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High Gas Prices? Check this….

March 20, 2012

Yes, gas prices, as you’ve surely noted, are rising. I recently read $4 gas? How to cut what you pay at MSN Money. They give a few tips that are decent, but the article is focused on gas reward credit cards.

I’m not overly excited about this idea, as we use a major credit card that gives us rewards on everything we purchase. This month, gas is the item that gives us 5% cash back every time we fill up. They talk about using an “arsenal” of gas reward cards (which I’m not going to do because I like just having two cards that we account for in Mint.com).

Along these lines, our family still tries to get gas once a week, on the same day each week, to even out the amount of money we spend each month on gas.

We also try to consolidate different trips into one trip so we’re not starting and stopping the vehicles as much or wasting time between our house and the various places we need to go.

I’m tuning up my 1986 Honda Elite 250 scooter since it gets around 50 mpg in town.

Many families really need to just limit the trips they take per month. As enjoyable as it is to go see family and friends, and other activities, during high gas prices years, it makes sense to limit those trips if needed…

This is a Great Time to Buy a House, lf….

August 28, 2011

…it is a great time for you, in your current situation, and with your future situation taken into account.

We recently had a house built, and it was a great experience (most of it) and we feel really good about our house, neighborhood, and monthly payment as well as the payoff amount (and equity) on our house. Part of that has to do with the favorable market conditions for those who are looking to buy a house. But…not so fast…

First off–and what spurred this post–you ought to check out this post at Moneyning.com. Just because your current state of finances looks good, doesn’t mean everything will fall together easily when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage at a great rate. Don’t despair, it isn’t so bad, but this article will give you a few things to think about. By the way, Moneyning.com is a great, great personal finance blog…

The article just got me thinking about some things a person ought  to consider if buying a house is an option right now. One thing to consider is your current financial state…which we’ll not talk about right now. Your lender will talk to you about that, so I won’t. But–and this may be a much bigger deal–you ought to seriously consider what the next 5-15 years of your life are likely to look like, financially. Here are some things they you may want to consider…

  1. Is my income steady? I know my current paychecks can more than cover our new house payment, but will I be getting paid more, less, or the same in a year? What about 5 years?
  2. Is my job safe? Is my company currently laying people off, or hiring? How confident am I that I will be working in 5 years?
  3. What things are likely to change in our five year future? Any children on the way? That will change a budget. Will our teenagers be driving in a few years? More insurance payments, gas payments, and possibly another car payment (though most 16-year-olds don’t need a car that couldn’t be paid for with cash). Will there be any new monthly payments showing up in the near future? Will I be getting a raise? Will my spouse be changing their employment status over the next 5-10 years?
My  goal isn’t to talk you out of moving, buying, or building right now. In fact, with interest rates as low as they are, I can’t think of a better time to do it. And having a budget and tracking your spending will help you answer these questions, and many more that you ought to consider. If your lender tells you “With your income, you should be able to make this house payment just fine” there are always, always, always more things to consider before you make a big change in your financial life…Once you’ve considered all of the questions regarding your future, you’ll feel a lot more confident in your decision.
Can you think of anything else someone ought to consider before moving houses, buying a house, or building a house?

Obstacles that (Almost) Everyone Faces in Personal/Family Finances…

August 27, 2011

I recently perused an article on Time’s MoneyLand site, entitled, “7 Obstacles to Financial Success”, which I quite liked (it was short and informative)…

Quickly summarized, the obstacles are:

 

  1. Lack of discipline 
  2. Materialism
  3. Debt
  4. Taxes
  5. Inflation
  6. Investment mistakes
  7. Emergencies

 

You ought to read the article to get a small explanation on each one. Some of these points are more interesting for me to think about than others, but each one should be thought-out and acted on. For instance, even though you can’t always control whether an emergency is going to happen (wearing a seat-belt or helmet, not walking on banana peels, etc., can help) you can do some things to lessen the blow a catastrophe can have on your finances (have an “emergency” savings account, be properly insured, etc.). You can’t change the tax laws, but you can work with an accountant to lessen your tax burden. You can’t guess the stock market (well, you can, but not always), but you can diversify your investments appropriately so that market swings don’t nail you too hard. You can track our spending, start a budget, and work on self-discipline.

Anyway…enjoy your reading!

There is a Small Chance that I will Gladly Pay a Yearly Fee for my Credit Card…

August 23, 2011

…as much as I HATE the thought of it. I really, really, really, really hate monthly and yearly fees. Since we “downsized” to Netlfix+”over the air HD” instead of cable or satellite, I’ve loved not seeing a cable/satellite bill each month. But I still am bugged when I see the $7.99 Netlfix charge. I know, I’m lame. First World problems…I get it. Waaa. But still…

With that in mind, you’ll understand why I’ve never ever paid a yearly fee for having a credit card. But, after reading this article on why you might consider finding a card that has a yearly fee in exchange for the benefits, I may change my mind.

