Wide Open Wallet

An honest look at family finances

Archive for June, 2008

Why I like high gas prices

Well, I don’t really like them, but I do like the changes I’ve been seeing. I’ve certainly never heard society so concerned with how to get the best gas mileage. I love that people are trading in their SUVs for more fuel efficient cars. It is now a common thing to see a few bikes parked here and there. I’ve even seen a few scooters scooting around town, which I certainly never saw when gas was $2 a gallon.

And with people carpooling in record numbers the traffic is significantly less. I don’t work, so therefore I don’t commute. In the past two years I’ve been on the freeway during rush hour probably one time, but last week I had to go against traffic at rush hour. I was shocked at how little traffic there was on the other side of the median. Traffic is definitely lighter, no doubt. Isn’t that great? Don’t you love it?

But what I love even more than our changing habits is the new passion that car manufacturers have to make more fuel efficient cars. This is key. We can only carpool so much. Have you noticed they’ve started putting the gas mileage on commercials? If the consumer is hell bent on getting better gas mileage the market will provide it. Which is so awesome. I know we can reduce the need for gas without changing our lifestyle. What is kinda sad is how quickly these changes came about. What I’m saying is that the companies have obviously had this technology for a long time, but only now that the consumer is crying out for fuel efficient cars do the companies finally market these cars.

Think Your Way to Wealth recently talked asked if we would stop trying to conserve gas if it went back to $2 a gallon. I say absolutely. There is no way the focus would be on gas efficiency like it is now. Money is a very motivating factor, if it was cheaper to drive we would be doing more driving. Period. And if the consumer doesn’t care about it then the manufacturers aren’t going to care. That would be a tragedy.

So I know it stinks right now, but look at the bright side, it’s bringing about changes that will make life better for generations to come. We just have to stick it out until the market place adjusts to meet our needs.

pic by: Icubed11

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: green living
  • Roundup

    Welcome to this week’s roundup. It was the easiest roundup I’ve done in a while. The internet was full of great articles. I hope you enjoy the ones I’ve picked out for you. But before we get started I need to let you know that my article Why Wait? was chosen as editor’s pick on the Finance Fiesta over at Pinching Copper. Thanks Seb!

    Ok, here we go…

    PF Bloggers:

    J.B. over at Get Rich or Die Trying found new motivation to pay down his debt. He has a baby on the way!! Yay! Head over to his site and say congrats!

    Master Your Card had a really cute post about what 5th graders said about credit cards. It made me laugh. They also had a great post about how to handle credit card debt during a divorce. I wish no one ever had to think about this for two reasons (you hopefully don’t have credit card debt, or a divorce) but unfortunately this article could help a lot of people.

    Our Fourpence Worth gave us some tips on how to resist the urge to splurge.

    Around the Blogsphere:

    My Two Dollars listed a whole bunch of ways to watch TV for free. You do need the internet for majority of them, but if you’re reading this, you already have that. So if your thinking about canceling your cable this is a must read.

    Remodeling This Life demonstrated how to make a pretty message board. I’m totally doing this!

    Think Your Way to Wealth gave great explanations about Roth IRAs. If you don’t “get it” when it comes to this stuff it’s a great place to start.

    Frugal Dad talked about the physical side effects of debt. All stress causes some physical side effects, and debt is no different. Unfortunately, you don’t think about the possible body aches when deciding to finance something.

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: roundup
  • Cash Back Credit Cards

    Well, I’ve finally entered the world of cash back credit cards. I’ve always thought they were a good idea, but they never seemed like they were worth the hassle. An extra card to carry around, another bill to pay, something else to organize and keep track of, I don’t know… I just never felt the need, but I was glad they worked for other people.

    Then I was getting gas a few weeks ago and I’m just standing there watching our hard earned money go down the drain and there was an ad on the pump for the Costco American Express Business card, which gives 5% cash back on gas. I stood there thinking, “Gee if I had that I would be getting like $3 off just this purchase.” So I grabbed an application. It’s a business card, so I used my Ebay business as my business. Sure I only make about $10 a month, but they don’t ask for a Profit and Loss Statement, you know what I’m sayin’?

    I just got my card yesterday and I’m very excited. We budget with a envelope type system in Excel. So we figured out a way to keep track of which category we spent the money from and still keep track of what we have spent on the card. I think it should work out.

    As well on 5% cash back on gas, this card also gives back 3% at restaurants, 2% on travel, and 1% on everything else. I figure we should earn about $354 a year just on gas and eating out. So I think it’s worth giving it a shot.

