5 Ways to Soften the Financial Impact of the Holidays

Posted by 20 November, 2008 (1) Comment

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The holidays are a fun time. This is the time of year that we make our trips to go visit friends and family and catch up on the past year. This is also a time of year that people tend to spend quite a bit on gifts. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can soften the impact to your pocket book.

  1. Draw names – In the situation of large family gatherings, instead of buying gifts for all of your family members, draw names. When you draw names, you are only responsible for buying a present for the person drawn as opposed to buying presents for the entire family. This will limit the number of presents bought by everyone and save everybody a good bit of coin.
  2. Make gifts – This most likely will not appeal to the modern day American, but hear me out. Do you think a gift card that I spent absolutely no time or thought would be more appreciated than a hand written letter? In the letter, you could express how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you. J.D. at Get Rich Slowly also has a great list of gifts you can make yourself.
  3. Escrow – My wife and I really don’t get each other gifts for Christmas. It seems like other family members pretty much take care of that. Having said that, we do spend some money on other family members and Angel Tree kids. To soften the financial blow, we basically escrow the money in an ING account. Since this February, we’ve been putting back $20 per week into our account. I just looked and we have $673.08! Perhaps this is a little more of a little less than what you typically spend. If so, just alter the weekly amount deposited into your ING account. I’m sure there are many other options for banks, but we’ve found ING to be really easy to use.
  4. Take Advantage of Circuit City Store Closings – Circuit City is closing 155 stores nationwide. There can be great deals found at many store closing sales. If you have an electronics need, it may be worth your time to take a look and see if you can score a great deal.
  5. Don’t Give Gifts at All – Why not show your generosity by spending time at a homeless shelter serving meals or visiting a retirement home to spend time with people who may not get many visitors. You could get the whole family in on the activity. While it may be hard for some to believe, you can get much more long term satisfaction out of community service than spending your money on more material things.
    Photo by Kris Decurtis

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Additional Posts:

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Categories : Frugality,Personal Finance Tags : ,

Frugalicious?

Posted by 13 November, 2008 (4) Comment

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There is a new frugalicious e-book that was recently released by Fox, the writer of squawkfox.com. Fox totes quite the resume as she is in fact a 2 time Iron-man Triathlon finisher. She could’ve just put that in her “About” section and I would’ve been impressed. The title of the e-book is Frugal, Food & Fitness: How to get fit and fab without spending a fortune. Let’s dig in and see if this is frugalicious or not.

Part One

The first chapter of the e-book talks about “Stop Faking it! Eat Frugalicious Food”. She stresses not eating packaged, processed food found at grocery stores. She states that they not only increase your waist line, but they decrease the size of your wallet.

Fox’s Five Frugalicious Food Rules

  1. Ignore Fancy Labels and Boxes
  2. Avoid fancy healthy claims
  3. Avoid pronunciation problems
  4. Ask the Bugs – If the bugs won’t eat it, neither should you.
  5. Ask Your Grandmother

I agree with all of these rules. Basically, if there are a lot of ingredients and you don’t what they are or have a hard time pronouncing them, it probably is not very healthy.

Fox’s Fantastic Frugalicious Foods

  1. Dried Beans
  2. Quinoa
  3. Natural Peanut Butter
  4. Flax
  5. Quark
  6. Eggs
  7. Fruits
  8. Vegetables
  9. Lean Meats
  10. Steel Cut Oats

Ok. I’m going to plead ignorance on some of these foods. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about quinoa:

Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[5] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered as a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Wikipedia is not the end all be all source, but I think it’s certainly a good starting point for reference in some cases. In addition, if NASA is considering it as a possible crop for their ecological life support system for long-duration space flights, you may want to give it a consideration.

Why Soaking Dried Beans Can Change Your Life

This statement, while it may be a little overzealous, could in fact change a lot of your eating habits. My wife and I want to eat healthier, etc and this is one of the foods that many popular bloggers have often referred to such as Trent at The Simple Dollar.

She came up with a great list as to why dried beans rock, and may in fact rock your world.

