Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review - Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is the first of the books by Donita Paul that I have read. I am looking forward to reading more. It is a combination of fantasy and romance.
The two characters , Cora and Simon, work for the same company but do not socialize much or know each other. They end up meeting at a mysterious bookstore and the friendship continues growing throughout the story. Another leading character in the story is Simon’s sister, Sandy.
When making a purchase at the bookstore, they each receive a ticket to the Christmas Ball. Other people they talk to have not heard of the Christmas Ball or of Sage Street. The ball is held each year to set up romantic matches that the booksellers have decided to bring together.
Cora and Simon is one of the couples they are trying to get together. Throughout the story, the storyline takes a number of twists and turns that keeps you wondering if they will end up getting together.
Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is a refreshing holiday story and I would highly recommend it.

This is a review for the WaterBrook Multinomah Publishing Group. I received a free copy of the book in return for reviewing it. I did not receive any other compensation.

More information can be found here

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oprah's Latest Book Selection

The latest selection for Oprah’s Book Club was announced the other day. It is called a Date with Dickens and includes A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. On the website you can print out a reading schedule and also a bookmark template with the reading schedule on it. Online discussions will begin in January.
If you don’t want to buy the books, you could check out your library or ebooks are available online. One source for ebooks that have them for free right now is Amazon at A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.
Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download software to read kindle books on your computer, smart phone and other devices.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do you need a fnancial fix-up

With the way the economy is, most of are looking at our money more closely. If it is time for a financial tuneup or complete overhaul, consider applying to be part of the Forum’s Financial Fix-up.
They are looking for local individuals or families to take part in the new series. Those selected will receive an individualized financial action plan, created by financial counselors from the Village Family Service Center. As a reward for following through on their advice, State Bank & Trust is offering $500 to each participating family to help achieve their financial goals.
Participants must be open and honest about their financial lives. After all, those chosen will have their names, occupations and photos printed in the paper. They must also be willing to reflect and change. Participants will be asked to blog about their financial fix-up at area voices.
People in all sorts of financial situations are encouraged to apply, whether they’re in debt, newlyweds about to combine finances, nearing retirement and unsure if there’s enough, or saving for a long-term goal like a house, car or college.
To apply, fill out the application here. The deadline for applications is Nov. 28. Those chosen will be contacted in early December. For more information, contact Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556 or

Friday, November 12, 2010

Owning a car is more than monthly payments

Even though the best way to buy a car is by cash, most people buy with monthly payments. When deciding how much you can afford, there are a few things to consider. Most advertisements say a certain amount down and monthly payments, but if they are extended over 4-6 years you can end up spending much more on interest. Some experts say if you cannot pay off the car in 3 years or less, you cannot afford the car.
Along with monthly payments, other costs to keep in mind are insurance costs, gas mileage and licensing costs. In most cases, it will cost more for insurance and licensing costs for a newer vehicle. Sometimes, a newer car will get better gas mileage, unless you buy a larger vehicle or pickup.
Also, think about what your needs are. It may not be necessary to buy a larger vehicle with lower gas mileage if you don’t need a larger vehicle very often.
Another thing is some people go shopping for a car when they still owe on their current one. The salesmen are handy and roll the current payment into the new one. With this and other circumstances, sometimes people end up owing more on their car than it is currently worth.
So while having a vehicle is usually a necessity, with a little time and research it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

YWCA Unique Boutique

Another way to help out those in need this holiday season is to donate to the YWCA Unique Boutique. The YWCA Emergency Shelter hosts Unique Boutique every December. Brand-new items are donated from the community so that past and present YWCA clients can choose gifts for their loved ones at no charge. Along with the Unique Boutique, the Client Party features treats, activities and gifts for the clients’ children.
Donations can be dropped off at the YWCA Shelter or contact Lauryn at or 232-3449 or for more information to volunteer.

