Tag Archives: general finance

Tis the Season to be happy! fala la la laaaa…

Our company decided to do the annual evaluations a month early. So, I got my good news as a Christmas present: a 3.85% increase in my salary!

Was suppose to be 4%, but minor budget cuts didn’t allow my grateful boss to give the full. But who’s complaining?

But Murphy’s Law had to attach itself to the day. I also received the first bill for my Student Loan repayment. LOL!

Have a great weekend!

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College or not to College?

Now don’t get me wrong. I think when you are young, college is an invaluable tool towards gaining a great career. So no, I am not knocking a good college education. I have every intention of my children attending college or a vocational school.

But, if your are going to college to make lots of money in the future, there is a much simplier way to do accomplish this goal. Time and dedication.

What to do: Put away $450 a month (you know that typical car payment?) into an interest bearing mutual fund averaging 12 percent (the seventy-year stock market average) from the age 25 to the age of 65 and you will have $5,458,854.45.

I really wish someone told me this plain and simple advice when I was younger!

Tools of Success

Give a girl a camera and she takes beautiful self portraits (and thousands of other pics of little things around the house: her stuffed animals, pictures on the wall, the inside of her closet, the ceiling fan, etc…). Treasures, Memories that will last a lifetime to warm my heart.

Give a woman a teal notebook with budget sheets and she will one day make her family financially free. To be able to travel the world at luxury, spend more time with family and friends, lift the emotional weight off the shoulders, and simply… be happier. This too will last a lifetime.

Personal tools of success.

I am realizing, as I am writing this blog note, that personal tools of success cause a positive lifetime reaction. A camera & daughter equal years of memories. A book combined with paper and pencil is something that allow me to live years of gratitude.

And I am realizing, these tools don’t need to cost a lot. That it is not necessary to have all the bells and whistles. We have fulfilled our lives with complexities, but I am thinking that it is not necessary. Simplicity.

I have a small garden, to which I planted from seed. I nurtured the ground and it blossomed with time and care. To which, I made some fantastic zuchinni-pineapple muffins (they are really very good).

I am beginning to come to the conclusion that ‘Less is more’ and ‘simplicity’ may be the keys to my family’s future success.

What are your tools of success? I would love to hear about your dearest goal and what tool(s) you use to bring you closer to fulfilling your goal. Or how you did meet your goal.

Morning Sunshine… financial laughter

I always tell my son, “Morning Sunshine”. It’s my way of telling my son to make it a happy day. Thought I’d pass it onto you. :)

So, I was watching TV last night and a commercial came on:

“No Credit! No Problem! Finance a Brand New Dell or HP computer! If you order now you will also get a FREE color printer! a FREE MP3 player! and a FREE 19″ color monitor!”.

Have you heard the above commercial before?

I didn’t look to see what the atrocious finance charges would be… BUT, it’s only $29 a month! I got a laugh out of this commercial.

A lady, in her late 30s, comes on saying that SHE DIDN’T HAVE CREDIT AND NEEDED A COMPUTER! Then the man comes on saying, “I have a computer and started my own business.” “The kids can do their school work” Etc…

Well, I laughed because today I said, “that lady should be worrying about getting out of debt! Not buying more debt!” and “If that man had to finance a computer this way for his business, it isn’t financially sound and probably won’t last that long”.

I laugh because 15 years ago, I would of bought that computer through that advertisement. I was one of those millions of Americans who don’t have a clue about thier finances and didn’t have credit or good credit.

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Another commercial (non-finance). Has anyone heard this commercial on the radio? I tripped out the first time I heard it. I have yet to check out the site to see exactly what it is. “For people in a relationship who need something more outside of…” “we cater to both men and women” http://www.ashleymadison.com/. No serious, it talks how people who need more romance in their life outside of the relationship. Are we really that messed up in America that we don’t value marriage or relationships anylonger???? Okay, before I flip – can anyone tell me if this site really is for extra relationship affairs/romance? I can’t look at work and haven’t had time to jump on the computer at home. Crazy I tell you, Crazy!