1. Price

2. Sodium Free

3. Healthier

4. Tastier

5. Less Waste and Environmentally Friendly

6. More Variety and Selection

7. More Cooking Control

8. Bisphenol A (BPA)

9. Less Storage Space

10. Soaking Beans in Easy

I think out of this list, the biggest impact for my wife and I in eating dried beans would have is that we would be eating less sodium. I think my wife and I eat better than most people, but we still eat plenty of packaged foods and while they are organic or natural, they still contain a ton of sodium.

I know I’ve always been told that excess sodium or salt is bad for you, but I did not know why until I took a look at the American Heart Association website. They state that excess sodium or salt could potentially raise blood pressure for some individuals. Salt retains water. Excess water retained in your body can add strain to your heart causing your blood pressure to rise as stated on the “How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure” worksheet provided by the American Heart Association.

How to Soak and Cook Dried Beans

Fox goes into detail as to the various methods for soaking beans. I’m the first to admit that I’m not much of a cook and this all seems very easy even to me.

Printable Grocery List

The printable grocery list is one of the gems of this e-book. Linky. The printable grocery list can help in many ways. Here are a few according to Fox:

  • Save Big Bucks by curbing impulse food shopping
  • Save money by avoiding expensively packaged fake foods
  • Identify healthy, whole, and frugal foods on a single master list
  • Keep track of only the foods you need
  • Save time grocery shopping
  • Get slim, trim, and fit by not buying foods high in calories
  • Never forget another grocery item, ever again

Part 2

Lots of great recipes. I will show the breakfast foods because that’s my favorite meal of the day, but there are a lot of great recipes you should check out in this e-book!

Five Frugalicious Breakfasts

  1. Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apple
  2. Fresh Fruit
  3. Omelette with Beans
  4. Quinoa with Fruit
  5. Peanut Butter on Toast

These breakfast items all sound delicious to me, or should I say frugalicious.

Part 3

Getting fit shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. The act of burning calories is free to all of those who wish to get moving. To help get your motor running, muscles flexing, and calories burning, consider some of these affordable fitness activities.

Here is her list of activities that you can do without breaking the bank:

  1. Walking – Do you live close to your neighborhood grocery store. Why not try walking down there instead of taking your car. If that doesn’t work for you, try walking during your lunch break at work or walking your dog.
  2. Gardening – This is a great way to exercise and you can cut down on spending as well if you have a lawn mowing service. We hired a lawn service in the past, but now I do the mowing. This gets me outside moving around and we save $40 per month.
  3. Volunteering – This is one I did not think about before, but it makes sense. Fox suggests volunteering at a athletic event. I’ve been to a few triathlons lately as a spectator and it’s really inspiring to watch people accomplish so much.
  4. Biking – This is probably one of my favorite activities. This is definitely a low cost activity especially if you already have a bike in the garage. Why not go out for a spin on a Saturday morning?
  5. Swimming – You don’t need to have a fitness membership. Fox suggests that you go for a dip in a local community pool or lake.
  6. Take a Hike – This is probably my favorite form of exercising. It’s nice to be around nature and exercise all at the same time plus it’ll give you time to bond with any friends of family that may join.
  7. Rollerblading – Rollerblading is a ton of fun, but it is definitely something you want to ease into to avoid injury.
  8. Running – Running is a great form of exercise, but as Fox points out, “nothing sours running more than an ouchy sports injury”.
  9. Join a Team – Fox suggests that joining a team can help you in your quest for fitness. She suggests trying baseball, soccer, football, hockey, utlimate frisbee, beach volleyball, road racing, or softball.
  10. Play with Your Kids – Kids are always full of energy. Why not use that as an opportunity to get yourself and your kids some exercise while also bonding all at the same time.

Is this e-book frugalicious? I certainly think it is indeed frugalicious. Fox gives a lot of great tips for saving money while eating healthy, great recipes, and great tips on being fit. She is after all a two-time Iron Man Triathlon finisher so she knows what she’s talking about!

Go grab the e-book today!

Photo by TotalAldo

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Other posts you may enjoy!

Three Essentials for a Banana Free Living
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Categories : Frugality Tags : , ,

10 Reasons Why I Want You to Be Financially Independent

Posted by 13 October, 2008 (5) Comment

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I’ve wanted to be financially independent starting about 2-3 years ago.