Dining with Joy Book Review

Dining with Joy is the first of Rachel Hauck’s books that I have read, but am looking forward to reading more. It is a delightful and easygoing story. The story is very clear and is hard to put the book down. When Joy Ballard’s father passed away unexpectedly, she stepped in to host his TV cooking show. One problem, is that Joy cannot cook. She takes steps over the years to keep up her charade. Then Luke Redmond, a chef that lost his own restaurant joins the show. Through a series of circumstances their relationship takes a number of turns.
When things start to unravel, Joy has to make a decision to choose herself instead of taking care of her mother and her nieces who were deserted by their parents.
The story was intriguing and kept you guessing what was going to happen.
I recommend this book for anyone looking for a good heart whelming story.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dave Ramsey books $10

I have mentioned Dave Ramsey in previous posts. I just received an email that some of his books and cds are on sale now for $10 at The regular price of these are between $20 and $30. They are a great resource for beginning to save or just refresher information.

One of his books is "The Total Money Makeover". It is based on what he calls the 7 Baby Steps to becoming financially free.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

EntreLeadership Recap

Friday I attended the simulcast of Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership.  It is a combination of Dave's financial advice and leadership advice.  He provided great information for running a business, starting a business and also for employees.  One of his big things is buying stuff with cash instead of going into debt.  When starting a business he suggests starting small with what you can afford to pay for and grow as you make money.
One of the books he recommended is "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John Maxwell.  I happened to stop at the ARC store on the way home just to browse and found this book for $1. 
This simulcast was live in Orlando and broadcast to over 300 locations across the country.  There were over 20,000 people in attendance counting all of the locations.
He also presents a 3 day EntreLeadership Master course, the next is going to be in Orlando in May 2011 with a fee of $6,000, limited to 200 attendees.  Another one is being offered in January 2011 in Tennessee for $2,000 also with a limit of 200 attendees. 
It was a fun day full of great information.  I want to thank Bethel Church for hosting the event, Discovery Benefits for donating the lunch and Starbucks for donating coffee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Down sized is a show premiering Saturday, November 6 on WE TV at 8/9c. It is about a family struggling in the current economy and with the help of the financial planner they try to work out of their current situation. WE TV is on channel 260 on DirecTV and 128 on DISH.

The Suze Orman Show is also on Saturday nights on CNBC at 8 & 11CT. CNBC is channel 355 on DirecTV, 208 on DISH and I think its channel 30 locally on Cableone. Suze just celebrated her 10th year of doing her show. In it she give financial advice about current situations, answers questions from viewers and also has a segment called Can I Afford it. About 5-6 viewers call in with something they want to buy and she looks at their income and expenses and tells them if she thinks they can afford to buy it.

Til Debt do Us Part is also on CNBC on Saturday nights after the Suze Orman Show. It is hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, who helps couples in financial trouble work through their financial and relational difficulties. She looks at their income and expenses and looks for ways to cut expenses. She also has a weekly challenge for a total of 4 weeks to work on each area of their relationship. At the end if they have followed her advice and she feels like they are ready to make a change, she awards them with up to $5,000 to put towards their debt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FM Power Lunch

I recently became aware of FM Power Lunch. The Power Lunch is a free lunch targeting all business professionals in the Fargo Moorhead community taking place from 11:30 - 1:00 (lunch from 11:30 - 12:15) on the 2nd Thursday of each month. So the next one will be Thursday, November 11th, which is Veterans Day so some may have the day off. A free will offering opportunity is also provided. It is held at Bethel Church at 2702 30th Ave S, Fargo.

When you do attend you can leave your business card and there is a directory on the website of the business cards of all past participants. This is another way to advertise your business or organization.

In addition to lunch, there is a scripture based message that is relevant to the daily challenges and struggles faced in the business workplace. Whether you are an employee, employer, or just looking to network amongst like-minded individuals you are welcome to join us as we grow together in our faith and in our businesses.