*Can you believe the site is legit. Here’s the motto: “Life is short. Have an affair”
It is The Ashley Madison Agency of Married Dating & Affairs. Atrocious, I say! Crazy mad with 27,000 members seeking to cheat. Hmph.

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Reaching Your Financial Goals

Financial goals are things that you want to attain which require money you don’t currently possess. These goals can be short-term (less than 1 year) or long-term (greater than 1 year). Typical goals: buy a house, save for college, or retire comfortably.

Steps to reach Financial Goals

It’s going to take time, effort and discipline. There is no short way around it.

1. Prioritize Your Goals
“ An unwritten goal is only a wish” – proverb
Write your goals down on paper (or computer)! I prefer to write them on paper because the feel of writing them makes them real to me. And then choose which one you want to accomplish first. Prioritize!

How?
Needs versus Wants: The first step in prioritizing your goals is to objectively decide if something is a need or a want. A need is a necessity. Basic needs sustain life, such as food, water, shelter, heat and clothing. A want is something you desire but is not necessary for sustaining life (no, the Ipod does not fit under need, sorry but it is a want). Some wants may be practical in supporting your lifestyle, such as a computer or cell phone. Others may be a luxury, such as a vacation home or motorcycle. How much is enough? Is more always better? These are questions you will have to answer for yourself based on your values.

2. Make your goals SMART
SPECIFIC: State each detail of your goal. For example, “I want to buy a 4 bedroom ranch house, in a safe neighborhood, within 5 years”.

MEASUREABLE: How will you know if you’re making progress? State the criteria or amount needed to reach your goal. For example, “The price of the house I want is $350, 000.”

ATTAINABLE: How will you know what to do first? Break the goal down into smaller steps that need to be completed. For example, “I will need $35, 000 for a down payment.” “I will attain this by having $xxx automatically deducted from my paycheck and deposited into an interest-bearing savings account for xx months.”

RELEVANT: Does your goal fit your values? State why the goal is a good one for you. For example, “I want to own a house because I will enjoy making it my own and I want something that will build equity over time.”

TIMED: How will you decide when to act? Set a deadline for each step towards your goal. For example, “Today, at my lunch break, I will go to my credit union to fill out the forms to have money deducted from my paycheck and deposited into a savings account each month.”

3. Create and Action Plan

After you have made your goal SMART, make an ordered list out of the smaller steps that need to be completed. Assign deadlines for each step and put them onto a calendar that you normally look at each day. An essential tool to help you track your progress and make adjustments as time goes on, is a spending plan or budget.

4. Get Organized

In order to reach your goal, you will need to track your financial matters. There are many systems you could use, but here are two you may find helpful.

Paper records. A common way of storing and organizing your financial documents is to keep them in a filing drawer or box with several labeled hanging files or folders. Many people will label the folders according to their budget categories. Typical budget categories are: Income, Charitable donations, Savings (emergency, investments, retirement, Housing (mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, repairs), Transportation (car payments, taxes, insurance, repairs), Utilities, Medical, Loans, Credit Lines, Estate, and Obligations (child support, alimony).

Some people attach stick-on flogs to the documents they will need to find at tax time. Some people store these documents in a separate folder.

A non-financial file to keep is: Personal documents (social security cards, passports, birth certificates, etc). Naturally, these papers should be kept in a fireproof location or electronic copies should be made and kept in a secure place.

Electronic Records: One way to lighten the paper load and streamline some record keeping is to use a personal computer. Quicken Online (now free to use) or Mint are good programs to use.

5. Communicate Your Goals

Communicating regularly about your goals, helps you maintain your focus. Schedule a regular weekly time to discuss financial updates with you spouse and children. Involve the whole family in creating and maintaining a household budget. If you family isn’t aware of your financial goals, they can’t offer support.

6. Be Money Smart
The fact that you’re reading this shows that you are taking responsibility for attaining the knowledge and skills required to manage your financial matters. There are many good financial education resources available for free, like www.knowdebt.org/education. Improving your financial literacy will always pay great rewards.

