Generosity Dec18

Generosity

This is a short video produced by a communication company in Thailand. The message is universal…and always timely. Watch it and look for ways you can pay it...

When A Bargain Isn’t A Bargain Nov25

When A Bargain Isn’t A Bargain

I love bargains. In fact, I have such a reputation among my friends, they sometimes ask me to help them shop; I truly am “Dealtime Deb.” I love the hunt of finding just what I need at the best price. I’ve written previously about practical ways to save money. It just makes sense to shop around to make your limited resources go further. However there are times, many times, when a bargain is not a bargain. I have stuff in my house I never use. I made the mistake of falling for a deal when I really didn’t need it or could not afford it. How do you know when a deal is a deal? Here are some reasons our justifications may not be justifiable at all: You don’t need it. Buying something because it seems like good deal—but is something you would otherwise not even consider purchasing—is no deal at all. Sometimes this involves saying no to a high-pressure salesperson. You get what you pay for, which often means “cheap.” Some things may be a good price, but their inferior quality means they will not last. Think back to something you were excited to get as a child, only to be disappointed when it broke. It’s often a better deal to spend a bit more for quality. You didn’t budget for it. Financial advisors like Dave Ramsey are sticklers about making a written budget and sticking to it. While I’m not so fanatic (perhaps I should be), I think there is wisdom in it. The idea in making a budget is that you set priorities. Rationally telling your money where to go each month is safer than giving in to situational temptation when walking past a store item or finding a deal online. The power of budgeting is that you spend your money on paper before you’re exposed to the emotions of a deal that just presented itself. You put it on a credit card or you cause your checking account to be overdrawn because you don’t have the money. Paying 10 or 20% interest or getting slapped with an overdrawn fee can easily eat up whatever savings you think you got on an item. A good principle is to live on last month’s income. When you put things on credit, you’re spending next month (or next year’s) income. While we rejoice in our perceived savings on a bargain, we too easily dismiss the interest we’re paying. Only use a credit card if you can afford the item and will pay off the bill when it’s due. You buy on impulse. The retail business knows you better than you know yourself. They know they can get you into a store or to a site with the offer of a “deal you can’t pass up.” However, once there, you find lots of other enticing products or services. Grocery stores know this too well, which is why they put candy bars and magazines by the checkout counter. If you see something you think you need at a killer price, sleep on it. You believe the deal will be gone. This is perhaps the most enticing temptation of all. The deal is for a limited time, and if you don’t get it now, you’ll never get such a deal again. This is rarely true. But we are emotional beings and start to believe we must get something now or we will have lost out. We rarely lose out by waiting. You deserve a break today. That was not only a McDonald’s ad campaign, it’s something we all battle with. We work hard. We’re stressed. We deserve that thing. Sometimes it is good to reward yourself. But buying things you can’t afford is not giving yourself a break; it’s often mortgaging your future. You don’t think about the long-term cost. For example, you could spend $5,000 on new furniture. Assuming you didn’t...

Delayed Gratification...

I would really like to have an iPad. In fact, I’ve thought about this quite a lot in recent weeks and spent a fair amount of time researching the models and scouring the Internet for the best prices. But do I really need one? And is it a priority? Of course I could use one, and my lizard (animalistic) brain is successfully justifying my “need” for one. But the more developed parts of my brain (and character) are trying to overrule the impulse. Sometimes we need to choose to wait– delay the gratification.  In the 1960s, psychologists at Stanford University conducted a study in delayed gratification. They gave children a cookie. The kids were then told if they did not eat the cookie when left alone, they would get two cookies. Predictably, most ate the cookie and only few got the second. In tracking these children, researchers found those who were able to resist the temptation to eat the cookie immediately did better in school and were more successful in life. Delayed gratification seems to be a key for success. Self-control is not easy. We are naturally selfish and impulsive. And we are constantly bombarded with marketing campaigns trying to convince us to buy buy buy, eat eat eat, and consume consume consume! Poverty is a complex issue. It’s not a lack of things, but a lack of life skills. Certainly many people in the world live in places where systems keep them down. Others choose to live self-sacrificially to invest in others. But a very huge contributing factor to poverty is a lack of self-control. People live paycheck-to-paycheck because they spend money as soon as they get it. Many are unable to think long-term; they give in to immediate gratification. They can’t pay the...

Save Real Money Online Apr22

Save Real Money Online...

