start a budget (b-u-d-g-e-t). Yup, I said it. I know the word stinks like Limburger cheese. But it doesn’t need to be hard, and if you set it up right, it’s fairly simple. Here is a great link to learn about setting up your first budget.

Use the bill pay feature for your bills. As much as possible, set up your bills to be automatically paid through your bank’s bill pay feature. For those that can’t, use your bank’s online check system to make regular automatic payments. Like many of the bank’s commercials, using bill pay really can take only five minutes of your time. Now, I log on once a month to my bill pay account, set up the payments, and hit submit. Five minutes normally, ten minutes tops.

Save for your irregular expenses. Personal finance author Mary Hunt calls it a Freedom Account, it is the key to ensuring that you have smooth finances and that you stick to your budget is to take into account all your irregular expenses, such as insurance, car maintenance or repairs, gifts (think Christmas!), medical and other such things. List them out, estimate your annual spending, and begin saving for them each month. Our family saves an extra $1,000/year for increased summer camp costs. So, we put away $38/paycheck and the summer is stress free. Some banks will allow you to set up sub-accounts within your saving account for each expense and then use a spreadsheet to keep track of each. Again, this way your regular budget is used just for that, regular expenses. The Freedom Account is for the irregular expenses (just remember stress free).

Set up personal finance goals, start planning for them. When do you want to retire? How often do you want to travel? When do you want to buy that dream house? Do you want to save for your kids’ college education? Think about what you want in life, and start planning to save for them, especially once you’ve done all the above. It took our family a long time to be able to implement this step, but it did come forth. First we started with small goals like planning to pay cash for our annual camping trip. Then we were able to plan for our family’s first big vacation to Maui (the awesome memories will last a lifetime for us).

Once you’ve gotten beyond these steps, you should be past the dependency of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Now, personal finance options like investing your money for your goals become available to you. But getting past these first stages is important.

(photo credit: Glamour.com)

Frugal to survive or frugal to be rich?

My goal with starting this blog was to hold myself accountable for getting out of debt. When that goal was reached I could track building my wealth.

Frugal to Survive

So, for the past couple years my frugal way of thinking was led by a need to survive or scrimp to pay off debt. Being mindfully frugal allowed me to save money that was redirected to paying down my debt faster. I sold some of my stuff on eBay and Craiglist so I could just stick to my budget and to find some wiggle room from living paycheck to paycheck.

The 3 Tips to Paying off Debt:

  1. Create a Budget

    Getting out of debt requires a plan. Creating a budget is your roadmap to a debt free life.

  2. Live Below Your MeansMost people give up on their budgets within two months because they find it hard to acclimate to living within plan and/or it’s boring. No one said it would be fun.

    Don’t become a sorry statistic, before giving up on your budget consider a few things. One, reevaluate your budget to see if you strapped yourself too thin; make a bit of wiggle room (yes, you still need to eat). Two, find some frugal blogs to discover small ways to save big (like packing your lunch for work). Three, come to the realization you need to hustle some side jobs for extra cash to help dig you out of your debt trap.

  3. Create an Emergency Fund and Snowball your DebtUse Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to get the personal finances in order. The first two steps are key when climbing out of debt.

Currency (getcurrency.com), a service of American Express. Check out my recent articles, 6 Tips on Eating Out With Kids and Staying Sane, Don’t Wait Another Day to Plan Your Retirement. Trust Me., and Setting Up Your First Budget.

Frugal to be Rich

Although, I still have debt my way of thinking is slowy evolving into frugal to be rich. Which is ironic because I wanted to be rich and spend lavishly – like Hollywood show, Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous.

Now, I find myself being mindfully frugally so that I can maximize my retirement account or put more cash into my savings account.

I can see it now, pitching a show called, The Lifestyles of the Thrifty Millionaires. You think Hollywood swoop up my idea? Not likely. ;)

You see, becoming a millionaire recycles The 3 Tips for Paying off Debt and takes it a few steps father.

