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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Real Wealth

Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, defines being wealthy as having your investments exceeding your expenses.  This can be done through your own business or businesses, investments in the stock market, real-estate and/or minimizing your expenses.  The day you don't have to rely on someone else for enough of a salary to cover your expenses you're wealthy.

Changes to Calculating Credit Scores Pending in Congress

We can see how this will help most, but it will hurt some

More - Money Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

Foreclosing or Walking Away from Your Home Has Consequences

Home owners that foreclosed, walked away or defaulted on a previous mortgage are finding it hard to get financing now that the housing market seems to be turning around.  They shouldn't be surprised.  Their activity stays on their financial records and often impacts FICO scores, which is the gauge lenders use to determine lend-ability.  That's why it's key to always live below your means and have emergency savings.

More - Mortgage Relief Program

In the Market for a Car?

Buying a used car is likely the most cost effective.  Do your homework first, however, and make sure you're getting what you're expecting.

More - You Can Afford the Car But Can You Afford to Drive It?

Retail Shoppers Have Disappeared

The government shutdown impacted retail sales.  With the next scheduled crisis just after the holidays, current spending levels authorized through 01/15/2014 and the debt cushion extended through 02/07/2014, shoppers aren't likely to loosen the purse strings this holiday season. 

More - "Do you want to save 10% on your purchase today?"  "No."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

You Can Afford the Car But Can You Afford to Drive It?

Most of us typically dream about driving a nice car. It seems that Americans especially have always had an affair with their cars. We have been barraged with images of vehicles from the time we are children into adulthood in toys, cartoons, posters and every other commercial during a typical Sunday football game.

I personally dream of some day driving my own Audi S4, but there are many other models that bring a twinkle to our eyes; Corvettes, Cadillacs, a 69 Camero, Mini Coopers, Jeep Wranglers, BMWs, the new Tesla and yes even the oh so humble Toyota Camry. I need someone to explain that last one to me though.

So you know what car revs your engine and you have it picked out and have been saving or planning ahead for it. So you can afford the car, but can you afford to drive it?

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household has 1.9 cars and spent $8,998 on transportation costs in 2012. That is almost 17.5% of all our expenditures. Yes, you read that correctly, we spend over 17% or over half of what we spend on our homes on getting to and from them. What costs so much?

The reality with almost any purchase is that there are opportunity costs associated with them. What is an opportunity cost? That would be the additional costs to ownership. For our cars this includes among other things, gas, insurance, taxes, license and maintenance.

Here are 4 ways to save on car expenses:

1.       Raise your insurance deductible- put away your deductible in an emergency account and raise your deductable from $250 or $550 to $1000. This can save you $10, 20 or even more on your monthly insurance premium. Insure yourself rather than paying the extra to an insurance company

2.       Shop around for insurance – there are many providers out there shop around and pit them against each other. There are many online tools you can use to shop for insurance

3.       Premium gas – your owner’s manual says you need the top of the line gas, but do you really? Switch between the top grade and medium grade every other time and save yourself a few dollars each fill up

4.       Refi – you do it with your home, why not try it with your car. If you are still out a few years on your loan shop around for a lower rate on your loan. Switching banks can save you a few dollars a month on your loan

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is Dining Out Killing Your Budget?

I don’t know about your area, but in Denver it seems like there has been a recent explosion in the number of new restaurants. From my personal observation the increase seems to be tied to more and more low to mid cost restaurants opening; i.e. Chipotle, Panera Bread, Noodles & Co and Garbanzos.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household spends $2678 or approximately 40% of our food expenditures away from the house. Yes, you read that correctly, 40%. Now we are all aware that food typically prepared away from costs more than what we can buy and prepare for ourselves. So how do we cut back?
Four tips to reduce your dining out costs:
1.       Coupons and deals – use local coupons and deal finders such as the Entertainment Book, Groupon and Living Social to get 50% or more off. Two things to keep in mind, the deals are usually there to lure you into spending, so don’t end up spending more by adding on items like alcohol and desserts, and remember to tip your server on the full amount not the discount. You received the same level of service; the restaurant should take the hit not the waiter/waitress.
2.       Downgrade – moving from sit down restaurants to quick casual can help save, not only on the need to tip, but also the overall cost. Why go to an upscale restaurant to order a burger and fries, when you can find an equivalent for cheaper.
3.       Reduce your portion intake – do you usually have a take home bag after a meal out? Then you probably have the “eyes bigger than your stomach” syndrome. Why not forgo the appetizer and just have the main meal, or split one appetizer between several people? The same goes for desserts.
4.       Reduce the frequency – by cutting out one or two dining out trips a month by planning and preparing ahead. An hour or two preparing quick meals in advance can save you from needing to stop. We suggest making a big pot of chili or soup and putting some in the freezer for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.
Dining out doesn’t need to take a big bite out of your budget. Implement the four tips above and you could save 10, 20 or 50% off of your budget, giving you more money to put towards debt and your financial future.