Keep it Real

Financial goals are only one aspect of what most people want out of life. Almost always, financial goals are a means to a greater end, such as the happiness that comes from sharing experiences with family and friends. You may also have causes, beliefs, or values that are extremely important to you. They may be so important that you choose to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy t them. Only you can define what brings you happiness. Occasionally, you will encounter some obstacles in reaching your financial goals. Therefore, anticipate having to make adjustments to find a way around them, and don’t lose sight of the
things you value most in life.

And you’re right, I am by no means a great artist! :)

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If you give a Mouse a Cookie (my edition)

  • If you give a woman a (personal finance) blog,
    she is going to lay her financial life out there.
  • When she lays out her financial life,
    she’ll find out it is in disarray.
  • When she realizes the extent of her dysfunctional financial life,
    she’ll ask for a tracking sheet.
  • Then she’ll want to update it everyday.
  • When she notices the (large) amount of credit card debt,
    she’ll notice she needs to do some card cutting.
  • So, she’ll probably ask for a pair of scissors.
  • When she’s finished cutting up her credit cards in little, tiny pieces,
    she’ll feel like cleaning the clutter out of another place.
  • She’ll start cleaning the house.
  • She might get carried away and clean every room in the house.
  • She may even completely declutter the closets and cupboards as well!
  • When she’s done, she’ll probably want to bag it all up.
  • She’ll throw it all in her car, take it to the Goodwill and donate the stuff to charity.
  • When she comes home,
    she’ll get excited at the thought, “less is more”.
  • Then she will look at the computer will remind her that…
  • she needs to share the excitement with you.
  • So…
  • She’ll open up her blog editor.
  • And chances are that when she opens up her blog,
    she is going to lay out her financial life (and tell you her excitement)!

I’ve been a CLEANING MAD WOMAN this weekend! Cleaned out closet and cupboards. My daughter cleared out 3 bags of old toys and clothes. I found a few items in the house that I took pics and am placing for sale at my work’s eBoards (selling mecha at work. Neat, huh?). But the rest of my stuff, I immediately packed in the car and drove it straight to Goodwill. If I didn’t complete that task right away, it would of piled up in our garage. Yes, I did consider a garage sale. But, until I find the time to clear out the remainder of the house…it would have piled up in our garage. It didn’t fit my mentality at that moment. I just wanted to GET RID OF IT! And so, I did. :)

I still have a couple rooms left. The garage needs a serious decluttering, too. But, we are planning on doing a rehaul of the garage in the spring (new workbench, shelves, every box will be sorted and put into new rubbermaid boxes that are clearly labeled, the unused stuff will be sent to Goodwill, etc…). I will be sure to take pics of the before and after. That is going to be such a tiring project. But, so worth it!

Anyhow, back to clearing the Clutter. I thought it would be cute to mimic my thoughts to the kid’s story, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. My daughter and I love to read it as a bedtime story. Same with, “If you have a Moose a Muffin”. A lot of times I ponder on the moral of a story in relations with money. Or even an event, like gardening (but, I will bring that analogy up in a future post). It’s kind of neat to see how the simple lessons in life can mean so much.

Perhaps that is why Confucius became so important with his teaching known as “brief aphoristic fragments”. Fragments with big meanings.

Clear out the clutter ladies. It will immediately lighten your mood! And it may fatten your wallet, too. :)

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The Upside-Down Car Loan – Bleck!


Cars. Automobiles. Junkers. Bling. Gas Guzzlers. Tinker Toys.

First thing that comes to mind: “Chaching!”. Car maintenance, cost of the car, cost you pay the dealer. But, I live in California, commute 80 miles a day to work, and have children equates to “I need a car to drive the insane freeways, get to work in 20mph traffic, and will have wheels just incase something happens with the kids”.

Well, here is my issue. I bought a $14,000 car at 15.9% interest. When I finished paying it off, I will have paid $28,000 for the car. Dreadful, right? I know.

(Now I remember why I didn’t refinance! Light bulb moment! My car is upside down. I didn’t have the cash to pay the ‘extra’ on the car. So, I would need to refinance the car’s worth and take out a loan for the ‘extra’. Which would equate to the same, if not more, of an annual percentage rate. Hence the fact I didn’t refinance my car. Glad I figured that out!)