Here are 5 Tips to Become a Millionaire:

  1. Create a Financial PlanNot only is creating a budget a road map for a debt free life, its also a road map for creating wealth. Now is a good time to add annual goals, too. Some goals to include are financial goals for 5, 10, and 20 years ahead; like saving for a house or being able to pay the children’s college tuition.
  2. Live Below your Means (Frugal)Don’t give up on frugality now! Just because you have money to spend doesn’t mean you need to start buying designer clothes or a big flashy house. To continue living below your means creating extra cash flow to save.
  3. SaveThere is no secret here if you want to build a million dollars you need to save. By making more money than you consume, allows you to put the remainder sum into a high interest savings account or investment vehicle. I wonder if I’ll become a stingy saver like multi-billionaire Walmart founder, Sam Walton. He drives a 15-year old truck.
  4. Make you Money Work for You (Invest)Time to put that hard earned money to work for you. Open an investment account and diversify those stocks. You can commonly expect returns up to 10 percent on investments held for the long term.
  5. Consider Starting your Own BusinessWhile it’s possible to become a millionaire by working full-time for someone else, there is more wealth to be earned becoming an entrepreneur.

    Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door, found that two-thirds of the millionaires are self-employed, with 75 percent of them entrepreneurs.

Paradigm Shift

I am on this total frugal kick right now. Bare with me as I spill my frugal thoughts into my posts. I have been doing things like washing out my Ziploc bags, washing my clothes in cold, cooking with more whole foods, borrowing movies from my friends and drinking tea or water with my meals.

This paradigm shift from frugal to survive to frugal to be rich is a nice change. It is fun knowing I saved $3 by making coffee from home versus buying it at my local coffee shop. And now that I can stretch my money arms, I am beginning to combine the steps towards reaching my goal to becoming wealthy. Steps like being frugal to save money to invest into starting my own business.

Frugality by itself will not make you rich, but by consuming less you are creating more to save. By making the steps work together you can reach your goal towards becoming debt free or building wealth. Please, do not give up on your financial goals! I know reaching them will be completely worth the hard work!

(photo credit: r.i.c.h. via Flickr)

Peter Thiel wants to give 20 under 20 Kids $100,000 to Drop Out of College

Billionaire Peter Thiel recently announced at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco that he will award 20 people less than 20 years old cash grants of $100,000 to drop out of school.

The Thiel Foundation was created to help innovate the next generation of tech visionaires. He believes there is more value for the entrepreneur to launch a tech or scientific idea immediately that to wait the full four years of college or eight years of grad school. Is Thiel doing the irresponsible thing by telling kids to stop going to college or is his forward thinking the next big thing?

It’s often been debated if kids should be sent off to college to help them become successful in their life. With the changes in economy, I am beginning to think the idea of sending them off to college is becoming old fashion.

Scarcity of Jobs

I know the youth of today feels the weight on their shoulders. My 16-year-old son is out looking for a minimum wage job at the local theater and fast food joint but is told, “we’re not hiring right now.” I cannot remember a time it was difficult as a teen to obtain a job. It is concerning that my son and his friend’s constantly discuss what a challenging era they are growing up in (not just economical, but environmentally).

There is no doubt in one’s mind that getting a job is more difficult these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports some states have a 14.4% unemployment rate (Aug 2010).

Some of the Hardest Hit States (11% and higher):

Rank State Rate %
51 Nevada 14.4
50 Michigan 13.1
49 California 12.4
48 Rhode Island 11.8
47 Florida 11.7
46 South Carolina 11.0

 
To help the unemployed cope, unemployment insurance is extended to 99 weeks for some hard hit areas.

Richest self-made Americans

And college doesn’t look so enticing when you see that these self-made billionaires dropped out of college to seek out their passions and succeed (Forbes 2003).

William H. Gates III (AKA: Bill Gates)
Harvard University, dropout
Net worth: $43 billion
Microsoft

Paul Allen
Washington State University, dropout
Net worth: $21 billion
Microsoft; Charter Communications

Larry Ellison
University of Illinois, dropout
Net worth: $15.2 billion
Oracle

Michael Dell
University of Texas Austin, dropout
Net worth: $11.2 billion
Dell

And here is the reason why Thiel and others alike believe entrepreneurs need to launch their technical and scientific innovations now:

“Because education seeks to impart past knowledge, when you are trying to create a technological breakthrough, you have to create new knowledge, and there is no way to teach that.”