    Related Posts:

    Credit Protection

    How to have your late fee reversed

    Pic by: ingriogiro

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: credit cards
  • The gift of coupons

    Something really neat happened to me this weekend. It was a very small thing but I wanted to share it. My son ran out of diaper cream. (fascinating isn’t it?) Anyways, I usually have a coupon for it, but I was at the store and he currently has a diaper rash, so I just went ahead and decided to pick up a tube. I was kicking myself for not being better prepared with a coupon, but it’s just a dollar. Hardly worth coming back for. I usually buy two tubes at a time, one for downstairs and one for upstairs. But since I didn’t have a coupon I figured I would just get one and grab the other one when I could save some money.

    I get to the diaper cream section and sitting right next to the cream are two coupons, each for a dollar off of the exact brand I usually buy. How fricken cool is that? How thoughtful (and frugal) of someone. I was able to get the two tubes I needed and use a coupon!

    Paying it forward with coupons is such a great idea. If you have a coupon you know you aren’t going to use don’t throw it away. Give it to someone else. Leaving it on the shelf next to the item is a guaranteed way to make sure it gets used.

    It reminds me of a time we went out for slushies as a family. I had a coupon sheet and it had two coupons for buy one get one free. We could only use one of the coupons and they were about to expire. I was going to throw it away but then in walked a woman and about 6 little ones. I handed her the coupon and she was so surprised. Hey it’s only a free slushie, but it sure made her happy.

    Or the time I was in line at the craft store buying something very small for my daughter. With tax my purchase was going to come to something like $2.10 and I only had $2 in cash on me. I was irritated that I was going to have to use my debit card for $.10. The lady in front of me in line was using a gift card and after she was done paying she had $.15 left on the card. She laughed and handed it to me and said, “Here, you can use what is left on this card.” and walked away. Wow, cool!

    While these aren’t life changing events, they are neat little anecdotes that show how paying it forward with coupons can really make someone’s day.

    Pic by: Bright Star

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: frugal living
  • Why Wait?

    Much like I was fixated on the phrase “I deserve it” a few weeks back, I have now been noticing a new phrase, “Why wait?”. “Why wait?” has been popping up all over the place. Most notably it’s been mentioned in car dealership ads and furniture store ads. “Why wait?” they ask.

    Why wait to buy that fancy new car you’ve been eyeballing? They have a real shiny one for you and a fantastic interest rate to boot. Why wait for that new living room set you’ve been dreaming about? They have hundreds to choose from and no payments or interest until 2010. That’s right! 2010! Doesn’t that just sound light years away? Why wait for all this cool stuff when you can have it right now! You could be driving that fancy car and sitting on your new couch right this very second!

    I’ll tell you why you should wait, you can’t afford to buy it. If a low interest rate is appealing then I already know something about you. You can’t afford it. How do I know this? Because if your financing this stuff then you don’t have the cash to buy it. If you don’t have the cash, then you can’t afford it.

    Let’s say you want to buy a couch that costs $1,000. You don’t have the money to pay for it with cash, and you don’t feel you should have to sit on that old futon your brother gave you. So you head down to the local furniture store, mediocre credit in hand.

    The sales guy tells you how easy it will be to get that couch. Why should you wait, when you can have it right now! You couldn’t agree more! So you agree to buy the couch on credit. Your payments are only going to be $39.75 a month. Great. They don’t mention that you will be paying for this couch for 3 years, and at 24.99% interest. But who cares? You shouldn’t have to wait, you need it now!

    Ok, so lets take a look at that loan and see why you should have waited. Besides taking on necessary debt you will end paying $431 in interest over the course of the 3 years. So the couch that should have cost you $1,000 ends up costing $1,432. That’s why you should wait.

    But let’s say you decide to wait. How will you ever pay for that couch? Well, you’ve already agreed to pay $40 a month on the loan, so start with saving that. If you saved that every month and earned 3% interest you would reach your goal in 2 years. You would actually own your couch a full year earlier and save yourself over $400.

    And that, my friend, is why you should wait.

    Related Posts:

    Millionaires drive Minivans

    I deserve it

    Stop living paycheck to paycheck

    Pic credit: wizchickenonabun

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • 1 Comment
  • Filed under: Budget
  • Frugal Eats: Strawberry Cake

    Ok, I’ve debated and debated with myself as to whether or not this recipe could be considered frugal. But frugal or not I have to share it because it’s the best cake I’ve ever had. With fresh berries it costs $6.69 and with frozen it costs $4.16. (I suggest fresh berries, I think the extra cost is worth it.) The only way I can call it frugal is to compare it to buying it premade. There was a restaurant near where I grew up that used to serve a desert similar to this and if memory is serving me correctly they charged about $6 for a single serving.