Importance of Junior Achievement

This morning I attended the Junior Achievement Fundraising Breakfast. I started volunteering for Junior Achievement last spring.
Through Junior Achievement, business professionals volunteer their time in area classrooms to teach financial lessons to students. Each session is 5 visits to the classroom, with each visit between 30 to 45 minutes. It gives the students a different perspective to hear from someone other than their teacher and parents. It is also different to hear from people actually in certain jobs and professions.
The guest speaker this morning was NDSU President, Dean Bresciani. He opened by saying he was a disappointment to his father, since he was suppose to be a diesel mechanic or fry cook. His parents were immigrants and higher education was beyond the boundaries of his father’s aspirations for him. He told him that no matter the economy, everyone would need automobiles so the need for mechanics and everyone would need to eat.
I feel it is very important to teach children about money and finances when they are young and Junior Achievement is an important part in that.
Contact Junior Achievement if you are interested in donating either your time or financially. Locally, it costs $26 per student for Junior Achievement lessons.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Day Giving Challenge

A group of bloggers have come together to form a website, 30 Day Giving Challenge. Although giving is important all through the year, it is especially important now during the holidays.

They will be providing ideas of ways you can give throughout the month of November and stories of how people are giving. Most of the time when we think of giving it is either of time or money. But giving can be as simple as smiling at someone you meet on the street or a simple hello.

I will be sharing ideas and links on this throughout the month as well as ways you can give locally during the next month and beyond.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shopping with Layaway

You have probably seen the television commercials for layaway from Kmart and Sears. Layaway is another way of purchasing items instead of credit cards. For a small fee down (usually $5 fee plus a percentage of the cost of the item as a down payment) you can pick out items and make scheduled payments over a couple of months or few months and when the full amount has been paid you are able to take the item home. One difference of layaway instead of credit cards is that there are no interest or finance charges.
There are also layaway programs available for online purchases. One of which is Elayaway. You can select items from various online merchants and schedule to have the payments withdrawn from your checking account.
Even though with layaway programs you avoid credit card debt and fees. But you still have to monitor what you are spending so you are able to make the payments as they are scheduled.

Book Review - Your Money God's Way

“Your Money God’s Way, Overcoming the 7 Money Myths that Keep Christians Broke” by Ami Streater is a collection of her personal stories, stories of clients and scriptures relating to debt. Amie is presently the associate pastor of financial stewardship for the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
Although the title of the book is Your Money God’s Way, it contains practical tips and information relating to debt and budgeting.
She tells first hand how she and her husband got into debt and worked their way out and now is helping others get a handle on their finances. The book contains simple steps to take to help you change your money habits for the good.
The chapters in the book include Counterfeit Convictions, The Fix-it Fantasy, Saviors or Enablers, Self-Righteous Slackers, You Must be Here to Help me, God is an ATM, The Scarlett Syndrome, The Cliff Jumpers and The Conviction Clean-up Plan.
I would highly recommend this book, it is a quick and easy read. By reading it you will learn how to get out of debt, build wealth, gain financial freedom and stay that way. Changing your spending habits is like changing any other habit, it takes time and baby steps for success. Just like a diet if you try to change to fast or deprive yourself too much you will fail.

This is a review for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I received a copy of the book to review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Free Kindle Version of The Simple Dollar

One of the blogs I follow is The Simple Dollar by Trent Hamm. Right now Amazon has the kindle version for free at this link. Even if you don't have a kindle, they have software you can download to read them on your computer or phones.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Practical Money skills

Practical Money Skills is a website with resources to teach financial literacy to kids and adults which is sponsored by Visa. There are links to information for individuals and also for teachers who want to take it into their classrooms.

There are also games to teach kids about money. Sometimes it is easier to teach kids when they don't always realize you are trying to teach them something. One of the games if Financial Football and they are working on a Financial Soccer game.

Some of the topics covered under the personal finance section are credit and debt, savings and spending, and life events.

There are also calculators on various subjects such as how much you can afford to pay for a car, budget and goals, career and retirement, college saving and mortgages.

