The Easiest, Most Painless Way Imaginable To Save Money

This is a guest post by Greg McFarlane.

Yes, it’s easy, but adopting it means being an iconoclast by default.

I’m talking about The Activity (actually, The Lack Of An Activity) That Dare Not Speak Its Name. One so extraordinary, so unusual, that everyone under its spell is treated as some sort of human aberration in need of reassurance and approval. And even then, people will still be certain that you must be either a medical curiosity, a desperately penitent deviant with an unfathomable past, a sheltered religious zealot, or at any rate, a less-than-full member of society. Because no one with this horrible affliction could possibly be enjoying all life has to offer.

Teetotalism.

Never even crossed your mind before, did it?

Look, this is not a moral issue. I am not your finger-wagging aunt. It doesn’t matter to me if you shoot black tar heroin into both eyeballs simultaneously. I don’t care if Ron Wood throws his hands up in defeat after a night on the town with you because he can’t keep up. Or if Lindsay Lohan says, “I’m, like, having fun with you and all, but still, here’s the name of my addiction counselor. Call him. He’s really good.”

But if you are going to inject that smack, at least don’t throw away money on it.

A rum & Coke at the Foundation Room in Las Vegas costs $12, but the view of the Strip is complimentary. However, the same drink is essentially the same price 40 floors downstairs at the (indoor) House of Blues.

That’s one ounce of rum, maybe an ounce-and-a-half if you and the bartender share sufficient sexual chemistry. Premium rum costs a bar maybe $14 for a 59-ounce bottle, so you’re buying 24¢ worth of rum, a penny or two of cola syrup, and ice and water, whose prices are measured in trillionths of cents.

Which means you’re paying about 4500% markup for the drink itself. And of course, you’d better be leaving a tip, you cheap bastard.

It doesn’t matter what your preferred intoxicating beverage is. The margin between what the distributor pays for beer and what you pay is in the same neighborhood. And let’s not forget the wonderful 21st century indulgence of “bottle service”, in which an upscale venue charges you even more for the privilege of not having to go to the bar or flag down a waitress to order drinks. (Which reduces the workload on their bartenders and waitresses, freeing up time for them to serve other patrons absurdly marked-up drinks.)

Nothing comes with a higher markup than alcohol does, except maybe Cuban exit visas. And why not? The people who sell alcohol have the perfect clientele – motivated, repeat buyers who don’t accept substitutes.

Look at it this way. Among doing other things, I sell books (available now at Amazon and BN.com!). But imagine if every person who bought my book either:

-just wanted to be left alone with it, gazing into the book while contemplating their sins;

-bought one every week as far back as he could remember, and would continue to because that’s just the way he’s always done it and always will do it;

-read it, wanted another one, wanted another one after that, and was going to BUY EVERTHING ON THISH WHOLE DAMN SHELF IF I WANTS, BOOKTENDER;

-was legally too young to buy it, and risked expulsion or a citation or parental punishment because my book was either such a great read or a necessary stepping stone en route to full adulthood, or;

-was commemorating something, and wanted to prove to the guest of honor that money was no object.

If you’re drinking, you’re probably either depressed, a creature of habit, addicted, trying to be cool, or celebratory. Okay, fine, you aren’t. Whatever you feel comfortable believing.

Now let’s assume that I sold my book at the same markup bars do. That means you’d be paying $268 for a regular glossy trade publication. Yet I sell the Kindle version for 10 stinking bucks, trusting the electrons will arrange themselves in a way you find engaging.

Just try it, once. Purely as an economic exercise, go out with your regular co-conspirators and substitute club soda for beer. You’ll be embarrassed to do this, peer pressure being far stronger among adults than it is among kids. So tell everyone you’re having surgery the next morning if that’ll make you feel better. Surgery on your instep. (Pick an innocuous and hard-to-reach body part. No one will ask you to take off your shoes.)

If you usually kick back 5 drinks a night, every couple of weeks, you’ll save well over $1000 over the course of a year. How many days’ worth of take-home pay is that for you?

The uncompromised brain cells will just be a bonus, as will the feeling of nonchalance at the police roadblock.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas and Lahaina – testament to the power of entrepreneurship. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. Buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at greg@ControlYourCash.com.

Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover

The beginning of my family’s get out of debt journey, it was all about being a frugalite in order to help accelerate payments. We also set up the budget and our snowball schedule.

Definition of a Frugalite: One who is frugal, yet fun. A person who wants to save as much of their hard earned cash as possible – but in creative ways.