I’ve been out of school and in the work force for 6 years. The first few years out of school, I think I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help the world. I started out at a fuel cell company because I thought fuel cells would be beneficial in helping wane the US off of oil. Now I work in a lab playing with carbon nanotubes which have their own set of “green” possibilities not limited to being the best material for electrical conductivity. Working on the cutting edge of technology is very cool, but both scenarios have me working until I’m 65 or longer and that doesn’t sit well with me.

My idea of financial independence is a situation where one is in a financial position to work or not and still enjoy the necessities of life plus a few luxuries without relying on government assistance.

I want you to be financially independent. Heck, I want to be financially independent as well, but we’re focusing on you, not me.

Can you imagine what the US would be like if more people were financially independent?

Some questions I’d like you to ponder:

1. Would the US be happier?

2. Would there be a shift towards people studying the arts?

3. What would the stock market be like?

4. Would professional sports be as popular as they are today? Do people need this distraction if they are no longer going to jobs that they may not enjoy?

5. What about movie stars/celebrities? Would they be as popular as they are today?

6. Would we see a huge spike or slow-down in innovation?

7. What about professions such as psychology? How would it affect them?

8. If more Americans were financially independent, would we produce as much waste as we do? If we have more time, there is potentially less hustle and bustle and perhaps people would be able to fix household items that break instead of tossing it and going to Walmart to buy another.

I want you to be financially independent, and here’s why:

1. Stay in your relationship

Relationships are important. Life and business is all about relationships. One of the most important relationships you can have is with your wife, husband, or significant other. It is disputed whether financial issues are the major cause of divorce (see artcle by Liz @ MSN Money), but not worrying about money, I’m certain, would have a positive impact on your relationships. I’m not sure about you, but in my opinion, during a divorce, the only person that really wins is the attorney. In addition to not having disputes over finances, if you are financially independent, you don’t need to work. If you don’t need to work, you have a lot more time to spend on developing and nurturing those relationships. I know I would love to spend more time with my wife, family, and friends because time is our most precious commodity. You can never get it back unless you are Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. It’s these strong bonds that I believe to be one of the most important ingredients to a “good” life and being happy.

2. Volunteer

If you are financially independent and not working, you need to be doing something productive. Why not volunteer for a local organization or habitat for humanity. Here is a list of possible reasons you may want to volunteer per Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc (find the original post here)

  • to feel needed
  • to share a skill
  • to get to know a community
  • to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
  • to gain leadership skills
  • to act out a fantasy
  • to do your civic duty
  • because of pressure from a friend or relative
  • satisfaction from accomplishment
  • to keep busy
  • for recognition
  • to repay a debt
  • to donate your professional skills
  • because there is no one else to do it
  • to have an impact
  • to learn something new
  • for freedom of schedule
  • to help a friend or relative
  • for escape
  • to become an “insider”
  • guilt
  • to be challenged
  • to be a watchdog
  • to feel proud
  • to make new friends
  • to explore a career
  • to help someone
  • as therapy
  • to do something different from your job
  • for fun!
  • for religious reasons
  • to earn academic credit
  • to keep skills alive
  • because an agency is geographically close
  • to have an excuse to do what you love
  • to be able to criticize
  • to assure progress
  • to feel good
  • to be part of a team
  • to gain status
  • because you were asked
  • to test yourself
  • to build your resume
  • to be an agent of change
  • because of personal experience with the problem, illness, or cause
  • to stand up and be counted

3. Increased Mental Health

If you aren’t worrying about money, you probably aren’t as stressed out. Stress kills. Have you ever snapped at your kids or significant other after a long day at work? Gone. Traffic to work and the mental strain that is puts you through. Gone. All of that sounds pretty sweet to me. I try VERY hard to make sure I don’t bring work or traffic stress home, but sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m not trying to say that if you are financially independent stress will permanently go away, but I’m sure your stress level will decrease significantly.

4. Increased Physical Health

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You aren’t in the office 40 plus hours per week. You aren’t in the car for upto 8 hours per week (16 hours if you live in Los Angeles). That’s a lot of time that is now available to you to take care of you and your body. There are a ton of benefits that you would see in your physical health without worrying about money. Without a job, you would be able to dedicate more of your time to working out.