They need to take their passion, drive, and self-taught knowledge to develop innovations. Bravo (I love that quote above, but it also explains why I can get so frustrated in the tech world – that’s why I love Google to find answers to my quandaries in a pool full of results).

Student Loan Debt

College students are being over consumed with student loan debts in their 20s. Parents facing their own money battles from the economic crisis cannot foot their child’s tuition bill. While college tuitions continue to rise, government scholarships and grants are dwindling. So, our children are taking on a blind faith that taking out large student loans will make for a worthy investment when they graduate (it makes me cringe when I hear of people carrying $100,000 worth of student loan debt).

We are making our children responsible young adults by putting them in debt? To struggle for survival? This is what we want for our kids? I don’t think so. And neither does Thiel.

Expand your thinking

There is a new movement taking place. A scarcity of jobs cause people to hustle ‘side jobs’ either because of the need to survive or to stashing away money to make ourselves financially responsible. Another reason is because we found we need to believe in ourselves – we are designing our own lifestyles – when we want to work, where we want to work. And the concept is working.

Technology is definitely expanding and designing our future, too. From computers, cell phones, to genomic sequencing machines – technology is a force that will drive the economy. Thiel’s program makes sense.

The Thiel foundation is awarding grants of $100,000 each to twenty participants for a two year program that will make them ultra-entrepreneurs. That is offering them a $50,000 salary or start-up money per year for these students to pursue their passion. This program will allow students to work on their ambitions before taking on the possibility of mass student loan debt.

ABOUT THE THIEL FOUNDATION
The Thiel Foundation defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic. The Thiel Foundation supports innovative scientific research and new technologies that empower people to improve their lives, champions organizations and individuals who expose human rights abuses and authoritarianism in all its guises, and encourages the exploration of new ideas and new spaces where people can be less reliant on government and where freedom can flourish. For more information, see ThielFoundation.org.

(photo credit: Accelerating Future)

Extreme Frugality to Live within Your Means?

Don’t you wish you could just get control of your finances? Meet the Carters – this family of six took on extremely frugality to do just that.

The great recession has caused many of us to face the cold hard facts about our finances. Last year, Mr. Carter really took a close look at this Social Security statement and realized what he’s made.

“We were spending for years way more than we made. We were averaging $41,000 a year [chuckles] for 10 years but we were spending like we were making $120,000.

It was at that time Mr. and Mrs. Carter decided it was time for the family – two parents, four children – to live within their means and they did it cold turkey. When all the bills were paid, they learned they only had about $550 to live. It was then the family was quick to learn some frugal habits.

Frugality to the max

Here are some of the frugal practices the family now puts in place:

  • No more buying convenient individual size snack packs, this family makes their own applesauce or buys a big jar to lower the price.
  • No more supermarket bread by the loaf, they buy a big sack of bread flour to make their own loaf each week.
  • Need eggs? They raise their own chickens where the kids help to care for them and collect the eggs.
  • Now mom hangs up the laundry instead of using the dryer.
  • In the near future, Mr. Carter wants to start farming winter vegetables on their 40 acre lot.

Become financially responsible

Many of us were forced to become responsible for our finances when our economy failed and were forced to learn some of the frugal habits our elders practiced during the depression. Even though it hit us hard, I believe this wake up call was necessary. It is my hope – especially as a personal finance blogger who is going through my own financial perils – that people will seek guidance and practice good habits of saving money, making financial goals, and living within their means.

I know it is all too easy to succumb to upsizing a fast food meal to adding that extra sale the cashier persuaded you to buy, but ask yourself before you accept, “is this item really necessary? Do I really need it?” Ninety-nine percent of the time you won’t need it.

