Wide Open Wallet

An honest look at family finances

Archive for January, 2009

Roundup

Really quick…

This week, I participated in The Festival of Frugality with my post, Finding Frugality.  Make sure you check that out.

The Simple Dollar has a bunch of crock pot recipes, each with only 5 ingredients.  Less ingredients often mean less cost.  Gotta love that!

My Two Dollars wrote about a restaurant where the servers offered to work for only tips.  I mention it because it’s much like my post, Pay cuts vs. Layoffs.

Digerati Life gave a list of things to teach your kids about money.  You know I love these kinds of posts.  If you don’t teach your kids, no one will.

The Happy Rock gave an example of why you should teach your kids about money.

The Wisdom Journal listed 6 ways to motivate yourself.

Budgets are Sexy complied a list of crazy jobs.  Check it out.

Lazy Man and Money dispelled some common college personal finance myths.

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  • Filed under: roundup
  • Pay cuts vs. Layoffs

    One of my classes this semester is an Accounting class.  Last night I was talking to the woman who sits next to me.  She works for a charter school in the area in their accounting department.  She said that they have 400 employees and yesterday they were all given a choice.  They could either agree to a 3% pay cut, or 25 people were going to get laid off.

    OUCH.

    She is going to agree to the pay cut.  One reason is that she is the low man on the totem pole in her department so she is pretty worried about getting laid off.  She also said that she wouldn’t feel right keeping it knowing that people got laid off so she could have that little bit extra in her check.  Hopefully everyone else feels the same way.

    If the pay cut passes, the school promised no layoffs this school year.  But no promises about next year.

    Hearing this story the woman who sits in front of us turned around and said she works for an Accountant.  She recently took a call from a woman who knew the bare minimum take home pay she could live on and wanted to know what the gross pay was that would give her that take home.   She is going to go to her boss and offer a pay reduction to try to save her job.  That’s gutsy… and sad.

    It’s getting bad out there folks.  Have you, or anyone you know, done anything bold to try to save your job?

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  • Filed under: career, recession
  • Some people look at others who have done great things and get inspired.  They look at someone like Sam Walton and think “Wow!  I want to do that.”  And then they go out and start a business.

    But not me.

    Honestly, I get intimidated by huge empires.  If I was going to be inspired by a retail store it wouldn’t be Walmart, it would be the local convenience store.  The little mom and pop place on the corner that sells bubble gum for a penny.  You know the place.  That’s more my style.  Not that I wouldn’t want to own Walmart.  I just can’t see myself there.  I can totally see myself starting the small shop.  Then once I had the small shop I would then be inspired to move up.  And then maybe move up again.

    Yesterday No Debt Plan mentioned that he was inspired by Get Rich Slowly to start his blog.  That’s awesome.  But again… not me.  If I had Get Rich Slowly, with it’s 75,000 subscribers, as my one and only example of a personal finance blog I probably wouldn’t have ever started this site.  I don’t know if it’s a confidence problem, or a vision problem, or what, but I would have said to myself, “Wow, there’s no way I could do that.  Instead I was inspired by smaller blogs like Blunt Money and Remodeling This Life.  They each had about 200 subscribers when I started out.  That was something I could see myself achieving.  And I have!

    But now, I hope, I’ve stepped up my game a little bit.  Now that I’m comfortable with this level of success I’m going for more.  I’m still not aiming for 70,000 subscribers this year (or next year… or the year after that) but I hope for 1,000.  That would be great.  I can see myself having 1,000 subscribers.  Something I couldn’t do a year ago.

    I guess my point is that you should find inspiration where you can.  You don’t have to start off the very best and biggest on day one.  Grow, learn, and become something great over time.

    So tell me, what inspires you?

    pic by: tanakawho

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  • Filed under: life
  • Ray Kroc

    Ray Kroc didn’t open the first McDonalds, but he did make it a household name.  He was born on October 5th, 1902 in Chicago.  At the age of four he was taken to a phrenologist (a fortune teller who makes predictions based on the shape of your skull) and was told he would work in food service.