    This cake is perfect for the Fourth of July. I’m a total sucker for red, white, and blue themed food around this time of year. If you are going to a Fourth of July party this would be an awesome thing to take. The bottom is ooey gooey with berry goodness and the top is crisp and delicious. Moist is this cake’s middle name. Serve it warm with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and it’s pure heaven.

    Strawberry Cake

    3 cups strawberries, quartered (fresh $2.50, frozen 1.97)
    2 tablespoons sugar (2 cents)
    1 cup blueberries (fresh $3, frozen $1)

    1 1/2 cups flour (14 cents)
    1 teaspoon baking powder (1 cent)
    1/4 teaspoon salt (less than a penny)
    3/4 sugar (14 cents)
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (50 cents)
    1 egg (16 cents)
    1 teaspoon vanilla (2 cents)
    1/4 almond extract (12 cents)
    1/2 cup milk (8 cents)

    1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 11×7 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Combine strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl, spoon into baking dish. Sprinkle with blueberries.

    2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Beat 3/4 cups sugar and butter in large bowl at medium sped 1 minute or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. At low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with milk just until combined, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon over berry mixture; spread gently to cover berries. (The more little globs of dough you put over the berries the easier it is to spread)

    3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in golden brown edge comes out clean and toothpick inserted in light brown center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Related Posts:

    Parmesan Potato Wedges

    Lemon Raspberry Muffins

    Banana Nut Bread

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: Frugal eats
  • Remodeling our house

    I’ve had remodeling on the brain lately. It’s one of those topics I try to not even think about because my mind tends to get away from me. It starts with me saying “You know what would be cool…” and before I know it I’m drawing up a budget and looking for financing. That’s what happened with the backyard. We had ideas, looked at pavers, made drawings of what we wanted it to look like, knowing full well that we couldn’t landscape the backyard for a quite a long time. Well, it’s landscaped. ooops.

    It’s taking me twice as long to get ready in the morning because I’m dreaming of my remodeled bathroom, and that has me concerned. I even talked to a Realtor about my plans and their affect on our house value. SOMEBODY STOP ME!

    Besides gutting our bathroom there are a couple of other things I would like to do first. I want to replace the rug downstairs with tile and upgrade the kitchen counters. For some reason I always had it in my head that you actually made money if you remodeled your house. For example, I thought if you spent $10,000 upgrading the kitchen you would increase the value of the house by like $11,000. But that’s not the case. While researching my awesome ideas for the bathroom I found this nifty site that gives the percentage back on different types of remodels. If you click around your city might be listed and you can get info for your specific region. For example, the average bathroom remodel for my area costs $14,955. The average amount recouped is $12,289, or 82.2%. So it only really costs $2,666, right? Well heck! Sign me up for that. For less than $3,000 I can have the bathroom of my dreams? How can I not do it?

    Well, unfortunately that is only true if you sell the house right away. Otherwise you still owe the full $15,000. I mean, someone has to pay that loan. They don’t just hold it for you until you sell. But it is very odd to spend $15,000 and only have your net worth go down by $3,000. Not that it makes it a good idea, it’s still a loan no matter how you slice it.

    According to the site I listed the average percentage recouped for a midrange remodel is about 70%. With the best remodels being adding a wood deck (85.4%) and a minor kitchen remodel (83%). The worst remodels are a home office remodel (57%) and a back up power generator (58%).

    pic credit: Kaworu Koneru

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: Real Estate
  • Roundup

    Happy Saturday.  It’s the first day of summer!  Which also means it’s the longest day of the year.  I’m actually looking forward to some shorter days since my son wakes at dawn, which means today he was up at about 4:50.  (I just went to check to see what the official dawn was today, and it was 4:49.  See… I’m not lying)

    Anyways, here are some articles that caught my eye this week.  I hope you have a great weekend!

    PF Bloggers:

    Living Almost Large reminded us how important it is to have a will. Everyone knows how important it is, and yet we all keep putting it off. I know I do anyways.

    Master Your Card discussed what it takes to have perfect credit. While I suppose that would be a great thing to have, once you have it you won’t be able to use it. If you do then you won’t have perfect credit anymore. I mean, even an inquiry can ruin it. That’s the trouble with anything being perfect.

    No Debt Plan gave us the 4th step of, well… the no debt plan. The fourth step is to pay off all consumer debt. Ahh… So paying off debt is part of the no debt plan, I think I see where he is going with this. :)

    Our Fourpence Worth held the 3rd edition of the Finance Fiesta. Time totally got away from me this week and I forgot to submit an article. oops. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out.