Interest Rate? What Interest Rate?

The gap between 30-year fixed rates and one-month CDs or a saving's account rate is widening, making it more difficult for savers.  This especially hurts the middle class and retirees

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tips to Create a Budget

8 tips to creating a budget.  They key points are to be flexible and consider both sides of your balance sheet, if necessary.

Tips for Cutting Back Credit Card Spending

Three tips for cutting back spending on your credit card.

"Do you want to save 10% on your purchase today?" "No."

Did you ever regret agreeing to sign up for that retail credit card?  Here are four steps to correct that. 

Fix it for Free

There's nothing cheaper than free.  Learn how to get help fixing things for freeFixya's a pretty cool website.  They cover auto repair, cell phone  repair, even children's toys.   

NFL/Netflix Deal

The NFL is squashing rumors of a possible deal letting games to be streamed through Netflix or Google.  In businesses, rumors typically come from a shred of truth.  Cord-cutters stay tuned.  If/when this happens, it will provide much needed competition to cable TV.

More - Cutting the Cable Cord

Interview Prospective Realtors As Potential Employees

We don't think many people who are selling or buying a house consider "interviewing" prospective realtors.  It's good advice, though

Saving & Investing

Start early and be consistent.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 1% Are Really the 0.7%

The nice thing, though, is that the world added 2 million new millionaires last year.

War Does Kinda Have That Beachy Feel To It

U.S. economic policy more unsettling than war.

Downsizing Your Home to Save $$

"Rightsizing" was the trend just as the house market started to crash.  Though retirees continue rightsizing, it's still not a bad option for younger homeowners.  Cutting back on overhead can be profitable for a lot of people.

The Washington Threat

Business leaders around the country are starting to see Washington DC as the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.  This affects jobs.  Because of the recent "crisis" many businesses saw consumer spending drop.  This happens crisis after crisis and Washington is nothing anymore if it's not a crisis. 

Despite Washington's Best Efforts to Ruin The Economy

Retail stores are poised to hire temporary workers this holiday season.  That's a relief for many.  Expectations are that many of these positions may lead to full-time work. 

How Fiscally Responsible

They didn't even wait until a deal was passed.  The debt ceiling deal included funding a $3 billion project for Kentucky.  Pork!  What's the point of having a debt ceiling if we're just going to plow through it every several months?

Kicking the Can Down The Road

Yes, an 11th hour deal was made to fund the government but only temporarily.  As we said last week, we'll be having the deja vu yet again early 2014.  Yawn!  In the meantime, pay attention to see if spending is even cut back. 

Mortgage Relief Program

The NYTs claims it has been working as expected.

Successful Financial Management

Three keys to being successful with your finances.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We Need More Austrian School of Economic Thinkers

Said Einstein, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."  Will economic manipulation play out better this time?

Preparing Your Child for the “Real World”

We’re reading more and more about the escalating costs of college and how unprepared young adults are to manage their own money.  We’re not judging.  We were financial nightmares ourselves.  In hindsight, we feel we weren’t given sufficient tools to be prepared.  Blame that on upbringing or education or whatever.

Personal finance education isn’t coming from school anytime soon.  What’s a parent to do?  What if you treat your high school-aged child as a roommate?  Ha!?  What?  Why would you do that?

Hear us out.  Studies show that when students first get into college, they’re not financially mature.  They don’t understand the value of a dollar.  They don’t understand why they should be cautious about, spending, school sponsored credit cards and debt.  They aren’t prepared to pay bills or share expenses with their roommates.

As CNNMonday reports, the average allowance paid by the 61% of parents who pay one is $15 a week.  Most kids don’t save this money.  81% of parents say they’ve discussed money management with their kids.  What does this really mean when allowances are spent almost as soon as they’re received?  This suggests there aren’t enough real-life examples for children, only theory.  CNNMoney suggests using allowances as a “gateway to budgeting”, reserving the money for going out with friends and short-term expenses.         

What if parents took this further?  The idea is to provide a real-life example of the value of a dollar.  If, when students get into high school, they are treated as a roommate, they’ll more quickly become financially mature.  Maybe home shouldn’t be a free ride.    

What do we mean, exactly?  Have teenagers pay bills.  Maybe have them pay all or a portion of their phone bill.  Make them responsible for covering a portion of the groceries they eat, maybe provide cabinet space for their own food.  Make them pay for gas, car insurance or part of the car payment.  They could even pay “rent” and if they miss a payment, they sleep on the couch. 

This may require a bigger allowance or them getting a part-time job.  Of course, children can’t be responsible for covering all of their expenses without a full-time job.  Parents are still responsible for providing most needs, so make sure they eat and sleep well. 

Parents are also solely responsible, apparently, for providing their children with personal finance education.  We think this may be a helpful way to do so.