    At age 15 he lied about his age and began training to drive ambulances for the Red Cross during World War One, along side Walt Disney.  But the war ended on his last day of training so he never got to test out his new skills.  He eventually started selling paper cups by day and playing the piano by night.  Then one day he had a meeting with Earl Prince, who was buying paper cups by the truckload.  Mr. Prince had developed a machine that could make 5 milkshakes at once.  Ray convinced Earl to give him exclusive rights to sell the machine.  Ray sold the milkshake machine for 17 years.

    While working as a milkshake machine salesman he became familiar with the restaurant business.  He worked with many restaurants and got a feel for what worked, and what didn’t.  One of his best customers were the McDonald brothers.  Ray had sold them 8 milkshake machines.  Which meant they could make up to 40 milkshakes at a time.  Ray was intrigued by this.  When he visited the establishment he was impressed with its efficiency.  The brothers had set up an assembly line system to serve their hamburgers.  Ray knew that he could sell his milkshake machines to every McDonalds restaurant but the brothers were not interested in expanding their business.  Refusing to take no for an answer, Ray offered to open another McDonalds himself.  The brothers agreed, thereby forming the McDonalds Corporation.  Ray later noted, “I was 52 years old. I had diabetes and incipient arthritis. I had lost my gall bladder and most of my thyroid gland in earlier campaigns, but I was convinced that the best was ahead of me.”  He was right.

    Kroc knew the key to McDonalds success was to run the restaurant with great efficiency and consistency.  He wanted every experience to be the same no matter where he opened a store.  He broke the food preparation into steps that could be repeated in every store.  Cleanliness was also of utmost importance, from the parking lot to the kitchen floor.  He knew the that land on which the restaurants sat was extremely valuable.  He would buy the land and lease it back to the franchisee.  By 1960 there were 200 McDonalds restaurants.   In 1961, he offered to buy the company from the brothers at a price of their setting.  The brothers asked for $2.7 million.  The one catch in the deal was that the McDonald brothers wanted to keep their original store, which had been renamed “Big M”.  This infuriated Kroc.  He retaliated by opening a McDonalds one block north of the Big M and successfully put it out of business within two years.  This may seem extreme, but he was a fiercely competitive man.  What else do you expect of a man who once said, “If my competitor was drowning I would stick a hose in his mouth and turn on the water.”

    He ran the company for another seven years before handing the operations over to Fred Turner in 1968.  In 1974 he bought the San Diego Padres in order to prevent them from being transferred to Washington D.C.

    Ray Kroc died in January 1984, at age 81, just 10 months before McDonalds sold its 50 billionth hamburger.  He was worth $500 million.

    Sources:
    woopido
    buzzle
    Time
    financial inspiration
    rotten

    Other Self Made Men in the series:
    Warren Buffett
    Henry Ford
    Ingvar Kamprad
    Sam Walton
    Thomas Edison
    Oprah Winfrey
    Steve Jobs

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  • Filed under: profiles
  • 100 uses for Vinegar

    I saw a huge container of vinegar at Costco the other day for like $4 and I had to buy it.  I just knew there was so much I could do with it, even if I couldn’t think of a thing at the time.  So I came home and started researching.  “Wow!” is all I can say.  You can do just about anything with this stuff.  I’m half surprised it doesn’t just come right out of the tap.  Hot, Cold, and Vinegar.

    So here are 100 uses for vinegar.  Let the frugality begin!

    Your House

    1. Stainless steel: Wipe with a vinegar dampened cloth to clean.

    2. The inside of the dishwasher: Pour a cup of white distilled vinegar in the dishwasher and run a full cycle to freshen.

    3. Plastic food containers:  Wipe with undiluted white distilled vinegar to remove stains.

    4. The inside of the oven: Saturate with full strength white distilled vinegar and let sit for 10 or 15 minutes, wipe with a sponge to remove greasy messes.

    5. The microwave: Put 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave safe dish.  Bring to a rolling boil in microwave.  Wipe clean.