But as time goes on,  because our finance payments are automated and in sync with our snowball schedule, I have noticed we don’t practice being frugal as we used to be in the former days. I believe this happened because we freed up some funds for free play and convenience is easier to accept. The bad side of this… our get-out-of-debt-journey is going way toooo slow for my liking.

Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover

Many of you read Jacob’s blog called, Early Retirement Extreme {if you don’t, you should}. He has what’s called the Early Retirement Extreme {21} Day Makeover: the practical guide to “retiring” in 5 years with a nest egg sufficient to cover all your living expenses. He’s done it and he tells ya how it can be done.

I want to get out of debt, now. I am tired of waiting. There is plenty more I want to do with my life than sit around handing over my hard earned money to my bills. I am toying with the idea of taking part in this 21-Day Makeover and analyzing it from a family’s perspective.

I know there was a comment on Jacob’s blog about how to retire early when you have 2 kids. This got me thinking. How does a person/people with children meet their goal of becoming debt free? I know I struggle with paying down debt while raising teenagers because they seem to be uber expensive. And I struggle more in paying our debt down with gazelle intensity.

But Jacob hit the nail on the head with this Q & A:

Q: How can someone with children retire early?
A: The same way as people without children. By themselves, children actually spend very little money. The problem is parents spending money on their children without limits. If you adopt the same basic guidelines for your children as you do for yourself, the cost will be low. The fiscal or frugal problem happens when parents are willing to spend less on themselves but still create a consumer lifestyle for their children. I believe this is doing the children a disfavor.

{*raises hand* Yes, I am guilty of this !}

The Difference in Scenarios

Jacob was a student, single {now married} and had more freedom to make these extreme choices. And those choices were able to continue to the near degree even when he married, because DW knew the situation before hand {she did, right Jacob? ;)}

I have a family {me, hubby, tween and teen, 2 cats, and fish}. The family did not come into extreme circumstances and it is my obligation to care for these children {meaning, income will not be brought in from my kids or pets}.

The Project, The Reason

I don’t know that I want to live ‘extreme’ forever. But I do know that I want to retake the steps, obtain the lifestyle, that will help me get rid of debt with gazelle intensity. Here are the plans:

  • Take each day’s makeover steps {prolong each step in 1 -3 week increments} and apply it to my family.
  • Update you via vlogs {video blogs} and posts with our progress, our gripes, why I think this could or could not work in a family setting or if I am just doing the makeover steps myself. Oh ya, I’ll add the frugal recipes on here, too! {I may divide these updates between vlogs/posts and a newsletter – Haven’t decided yet}
  • Add ‘how-to’ post sprinkled in between {how-to mend a sock, plant an herb garden, batch cook & freeze, how-to sell your stuff, ect…} . If you’re a blogger with a keen knowledge of a how-to {frugal} and would like to Guest Post, I would love to hear from you!

Like this vlog, above. My daughter and I made the conscious choice to walk to school instead of drive. In fact, we had a great talk  and she had fun recording the short video. By walking, I would like to keep track of how much I am saving in terms of gas and oil changes {and hopefully I can tell you of some weight loss, too}.

Other conscious frugalite choices I did yesterday: drove home without the AC {it was hot yesterday, too}, packed my lunch for work, and made home fries for dinner instead of running out to the store.

Conclusion

Anyone will be able to benefit from project {or perhaps you’ll find cheap entertainment in watching/reading these posts}. Whether you have kids or no kids, getting yourself out of debt needs motivation. Isn’t that why we are all blogging?

But, this project will definitely help those who do have children and struggle with paying down debt. I hope that I can bring forth guidance, that you & I can learn what may or may not work, find some helpful recipes {share yours, too}.

And this will hopefully help me and my family speed up this get out of debt drama I’ve been hanging on for so long!

So go print out Day 1: Finding a Place to live and we’ll bring it up for discussion in a few days! In fact, go read the whole 21 days and get those thoughts brewing!

Single Mom, Rich Mom, want to chime in any thoughts or tips?

Posts I enjoyed this week

Check out the Yakezie Carnival on Beating Broke. He did quite an awesome job creating a huge list of recent blog posts written by Yakezie members {What is Yakezie?}

Hear of the Catfight of the Personal Finance Blogger Chicks? It’s a challenge of “who can spend the least in the month of June” and I’ve signed up for it {and am deemed to win, too}. ;)

Personal Finance Blogger Chicks:
Single Mom, Rich Mom {Host}
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance
Move to Portugal
and myself…

Let the brawl begin!