5. Time with Friends and Family

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I often feel badly that I don’t spend time with my little brother or that I don’t make it down to Austin to hang out with old friends. There is no good excuse, but unfortunately there are only some many hours in a day.

I hope this is never a scenario that anyone has to go through, but if you are financially independent and a family member falls ill, you would be more able to help out. I know quite a few people who tend to their friends or family at the detriment of their own financial well being. Financial independence would put you in a position to help if needed.

6. Foreclosures

I feel greed fueled a lot of the foreclosures we are seeing today. If you were financially independent, you more than likely wouldn’t have a mortgage much less have the need to borrow 106% to purchase a house.

7. Happiness

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I truly hope that you enjoy what you do 8+ hours per day and 40+ hours per week. The unfortunate situation is that most people do not like their jobs. Financial independence could put an end to your ball and chain routine and enable you to find something that will make you happy. Life is way too short so you should focus on being happy during the time you are here.

8. Pass the Knowledge of Financial Independence to Family and Friends

Pay it Forward. You could help your friends and family achieve financial independence. This would not only help them financially, mentally, etc, but you’d be able to spend more time with them since they are no longer working the long hours required by their jobs.

Teaching your kids to be financially independent will give them the flexibility to choose the major they desire as opposed to choosing the major that pays well in order to pay back student loans (I’m not speaking from experience 🙂 ).

9. Hobbies

It’s tough to keep up with any hobbies. My wife and I have a tough time keeping up with hobbies and we don’t have any kids so I can only imagine how hectic it gets with a full house. Well, if you just added 40+ hours to your week, you’ll have time for some hobbies. You could finally learn how to paint, write the great American novel, or take up yoga. I’ve always wanted to take up some sort of martial arts. I think that the discipline would be good for me, but it would also help me stay flexible, meet other people with similar interests, and I’m sure I would become stronger.

10. Education

You should go back to school. Because you would have 40+ hours of extra time every week, you could go get that art history degree! I know I would like to learn a foreign language or take a carpentry class.

Do you want to be financially independent? If so, let me know how I can help. If we are able to gather a lot of support for this goal, perhaps we can all help each other achieve it. Are you already financially independent? If so, send me an e-mail and I’d love to interview you about your adventure.

happinessisbetter [at] gmail.com (sorry, spam likes me 🙂 )

Photos by Tigr, Joe Shlabotnik, kiskisbreeze, Hamed Masoumi

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Do You Like Money as Much as I Do?

I Conquered the iPhone

Do You Squidoo?

Categories : Financially Independent Tags : , , , ,

I Conquered THE iPHONE

Posted by 22 September, 2008 (11) Comment

Technically, I didn’t conquer it, but I’m very happy about my decision to sell it. I received an iPhone as a gift. It was a VERY generous gift. In my eyes, this gift is on par with the likes of a car or the original Nintendo DS. I love gadgets and anything technology related.

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Photo by Miss Karen

Because I it was a gift, it was a difficult decision to sell it. What’s more, it was a gift from family. I certainly appreciated it and I did not want to convey any lack of appreciation for their gift. My birthday was in mid May, it took until mid September for me to sell it. It wasn’t for lack of a buyer. It took me that long to muster up the courage to ask permission from the family member to sell it. What’s really goofy about the situation is that this person is probably one of my more understanding family members.

So, why would I ever want to sell my iPhone to begin with?

Well, there are a few reasons (and I hope it was a correct decision). Reason number one: the cost of the data package. Granted, the iPhone data package is not a big expense, but for me at least, it’s more of a mind set. If I get the data package, I’m sure there’s another option that’s only $10 more than that, etc. My wife and I are really trying to drive down our monthly expenditures. We just paid off 3 student loans and a car. We will be moving in the spring to a less expensive home to save on money in that area. We’re driving down our expenses for a number of reasons.

The number one priority for us is planning for a kiddo and we’d like to have the option of my wife staying at home for a little while. She may or may not stay at home, but we want to at least have the option. Another reason for driving down our expenses is that we would like to save more. We’d like to save more not only for our retirement, but some of that money will also be seed money for companies we are starting.