I like to shop online. It’s convenient; saving time, gas and money. There a many tools to help you shop, like aps and website that compare models, prices, and offer discounts. It’s a great way to save a ton of money! Just in the past two days I saved more than $51! I need an electronic ball valve (really). Locally they are almost $400. So I decided to look around online. First I did a simple Google search for the part and found websites that compared models and prices. I was able to find comparable product for $185 at a particular online store. Upon checkout, I decided to Google “discount codes” for the store I was buying from. Sure enough, I found a code for $25 off from another website. I plugged it into my cart and VOILA! I saved $25, bring the price down to $160! Then I needed to order something else at Lowe’s. At checkout I decided to try another Google search, this time for “Lowes promotional codes.” And SHAZAM! I found a code for 10% off my order. That translated to 26 bucks! Seriously, 26 bucks! So without trying very hard, I saved $51 in hard cash and even more if you consider what shopping around did for me. Whether or not you like to shop online, if you GO online, doing a little research can help you save more of your hard-earned money. It just takes a little tenacity and belief that you can get the best deal if you try just a little! (I’m amazed at people who never shop around. Ugh!) The following lists are a some great sites, though only a drop in the bucket. As I mentioned, a simple online search using Google, Yahoo or...

DEATH And Taxes

They say they’re the only two things you can count on. We don’t like to talk about either; but they are inevitable. Few of us voluntarily sit down and think about what will happen when we die. It’s just not a comfortable scenario to consider. And yet death is the one certainty we have; preparing our ‘estate’ (no matter how small or big) is the right thing to do. Taking care of all your stuff can be a real pain for others if you haven’t expressed your wishes. I like what Dave Ramsey says, “To die without a will is just plain rude!” Do it for the people who care about you. You don’t have to hire an expensive attorney; you can download a form from Internet sites like legalzoom.com. But making a will is only one thing that should be on your list. At the time of this posting, you can get a will from U.S. Legal Forms for only $15. In preparing for the (someday) inevitable, you might consider the following questions: How will I leave my earthly affairs? Would my loved ones be scrambling to find out know how to handle my physical remains? Would they know how to deal with my bills? Less dramatic than death might be a critical illness or robbery. If I fell ill, would those around me know my doctor and insurance company? If my home was broken into, would I know what items were taken? These are unsettling questions to consider when things are going well. But if we don’t, we end up dumping a huge responsibility and hassle on our loved ones at the time when they are dealing with grief. When my dad suddenly passed away, we were so thankful that he had created a system so we could locate his critical information. So the question then is, What information do I need to gather or create so my loved ones have peace of mind on how to manage my affairs? How old do I need to be to start this process? The answer is NOW no matter what your age; if you start now, it will be easier as your life becomes more complex. (For a little encouragement not to procrastinate, see the article on getting A Round Tuit.) If you have ANY assets, you should at least write up a simple will and sign it in front of a notary public and a couple of witnesses. But there is other information you should collect. Here’s a starting list. It may seem daunting at first but if you get started now with just one item, you will eventually collect everything you need. Emergency contact info Last Will and Testament Durable Power of Attorney Living Will (dictating the kinds of heroic measures you would or would not like to be take for you) Health Care Power of Attorney Primary Doctor and other health care professionals Health/life insurance Donation of body/organs after death Immediate Action Steps after death Funeral/Burial plans/Obituary information Other notifications (work, school, clubs etc.) Investments and banking info Credit cards and outstanding loans Real Estate holdings and mortgages Life insurance/pensions Income tax info Passport/driver’s license and other certificates Family contact information Passwords (see Dr. Deb’s blog of Sept, 14, 2013) Inventory of valuables Contents of Safe box or location of critical information If the list seems overwhelming, just think of how confusing it would be for your family or friends to track down this information without you. If you are married, think about the peace of mind you would have knowing that if something would happen to your spouse, you would know what to do and where to find critical information. I would suggest beginning with things you already have such as credit card and bank information and collect it all in one place. The program I’m using to collect my passwords also has a place...

Going Green Mar14

Going Green

Everybody wants us to be green. What I found is that as I started to become green (environmentally responsible), I also got to keep more green (as in saving money)! All of the tips below are lifestyle changes I have personally made. They are both good for the environment and your...

Bye Bye Consumer Debt Aug23

Bye Bye Consumer Debt...

This is a significant week for me because I paid off my last credit card! The debt was not from spending sprees, expensive electronics or a new car. In fact, I drive a 23-year-old car that I bought new and plan to drive for 300,000 miles. The debt was from emergencies, like dental work, mission trips that went over budget, and life. It was also from new windows and buying things that seemed like a good deal on sale. I think I have had some sort of consumer debt for more than 20 years. Now I say, Adios! Au revoir! さようなら and до свидания and Arrivederci! As the bible says, the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). I certainly feel more free than I did a week ago! So how did I do it? I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The course if offered thousands of times across the US every year and is available online. I borrowed the CDs from my niece who took it. I got serious about getting out of debt. Ramsey calls this, “gazelle intensity.” A gazelle being chased by a predator runs for its life—as fast as it can to get away from the problem. Until I realized how important it was to clean up the mess, I lacked the motivation to do it. I followed up by listening to Ramsey as often as possible, on the radio while driving, and to his podcasts. An addict needs constant encouragement to do the right thing. I was addicted to debt and needed help. I followed Ramsey’s advice to save up $1,000 in an emergency fund. Now when I need dental work or car repairs, there is some money there and I don’t have to reach for...