My New Hopefully Passive Affiliate Site: DIYThemesGallery.com I still have a bit more to tweek or add, but I am pretty much done with the site. Plus, many of you personal finance bloggers using Thesis as your theme choice are profiled on the site.

Living Trusts for Everyone {Book Review}

Living Trusts for Everyone

Why a Will is Not the Way to Avoid Probate, Protect Heirs, and Settle Estates

by Ronald Farrington Sharp

Excerpt by Allworth Press
Ronald Sharp explains trusts in clear and easy-to-understand language, including one truth most lawyers don’t want to admit: A trust is often better than a will and less costly! Wills benefit lawyers. Trusts benefit families. Without all of the technical jargon included in most law books, Living Trusts for Everyone highlights the benefits of trusts and how to avoid unnecessary legal expenses.

Readers will find information on:

  • understanding the different types of trusts
  • how to fund a trust
  • the role of trustees and guardians
  • selecting an expert attorney to draft the trust
  • whether trust seminars are useful
  • who absolutely must have a trust

Not only can probate be avoided with trusts, but lesser-known advantages include easier asset management for children and disabled heirs, estate tax reduction, avoiding court-ordered conservatorship, and a simpler and less costly settlement process than with a will. Even readers who already have trusts can benefit by determining whether a trust is a good one or needs to be updated. The book also includes step-by-step instructions explaining what to do when the maker of a trust dies. Sample forms and letters assist the family in the settlement process.

My Take

This is an excellent book about Living Trusts! Especially if you are looking to save potentially thousands of dollars in lawyer fees {not to mention time and effort at the lawyer’s office}.

It literally answers any and all questions one has about living trusts {answered ALL of my questions – especially because I have my children to think about}. And mentions the benefits of having a trust: assest management, tax reduction, probate avoidence {that’s a big one}, and for those wishing to avoid court ordered conservatorship should they become disabled as to be unable to manage their own affairs. Oh ya, a lot of other benefits are defined in this book when you read it.

But I think the best thing of all, atop all the key points listed above, it comes with a set of instructions to follow at death. {I wish someone gave me a key list like this when I got married about what and how to change all my paperwork!}

Ronald Farrington Sharp, attorney himself, tells it like it is in attorney land, too – the schemes and tactics used to help make attorneys rich {Wow, they can make lots of money to hold your files in a cabinet}. I got a kick from some of the potentially costly methods.

But Ronald Sharp offers great advice on how to choose an attorney and what to watch out for. Because having the guidance of an attorney is very beneficial when planning your estate. Your life is not as simple as a fill-in-the-lines-with-a-printed-document-obtained-from-any-legal-forms-website. Obtain an attorney to help you plan your estate and wrapping up your estate at death = good. Finding an attorney you trust to help you with these matters = perfect!

Don’t think you have an estate?

Don’t put the notion aside until you read this book! Seriously. I didn’t think I had an ‘estate’ until I read this book. I am getting myself a living trust. Cased Closed. ;)

More Information on Living Trusts for Everyone: Why a Will is Not the Way to Avoid Probate, Protect Heirs, and Settle Estates by Ronald Farrington Sharp can be found at Amazon.com

Money Funk goes Comic

Dream Come True!

I was thrilled to find out I was going to be written into the next PF Comic! I love comic books! So this is seriously a dream come true. I LOVE YOU Brad for writing in my character.

Fred from Credit Card Daily sent me the Sneak Preview via email. I was so giddy when I opened up my email!

Look at those bedroom eyes? Francis, the awesome illustrator of this comic … Thank you for making me look so dreamy!

See… way back in the day, Brad (Enemy of Debt) and J. Money (Budgets are Sexy) had this ‘friendly’ credit card debate on my post, 6 Financial Things I Wish I had Known When Starting Out in Life. It was a great debate. So Brad referred to the post when submitting his story line to Fred at Credit Card Daily. Awesome!

Check out Credit Card Rewards or Credit Card Regrets, Part One of this PF Comic. It also stars:

Don’t forget, Part Two of Credit Card Rewards or Credit Card Regrets PF Comic #5 will be:

  • On the 2nd of June where they will reveal what Enemy of Debt’s next move is to the J.Money’s zany gambling habits!
  • What has happened to Baker?
  • Will Money Funk be ok?