My second reason for selling the iPhone is to keep my life simple. With an iPhone, I know I would be on the Internet more than I already am (which is already quite a bit). I am also trying to have less stuff and I’m sure there are a lot of cool peripherals I could get for the iPhone, only to add more clutter to my already overly complicated life.

Did I make the right decision? Please tell me I did :).

Categories : Personal Finance Tags : ,

Fly Roundtrip For $139 To Europe, Hawaii, Mexico Or The Caribbean

Posted by 22 July, 2008 (1) Comment

I thought this was one of these too good to be true advertisements. I read through it and it seems legit. Now, I may have to put it to the test for myself. Let me speak with my wife first though.

So here’s the scoop. Here’s what you see when you click on the link to the e-mail I received from Best Fares.com:

You can either read below or click here to go to the Best Fare’s site.

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(from Bestfares.com)

With the cost of air travel climbing due to the high cost of fuel, you may have to think outside the box on how to travel for less.

We have found a super big loophole that can save you major big travel bucks, especially if you want to travel to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico or the Caribbean for $139 roundtrip.

You can fly roundtrip on US Airways to any of their destinations to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or between 100 U.S. cities for $139 roundtrip or less.

Now before we get into the details on this one, we thought you should know how this all comes about.

During 2005, America West and US Airways merged. At the time, each airline had their own preferred credit card companies that offered their members a way to earn extra frequent flyer miles by making purchases with their preferred airline.

Until the end of this year, they still have two different credit card companies offering bonus miles for signing up for their preferred US Airways card. By being approved by both companies, you could earn 35,000 to 40,000 air miles for a $139 investment. Remember, you must also sign up for a free US Airways frequent flyer program account BEFORE you apply for the two credit cards. That’s enough air miles for a free roundtrip ticket (minus any processing fees) to any US Airways destination within the USA, to Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean.

And from January 15, 2009 to February 28, 2009, US Airways will reduce the amount of air miles needed to fly to Europe from 50,000 to just 35,000 air miles.

Please click here to see mileage awards charts showing where you can fly and the special winter promotion to Europe.

If you only sign up for the US Airways Visa Signature card for $90 a year, you will receive 25,000 air miles which is enough for a frequent flyer ticket for travel within the continental USA (including Alaska) and Canada.

Between September 1 and 30, 2008, you can fly to the Caribbean for only 25,000 air miles. Please click here to see the mileage awards chart and info on the Caribbean promotion.

Credit Card Mileage Program

One US Airways credit card is their Visa Signature card issued by Bank of America. The annual fee for this card is $90. You will receive a sign-up bonus of 25,000 air miles plus other goodies. Please click here to see the additional benefits you get with this card, including a $99 companion certificate and a free one-day US Airways club lounge pass (valued at $40).

The second credit card is the US Airways World MasterCard issued by Barclays Delaware. For $49 a year, you can receive a sign-up bonus of 10,000 air miles. Sign up for their Premier World MasterCard (we recommend this one) and for a $79 annual fee you will receive a sign-up bonus of 15,000 air miles plus extra goodies including a $99 companion certificate and a one-day US Airways club lounge pass. Please click here to see all the perks you get for signing up for this card.

In summary, for only a $139 investment you could be on your way to almost any destination in the world served by US Airways, including Europe and Hawaii.

Remember, you must sign up for a free US Airways frequent flyer membership BEFORE you apply for the credit cards. Please click here to apply for US Airways Dividend Miles program and for more information.

Please click here to view the mileage awards charts and special promotional bonus mileage charts showing how you can get to the Caribbean for only 25,000 frequen flyer miles and to Europe for only 35,000 frequent flyer miles.

Please click here for full details on the US Airways Visa Signature credit card issued by Bank of America where you can earn up to 25,000 bonus air miles.

Please click here for full details on the US Airways World MasterCard credit cards issued by Barclays Delaware where you can receive 10,000 to 15,000 bonus air miles.

To see a side-by-side comparison of the US Airways Visa and MasterCard credit cards, please click here.

Categories : Cool Links,Frugality Tags :