    6. The garbage disposal: To freshen, make some ice cubes with undiluted white distilled vinegar.  Run a few ice cubes down the garbage disposal while running the cold water.

    7. The refrigerator: Clean the inside with a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half water.  Clean the outside with full strength white distilled vinegar. To get rid of odors place 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a glass and set in refrigerator for two days.

    8. Faucets and fixtures:

    8a. To remove lime buildup use a paste of two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon white distilled vinegar and scrub.

    8b. To remove lime buildup on the end of the faucet tie a bag with 1/2 cup of undiluted white distilled vinegar around the faucet so the end is soaking, let sit overnight.

    8c. To remove calcium deposits, soak a towel in full strength white distilled vinegar and wrap the faucet tightly with the towel, let sit overnight.

    8d. To remove soap buildup use a solution of 1 part salt and 4 parts white distilled vinegar, scrub.

    9. Sponges: To freshen, put them in just enough water to cover them and then add 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar.  Let soak overnight.

    10. Cutting boards: To disinfect and clean your wood cutting boards or butcher block counter top, wipe them with full-strength white distilled vinegar after each use. Never use water and dish washing detergent, because it can weaken surface wood fibers. When your wooden cutting surface needs deodorizing as well as disinfecting, spread some baking soda over it and then spray on undiluted white distilled vinegar. Let it foam and bubble for five to ten minutes, then rinse with a cloth dipped in clean cold water

    11. Remove odors from jars:  Rinse smelly empty jars with white distilled vinegar.

    12. The grill: spray white distilled vinegar on balled up aluminum foil.  Scrub with the foil.

    13. Grout: Soak with full strength white distilled vinegar for a few minutes.  Scrub.

    14. To make your own scouring scrub mix 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid soap.  Add just enough white distilled vinegar to make a thick paste.

    15. Shower door tracks: Fill tracks with full strength white distilled vinegar and let sit for a few hours.  Rinse with hot water and scrub.

    16. Shower head:  To unclog a shower head mix 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup white distilled vinegar in a sandwich bag.  Tie around shower head and let soak for an hour after the bubbling has stopped.  Remove bag and turn on the water.

    17. Toilet bowl:  To freshen, pour a cup of white distilled vinegar into toilet and let sit overnight.  Scrub.

    18. Linoleum floor:  Mop with one cup white distilled vinegar for each gallon of water.  For stains, let full strength sit on stain for 10 to 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with baking soda for extra tough stains.

    19. Retainers or dentures:  Soak overnight in a dish of half water, half white distilled vinegar.

    20. Eyeglasses: Wipe each lens with a drop of white distilled vinegar.

    21. White rings from wood:  Use a solution of half vegetable oil and half white distilled vinegar, rub with the grain.

    22. Fireplace:  On bricks, use full strength distilled white vinegar and scrub with a brush.  To clean glass fireplace doors use one part white distilled vinegar to two parts water.

    23. Hardened paint brushes:  In a pot, soak brushes in full strength white distilled vinegar for one hour.  Then bring the solution to a simmer.  Rinse clean.

    24. Window blinds: Put on a white cotton glove, the kind sold for gardening is perfect, and moisten the fingers in a solution made of half white distilled vinegar and hot water. Slide your fingers across both sides of each slat. Use a container of clean water to periodically wash off the glove.

    25. Remove candle wax: To remove candle wax from wood furniture, first soften the wax using a blow-dryer on its hottest setting and blot up as much as you can with paper towels. Then remove what’s left by rubbing with a cloth soaked in a solution made of half  white distilled vinegar and half water. Wipe clean with a soft, absorbent cloth.

    26. Cane chairs: Revive sagging cane chairs by sponging them with a hot solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water.  Place in the sun to dry.

    27. DVDs: If you have a worn DVD that has begun to stick or suffers from the occasional freeze-frame, wipe it down with white distilled vinegar applied to a soft cloth.  Let dry completely before use.

    Your Clothes

    28. Cleaner clothes: Add 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. The acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. Besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.