At this time, I owe $11,500 for the car and it is only worth $6,800. I am at a steady rate of owing $5,000 more than the car is worth.

Every once in a while, I began to ponder on my options of getting out of this upside-down car loan. So, this time I decided to search my options and this is what I found:

  • If you have a lot of car debt and you want to relieve yourself of a butt load of debt very quickly, then get rid of the flashy car(s). If tooling around in a sweet ride is more important than being financially healthy, then you need to seriously re-evaluate your priorities. Some people might not sell their car, because they do owe more than it is worth. However, if you owe $18,500 and you can sell the car for $16,000, go ahead and do it! If you don’t have the cash to cover the $2,500, then go to a local credit union and apply for an unsecured loan to cover the difference. You can get a loan for this range fairly easily. You’ll still have debt, but I’d rather have $2,500 in debt rather than $18,500. *I really don’t want to take out another loan. I will have to ponder this one. It’s pay $22K left remaining or pay $5K. The other problem is that I need money for another car. So, that is requesting another $5-$6K on top of the $5K loan. So, it would be pay $22K or $11K?
  • The best advice for someone who is upside down on an auto loan? Hang on to the car and keep on making payments. Keep the car they have, that’s probably their best financial bet. You’ll want to stick out the old loan until it’s paid for or, at the very least, until the amount you owe is roughly equal to the car’s market value. *The amount will never become roughly equal to the car’s market value. At least that I can see. Since, I’ve had the car it has always remained $5K above.
  • You may want to investigate refinancing your auto loan with a home equity loan, which will likely carry a lower interest rate. *Forget the home equity loan. No more loans! And I don’t need anymore New Debt!
  • If you refinance at a lower interest rate and keep your monthly payments the same, you will pay down the loan principal faster. If you can afford it, speed things up even more by shortening the term of the loan and increasing your monthly payments. *Speed things up… this is a possibility to consider. But, I am not sure I can since I am on a ‘schedule’. However, I could always move this up on the Snowball schedule to pay sooner than later.

After looking at my options on paper, this is what I figure: First, I don’t know that anyone would consider giving me ‘another’ loan for $11, 000. Nor do I really want to incur any new debt. I do not think at this time, I will be able to pay-off the extra $5, 000 at the same time buying a used car at approx $5,500 (come up with $10K on my own accord while Snowballing debt?!?!).

It seems my options stands at:

  • Hang onto the car, keep making the payments, and accelerate when possible (not the car, the loan ~ silly)
  • And, Move this up on the Snowball schedule. I really wonder the dent it would make in the interest payments? Will it be significant? I still need to figure that one out.
  • Well, as you can see: Cars can be a nuisance, if you let it. Someone with a Smart Money Mind (according to statistics) would have bought a used car (roughly 2 years old) and paid with Cash.

    So, let this be a hard lesson learned on my behalf. As, this one is my biggest financial blunders. But, now we all are grazing better pastures, right? We will heartily learn from our past mistakes, become debt free, and become Smart Money Minded people rich beyond belief!

    So, what’s is your biggest financial blunder? Or what was your biggest financial blunder? Come on… I know we all have them. :)~

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    I want! I want! I want! Controlling the Urge to Spend

    I just want to spend! Spend on the shower doors I need and want! I want my new kitchen countertops! Spend on the new couch we are in dire need of!

    Spend! Spend! Spend! Today! and on my the available balance I have on my Credit Cards. I feel weak today… this past week. I just want to blow my budget that I have been keeping in tact so nicely and be irresponsible!

    I see all this overtime my husband is now recieving and I just want to spend it! You would think the nice weekend trip my husband and I took that one weekend would have curbed the crave. But, it didn’t.

    I just want to go to Home Depot and rack up that debt!

    (do you ever have these moments of sheer weakness????) In my mind, I feel like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Of course, on the exterior, I am calm and collected with no stress on my face.