Serious Awesomeness! And J. Money, shame on you! That knock out with the skateboard had to seriously throw some pain on Enemy of Debt! ;)

CREDITS
Illustrator: Francis Vallejo – Graphics, Panel Layout and Inking (and totally cute)
Story: Brad Chaffee
Editor: Fred Schebesta

Check out this Net Worth Plugin for WordPress – it allows you to publish and keep track of your networth. You record information on your monthly assets and liabilities, and then graph or display a data table tracking your net worth. The calculator is perfect for doing monthly blog posts about your networth as you can embed monthly snapshots of your networth as a graph or table.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

I’m at a farm in Northern Nevada, spending time with family and friends, in a gorgeous multimillion dollar home with a breath taking view.

As I sit hear drinking my coffee on a leather couch positioned in front of a monster stone fireplace and a huge wall of windows, I wonder can money buy happiness?

Now let me explain. I’ve commented a few times about wanting to acquire significant wealth to buy a big home and all it’s glory. Yes, it’s a selfish goal but one I will accomplish with tons of hard work. 

“Dreams are made a size too big so that you can grow into them.”

I want the big house with lots of rooms, granite countertops, bathrooms that look like hotel spas, mass king fireplace, acreage for gardens and my husband’s cattle & horses. I want it all. It’s where I want to spend my hard earned investments.

But it’s not all for monetary reasons. Like this house holds the whole big clan on a visit; everyone couple has there own room. The kids have a gorgeous playhouse/bedroom. The children get to feed the trout, ride the horses, and run around on the tractor. They also get to learn horseman skills and how to fish. The family gets to gather around the large open kitchen chatting up memories. The boys get to man it up around the BBQ and patio. The family concept is awesome! And I would be honored to be that house that gathers my family and future grandchildren in a big ole house.

Can money buy happiness? Well, the family gathering is the happiness, of course. The money can increase it’s fun. And as my goal, I’d rather enjoy investing in it’s material glory for the cause.

Do you think it’s wrong to have such selfish goals? Do you have selfish goals of your own that you want to share? Be fun to hear them. Have a Happy Memorial weekend.

- Money Funk

I wanted to post a pic but WP and iPad are not working together.

Infomercial Products: Seize the “Buy Now”

Ladies and gentlemen, do you scrub, scrape, and scour baked-on crud on cookware; cry over gallons of spilled milk; fall off your ladder when cleaning gutters; and torture yourself to get a firmer fanny? Wish there were a better way?

Then stay up to find the Must Have Product on late night TV? (Why you staying up that late watching TV anyway?)

Let us understand the psychology behind infomercials and understand how they mesmerize you and have you maxing out your credit card:

  • Infomercials are scripted to pump up dopamine in your brain [Buy, Buy, Buy]
  • Infomecials take you on a psychological roller-coaster ride – They tell you about a problem you never had, follow it with an fantastic solution, then a a series of ever more amazing product benefits, bonuses, and giveaways, all leading to the thrilling plunge of an unbelievable low price. And they make you buy in the next few minutes because it only take 5 to 6 minutes for your dopamine levels to drop. It’s all about the psychology of selling.
  • The magic of TV and film editing and shooting make anything look good – they can make a so-so product look Amazing! Actually abot half of the infomercial products deliver on their promise, 30 percent still deliver but are too expensive, and the rest are Worthless!

Have you been suckered by an infomercial product? Asking yourself when the product arrives, “What the heck did I just buy?”

Lets look at a few infomercials that I just don’t get (oh, there are a bunch more… but here are a few good ones)

The Shake Weight
Designed specifically for women to tone up. Not bulk. No batteries Needed for this baby! Sexy, lean arms in minutes!

Are you serious? Click on the picture to see the video (forward to about half way on the video) Ya, it looks like something else to me. Wouldn’t be caught using this weight!

My Secret Hair Enhancer
Stop being self conscious about your hair. My Secret Hair Enhancer is an easy to use aerosol spray that was created to solve the condition of thinning hair for both men and women.

Okay, now I know hair thinning or loss is not a subject to joke about. But the product is! If you are going bald, men… shave it or wear a cap. Neatly trim the hair you do have. The tips listed are much more accepted by a woman then a spray product that is liable to drip when you sweat under the warming sun.

EZ Cracker
This EZ Cracker will crack eggs, separate egg whites & strip shells from hard boiled eggs in seconds… no mess no fuss!