Worth Repeating

"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” - Martha Washington

College Degrees Aren't Worth It

So say two-thirds of American.  68% believe that degree programs currently cost more than they are worth, and 36% said that the cost of a degree has risen disproportionately to its value in the last five years.

A Deal is Coming

GOP insiders say a deal will be announced soon.

5 Retail Tricks to Turn on the Retailer

Retailing has become a science meant to induce you to buy more.  Here are tips retailers use on us that you can turn around and use on them and save money.

Know Your Goals and Stick to Them

In 2006, we got the bug to stop renting and buy our own home.  Who didn’t, then, right?  Like most couples, we wanted a place of our own.  We first educated ourselves on the process and the real estate market in the Denver Metro Area.  We didn’t want to live far outside because this is a great location between our work, family and friends.

We looked at homes in our area when there was an “open house”.  We distinctly remember one home located in Denver’s Capitol Hill.  It was going for just over $950,000.  We knew before walking inside that we couldn’t afford it, but we wanted to see it anyway.  It was a beautiful home with a nice yard.  The kitchen and dining room were recently remodeled.  We liked it, but it was more than we could afford and we decided to leave.

On our way out the door, we passed the selling agent.  She was a blond woman, about our age, lying in the recliner in the front living room.  While chewing gum, we swear, she asked us if we were interested in submitting an offer.  She had no clue who we were! One of us, we don’t remember who, said, “It’s a nice house, but we can’t afford it.”  In her best Valley Girl accent, she said matter-of-factly, “Just get a no-interest ARM.” 

It was all we could do to not laugh.  We were raised right.  What was she thinking?!  We were novices to the real estate market, for sure, but our backgrounds are in financial services and we had an understanding of how interest rates work.  Neither of us wanted to stress about where mortgage rates would be in five+ years.  Bill Gross can’t even predict that. 

After more self-educating, we did some soul searching.  We asked ourselves, “What’s most important to us?”  We had three objectives and still do; we want to travel, save for retirement and not be house-poor.  We have a tough time sitting at home and when we’re finally forced to, we want to do so comfortably.    

Based on our income in 2006, we calculated the maximum we could afford and meet our goals was $130,000.  You may think that’s a lot or a little.  We decided this would let us make monthly payments on a mortgage, while still having money to travel, save and enjoy our life. 

We searched far and wide and quickly learned it was hard to find a decent place for $130,000 or less in the Denver area.  We should, also, add that neither of us is particularly handy.  We can paint like bad-asses, but can’t do much beyond that.  Our real estate agent knew our income and frequently suggested increasing our maximum.  We held fast.  We knew what we could afford and were determined to make it work. 

After looking at several places, we found a condo we liked and would work.  Our negotiations eventually broke down.  We were frustrated.  We took ourselves out of the market for several months.  After time passed, we became re-engaged.  We started looking at homes and nothing suited us.  The more and more we thought about it, the more we wished our negotiations on the condo worked out.  We decided to wait for another condo in the same building to go on the market.  We practiced patience and eventually a condo became available.  This one was four floors higher and faced west, the opposite direction, with a city and mountain view.  It was much better than the previous place.  We submitted an offer and after some negotiating, our offer was accepted.  We closed on April 20, 2007.

We have a two-bedroom/two-bathroom, 1,008 square foot condo and a huge, west-facing balcony.  It’s small relative to most of our friends and family.  It was a fixer upper.  It still is a little.
 
 

Since our purchase, we’ve been to London, England; Ibiza and Sitges,Spain; Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns, Australia; Auckland, Waiheke and Kaikoura, New Zealand; two times to Puerta Vallarta and once to Playa del Carmin, Mexico; several times each to San Francisco, CA, Philadelphia and Hershey, PA.  While doing all this travel, we’ve saved a bunch for retirement and feel comfortably on track.  We’re meeting our goals.

To this day, we still talk about the real estate agent in that $500,000 house in Capitol Hill and think how bad our situation would be if we had taken her advice.  We’ve all seen the stories since 2008, so it’s not hard to imagine.

The point of this story isn’t to show off our great life.  We want to share what we learned.  The lesson we learned is that it’s up to each person or couple to decide what they want and make their life fit what they want.  Most of us aren’t rich and we need to weigh trade-offs.  For us, we need to decide what’s important.  We may need to practice patience, save extra money and ignore what others say.  If you want a house full of kids, do it, get earplugs and consider you may give up some things to fulfill this dream.  If you want a large, fancy house with no kids, that’s also great and you’ll likely have trade-offs, too.  If you want something else, don’t let other people’s objectives or dreams influence yours.

Oil Subidies Meet Farm Subsidies

Many complain about oil subsidies, and they should.  When they do, we often mention farm subsidies

Revolution Partie Deux

Are we seeing an American-style French Revolution?  We're not likely to see people taken to the guillotine, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't pay attention.  The clowns politicians in Washington should take note of numbers 12 and 13. 