    So, I googled for some literary calming material with search phrases like, “stop the urge to spend”, “controlling the urge to spend”, “stop urge to splurge”, and “stop spending”. Do you know what happened? I received links to “stop impulse shopping”. Good right? But when you read many of the links it was in regards to COMPULSIVE SHOPPING ADDICTS!! haha! all I wanted was something to curb today’s attitude. That was a good laugh.

    Well of course, here are some of the tips I received:

  • Do not purchase items on a whim.
  • Comparison shop and buy only the items you need.
  • Create a budget. Add up the total dollar amount of the items you want to purchase and see if the total fits into your budget, and if it doesn’t, just buy the things that you absolutely need.
  • Compare all alternatives you have for not buying certain products.
  • Stay out of stores, malls, and other places that entice you to spend.
  • Refuse to be swayed by fancy advertising ploys. Just because something is on sale does not mean that you just absolutely have to have it.
  • The main point is that you plan your purchases and stick with the plan.
  • I know I need to create a budget for the things I want. But, I also feel the burden of paying off this debt we racked. I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to skimp and save, I don’t want to create this budget for house renovations. It can all be very tiring!

    Needless to say, I am not going to ‘blow’ my intact budget. I am not going to succumb to this feeling of weakness. Have any tips on how to control this urge?

    After searching endlessly, I did find a good blog post (if you still have yet to get those Credit Cards out of your wallet) by Blueprint For Financial Prosperity called Curb Spending By Writing Goals on Credit Cards

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    Some of my friends put a rubber band around their wrist if they’re supposed to remember something, like getting milk on the way home. Some of my friends send themselves email or schedule events in Outlook. Some of my friends draw treasure maps and hide them behind paintings in their attics (okay no they don’t, that was from Goonies). The point is, we all have little hacks we use to remind us about things we are supposed or not supposed to do in the future.

    Here’s a hack: Write on your credit cards. If you’re saving for a new television, write “New Television” on your credit cards. If you’re saving for your kid’s 529 plan, write “College Education” on the front of your credit cards. If you are $10,000 in credit card debt and devoted to busting that monkey on your back, write down $10,000 on the front of your credit cards. This simple act alone has the potential to change your behavior for the better and, if nothing else, help you achieve your cash flow-related goals much sooner.

    It’s a reminder. Every time you go to pull out that credit card to buy something, you are reminded about your goals. You are reminded you are saving towards a television, your child’s education, or cutting down that monster of a debt to Uncle Citi (or Uncle Discover, or Uncle American Express…). Do you really need what you’re about the buy? Do you really need it more than the television/education/debt? You may decide you do need it more, but at least you’ll have made a conscious decision.

    Other people will see it (but not truly know!). When I recommend that you write $10,000 on your card because you owe that much, I don’t mean to embarrass you in front of others. That $10,000 could mean anything, however it will mean $10,000 in credit card a debt to you and that’s all it needs to mean. You merely need to remember how long and hard you’ll have to work to pay off that debt and decide whether that purchase is worth it.

    It’s also a conversation starter that might net you some positive benefits. For example, did you know that the cashiers at Bed Bath & Beyond have a little binder of bar codes for competitor coupons? If you mention that you’re saving towards your kid’s education or paying off debt (or ask nicely, which my wife did once), maybe you get a discount on your purchase. (for those curious about the binder, cashiers scan a particular code to indicate a customer brought in a competitor’s 10% or 20% off coupon or something, I believe it’s a matter of convenience and tracking since they can’t actually scan the other store’s coupon).

    Indicates its importance to you. By virtue of it appearing, in Sharpie, on your credit cards, you’re essentially declaring that to be the single most important cash flow-related financial goal that you have. It also forces you to think about what you will write down and in what order. Is the television more important than the $10,000 debt? If so, why? If not, why not? Is saving for a Roth IRA important enough to put down on your credit card? Why or why not? These are all questions you are forced to ask if you’re willing to take this simple step of writing down your goals on the one thing you are likely to see each day.

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    Ah, a calming to the storm. :)
    I feel better, because eradicating the family’s massive debt is more important to me then blowing my intact budget.

    Now, its onto figuring out how to produce extra income to pay off debt and to drafting a budget to include house renovations?

    Any thoughts on this?

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