Thursday, October 11, 2007


Today I got my FSA check in the mail. It's only $30, but that's $30 towards my credit card debt. Big YEAH! The best part is that there is another one that should arrive next week.

This will be a second payment this month which means it will go to reducing the principle. This card is slated to be paid off in December. Oh its just within my grasp!

Paper or Plastic - Neither Cloth

If you're looking for a way to cut your grocery bill consider alternatives to paper products.
The only paper product I purchase is toilet paper. (I'm just not willing to take on alternatives.)
Kitchen towels make great napkins and they're bigger than normal cloth napkins as well as cheaper. My family reuses them through a few meals unless they're particularly soiled. I don't buy Kleenex either. (Well, maybe when I have a really bad cold.) Hankies are easy to wash and environmentally friendly. Just make sure they have a decent thickness. Paper towels are a waste of money. Keep old kitchen towels for cleaning up spills. Cut up old t-shirts for dusting, polishing, and cleaning rags.

This posting was inspired by Being Frugal. To see more ideas, click here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Housesitting for Additional Income

Since I was in college, I have been house sitting for people to earn extra money. Currently, I am taking care of a house for 2 1/2 weeks. I confess that it makes me go a bit stir crazy because I'm out of my routine. I rely more on eating out and I use a bit more gas because of the distance to work. The benefit? I get to pay off another bill and I don't have to pay to do my laundry.

Unofficial No Spend Day

The day started out right. Lunch was paid for courtesy of a company anniversary and I had cans of Coke for the day. The day went well until the gas light came on. I wasn't expecting to get stuck in traffic. My No Spend day turned into a $10 spend day. I'm trying again for tomorrow. Set backs happen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What Advice Is Realistic for a 20-Something

An article caught my eye today on Yahoo!Finance that had been published in US News & World Report by Kimberly Palmer. In it Ramit Sethi, creator of the "I Will Teach You to Be Rich" blog discusses how most of the information out there on personal finance is written by "old, white men for old, white men," and too a point I may agree. (Maybe not quite so harshly.)

When I started reading about personal finance and investing I was 20 years old. My parents didn't sit me down and explain budgets, investing, or even shopping for groceries. Growing up, my mother had struggled as a single mom making ends meet. My father's frugality was often confused for being a cheapskate. He invested... with a full service broker and he collected as a business. Its interesting that there are two taboo topics that parents assume kids will learn, sex and personal finance. The sad thing is parents are often surprised when kids have difficulties tackling either one.

My mom helped me set up a savings account, but forgot to explain to me why earning a penny a month was beneficial. I couldn't see the big picture. I baffled my grandparents one year when I asked for stocks for Christmas. To their credit, I got 6 shares of Costco when it was at $12/share. That was the beginning, but there were a lot of bumps in the road to my education.

I agree with Famit Sethi, personal finance education is not one size fits all. Many books teach from the perspective of someone who has already graduated college, is married and possibly with family, and have a significant start on savings. They aren't taking into consideration purchasing the wardrobe for the new job, starting a discount / online brokerage account with a minimal amount to start, setting up a food pantry from scratch rather than relying on Taco Bell or McDonald's, or how to start out with the minimum and building your benefits as your budget allows.

My advice to someone starting out:
~ Do not rely on credit. It is a band-aid that will catch up to you quickly. Better to take your spare time, develop alternative means of income, and build your investment account. Get your shopping fix off of smart investment decisions.
~ Keep your roommates as long as you can. Not having to share a bathroom sounds like heaven, but all of the extra expenses will drain your budget quickly.
~ Take a cooking class and educate yourself on easy, healthy meals.
~ Cheap furniture is just that, CHEAP. Invest is better built pieces that will be around for a few years.
~ Challenge yourself with finding free meals served at community events. Combine entertainment and keep tabs on your grocery bill.
~ Don't get frustrated when your teller gives you funny looks. Make those deposits into your savings even if they are $5-$10. Its still a contribution to your savings.
~ Like cheap furniture, penny stocks are cheap for a reason. Make sure you research your investments before you jump into the world of Wall Street. That $3 stock won't look like such a bargain 5 years later when its still at $3.
~ 3-6 months of wages in an emergency fund is something to strive for but not a requirement. Don't be afraid to start small.
~ If someone tells you $500 isn't enough to do anything with. Walk away and don't believe them.
~ You are building your network everywhere. Make good first impressions to ensure future success.

Monday, October 8, 2007

YEAH! ~ My first No Spend Day!

Thanks to the inspirations of Being Frugal, Working For Financial Freedom, and Not Keeping Up With the Joneses I am officially on my way on the Reduce a Bill Challenge. This was my first official No Spend Day.

It all started with Being Frugal writing a post about her efforts to lower the monthly grocery bill. Mom of 3 at Working For Financial Freedom was inspired to reduce one of her own bills by going an month line drying clothing saving money on her electricity bill. Heather at Not Keeping Up With The Joneses came up with the idea of having 10 No Spend Days for the month of October. Talk about the power of the blogging community... I decided to join Heather in the quest for 10 No Spend Days. While getting off to a rocky start because of bad planning, I can now record my first day. Tomorrow will be another and if I'm to meet my goal, I'm going to need to step it up a bit.

The benefit of this exercise? No, its not Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream. It will be an additional $10 towards the emergency fund per day. That's what I would have spent for lunch, which is my downfall when it comes to sticking to my budget.

Are you ready for the Reduce a Bill Challenge?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Holiday Season Challenge - Double Benefit Presents

One of the things I try to do is purchase presents that are double duty. I purchase presents that benefit charitable organizations. If I need to attend a fundraising event, I bid on items that are less popular and will make a good gift. My city has a few stores that benefit local organizations and people from third world countries. (Just for the record, if you consider this way of contributing back to the community, this is not an excuse to buy all of those things that are just going to become clutter.)

Wow - What a Weekend!

I have been very bad about posting this weekend because I hit the ground running on Friday and am finally able to sit down and reflect. Friday after a stressful workday, I took a friend out for her birthday to see Body Worlds III and incredible combination of anatomy education and art. Not a cheap day, but an incredible experience.

Saturday, was almost a successful No Spend day. I started it out working on a huge philanthropic project where I, along with 1,800 other volunteers were distributed among 11 different sites around the city. My particular project had 100 volunteers that repainted all of the halls of an elementary school. It was incredible to see so many people come together to improve a school that hasn't had a fresh coat of paint for the last 10 years. Bonus - Outback Steakhouse provided the free lunch at the celebration afterwards. Later that evening, I attended a fundraising dinner for another organization. The ticket was paid for by my company and included dinner, drinks, and entertainment. I almost had a perfect No Spend day, but had an incredible opportunity to purchase a couple bottles of wine that will be Christmas presents.

Sunday, is another almost No Spend Day. I spent money to pick up supplies for a friend's birthday party. I was given the money to purchase most of it. I did spend an extra $8.00 + $3.00 for cat litter. The party was a success!

This weekend taught me some valuable lessons... Don't put off purchasing kitty litter if you are planning a no spend day. It only leads to unnecessary cleaning to deal with odors. Don't over schedule. It only leads to unnecessary spending. Don't take a checkbook to a fundraising event unless you have already planned on spending money. And finally, falling asleep on the couch from exhaustion leads to a sore neck.

To make up for unsuccessful No Spend days I will make Monday and Tuesday true No Spend days. I'd go for Wednesday too, but I will need gas.