For other resources to teach kids about money, check out my other posts here and here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Worlds Largest Ice Cream Social

Tomorrow evening (September 30, 2010) is the 9th Annual World’s Largest Ice Cream Social at Cold Stone Creamery.

From 5 to 8 p.m., you can stop by your local Cold Stone Creamery to get a free 3-oz. Ice Cream Creation. This year’s creation is Caramel Apple Ice Cream mixed with Chocolate Shavings, Graham Cracker Pie Crust and Apple Pie Filling.

A donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation is encouraged but not required.

Get a jump on the holidays

School has just started and the last thing we want to think about are the Christmas holidays. At least until you walk into most stores. Most stores have had the Holiday decorations out for a couple of months already. But now is the perfect time to get started. If you start planning now and are able to cross items off your list, you can save yourself from some of the last minute pressures of trying to do everything at the last minute.
First make a list of people you plan to buy gifts for and an amount you plan to spend. This can include family, friends, teachers, daycare providers and anyone else you usually purchase a gift for. Once you have this list you have an idea of what it will cost you and you can also jot down ideas you have for each one. Then when you are out shopping if you happen to find something on sale, you can purchase it then. Also, by starting now, you can spread the spending out of the next few months instead of large bills in December and January.
Along with the gifts, also make a list of extra expenses you usually incur over the holidays, such as extra parties, dining out, cards your send, postage. Those little expenses can add up quickly.
So with a little planning and preparation you can take steps to make the holiday season a little easier.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

FM Women's Showcase

The FM Women's Showcase will be held Saturday, October 16 at the FargoDome from 9-5. The day consists of exhibits from businesses and seminars on a variety of topics targeted to women.
They can get information from various vendors at one stop.
On the Main entertainment stage scheduled are Ali Vincent from the Biggest Loser, Joan Steffend, Missus Smarty Pants and Chris Linnares. On the cooking stage will be Jon Ashton, Sue Doeden and Eric Watson.
There are other seminars scheduled throughout the day on a variety of topics such as dealing with finances, organizing, health and wellness and others.
The tickets for the event are $10 available at various locations or at the door. There are VIP tickets available for $45 which includes 2 VIP receptions with Ali Vincent and Jon Ashton and VIP seating for their presentations.
Also, besides the drawings at the various vendor booths, there are drawings for prizes from some of the major sponsors. Prizes include a diamond & sapphire pendant valued at $3,225, One year of housecleaning and one of five makeovers done that day by Hair Success, and others.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Race to Nowhere

The documentary, Race to Nowhere will be shown at the Fargo Theatre at 7:00, Thursday, September 30th.  Admission for the showing is $5.  The film is about the high-pressure, high-stakes culture that has invaded our schools and our children's lives. It discusses the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. The screenings begin across the country this week.
 It spotlights students and teachers plus national experts in education.
 A panel discussion moderated by WDAY Radio's Christopher Gabriel will follow the screening.  Panelists will include students, parents, teachers and school administrators from the Fargo-Moorhead area.
 Some of the issues discussed are:
How can we best support the youth of America today and prepare them for the future?
How do we define success?
How can we make choices that support the healthy development of young people?
How can we end the race to nowhere?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Secure ID Day

AARP and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of North Dakota are sponsoring Secure Your ID Day on October 23 in Fargo and Bismarck. As part of this they are offering free shredding of documents and papers you no longer need. In Fargo it will take place at the Wells Fargo on 13th Ave South and 25th St South.
The hours of the event are 8 am to 1 pm. There is a limit of one box per vehicle.
Residents and small businesses are encouraged to attend the event and take a key step in identity protection by shredding and properly disposing of sensitive paper documents as well as CDs and floppy discs. BBB experts will also be on hand offering important advice and simple steps everyone can take to prevent identity theft.

Identity theft is an equal opportunity crime. However, consumers can greatly reduce their exposure to identity theft by taking simple, preventative measures. “Secure Your ID Day” provides people with an excellent opportunity to destroy sensitive documents for free.