And if you have kids who whine and add the extra dose of persuasion for you to put that item on the checkout counter that will keep them happy for the next twenty minutes – catch your whit and tell them, “no” – or explain that if they have the money then they can purchase it if they really want it.

Again, ninety-nine percent of the time they will not want it. Their money is too precious to spend on such an item. And the next 20 minutes might lead them to become cranky that you didn’t buy it, but they will survive and so will you.

Take a step up

Perhaps we all need to take a look at our finances and put some frugal practices into play; to stop wasting what we work so hard for. Learn from our grandparents and their grandparents for key ideas to living frugal (it wasn’t a choice for most of them to live this way, it was second nature). Take the Carters learned habits above and a few more like:

  • Packing a lunch for work
  • Reusing items in the house another purpose.
  • Learning to make meals from scratch, grow some of your produce, and never waste food.

Then put that extra money saved into our savings and retirement accounts. I think many people would be surprised how fast the money will grow when making a conscious effort.

We might whine and complain like our children not getting their way, but we will learn after repetitive motion to adapt to our practices that are going to secure our future and teach our children to be financially responsible. So, don’t wait another day. Stop cold turkey and take control of your finances like the Carters did.

(photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

Psych Yourself Rich Book Review

Psych Yourself Rich is the best book to help you understand the personal relationship with money.

Author Farnoosh Torabi shows you how to develop the mindset, discipline, and habits to grow wealth and achieve you goals on your own terms- without fear, anxiety, misery, or too much sacrifice, by combining the latest approaches in behavioral psychology with a disciplined attitude to help you psych yourself into a place of financial well being.

PSYCH YOURSELF RICH
Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life
(FT Press, October 2010; Hardcover: $20.99)

This is the book just about every single one of us needs to read right now! The recession hit the hearts and pocketbooks of many – a job loss, investments plummeted, a foreclosure. People now realize they need to take control and become smart with their money.

Before the recession, our relationship with money was disconnected – mainly because the topic doesn’t bring excitement in conversation or the real terms were not grasped (it’s why banks made a lot of money with those high interest credit card rates). So, we left it up to someone else to deal with our facts and figures – while many just assumed to trust the company representative and signed the dotted line. Relinquishing our financial relationships to someone else.

Read some of these statistics:

      The average household carries roughly $10,000 in credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve
      Foreclosure experts at RealtyTrac predict four million home will receive a foreclosure notice in 2010, about the same as in 2009
      Our collection of credit cards, when piled up, can physically reach more than 70 miles into space, and be as high than more than a dozen Mount Everests, according to researches at CreditCards.com

Now through the aftermath of the recession, people are paralyzed by the fear, unsure what next step to take with our finances. Farnoosh Torabi, author of Psych Yourself Rich, will show you the next moves – how to map out a personal plan based on what you really care for in life and learn how to get in gear, move forward, and transform your plans and dreams into reality.

  • Stop agonizing – and start acting
    Overcome the behaviors that keep you from achieving your fi nancial, personal, and professional goals
  • Assert yourself, take control, and stop shorting yourself
    Shift the power balance in all your financial transactions
  • Get more out of the money you already have
    Make more sensible decisions about what to buy and how to invest
  • Live your passion: identify what’s important to you and go after it
    Learn what it takes to succeed on your own terms, make the commitment, and do it

I totally recommend this book to anyone who wants to take control of their money on their own terms!

Follow Farnoosh Torabi’s Psych Yourself Rich in 10 Days here: LearnVest
Follow Farnoosh on Twitter @FARNOOSH

(photo credit: Amazon)

Farnoosh is also the author of YOU’RE SO MONEY: Live Rich Even When You’re Not, a candid financial tell-all for young adults getting ca dose of the real world for the first time. The New York Times calls her advice “perfectly practical”. Farnoosh was the money coach on SoapNet’s Bank of Mom and Dad, the host of Wall Street Confidential with Jim Cramer on TheStreet.com RV and the resident financial expert on TLC’s Real Simple, Real Life. You’ve seen her NBC’s Today Show, Larry Kind Live and The View. For more information about Farnoosh – go to http://www.farnoosh.tv.