The point of the article is that this guy found a card that has such great cash-back rewards, that paying $75 a year for the card is totally worth it. Right now, we get cash back on our credit card, and there is no yearly fee. But if I could get more than $75 a year in cash-back benefits than I am currently earning, then paying $75 is worth it.

Almost everyone uses a credit card, and getting free money just for paying for things you have to pay for anyway makes sense. So if there is a way to maximize that benefit, I’m all for it.

I don’t know. I’ll have to crunch some numbers. Read the article and tell me what you think…

Having A/C Pummeled our Electricity Bill….

August 21, 2011

…but I’m not going to live without it…

When we had our house built, it was very cold outside. As a result, even though we had paid for it, the A/C unit wasn’t installed. Finally, this June, the guy came and put it in. Our electricity bill hasn’t looked the same since. I’ve learned that keeping our fans in our front room and bedroom do a lot for us, and having a programmable thermostat has been nice, but I’m always looking for ways to cut costs without being a total financial weirdo and making my family crazy…

I found this article this morning and thought you might benefit…

Ten Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill from Get Rich Slowly

Enjoy…and stay cool…

PS…We installed a massive fan in our front room, and since our ceilings are vaulted, and the other side of the ceiling is over the kitchen (on the other side of the wall between our front room and kitchen), when we have our fan suck up (instead of blowing down) it pushed air up, into the vault, over the all, and into the kitchen, which keeps our kitchen cooler, too.

A Financial Binder… (boring, I know)

August 19, 2011

This morning I spend a few minutes reading this blog post about a guy who is taking care of his aging mother’s finances as she goes into an assisted living situation. I wasn’t as interested in the details, since my parents don’t age and will never die. But A thought crossed my mind as I read about this guy’s efforts to track down his mother’s financial information. Things would be a lot easier if all of her financial information was in one place.

I’ve read about these before (I can’t recall where) and have always thought, in passing, that they were good ideas. Let’s say that I die today. I probably won’t, but if I did, I’m not sure my sweetheart knows the details of each of our accounts. She probably doesn’t know the user names and passwords of each of our online accounts (bills, banks, etc.). I’m not even sure she knows the login details of our Mint account. So I think I’m going to take some time this fall/winter (when I can’t be outside) and put together a Financial Binder that has all of that stuff. Just in case.

Security: I think this is an issue. If someone broke into our home, they probably would be a little letdown at the items that are available for stealing. But, if they found this binder, we’d have quite a problem. So, hiding/securing it is a big deal. Once I get it done, I’ll need to determine where to put it. Bank safety deposit box? I’m not sure what they can hold. A safe in our house. Not a bad idea. I’ll still need to figure that out. Any ideas?

Update:

After a little searching, I found that the USU Extension had a decent document that would help someone put together one of these binders. I am going to use it as a template, but I have a few other ideas that I’d like to add. I’ll update you when I get mine completed (give me a few months). Here’s the “PREPARING YOUR PERSONAL/FINANCIAL INFORMATION BINDER” document. Also, here is another handout that the extension must be using during classes on this subject.

Another update:

Ok, here is the google link I used to search this out. There is a ton of info. Rather than create links to all of it, you should just follow the google search link.

For My Old Students About to be New College Students!

August 10, 2011

I read an interesting article this morning concerning the finances of new college students. Since I just taught a bunch of graduating seniors who are headed to college in a few weeks, I thought I’d share:

http://moneyning.com/frugality/three-frugal-living-tips-for-college-students/

 

Let me add a few thoughts (above and beyond what is in the article):

1. While in college, you’re working on (among other things) making yourself more able to earn a living and provide for a family and future endeavors. One huge mistake college students make is going so deep in debt that they have to spend the first few “earning years” living paycheck to paycheck because of a high credit card balance. Don’t make that mistake.

2. One of the expenses in college that will break your bank is eating out. It is so easy to do, so convenient, and before you know it, you’ve eaten out more than 12-15 a week. At $6-$8 a meal, this amounts to around $120 a week…almost $500 a month if you’re not careful! Learn to make a grocery list, stick to it, and cook for yourself. Then, allow yourself to go eat for for more social occasions every once in awhile, not everyday out of necessity.

3. You are one step away from the next phase of your life, which, for my students, is probably one or two of three things: A Church Mission, a Marriage (probably children a few years later), or a Full-Time Career-type Job. You’ll hobble yourself if your finances are a wreck prior to engaging in these activities. At the very least, loan officers and employers check credit scores…so don’t make yourself look bad.

Good luck! You’re about to have the time of your life!

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