Friday, June 19, 2009

Announcing My Newest Goal!

Dave Ramsey has coined a term the "Idiot Tax." Basically, the Idiot Tax is the true cost of an item after all of the interest you've paid is added into the original cost. One example is a$400 sweater that was originally on sale for $14. Another example is the $70 dinner that ends up being $568. All of this because many people do not pay off their credit cards every month.

While I don't follow Dave Ramsey's program and I disagree with him on some of the advice he provides to his audience, I do tune into his radio program in the evenings when I'm driving and you can't argue with the numbers. Families following his program are successfully getting out of debt and learning about fiscal responsibility.

So how does this all tie into announcing my newest goal? First, most articles you read on setting goals say that you are more likely to succeed if you let people know what your goals are. Telling people what you are working towards holds you accountable. If you let your support network know, they will even help you work towards those goals, cheering you on in victory or supporting you in getting back on the horse.

My personal Idiot Tax has not occurred yet... but the deadline is coming quickly. I had LASIK surgery done a little over a year ago. I signed up for my flexible spending medical savings account through work, but could not pay it all in one year. I was offered financing at 0% interest if I paid it within 18 months. After 18 months, all of the interest will be tacked onto the bill. Unfortunately, things always come up when your emergency fund isn't adequately funded. I have been making payments faithfully every month, but I'm coming up short by about $1,600. Essentially, I have to earn an extra $400 per month for the next four months in order to avoid $1,200 in interest. It's not as difficult to do as it sounds. During the summer I have a delivery job that brought in an extra $2,300 last year. My challenge is, thanks to the recession, this year is slower. I will be working on my creativity in order to meet the challenge, but I'm determined to do it. I'll be posting updates regularly and feel free to post any challenges you may be working on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Field Trip to the Convenience Store

Anyone with any frugal sense knows know not to shop at a convenience store. However, there are some times when the convenience is worth the extra money. I was pleasantly surprised on two counts today although one of them was bitter sweet.

First, I have another confession. Occasionally I crave junk food, usually in the form of frozen pizza or chips. On my field trip, I discovered my secret treat to be on sale. My frozen pizza was $1, which is a rare price in the grocery store let alone the high priced convenience store. The lesson here is... always keep an eye out for bargains no matter where you are. There may be a diamond in the rough just waiting to be discovered.

My second surprise was to discover that the receipt coming out of the Debit/Credit card machine had a space for the clerk to initial that they checked ID. I've never seen that before and commented to the clerk with glee in my voice. Unfortunately, the clerk replied that most people don't actually follow those directions. She then tore off her receipt from mine and stuffed it into the till... without asking to check my ID. Bittersweet frustration.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cutting the Food Bill and Enjoying the Season's Bounty

For those who don't know, I live in an apartment with no deck or patio, which is a first for me. I've always had space to plant a couple of pots for fresh tomatoes, but I chose to give that up for the convenience of location. The first growing season I lived here I really missed the taste of home grown tomatoes. I got spoiled and just couldn't find the same interest in bland store bought tomatoes. The farmers' markets in my area are great, but I was looking for something a bit more economical and a way to satisfy my green thumb.

A little creativity, a bit of negotiation, and I'm set. I'm swapping weed pulling and gardening skills for produce and home cooked meals. My first victim, err gardening partner is mom. She has great vision, but volunteers with a lot of groups so her time is limited. So far I've been able to harvest some English peas that were so sweet I couldn't cook them. I split the pods and ate them right out of the shell. Next, I pulled some rhubarb that I'm freezing for crumbles later in the season. Last week, I picked raspberries and lettuce. Yum!

After visiting a friend to see her chickens and her raised beds, we were commiserating about all of the work a yard takes. Her environmentally conscious son is home from college and has kitchen duties, but while he and his friends visit the chickens, they're not particularly in love with weeding. My wheels started turning again and we agreed to swap produce and some homemade Carbonara for help taming her front beds. I think she's getting the short end of the stick.

Finally, last weekend I was having a girls weekend and again yard work came up as a topic of conversation. Cher is an IT guru and is raising two children so her time is stretched already without adding the chores on top. This time negotiations included Phillipino home cooking and hopefully some homemade egg rolls. I think I'm going to have to work harder in the yards just to work off these fantastic meals!

Do have some spare time to swap chores with a friend? Gardening, painting, computer work, start the conversation and see where you can take it.