    29. Whiter whites: Add one cup white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water, bring to a rolling boil and drop in items. Let soak overnight.  (I’m assuming not boiling all night.)

    30. No run colors: To prevent bright colors from running, soak your new garments in a few cups of undiluted white vinegar for 10-15 minutes before their first washing.

    31. Pantyhose: Add one tablespoon of white distilled vinegar to the rinse water when washing, and your pantyhose will last longer.

    32. The washing machine itself: Put one cup white distilled vinegar in the washer and run it.

    33. Barbecue, spaghetti, or ketchup stains: Use a solution of half water half white distilled vinegar.

    34. Smoky smell in fabric: fill the bathtub with very hot water and add one cup white distilled vinegar.  Hang clothes in the steam and close the bathroom door.

    35. Wrinkles: get the wrinkles out of clothes after drying by misting them with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Once you’re sure you didn’t miss a spot, hang it up and let it air-dry.

    36. The Iron: To remove scorch marks from the bottom of your iron, scrub it with a paste made by heating up equal parts vinegar and salt in a small pan. Use a rag dipped in clean water to wipe away the remaining residue.  To unclog steam holes, pour equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water into the iron’s water chamber. Turn to steam and leave the iron on for 5 minutes in an upright position. Then unplug and allow to cool. Rinse with water.

    37. Water and salt stains on shoes:  wipe them down with a solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water.

    Your Body

    38. Hair Rinse: Rinse hair with one cup of white distilled vinegar and warm water.  Brings out highlights and removes shampoo buildup.

    39. Hair protection from chlorine:  Keep your blond hair from turning green in a chlorinated pool by rubbing 1/4 cup cider vinegar into your hair and letting it set for 15 minutes before diving in.

    40. Acne: Use a solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water.

    41. Aftershave: use full strength white distilled vinegar.

    42. Fresh breath and white teeth: brush teeth once or twice a week with white distilled vinegar.

    43. Heartburn: Drink a mixture of vinegar and water to relieve yourself of the severe chest pain caused by heartburn.

    44. Backaches: Soak in a bathtub of hot water and 2 cups white distilled vinegar for 30 minutes. It will help relieve a minor backache and soothe sore muscles.

    45. Leg Cramps: Use a soft cloth soaked in full-strength vinegar as a compress to ease pain.

    46. Sinus infection and chest colds: Add 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar to vaporizer.

    47. Sunburn: spray with ice-cold white distilled vinegar will feel great, and may prevent blistering and peeling.

    48. Insect bites: dab them with a cotton ball soaked in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

    49. Cuts: use white distilled vinegar as an antiseptic.

    50. Bruises: speed healing and prevent bruises by soaking a piece of cotton gauze in white or apple cider vinegar and leaving it on the injured area for one hour.

    51. Sun and age spots: Pour some full-strength apple cider vinegar onto a cotton ball and apply it to the spots for 10 minutes at least twice a day. The spots should fade or disappear within a few weeks.

    52. Foot odor: wash feet well with antiseptic soap, then soak them in undiluted cider vinegar for 10 minutes or so.

    53. Corns:  Soak a crumbled piece of bread in a 1/4 cup of vinegar.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  Apply bread to the corn and tape in place.  Leave overnight.  Reapply if necessary.

    54. Hiccups: Swallow one tablespoon of white distilled vinegar.  Cures hiccups instantly.

    55. Colds: Mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup honey.  Take one tablespoon six to eight times daily.

    56. Warts: Apply a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half glycerin.  Use daily until warts are gone.

    57. Arthritis:  Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water.  Drink before each meal. Allow three weeks to work.

    58. Lose weight: Drink some apple cider vinegar in a glass of water a few times a day.  Add a little lemon or honey for a nicer flavor. This will also help reduce your appetite.

    59. Longer lasting nail polish: Dampen your nails with some vinegar on a cotton ball and let it dry before applying your favorite polish.