Crushing Debt: The Ramsey Method Aug06

Crushing Debt: The Ramsey Method...

Dave Ramsey is a very successful financial coach, author, teacher and radio host. He made money in real estate and went broke twice. Then he figured out what went wrong, learned from his mistakes, and set out to help others. I have listened to Ramsey’s Financial Peace University lessons as well as his radio show regularly. He has made a tremendous difference in my life, helping me solve my personal financial issues. Dave’s plan is quite simple. But like most choices in life, it takes willpower, commitment and what he calls gazelle intensity. (Think how fast a gazelle runs for its life when it’s being chased by a predator; people in debt should run like hell for their lives with the same intensity. He preaches the need to get on a written budget, then only spend money that has been pre-allocated. I’m still working on this one! To get out of debt, Ramsey teaches what he calls baby steps. I am implementing them and seeing a HUGE difference in my financial health. 1. Set up an emergency fund of $1,000. This is for dental visits, flat tires and all those things that WILL happen as part of life. You have to plan for them. 2. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball. To do this you start making minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest one. Then you attack that smallest debt by throwing every dollar you can at it, increasing your income through extra jobs and selling stuff. (You pay off all debts in this way, starting with the smallest, then going to the next one and the next one.) You DON’T start with the highest interest, rather the smallest balance. As Dave Ramsey says, this is an emotional issue;...

How I Made $34,000 Without Really Trying Jun27

How I Made $34,000 Without Really Trying

There are many important factors in financial success. But for sure there are 2 key ones. Income and expenses. One comes in; the other goes out. Generate income. Dave Ramsey calls the need for more income getting a bigger shovel. You need more than you live on. You don’t need to live within your means, you need to live below your means if you are to save for emergencies and old age.  Life always costs more than we anticipate. Spend less. That means not getting everything we want (saying no to yourself and the kids), not eating out as much, and looking for bargains. Some people clip coupons. Some make things themselves. There are many ways to save, and those little savings can add up to big ones. Recently I’ve been able to save BIG with a few minor changes, netting me over $34,000! 1. I cut the cable, well the DirecTV satellite service. Instead of $65/month for TV (I had the lowest package), I am now the proud owner of a digital antenna ($20 used from Amazon) and a Roku box ($68 refurbished Roku 2XS from Amazon). In addition to live TV through the air, I get TV and movies through Amazon prime  (for $79/year) and Netflix streaming for $8/month ($96/year). Savings=$605 per year. 2. I refinanced my house, lowering my interest rate from 5% to 3.75%, saving me almost $200/month or $2400 per year. Over the life of the loan, depending on how fast I pay it off, I will have saved at least $36,000. 3. I shopped for different car and home insurance. I worked with an insurance broker who shopped around with different companies and got me great rates (and better coverage on my house). Savings=$421/year. Just these 3 relatively simple steps will save me about $3,426 this next year! That’s $34,250 over 10 years! That money changed from an outflow to an inflow! I made over $34,000 without really trying! That is money that can be saved, given to charity or used toward other priorities. It will certainly more than cover my student loans. What is your time worth? I probably spent a maximum of 3 hours shopping for new home and auto insurance. If I save $421 this year, then I my efforts paid $140/hour. Not bad wages! How can you save money? Resist the temptation to go with the status quo. Don’t be afraid of change. For example, most people stick with the same insurance company because it’s comfortable, even if they think they can save money elsewhere. You can’t be afraid to escape your little comfort zone and explore. The savings can be huge! Then you can pay off debt, give, or save for the things you will need or want later. Sit down and make a list of potential ways to save money. Here are some ideas: Do you really need a home phone as well as a cell? Don’t keep the landline just because you’ve always had it! Would it be worth joining a warehouse club to save on groceries and other expenses? Cut the grass yourself instead of paying someone else. Unless your legs are broken or you’re very old, can’t you do it yourself? Don’t buy a new car. Whats wrong with the one you have? I bought my Acura new in 1990 and am still driving it 240,000+ miles later! Think of the goals you could achieve if you didn’t have financial pressures! I promise it will SO be worth your...

Vacation Spending Jun22

Vacation Spending

We tend to spend too much money on vacation. It’s like we cast our logic to the wind. Maybe we’re in the “I deserve it” mode. Then things end up costing more than we thought. Check out this great article by Dave Ramsey so you don’t end up bringing your vacation home with you (in the way of credit card debt)....

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