Last year 11 million Americans became victims of identity theft with a total of $54 billion in loss. There are two “Shred it” days per year. One in the spring and one in the fall. In 2009 between the two events the BBB helped small businesses and individuals at 133 sites and shredded 1.3 million pounds of sensitive documents.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You Make a Difference

In Out Live Your Life, as the subtitle states, there are stories showing that You Were Made to Make a Difference. As in other Max Lucado books, he does a great job of combining bible verses and stories to show how important we are and what we do does make a difference, even though we may not always think so.
At the end of the book is a 30 page Discussion and Action Guide with questions for discussion and ideas for action for each of the 16 chapters.
Outlive Your Life consists of 16 chapters which are separate stories so they do not have to be read at the same time to make sense. So it can be read anytime you have extra time and you don’t have to wait until you have a large span of time to start reading it.
One hundred percent of the author’s royalties from Outlive Your Life products will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I must post that Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. I also must say that the opinions are all mine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Deals found online today

Free portraits through October 31st for military families at JC Penney.

E Mealz Free downloadable meal plan.

Rent the Runway. If you have a special occasion, instead of buying an expensive dress to wear once, you can rent a runway dress ($400 + value) for $50. For a small amount more you can have a couple different sizes or a backup dress sent also. After you wear the dress, you put in the addressed envelope and mail it back.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Butterfly Effect Review

In “The Butterfly Effect” by Andy Andrews, he shows how even actions you think are small will have an effect of the future for many. Everything you do does make a difference.
The book includes two stories that happened many years ago and how our world would be different if a different decision would have been made at that time.
It is a short book and quick to read but I feel it has a deep meaning and I will be reading it quite often as a reminder of how little things can make a big difference. I highly recommend “The Butterfly Effect”. As Andy Andrews has on the back of the book “Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world”.

It would also make a great gift for someone.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I must post that Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review. I also must say that the opinions are all mine.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Museum Day Sept 25

September 25th is the 6th Annual Smithsonian magazine Museum Day. With a ticket printed from the site you get free admission to select museums throughout the United States. Clickhere to find a location in your area.
Locally, the Hjemkomst Center is a participating museum. There are other participating museums in the western part of North Dakota.
The Museum Day Ticket is only good for two people per household, per address. If you go to Museum Day with more than one guest, your other guests will have to pay full admission.
For tickets, you can download here.

What is debt settlement

What is a debt settlement service? You have probably seen many advertisements stating that they can help you settle your debts for a lower amount. With most of these companies, for a fee, a professional debt-settlement company will help you get rid of your debt for as little as half the amount you owe.
I don’t have any personal experience with a debt settlement company but will share information I have learned about it. It works for some people and some share horror stories about it.
Most creditors will not settle with people until they are in real hardship, which means they are not able to make their payments. In some stories, the debt settlement companies tell their clients to stop making payments and that ruins their credit scores even worse than they were to start with.
The fees charged by these companies vary by firm and are not always easy to determine what the fees are.
Some creditors will settle accounts for less than you owe if you are able to make a one-time payment. In these cases some may settle for between 20% and 75% of what you owe and the creditor will forgive the rest of your debt and will report it to the credit bureau as settled. However, when you settle like this it is considered taxable income. Any forgiven balance over $600 you will owe taxes on that amount. For example, if your tax rate if 15%, $5,000 of forgiven debt will have a $750 tax liability.
So if you are drowning in debt a debt settlement company may sound like an easy fix but you need to do more research before committing to this solution.

Consumers are being warned to exercise extreme caution in dealing with companies that offer to reduce credit card debts. The warning follows a little-noticed rule announced by the Federal Trade Commission which is likely to put many put of these firms out of business in the next few months, but only after they have collected millions of dollars in fees without providing any service.

On July 28th, the FTC adopted a rule that prohibits firms from collecting upfront fees from consumers in debt settlement cases. Instead, they will have to wait until at least a partial settlement is made before collecting their fee. They will also be forced to disclose how long the process will take and the possible negative consequences of using a debt relief service.