    From Around the Blogsphere:

    Being Frugal talked about financial advice she should have listened to. I’m sure we can all look back and see road signs we missed. That’s just life.

    Mrs. Micah posted about their cushion fund. A cushion fund is totally necessary when you have an irregular income.

    Remodeling This Life reminded us to declutter. I found the beauty of decluttering about two years ago. You will be shocked how much space you have once you give your space a good decluttering.

    Not the Jet Set advised us there is a class action law suit against TransUnion.  I guess they sold our info.  Nice.  Well, if you sign up you can get some free credit monitoring or a shot a some cash.  I took the promise of cash, Not the Jet Set took the credit monitoring.  I figure the possibility at some cash is better than what I have now.

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • 1 Comment
  • Filed under: roundup
  • Kid’s birthdays

    My niece and nephew both have birthdays coming up. And if they are anything like my kids (and I’m sure they are) they already have every toy in the store. I mean, both my kids have Christmas presents they haven’t even opened yet. It just seems so wasteful to go out and buy more toys for them. Buying them a toy is more an exercise in finding something they don’t already have, rather than finding them something I think they would like.

    The best idea I can come up with is to buy the kids something small and open a savings account with the rest of the money I would have spent. But that seems so “grandmaish”. Plus, I would have to open it in my name and put the kids on as co owners. And that seems kinda cheesy. So I don’t know.

    Anyone out there have any good ideas for this type of situation? I can’t be the only person to face this dilemma.

    pic by: Inferis

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: life
  • My Home Owner’s Association

    We got a letter last week from our home owner’s association. Never a good thing. Your heart kinda sinks before you even open it. Who knows what kind of nonsense that envelope contains?

    Well this time it was a letter saying that we hadn’t paid our May or June dues along with a $15 late fee. Um… what!? It was kinda funny cause both my husband and I jumped on our respective computers and began researching their claim. We met back in the kitchen with our new found info. I had the dates the payments were deducted from our checking account and he had the bill pay conformation numbers. I thought we were set.

    First I called the number on the letter. It goes straight to voicemail of course. While I was waiting for someone to call me back I called the bank and they said the bill pay payments they had sent hadn’t been cashed. So I put a stop payment on those. I guess that was good news because I was afraid they were going to have cashed the checks and then still say I hadn’t paid. And there isn’t much you can do to fight your association. So if they say you owe the money, then you kinda just have to pay it. I hate feeling powerless and this is a situation where I feel I have no power whatsoever. It’s not like fighting with a company where you can just take your business elsewhere, or even just fight with them and the worst thing that can happen is they report something to your credit. The association can take your house. Your children’s bedrooms, the tiles you laid yourself, the rug where your baby took their first steps… they can just take them.

    Then I talked to the association people. They have no idea why my payments weren’t received. I happen to know why but I’m not about to offer info to these fools. I told them I have been paying this bill the exact same way for 4 years and I’ve never had a problem. They agree with that information, but still don’t know why these payments weren’t received. So I ask to have the late fee taken off. I mean, I did nothing wrong here. I made my payment, it’s not my fault they are too unorganized to realize it. But of course the person I’m talking to can’t take off the fee, so she transfers me to someone else’s voicemail, who will probably never call me back.

    Here is what I think happened to my payment: In January we got a letter saying the payment address had changed. We made the adjustment. Then in March a new management company took over. I can only assume at this point they changed the payment address again. I don’t know that for sure, but it makes sense. Another assumption I’m making is that they kept the old PO Box open for a few extra months to ease the transition. Of course, it would have been helpful if they had, you know, told someone. I know for a fact that I’m not the only person to get this letter. So that is what I think happened. And it’s pretty sad that I can figure that out and they can’t… they work there!

    So at this point I’m going to let it go. I doubt anyone will call me back to remove the fee. I’ll pay my $15 punishment for living in an association. I should think of a way to get my money back. Maybe I’ll kill that spindly tree in front of my house and make them come replace it.

    Update: After I wrote this article someone actually called me back. She said to fax in info from our bill pay payments that weren’t received and she would take off the fee. Shocking! So I guess I don’t have to kill that tree after all. darn!

    pic by: caribb

    Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post consider subscribing!

    Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

  • Filed under: Uncategorized
  • Archives


    June 2008
    M T W T F S S
    « May   Jul »

  • Bruce

    Discover Open Road

    Click here to start saving with ING DIRECT!
    Sweet Home Theme. Powered by WordPressDesign by Print Out, sponsored by - Partnership, supported by - Business plan and Poker online.