    Your Food

    60. Tenderize meat: Use white distilled vinegar in marinades or when slow cooking any tough, inexpensive cuts of meat.

    61. Cheese: Cheese will last longer if you store it in a vinegar soaked cloth.

    62. Poached eggs: add a little white distilled vinegar to the water. The whites stay better formed.

    63. Pasta: Add a dash of white distilled vinegar to the water as the pasta cooks.  It will be less sticky.

    64. Salad dressing: use 1 part white distilled vinegar to 4 parts oil.  Add some cream for a creamy vinaigrette.

    65. Getting those last drops: When you can’t get the last bit of mayonnaise or salad dressing out of the jar, try dribbling a little of your favorite vinegar into it, put the cap on tightly and shake well. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been wasting.

    66. Wilted Vegetables: soak in cold water containing a spoonful or two of white distilled vinegar.

    67. Make buttermilk: Add two tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of skim or 1 percent milk; let mixture stand five minutes.

    68. Shiny rolls and pie crust: Brush with white distilled vinegar just before finished.  Return to oven to finish baking.

    69. Canned Soup: Add a teaspoon of red or white wine vinegar.

    70. Perfect rice: Add a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to the boiling water.

    71. Jello molds: Adding a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for each box of gelatin used will keep them from melting in the summer heat.

    72. Chocolate Cake: Add a spoonful of white distilled vinegar for extra moistness.

    73. Frosting: Add a drop of white distilled vinegar, it will keep white frosting white and shiny.

    74. Fluffy meringue:  Add a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for every 3 to 4 egg whites used.

    Your Pet

    75. Dog’s Coat: For a shiny coat spray or rub with a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar to 1 quart water.

    76. Stop ear scratching: wipe them out regularly with a soft cloth dipped in undiluted white distilled vinegar.

    77. Control your cat:  Cats hate the smell of vinegar.  Spray white distilled vinegar on the item that you want to keep your cat away from.

    78. Litter box: Control odor by pouring ½ inch of white distilled vinegar in the empty litter box. Let it stand for 20 minutes, swish it around, then rinse with cold water.

    79. The birdbath: Scrub it often with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse well.

    80. Fishbowl: Remove gross deposits by cleaning with white distilled vinegar.  Rinse well.

    81. Skunk odors: use full strength white distilled vinegar to get the smell out.

    82. Bird droppings: spray them with full strength apple cider vinegar. Or pour the vinegar onto a rag and wipe them off.

    Your Car

    83. Chrome: Polish with full-strength white distilled vinegar on a soft cloth.

    84. Bumper stickers: Remove them by covering them with a cloth soaked in white distilled vinegar. They should peel off in a couple of hours.

    85. Windshield wipers: Wipe them with a white distilled vinegar-soaked cloth to remove grime.

    86. Frost free windshields: In the winter, coat your windshield with a solution of 3 parts white distilled vinegar to 1 part water.

    87. Clearer windows: Remove the hazy film that builds up inside windows by spraying them with white distilled vinegar.

    88. Odors: Leaving a bowl of white distilled vinegar overnight on the floor to remove odors.

    89. Carpet: Remove stains with a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half water.  Remove road salt residue by spraying with a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half water, then blot with a soft towel.

    90. Leather seats: Make ‘em shine by cleaning it with hot white distilled vinegar and rinsing with soapy water.

    91. Rusty bolts: Remove rust by soaking the bolt or screw in white distilled vinegar overnight.

    Your Garden

    92. Weeds: Pour full-strength white distilled vinegar on them.

    93. Cut flowers: Add 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.  It will preserve fresh flowers and perk up droopy ones.

    94. Fresh vegetables: Wash with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 1 1/2 quarts of water.

    95. Ant hills: Remove them by pouring in white distilled vinegar.

    96. Moths:  To get rid of them, use a mixture of 2 parts white distilled vinegar and 1 part molasses. Place mixture in tin can and hang in a tree.

    97. Rabbits: To keep them from eating your plants, put cotton balls soaked in white distilled vinegar in a 35mm film container. Poke a hole in the top and place in the garden.

