National Debt and Personal Debt

I’m back after a bit of a break working on my new book.

So what’s been going on since my last post?

“Averted” a catastrophe of the fiscal cliff.
Lined up the next catastrophe in the form of the Debt Ceiling increase

There have been some great comparisons between budgeting for families and the Government. You know the one’s I’m talking about where you remove a dozen or so zero’s from the National Debt and you’ll see a family debt.  How easy it should be to cut costs without having to increase revenue.  Typically seen on Facebook postings.

In one way, they’re pretty accurate.  Redundancies in agencies or departments obviously increase the cost side of the equation.  Removing or consolidating them would make sense, right? Continue reading

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See how much you spend on Christmas

One of the great ways we keep track of our Christmas spending is to make a list, check it twice and write down how much each item costs.  Santa does much the same, except of course, the money part.

Here’s a nifty little spreadsheet we’ve used the past few years to help us keep track. It’s a Google Spreadsheet, so all you need to do is login to Google, make a copy of the spreadsheet, and customize it the way you want.  There is some sample data on each tab, but all you’ll need to do add the names to the first tab and they’ll show up in a nice little pivot table on the second tab.  No programming needed.

We found this especially helpful when trying to balance the amounts each of our children get.

You can also download it as an Excel spreadsheet if you’d like!


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Hangover from the Holidaze

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”….

Those of us at a ‘certain age’ will remember that tag line from TV Commercials for Alka-Seltzer.  Those of us Simpsons fans, will recognize it from a Homer’s Yearbook  picture. Whatever your frame of reference, you know it’s all about having overdone it.  For Homer, it was probably donuts. For many people, it was the gifts and food and “just one more present” that may have blown the budget.

I know around this time of year for me, I need to stay away from the various ‘Sales’ emails I receive because it’s just too darn easy to buy something. As with most things financial, you’ve got to have the discipline to ‘Just say No’. Or ‘No more’.

So it’s all over but the bills. Unless you paid cash (good for you) in which case you can skip the rest of the post. And so now what do you do? If you didn’t have a Christmas Budget you’re stuck with trying to figure out a few things. Here’s a great chance for you to apply some things you (hopefully) have done before.

Mini-Snowball:  Similar in plan to a regular ‘Snowball’, this one focuses on the Christmas dollars spent.  One key note: Overspending for the Holidays does NOT qualify for an Emergency!  You should NOT utilize the Emergency Fund to pay for your Holiday bills.  It’s not an Emergency, but something that does need to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Take your payments/bills, and knock them out in order by amount owed.  If you used multiple credit cards, store accounts, etc., take the lowest amount due and pay it off first.  Once that’s done,  pay off the next one.  Repeat until you’re done.  Where does this money come from?

Maybe you sell some items you don’t need/want.  For short term gains, that’s a decent solution. Getting an extra job is a possibility, however, at this time of year, that’s a tough one and hopefully, you don’t need an extra job to pay for your Holiday bills!  If that’s the case, there’s some deeper problems to resolve.

0% card: I’m not as radical as some financial folks in their complete disdain for Credit Cards. I use them, and I think I use them well. Gone are the days of “Put it on the card and we’ll figure it out later”. Today, we use our Card (singular) for daily purchases and pay off the balance every week. We get points that we cash in for gift cards and use those as needed. Side note: We’re saving up for a trip to Ireland and plan on using our Visa Gift Cards from our points to help pay for it

This time of year, you’ll see some card companies send out their 0% rate offers. Fortunately, we’re not in a position that we’ll need them this year, since we made a budget and stuck to it. However, if you can’t believe you ate the whole thing these might be an option for you.  In the past, my USAA card has offered 0% rate and no-cost transfer fees.  This is where you definitely need to read the fine print.  Most companies will charge you a fee to transfer the amount to their card.  In some cases, this might not make much sense as you won’t wind up saving as much if you take into account the transfer fees from the total amount transferred.  AND, if you transfer from multiple cards to a single card, you pay multiple transfer fees.

Take a few minutes and do the math!

So once that’s done, what’s next?  Use your totals for this year and set up your budget for next year.  If you’re not sure of what each person received, use this spreadsheet as a template for next year. This is what we use each year to keep ourselves on track.

So tell us, do you have a Hangover from the Holidaze? Were you ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nice’ on your spending?

Posted in Debt Free, Savings | 3 Comments

New eBook back at #1 on Amazon

I’m happy to announce the book is back at #1 on Amazon.

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Another Guest Post

Busy week being a ‘Guest’ on other sites.

Check out my post on Budgeting in the Fun Stuff about our Journey from Debt.