Debt-Limit Deal Coming Down to the Wire

Looks like Mr. Boehner has lost control of his House.  It's just astounding that we're even at this point, again.  These leaders continue to fail at their job and continue to get elected. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NFL May Stop Blacking Out Games

Because it's punitive and unprofitable.

A Financial "Disorder"

Call us skeptics.  A disorder or disease suggests lack of responsibility and makes it more difficult to fix financial problems one may have. 

It's Luke Deja Vu All Over Again

We've seen this play out before and we're doing our best to do it over again.   

Save Money This Holiday Season

If you have a credit card with unused miles, most will let you spend them in their "shopping mall".  This is good advice if you have miles and need to cut back on your spending this holiday season.  Use credit you've already earned and don't use cash or your credit cards.

If You Have to Ask Then, Yes You're Spending Too Much

A list of five things on which you're overspending.  Gifts, weddings and cars are certainly included.

An Answer to the Higher Education Bubble . . . the Internet?

With the costs of college skyrocketing, students are beginning to look elsewhere

Oops! Broke the Coffee Grinder this Morning.

Maybe it was too early in the morning?  I attempted to make my morning coffee today and, sadly, I had no ground coffee left.  I know!  I sound lazy.  To my credit, it was 5 AM.  Anyway, I had some sort of crazy hand spasm that caused me to drop the lid of our coffee grinder. 
Necessity is the mother of invention, right?  Okay, maybe I’m giving myself too much credit now.  I used tape to piece the grinder lid back together.  I wasn’t going to go without coffee today.
 

Now that we think about it, this will save us from having to buy a new grinder.  $20 savings, right there!  Sure, it’s only $20.  But, why spend it when it’s not necessary.  No one sees our grinder but us.  Plus, we’re curious to see how long we can make this last.     

We Know Orange Juice Purchases Have Declined for Our Household

OJ purchases at a 15 year low due to competitive products and higher costs.

Since We Talked About Holiday Toys, How About Holiday Beers

Here's a list of holiday beers to save up for this year.  A six-pack of one of these is a nice, affordable gift for dad.

More and More Retires Using Credit Cards to Pay Medical Expenses

This won't end well.     

This is a Travesty - A Chocolate Price Spike

The main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa butter, is up 70% in the last year.  Your Hershey bar may get smaller and your higher-end, dark chocolate will likely increase in cost.

Noble Prize Winner Warns of "Bubbly" Houseing Market . . . Again

An American economist, Robert Shiller (of the Case-Shiller Index), who just won a Noble Prize, again, "expressed alarm at the rapid rise in global housing prices."  He blamed the bubble on the U.S. Federal Reserve's $85 billion Treasury purchase per month program known as QE3 and housing market speculation.

1 in 10 Admit Secret Credit Card Purchases Played a Role in Their Divorce

Family finances play a big role in a relationship.  Managing the family purse strings should be a team effort.  Often, though, dishonestly about finances is a symptom of other issues. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

If The Queen Can Cut Back, So Can You

Looks like The Queen's private train may be too costly to repair.  Are we watching The Queen live below her means or be money conscious?

DIY Home Sales

More and more homeowners are selling their homes sans real estate broker.  The 85 year old woman in the condo below us sold her condo completely on her own.  No problems.  In addition to not having to pay broker-fees, she sold it above market value.  The buyer probably should've used a broker.  

Are Politicians Profiting Off Of the Market Volatility They’re Creating

When I got home from grocery shopping, I checked to see how the stock market closed.  It closed up today.  The consensus is that the market closed up due to speculation that a debt-deal was eminent.  Lately every day is different.  One day it’s down due to a lack of an agreement.  The next it’s up due to the speculation of an agreement.  This made me wonder if our politicians are investing long and short contingent on the sentiment they share with the media. 

60 Minutes did a story in 2011 on high-level government officials profiting from insider trading, making government deals and investing accordingly before the information was public.  This got Washington up in arms and they finally decided to pass the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” Act or the “STOCK” Act.  You know someone gets paid a lot of money to come up with acronyms in Washington?  That’s an “essential” job, of course. 

Congress passed the bill and everyone patted themselves on the back.  That was, until, they realized enforcing it was going to be hard.  So, on the DL (down-low), Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, quickly passed an amendment on April 12 and 13, 2012, gutting key provisions of the act and President Obama signed it into law the following week. 

Essentially the amendment to the STOCK Act removed requirements to create a searchable database listing disclosures of high-level officials and file their disclosures electronically.  This makes oversight virtually impossible.  Yes, insider trading is still illegal, but without critical oversight, who knows who’s profiting off the rollercoaster we’ve been riding.  Insider trading was illegal prior to 2011 and clearly the oversight and adherence to the law was questionable.   

This makes us wonder if politicians are profiting off of the market volatility they’re creating with the government shutdown and debt deal negotiations.     