    98. Hummingbird feeder: Clean with white distilled vinegar—soap or detergent can leave behind harmful residue.

    99. Terra cotta pots: Clean off mold by soaking in a solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar, 1 cup chlorine bleach, and 1 gallon of warm water, then scrub with a steel wool pad.

    And my favorite:

    100. Freak out your kids: Turn a chicken bone into rubber by soaking it in a glass of white distilled vinegar for three days.

    mizkan
    Angelfire
    odyb
    ivillage
    Readers Digest
    Versatile Vinegar
    How Stuff Works

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  • Filed under: frugal living
  • Roundup

    Happy Saturday.  My husband and I are going on a date today.  Yay!  We are going to dinner and a movie, for $3.  awww yeah.  We’ve had a gift card to the movies hanging around since August 2007.  (Shows how often we go out.)  It has enough left on it to pay for most of our movie.  Then last month our favorite restaurant had a thing where if you bought a $25 gift card you got a free lunch.  So we each did that.  Granted, our lunches wouldn’t have cost us $50 but still, it was a good deal.  So we have that gift card too.  We can debate the actual cost of today’s date, but it’s going to be about $3 out of pocket.

    And on to the link love…

    Bruce from L&R Tax Prep and author of The Tax Guy participated in an article over at BankRate.  Congrats to him!  You can hire this now famous ;) tax preparer to do your taxes by clicking that blue button over in my side bar.

    Blunt Money takes the two year test.   For me, this is one of those posts that stuck in my head for days.  I’ve been thinking about it since I read it.

    Clever Dude listed some ways he is not frugal.  I just really like this article.  He’s not frugal in a lot of the same ways I’m not frugal.

    Frugal Dad talks about focusing too much on the outgo when it comes to frugal living.

    Five Cent Nickel asks if you should pay your kids for good grades. Always a hot topic and the 43 comments prove it.

    Saver in the City takes a look at some alternative income streams as she saves up for a trip to Africa.

    Ultimate Money Blog cooks up some Spaghetti with Pancetta, Green Beans, and Basil.  This dish needs a shorter name.  Off the top of my head, how about 3B Spaghetti?  (The 3Bs are Bacon, Beans, and Basil)  I don’t know…  I’ve also included this dish on my Frugal Recipe Page.

    The Simple Dollar talks about why an annual rate of return isn’t the whole picture.

    Moolanomy gives steps to a do it yourself debt consolidation.

    Money Ning has 50 ways to save money on vacation.

    pic by: Williac

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  • Finding Frugality

    I often get the label of frugal.  I find this strange.  It surprises me that people see me that way, since I don’t really consider myself very frugal.  I suppose it depends on your point of view.  Compared to some I am exceedingly frugal.  Compared to others I am wasteful.  And that’s right where I like to be, between the extremes.

    There definitely is a scale of frugality.  Everyone lies somewhere between extreme spending and extreme frugality.  This blog as helped me move towards frugality on that scale.

    If you would like to be more frugal but can’t seem to get started, here are some tips.

    1. Track your spending:  If you are not tracking your spending then this is where you should start.  It’s the road map to good financial skills.  You can’t know where you are, where you want to be, or how to get there if you don’t have an idea of how you are spending your money.

    2. Start small:  You don’t have to wake up one morning and have a brand new set of habits.  Work on them slowly over time.  Pick one area of your spending to work on at a time.  I started with groceries.  And not even all my groceries, I started with meat.  I was never an ad checker, but I knew I should be.  But it was overwhelming.  So I started very small.  I would go through the ads and only look at the meats.  After a while I got an idea of what the various meats should cost.  When there was good a deal, and when it was all just smoke and mirrors.  Scoring a few good deals got me excited and gave me confidence.  Then I got curious about what else was in those ads.  Now I use them to plan my meals and stock up on all my groceries.