Crystal has a really nice book on Amazon that was one of my motivations for starting the blog and writing my ebook (also on Amazon).  So I really appreciate her giving me the opportunity to share on her blog.

Next week.. back to focusing on this blog !

We’ll talk about Holiday Hangover…

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Guest Post over on EyesOnTheDollar

Check out my guest post today on a great site, EyesOntheDollar.

I’ve been reading Kim’s blog for a while and she’s got some great content on Personal Finance.  Really worth adding to your RSS Feed!

Thanks for inviting me over there Kim!

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New ebook Amazon Ranked #1

On December 11, 2012, my first eBook ‘We Got Outta Debt: A Debt Free Journey” hit #1 on Amazon. (scroll down to see the video).

Readers say 

"Focused, Balanced and Practical" 
"Actually Useful and practical advice"

Read more Reviews

Read about the author’s Journey from $68,000 in loan and credit card debt to being Debt Free in a little over 3 years.

Order We Got Outta Debt: A Debt Free Journey Today

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I’m a (self)Published Author!

I’ve finally finished the book! Exclusively on Amazon in kindle format, the book goes through our story of how We Got Outta Debt.

Proceeds of this book will be going to help finance my eldest daughter’s wedding! So, feel free to contribute 🙂

Selecting the image on the right will take you directly to the books Amazon page.

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The Games People Play

As we approach the time of year where we spend a little more than we usually do, and in some cases, more than we should, let’s talk about The Games People Play.

For this post, it’s the “0% Interest Free for A Year” game. There are a number of ways this particular game can be played, and we played them for all they were worth. In the beginning, we hit the 0% rate to pay for a new freezer. Innocent enough, right?

The main rule of this game is you avoid paying any interest on the total if you pay off the entire amount within a pre-defined period of time. Typically this is a year, sometime up to 18 months. On larger purchases, like furniture sets, it can be as long as 3 years.

And this game has a fairly Las Vegas-y feel to it. You’re betting you can pay off the total amount before the period has expired. The gamble here however, is that if you’re late by a single day, the Credit Card company will charge you for ALL the interest you hoped to avoid paying.

The two aspects that give this game the ‘Vegas’ tone are simple.

  1. A gamble. You’re betting (against the house) that you can pay it off. We played that game and did fairly well, but it was close a few times.
  2. The game is rigged. If the credit card company didn’t think they’d make money on the deal, they certainly wouldn’t give you the chance.

Part of the answer this year is to have had a Holiday budget.  We contribute money each pay period to an ING Savings Account specifically for use around this time of year. As items get purchased, we mark the receipt and move the money from this account where it needs to go.

So what do you do if you if you don’t have this account?
First, set one up for next year. Do it now.  Seriously, stop reading this and do it now.  I’ll be here waiting…….

OK, now that you’re back you can still have some fun this year, but you must be a little more creative.

Books. Do you have a person who likes to read?  Hit the used book stores. You’ll find some great titles and can see and feel if they are in decent shape.  Libraries often have used books for sale as well.  Does your person have an eReader?  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple all sell ebooks that are not budget busters.

Body Care Products.  Put together a nice basket of lotions, creams, etc for the woman on your list.

Donate or Volunteer.  Gift the gift of your time.  Ask a person on your list their favorite charity.  Donate some time on their behalf.

Regifting.  Easy now.. If you’re looking to save some money, get outta debt, etc, there’s nothing wrong with regifting something you’ve received in the past.  Just make sure you’re not giving it to the person who gave it to you.. Talk about awkward.

There are a number of other things you can do this Holiday Season.

What about you? Share anything you plan on doing ‘differently’ this year

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Are you Creepy?

I don’t mean the type of Creapy-ness that gets people looking at you oddly, or cause the judge to grant a Temporary Restraining Order.

The reliance on the credit card is that slippery slope due to laziness I wrote about earlier. When you use the credit card for daily purchases, many times you’ll neglect to include those in a monthly payoff to the card company. So you get a type of ‘credit card creep’.

Credit Care Creep is the act of having small purchases creep onto your credit card balance and never really go away. Consider the purchase of a TV. It’s $1000, for example. You know you spent $1,000 and (hopefully) have a plan on how to pay that portion of the card. But, if you’re like many people, you put smaller things on the card and never really recognize the card was used.

$3.50 for Shampoo? $13.00 for lunch out with co-workers? You don’t give it a second thought. So the amount stays on the card and continues racking up interest.   If you use a Credit Card, track your purchases and pay them off.    We take the time to go through each item in our receipts and categorize them in Quicken.  This helps us track to our budget.

Then, once a week, anything that was purchased on the card, is paid off.

What about you?  Are you Creepy?

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