Save Money When Buying Fruit

Americans are reported to throw away about forty percent of food annually.  That’s not far off from throwing away half of our food.  As we mentioned last week, some of this may be due to confusion when differentiating between what is safe and unsafe to eat.

If you buy fruit during your weekly grocery trip, like we do, you have a lot of fruit around the house.  Fruit is great for snacking and to keep you healthy.  It’s, also, great for enhancing meals, like mango salsa with homemade tacos or a pear chutney over a pork loin roast.  Yum!
 
So, if you’re a fruit-eater, you know it’s sometimes difficult to eat your fruit before it spoils.  Here’s a solution.

When we get home from the grocery store, we put all of our fruit in a freshly cleaned sink.  Then we mix a combination of one part white vinegar and three parts water.  We let the fruit soak for about ten minutes, drain the sink and let the fruit dry.  Then, depending on the type of fruit, we store it in a fruit bowl on our counter or in our fridge. 
 


The water-vinegar mixture kills about 98% of the bacteria on fruit.  This slows down the spoiling process and helps fruit last up to a week or more after getting it home.  Before it’s time to eat the fruit, we’ll rinse it off again. 

This means we don’t waste our fruit, which saves us money or gets us a better return on our fruit investment.

Living Below Your Means Doesn't Stop When You Retire

A listing of a the best places to retire for $30,000 a year

Considerations When Applying for a Store Credit Card

In general, the rewards for signing up for retail store credit cards aren't worth it.  If you're considering one, ask yourself these questions.

Worth Repeating

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”   - Socrates

Lower Gas Prices Mean More $$ in Your Wallet

Gas prices have been down for most of the year.  If you have a budget, you should be seeing savings on the line-item for gas.  Put this extra money towards your credit cards and pay them down sooner.

Managing Debt After Someone Dies

Here are ten tips for managing debt after someone dies.   

Taking Living Below Your Means to the Next Level

This is taking the moto of Living Below Your Means to the extreme . . . but, hey, if it works for you . . .

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Great American Beer Festival Winners

We're fortunate to live in Denver, home of the annual Great American Beer Festival.  We didn't go this year.  We do have a list of winners and will try them throughout the year.  If we're staying home to save money, we'll spend just a little more on quality beer or wine.  Being Money Conscious doesn't mean having a bad life.

Be a Financial Role Model

Another way to help your child(ren) learn about money is to be a good financial role model.  Mostly this requires talking.

Money Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

Unfortunately, some people are still making these mistakes in the 40s and 50s. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cash is King

Cash is king, but you still have to rule over the process.  That means opening a bank account with no charges for using ATM, at least not your bank's ATM, free checking, no hidden fees and no fees to use a teller.  These kinds of accounts are out there.  It just requires research.  If you can't find any, reduce the number of times you go to the ATM.  Plan your budget in advance and withdraw what you need and nothing more. 

Personal Finance in Our Schools

This can't happen fast enough.

It's Time to Cut the Cable Cord

If you haven't cut your cable cord yet, now's a good time.  We have Apple TV and like it.  We cut the cord three years ago and haven't missed it, except for the occasional football game that we can't get.  If the game is important enough, we'll walk to a local bar.  It's more social and gets us out of the house.  We just have to be conscious about no overspending on beer.

If You Think You Have it Tougher Than Your Parents You Probably Do

You especially have it tougher than your grandparents.  Check out the graphic here.  Of all, the home size it was surprises us most as this is something homeowners can pretty easily control.

Managing Your Personal Finances During Ceiling Negotiations

We can all be proactive and mitigate our risks of being impacted by the debt ceiling crisis.  Pay off credit cards, have emergency savings, have a budget and be money conscious.

Maybe It's TIme to Vote All Our Fearless Leaders Out

Polls are showing more and more disgust with US politicians and the eagerness to vote them out.  Unfortunately, we've heard this before and that doesn't seem to happen like it needs to happen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Credit Card Usage Down Again

Consumers continue their third straight month of declining credit card usage.  This is a positive trend.

Broke? There's An App for That.

There's now an app that keeps track of your budget in real-time.  Just cause some don't keep a budget for whatever reason doesn't mean "the budget is dead, though.  It just means it needs to be reworked.  This group has a solution, but does seems like they just shoved Quicken into an app.

A Cure for Social Security?

Rather than spending research dollars to find treatments for the diseases of old age, maybe we spend those dollars on research to slow or reverse the aging process.  Healthier sixty and seventy year olds can work longer and be less of a stress on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  This approach may even provide a better return on investment than researching treatments for cancer and heart disease. 

Kicking the Can Down the Road

The government doing what the government does best.  It's like that couple that's always on a break cause neither is courageous enough to officially end the relationship or that person who's always telling you they're going to start dieting and working out "next Monday".   

Back-To-School and Retail Sales Likely Down for September

This may indicate good sales this holiday season.  If there are, how about buying only what's on sale and cutting back this year?  Use your extra money to pay off credit card or other debt or just appreciate not having buyer's remorse in January. 