    You might not want to start with groceries.  That’s fine.  You can start with your laundry, or entertainment, or your car, or your bathroom stuff.  Whatever.  Just start looking for ways to spend less money in your chosen category.  Once you feel like you’ve made significant progress then…

    3. Branch out:  Once I felt like I had the grocery bill under control I started looking at other things.  I became a sale shopper, with coupons in hand.  Constantly looking to shave a few bucks off my total.  Always thinking, could I get this cheaper?  Will this make it to the next markdown?  Can I find a coupon online?  Can I get free shipping?

    4. Take it easy:  Don’t get so caught up in finding a great deal that you buy things you have no use for.  This is harder than it sounds because getting a good deal can be addicting.  Just because something is 90% off doesn’t mean that you need it.  If it’s not something you would buy anyways then you aren’t being frugal.  You can’t spend money to save money.

    Pic by: rogerwp

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    Renters vs. Empty

    **warning:  I’m about to make some sweeping generalizations**

    I live in a cul-de-sac of 11 houses.  Of those 11 houses, four are rented and one is empty.  Yesterday Budgets are Sexy wondered aloud if it’s better to have renters or empty houses in your neighborhood.  It depends on the renters and if anyone is maintaining the empty house.

    In my situation I would rather have empty houses.  Here’s why…

    1. Our front yard landscaping is maintained by the association.  So even if the house isn’t being maintained, they yard still gets mowed, the bushes get trimmed, ect.  Someone is checking on things.

    2. Renters suck, no offense.  I consider myself a good renter.  I would give myself an A- as a renter.  I paid my rent, kept noise levels down, and didn’t damage the property.  But I still take way better care of my own property than I ever did as a renter.  And I care about more than just my own house and yard.  I care about the neighborhood as a whole.  I care about how the common areas look.  I care about litter that drifts around.  I care about the speed at which people drive.  Stuff I never cared about as a renter.

    Out of the 4 renters in my cul-de-sac one lives next door to me and they are good renters.  Never had any major problems with them and the minor stuff was taken care of right away. No problems and if all renters were like them, I wouldn’t mind renters.

    Two houses down from them are the worst renters in the whole world.  Parties all the time, broken windows, cars parked all over the place, shady characters coming and going, and an untrained pit bull.  Bad. We refer to them as “The Idiots”.

    Three houses down from them are ok renters except for one thing.  They have a big dog that spends the night barking at the the pit bull I mentioned above.  Luckily, I can’t hear that from my house, that’s just the word on the street.  But other than they I guess they seem ok.

    Next door to them is an empty house.  No problems here.

    Next door the empty house is our newest renters.  They seem to be like “The Idiots” but on a lesser scale.  We’ll see, maybe things will settle down but so far I’m not impressed.

    So there you go.  Four renters and only one doesn’t cause problems.  Empty houses don’t have parties.  Empty houses don’t have guests leaving their trash in my yard.  Empty houses don’t have barking dogs.  I understand that owners can do all those annoying things too.  But usually they have a bigger interest in maintaining a postive relationship with their neighbors.  Homeowners want their neighborhood to be a nice place to live and get that by getting along with their neighbors.  So you can usually talk to an owner and work out a solution.  Renters, on the other hand, generally don’t care if you have a problem with them. They are probably moving in a year or so anyways.

    I’m sure there are reasons why empty houses are bad.  I can see how if the house fell into disrepair it would become an eyesore and drag down everyone’s property values.  I don’t know how that works when it’s bank owned and there is a homeowners association.  I would think if there was a broken window or something of that nature that the association would notify someone.

    Pic by: JohnHallAssociates

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  • Filed under: life
  • Big boy bed

    My son is turning 3 in a few weeks and he is still sleeping in a crib.  He needs a big boy bed and it’s reaching critical levels.  He looks like a giant laying in that tiny crib.  So we decided that we are getting him a big boy bed for his birthday.  I know it’s not the greatest gift in the world, but he just got a truckload of new toys for Christmas.  Plus, he really is excited about it.

    Despite the fact that I’ve had 3 years to plan for this event, I’ve done absolutely nothing.  The proper way to make this purchase would have been to research beds.  Find one that we like. And then save up for it. However, that takes time.  Time we don’t have because I had my Mommy blinders on and didn’t realize that my baby was growing up.  So we did the totally wrong thing and went shopping with no money.  Never a good idea.