This big gadget…really? It wouldn’t even fit in my kitchen drawer! Did your mother teach you nothing? Did your mother never teach you to gently toss the yoke between the shells letting the egg whites pour to the cup beneath? Don’t you know you can put baking soda in your gently boiling water and peel the egg without actually ‘peeling’ it? [See Tim Ferris perform this amazing task!]

Tip: be careful of an infomercial’s low price. The rest of the cost could be hidden in the shipping charges.

How to Seize the “Buy Now”

In fact, before you buy any infomercial product, follow these steps:

Pause 10 minutes before buying
By then, you impulse-shopping dopamine levels should calmed down. [you can easily find a knock off, find the product online somewhere, or wait until it shows up in your drugstore]

Ask, “Would I buy this with cash?”
Most of you would not pay cash. That nifty little credit card candy-coats the fact that your spending money [on that?!]

Consider other solutions
EZ cracker versus learning the basics of cooking from a friend or family member

Listen for true “value” clues
When the announcer tells you it’s “a $40 value,” then says he’ll give you two for one, that means the value is $20-and probably less [thinking you could pick up same fabulous product at the swap meet for much less]

Calculate the real price
Remember the tip about watching the shipping costs. Companies are legally allowed to add additional shipping & handling cost, as they feel needed. Be sure to add the charges to the product price to see what you are really paying.

Say no to upselling
When they offer you the nifty gadgets for the fabulous product you are buying, say “NO”! Chances are, they will sit unused in your cabinet to be found 20 years later opting for a garage sale.

Avoid shipping and handling fees
Wait until you see the product, like Snuggies, show up in your local drug store with the “As seen on TV” sicker. [I am ashamed to admit, I bought my daughter that must-have-snuggie for Christmas - and she no longer uses it - wasted money]

Okay, so hilarious infomercial products. But do you have an infomercial product you actually enjoy?

Budget for Summer Spending

Have you considered a summer budget? If you haven’t done so, its a good time to plan one, NOW.

According to Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, summer spending is second to the Christmas holiday season. Really? That darn sun! ;)

As it warms the earth, the people come out to play.

It makes sense to me as there is a multitude of events that take place in sun. And if you don’t have a decent budget in place, these situations can leave you with a negative cash flow.

Summer expenses:

  • Weddings
  • Graduations
  • Holiday parties/bbq’s & beer
  • Staycations
  • Home improvement projects
  • Back-to-school shopping
  • Yard sales
  • Summer clothes
  • Flea Markets

Don’t forget league games, and if you’re fortunate enough, a vacation.

Summertime, living large on a budget

One way to prepare for summer expenses ahead of time is to open a Summer Account with your local bank. My credit union’s Summer Account allows you to deposit a specified amount (I do $35 twice a month) via direct deposit. Then once a year (June, July, or August) the money is released to you and deposited into your checking account.

For me, this money comes in perfect for increased day care expenses and taking in a theme park. But chances are, if you’re reading this it’s because you’re planning for summer fun last minute.

Make a Plan

Step 1: Go to the dollar store to pick up a cheap calendar to stick on your wall. Map up the dates when all the events are taking place. Totally helps to see what plans are ahead of you.

Step 2: Estimate its costs. Give yourself a decent budget. Don’t strap yourself so much you are not going to enjoy it.

Step 3: Comp the total and divide. Divide the by week’s dawning the first event. Does it look like a feasible budget to attend all the soiree’s? If not, consider what events are most important to attend and omit the others.

Step 4: Recalculate the costs. I know we’d love to do it all, but at least attending the most important summer events would be nice.

Step 5: Start Saving! It might not be much, but its a start.

Or you could raise fast cash for summer by: Hosting a yard sale, sell your stuff on eBay or Craigslist. Pick up a second part-time job delivering pizzas. Or take the notion and plan for some frugal entertainment – there some great low costs entertainment options!

Summer lends for wanting to immerse in the fun the season brings. And there is nothing wrong with partaking in these festivites as long as it doesn’t set you back. The best solution is to plan for it.

My Week’s Reading Picks:

25 More Inexpensive Ideas to Give Your Life Luxury
More Style Than Cash

8 Big Reasons Why Your Getting an F in Personal Finance
Len Penzo

Enjoyable and Cheap Ways to Get Your Exercise
Sweating the Big Stuff

The $10,000 Trick to a Rainy Day Fund that just grows and grows
Single Mom, Rich Mom

5 Tips for Saving Money on Your Next Road Trip
Peak Personal Finance

Small Saving Drop Bucket
Free From Broke