Now It's Time to Focus on Something Important

Hershey is coming out with a new brand of candy, it's first in 30 years.  "Lancaster" will be a soft, caramel crème.  Sounds delicious!  

More Wine for All We Say

Millennials are changing the wine industry.  Money quote: "In the same way [millennials] don’t trust the banks, insurance companies or the government, they don’t care what critics say about a wine or how many medals a bottle has won.”  They are more about the experience of finding and drinking the wine, how they found it and how it tastes, not how much it costs or how many medals it earned.

Jobless Claims Increase

Jobless claims are up 66,000 to 374,000 through October 5th.  Looking at the market, you wouldn't know this was a bad thing.  Wall Street is more concerned about  E Capitol St. NE.

Save Money by Not Confusing "Sell By" Dates with "Expiration" Dates

The average American family of four throws out about $1,560 worth of food that's likely still good to eat.  With a household income of $50,000, that's a 3% raise.

Reasons to Avoid Cash Advances

4 reasons to avoid cash advances on your credit card

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Fine Print of Credit and Debit Cards

MarketWatch shares details many overlook when they receive a credit or debit card.  These can all be avoid, of course, by using cash.  Cash is King.

5 Things Wealthy People Do

Find out what the successful people do and do that.

Patience and Frugality May Be Better Than an MBA

A retired secretary born in rural Illinois in 1909 dies with a $7 million estate and donates it all to charity.  That same year, 2010, an ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch who got his undergrad from Dartmouth and MBA from the University of Chicago files for bankruptcy.  Maybe we need to change our approach to financial literacy.  

Young Chinese Don't Want to Work in Factories

There will likely be growing pains for China and more expensive iPhones for all, but we hope they succeed.  As Martha says, "It's a good thing."

Cars Are No Longer Cool in Japan

The younger generation in Japan isn't buying cars.  Wages and full-time jobs are down.  This makes cars and fees to park cars too expensive.  Young Japanese would rather buy tech gadgets anyway.  Personally, we think they're making the right decision.  They're balancing their needs versus wants and living within their means.  Of course, Japanese automakers aren't happy.   

Is a Good Credit Score Necessary for Decent Coverage Under The Affordable Care Act?

People in Florida are being asked to provide their credit score when signing up for the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).  Health providers want know if you're defaulting on your loans before committing to take you onto their plan.  Credit scores are required to apply for some jobs now.  Get your score up and as high as possible. 

Automaker Relying More on Subprime Loans

"[GM] is relying increasingly on subprime loans [to have their cars financed], 10-Q financial reports show."  If your FICO score is close to or below 660, be cautious about what you're buying and your loan agreement.  We've seen this story play out before and the individual doesn't win when the market tanks.  Be money conscious and contact each of the credit rating agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) for a free copy of your credit report.  You may also contact freecreditreport.com for a report, but it's only free if you cancel before the 7-day free trial ends.  Otherwise, you're charged $19.99 monthly

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Obama Likely to Nominate Janet Yellen for Fed Chair

President Obama is likely to announce Janet Yellen as his nomination to replace Ben Bernanke.  Yellen is likely to accept and run the Federal Reserve much the same way Bernanke has, continuing QE3 ($85B/month Treasury purchase program, historically increased transparency).   

Credit Over Debit

Are there times when using a credit card is preferable to using a debit card?  Why, yes, at least five.

US Car Sales Growth May Continue Through 2014

Car sales have started to improveEstimations expect this to continue through 2014 due to the age of the average car on the road being about 11.4 years old and about 500,000 more car leases set to expire this year over last.  If you're in the market for a new car/new-to-you car or will be, pay attention and prepare yourself to make the right decision for your finances.    

Dinner Party for Less Than $100

Last weekend we hosted a dinner for three for $99.64.  We had a steak dinner, dessert and wine.  We still have leftovers.  How did we manage this?

·         We made everything from scratch or close to scratch
·         We were Money Conscious when grocery shopping
·         We bought three bottles of not-so-expensive wine and a box of wine (not your grandmother’s Franzia)

For an appetizer we got a wedge of brie for $3.70, a medley of olives and other pickled vegetables from the olive bar for $2.94 and organic, whole wheat bread for $2.99.  We already had ginger-peach marmalade and water crackers for the brie and olive oil and vinegar for the bread.

We got a cheap bottle of Vino Verde (I can’t remember the name - It wasn’t great) for $7.99 that we drank while cooking and waiting for our guest.  For dinner we bought a bottle of Zin 91 for $13.99, a bottle of Piping Shrike Shiraz for $16.99 and a Black Box merlot for $24.99 to drink after we finished the other wines.  Your taste buds can’t tell after three bottles, can they?  Plus, we now have leftover wine that’s perfect for weeknights or our next dinner.  Our guest brought a bottle of Barco de Piedra Tempranillo for $15.99.  This didn’t add to our personal costs, so I’m not including it.  It was yummy, though. 