    I had a general idea to spend about $200.  I had no idea where we were getting this money, but that’s besides the point.  First stop, Costco.  They had two twin mattresses.  One really cheap looking one for $259 and one decent looking one for $299.  Plus another $40 for the frame. Yikes.  While we are standing there we decide that if we are going to spend $300 on a bed we might as well get a full size for another $100 and then he won’t outgrow it.  And well, if he’s going to keep this mattress until he moves out then we should really get a higher quality one.  I mean, I’m already spending non existent money, might as well get what I want.  Ah, thankfully we left before we spent any money. (I really do understand how people get themselves in trouble with credit cards.)

    Second stop, a regular mattress store down the street.  We were actually just killing time because we were waiting to have lunch near there.  Anyways, they had a bunch of floor models marked down 50%.  SCORE! We found a twin bed for $150 and the frame was included.  Oh, I’m so excited.  It’s perfect.  I even have twin sheets already.  Which might not seem like a huge deal, but I could easily spend another $50 buying a couple of sets of full size sheets.  So that is money saved there too.

    But you know, even when I found the perfect bed at the right price I still had a hard time pulling the trigger.  I already had in my mind that we were going to buy a larger high quality mattress.  It was kind of a let down at first.  But now that I have to come and put those numbers into the budget, I know we made the right decision.

    pic by: eyeliam

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  • Filed under: kids, life
  • Net worth

    Net Worth is an interesting thing.  It’s so fluid that it’s hard to measure, for me anyways.  I hate all the inconsistencies of it, as timing can play a huge roll.  For example, if I had measured our net worth before we went on vacation it would have been $1,300 higher, even though we fully intended to spend that money.  It was already spent in my mind.  Anyways, out of curiosity I have calculated a very simplified net worth.  It doesn’t take all our stuff into account, it also doesn’t include any money we have saved for a particular purpose, such as vacation.  I also wasn’t sure where to put the debt for the landscaping.  Should I add it in as a separate line, or just subtract it from the equity of the house.  In the end, it doesn’t matter, so I added it as a separate line.

    House - We have $61,000 in equity.  I lost $57,000 in 2008.  It’s down $133,000 from the high.  All these numbers are according to Zillow, which may or may not be totally accurate, but it’s down a lot… enough said.

    Investments - We have $9,750 invested.  This is down $5,000 in 2008.  That hurts, a lot.  But it’s not new information.

    Emergency fund -We have $12,337.45 saved in our emergency fund.  It’s down $500 because we’ve dipped into it a few times.  Once to buy the new fridge and once to get wills.  Both good reasons, but still scary to see that we didn’t save any money this year!  Yikes.  We did pay off debt though.

    Cars - In the van we have negative equity of $5,300.  In my husband’s car we have $1,730 in equity and in his truck we have $12,500 in equity. This brings us to a total of $8,930 in equity in our cars, according to Kelly Blue Book.  I don’t know what our cars were worth last year so I can’t say what the difference is.

    Debt- We owe $6,040 on the landscaping.  This is 2,577 less than last year at this time.

    So that means our net worth is…**Drumroll**… $85,977.

    Obviously down from last year, by about $60,000 give or take.  Clearly, the value of my house dropping like a stone was the biggest factor in our losses.  But the value of the house and stock market are not in my control, so I can’t really feel badly about that.   The fact that our Emergency Fund went down a bit is not ok.  While I do feel it was for good reason, we still need to keep an eye on that.  A few “emergencies” a year and it won’t be long until there isn’t a savings left.  Also, I feel good about the debt situation.  We reduced our total debt by $13,309.  If you only look at what we can control I think we did ok.  Not great. Not terrible.  Just ok.

    Edited to update the value of the truck.  My husband let me know the error of my ways.  Sorry honey.

    Pic by: tenioman

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  • 6 Comments
  • Filed under: Budget, saving
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