For dinner we grilled a New York Strip steak.  We chose a New York Strip because they’re leaner, but not too lean.  We bought 1.02 pounds at $10.99 per pound, totaling $11.21.  A serving of meat should be between a quarter to a third of a pound.  We know!  Most people will scoff at such a small serving.  Not only are we living on a budget, we’re also controlling our caloric intake.  A third of a pound was more than enough for all.  We seasoned the steak with a dry rub and set it on the counter for a couple of hours to get to room temperature before grilling it.  This prevents toughness.  Our side dishes included broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper.  The broccoli was $1.99 per pound.  We bought two pounds exactly, totaling $3.98.  We bought a bag of red, yellow and purple potatoes for $2.99, a white onion for $0.59, and three bulbs of garlic for $1.00.  With these ingredients, we made a sautéed medley of potato quarters.  We only used one bulb of garlic.  We had enough broccoli and sautéed potatoes for everyone and still have leftovers.  We’ll finish these this week.  This will prevent us from wasting food and eliminate cooking.

For dessert we bought a bag of store-brand ginger snap cookies for $2.29 and a pint of Hagen Dazs vanilla bean ice cream for $3.99 (on sale for a dollar off).  We used these ingredients to make ginger snap ice cream cookies.  While cooking, we discovered a bar of dark chocolate that we got as a gift.  Just before serving our ice cream cookies, we melted the chocolate down and dipped half of each cookie into the chocolate.  Each person had three cookies.  Being an ice cream lover, I finished the pint last night.  The bag of cookies is almost gone three days later.

Our guest visited for over four hours.  It was a relaxing evening with a lot of talking and laughing.  We would’ve easily spent $300 at a restaurant for as much food (and wine) as we had.  The wine would’ve cost over $100 alone.  Not only was our food delicious, it was healthier than what most restaurants serve.  We used salt, but not a lot.  We used olive oil in place of butter.  Lastly, we controlled our portions. 

The best part was that we didn’t have buyer’s remorse the following day and half of our dinner was already made for the next night. 

Consider hosting a dinner at home instead of going out and over-spending.  If you don’t want to take on all of the work or you want to split the costs more evenly, have your guest(s) bring food.    

Don't Be Like Our "Fearless" Leaders in Washington

"There's an absence of any signs that political leaders are willing to face this problem and address and restructure these obligations," billionaire Paul Singer said.  If you're having financial troubles, don't follow Washington's lead.  Face the problem and come up with a plan to address them. 

How Are Fleetwood Mac, Adele and Your Problems Alike?

I was exercising at the gym this morning and “Big Love” by Fleetwood Mac came on my iPod.  I was about the change it when I decided to listen.  Lindsay Buckingham’s guitar skills on that song are amazing.  When I was listening and doing bent-over-barbell-pulls, it struck me as ironic that two of my favorite albums came from dark places for the artists.  Then, I thought, maybe their stories can be an inspiration for others. 

In October 1997, Fleetwood Mac appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone (issue 772) with the headline “The Lovingest, Fightingest, Druggingest Band of the ‘70s Comes Back”.  It detailed their meteoric rise to success and fame, the drugs, jealousy, cheating and anger that came with that success and fame and their ultimate (temporary) break up.  Twenty years after the rollercoaster started, they were back on top and about to release their Grammy Award winning album The Dance.  At the height of the negativity, they created arguably one of the greatest albums of all time.  That album, Rumors, was created when the two couples of the band, Buckingham & Nicks and John & Christine McVie, were in the middle of breaking up.  Drugs, fighting and cheating were everywhere.  There were times when some thought the album wouldn’t happen. 

Despite everything working against them, much of it their own doing, they persevered.  They stuck it out, got back up when they fell and were more focused on the end result than the present situation.

Adele’s relationship with a man ten years older ended around April 2009.  Adele seemingly put more stock in this relationship than her partner.  When they eventually broke up after he heard the first recording, “Take it All”, for her new album 21, she was apparently devastated.  Not being one to let a bad situation ruin her, she channeled her emotion into writing new music for her upcoming album.  When the album was released in January 2011, no one could have known the success that was about to come.  Winning both a Grammy and a BRIT Award, the album topped the charts in over 30 countries for both 2011 and 2012.   Your humble bloggers will even go out on a limb and say 21 will be the top album of the ‘10s (is that what we’re calling this decade?). 

What does all this have to do with me, you say?  If you’re drowning in debt or money problems is ruining your relationship, or you’re dealing with other personal struggles, and you don’t see a chance of recovering, consider these success stories.  They aren’t the only stories out there about a group of people or a person hitting a low point and using that low point as a springboard to success.  Use your fear, your anger, your frustration or whatever emotion(s) you have to inspire you to success.  Whatever your financial problems, whatever your problems, you can overcome them and the outcome will be better than you can imagine. 

We had over $51,000 worth of credit card debt and were living in a basement.  Rather than resigning ourselves to failure, we did what we had to do to climb out of debt, buy a home, and increase our travel and retirement savings.  If all these people can turn failure into success, so can you. 

Is that corny enough for you?

Worth Repeating

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” - Socrates

What Male Models Earn?

You hardly ever hear about male models and you never hear how much models earn.  Woman own this market for sure.  "The top 10 top-earning male models earned a combined total of $8 million from September 2012 to September 2013, a measly amount compared to the $83 million their female counterparts raked in over the past year."  Still the men are making decent income.  Hopefully they're managing their money wisely.

Business Travelers Are Dining on the Cheap

The most popular restaurants for business travelers are Starbucks, McDonald's, Subway and Panera, in that order.  Supposedly this is cause these restaurants are quick and easy, but we think it has more to do with tighter corporate budgets.  A few years ago, I was traveling on business to a different state and my boss asked me to bring my own food.  Ha!

Same-Sex Spouses Should Review Retirement Plans

Same-sex couples have a lot more considerations now.  For the foreseeable future, most same-sex couples should considering using a tax or financial professional, especially those whose relationships aren't recognized by their state.  Having their relationships recognized by The Federal Government and not their State Government could be confusing.

US Small Business Confidence Dips

US small business confidence dips slightly, but still remained positive about their business prospects.  Investors and small business should focus more on earnings season and less on Washington's games.

A Guide to Credit Cards for High School and College Students

Here's A Guide for Credit Card Newbies that all students should read and then follow.

Social Security: Don't Say You Haven't Been Warned

10 Things Social Security Won't Tell You.  Basically, try not to rely on Social Security.  Think of it more as a perk.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Americans Cut Back on Credit Card Usage

We're sure much of this has to do with the drama spewing out of Washington, D.C., but it's still a good thing. 

How to Be Richer

Ironically, not all of these 10 financial lessons to a richer life involve money.

Small Boosts to Your Retirement Plan Has Huge Benefits

After most people pay off their debt, they use their extra money to improve their quality of life, i.e, start spending it.  What if you didn't do that?  What if you put at least half of that towards your company sponsored retirement plan, Tradition IRA or Roth IRA.  The benefits are huge if you contribute this extra money regularly.  Take a look.

Teaching Children About Money

It's never too early to teach your children about money.  Money management won't be taught in school  This subject is completely up to you.  Here are some age-appropriate tips.

Social Security Recipients at Risk

Here's another reason to not rely on Social Security.  Studies suggest that Gen Y and Millennials don't expect to be around for them and are planning otherwise.  Unfortunately, many current recipients may not have planned accordingly.  All generations should plan as if Social Security won't be around to help them.  For your own security, consider it a perk.   

Free Money for College

The best way to avoid the effects of the student loan crisis is to get others to pay for as much as possible.

What's the Worst Kind of Debt?

Here's a list of the pros and cons of various forms of debt.  We would argue that some debit, such as credit card debt, is worse than others.  This article takes a more middle-of-the-road approach. 

Tips For a Debt Free Life

16 tips for living a debt free life.  Good go know.

Sometimes Less is Less

Instances when it's best to spend a little more to save in the long-run.

How Much Do You Need to Save for Retirement?

The keys to saving for retirement are, 1) start early, 2) save consistently and 3) monitor your savings rate and adjust accordingly.

Credit Cards with No Interest until 2015

Here's a list of credit cards not charging interest until 2015.  If you're interested, be sure to understand the transfer fee and what rate to expect when they do start charging a fee.

New Benjamins Debut Tomorrow

A new $100 bill will debut tomorrow to help combat counterfeiting.

Saving for Retirement Is Harder

Retirement: Saving for retirement can be less difficult if one lives below their means and commits to saving regularly.  Also, only in the most dire circumstances should one cash out their retirement prematurely. 

This Will Help The Family Budget

Gas prices are down.  Don't go out and buy a gigantic car, though.  Using the extra cash to pay off debt or build up your emergency savings.

Economies Still Feeling the Effects of Lehman Brothers

People around the world of paid down their debt and are hoarding cash.  For an individual or family to do this is a good thing.  When millions do this, it can be bad for economies. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Shipping Wars Are Starting

Maybe you should avoid the malls altogether this holiday season.  We stay away from all malls from mid-November through mid-January.  It's not that hard, actually, and avoids a lot of stress.

Yes, You Can Share Too Much

We don't know why one would share their credit score on Facebook, but apparently some people need to be told don't share everything in Facebook.

5 Quick Money Saving Tips

Five quick money saving tips from which we can all benefit. 

Are You Getting Your Moneys Worth with a Housekeeper?

It's hard to put a value on not having to spend our rare free time cleaning, but here are 10 things to consider.