The new rule does not take effect until Oct. 27, and the debt settlement companies are still advertising their services and may legally continue to collect these fees until the cutoff date.

What happens to the consumer when the company goes under? Under the typical contract with debt settlement companies, consumers stop paying their lenders and instead pay into an escrow account for both the fees and the balance on their credit card debt. The escrow accounts are usually at third party institutions, but there is nothing in the current law to prevent a company from closing on Oct. 27 and taking its fees without performing any service.

See full article from Daily Finance.

Whatever method you use to get out of debt. One of the first things you need to do is take a look at your spending. If you do not get your spending under control, you will be in the same bind soon again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review-Love Charleston

“Love, Charleston” is the first of Beth Webb Hart’s books that I have read and I am anxious to read her other books. It was an easy read and very compelling story. It was hard to put down, I kept wanting to see what would happen next.
The book contains stories of two separate families whose stories end up winding together. Roy Summerall is a widowed father of a young girl who has been called from his position at a small close knit church to a larger church in Charleston. He is apprehensive at first but ends up turning around the larger church.
Some of the other topics covered in the book are Post partum depression and infidelity. Beth found a way to turn these topics into a very moving story.
I would highly recommend this book as a uplifting story.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson publishers as part of their blogger review program. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use and Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

To rent or buy

This post is about renting or buying college textbooks, not houses. There was an article in Sunday’s Forum about renting textbooks instead of purchasing them. One of the largest expenses for college students is textbooks and in some cases they don’t use them a lot for some classes. With the price of books getting so high some are turning to renting.
If you search online for renting textbooks, a number of sites come up. One the sites I have heard of before is Chegg. Now locally NDSU and MSU have launched textbook rental programs. Students can rent certain title for the semester at roughly half the price they would pay for a new book. At the end of the semester, students bring the rental book back, or they are charged for it.
NDSU has 30 titles available this year and plans to offer more in the future. If all 1,595 books are rented this fall, students will save about $90,000.
One example in the article was a freshman English book at NDSU costs $36 to rent, $48.60 to purchase used and $86.50 to purchase new.
So if you are attending college or know someone who is, renting textbooks may be something to look into to save some money.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How to Save up to 51% on grocery bill

The article Supermarket Smarts by Consumer Reports discusses ways to save at the grocery store. One way to save up to 51% on your grocery bill is to pass up the pre cut and pre sliced products (such as vegetables, cheese, bagels, etc). A rule from Stephanie Nelson, The Coupon Mom is that if you can do a task in less than 5 minutes it’s not worth paying for convenience packaging. Another example is to buy a bigger bag of snacks, chips, etc and divvy into smaller snack size bags instead of buying the prepackaged snack size items. I know it may seem handy to purchase these items but if you look at how much more you pay for a few minutes of work, it may deter some purchases of the pre packaged items.
Also, watching for items on sale. Sale cycles seem to run about 12 weeks. If you see an item you use regularly on sale, try to buy enough to last a few months. A few dollars may not seem like a lot here and there, but it does add up over time.
Shop with a list. If you have a menu plan for the week and make a list of items you need.
Like other habits you are learning, it takes time and discipline. Small steps will get you closer to your goal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Groupon

Groupon is a website where they have a different deal each day. Most of the deals are for restaurant and other retailers certificates at a great discount. The nearest location is Minneapolis/St. Paul, but there are some deals that are online deals. It is also useful to check other locations if you are planning on traveling, to find deals to try to cut some of your travel expenses. Today is the first time I have taken advantage of one of their deals. The deal today is for $25 get a certificate good for $50 worth of merchandise at GAP stores (sale items included). This is one deal that is good at any GAP store in the US. Another deal they have today is for an online nut store.
You sign up for an account and can register to receive notice of the deals each day. This is one way to try different merchants at a reduced price or get a deal on places you usually frequent.
There have been stories of people trying to live a year or so by only using Groupon coupons.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nickel and Dimed

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America” will discuss sex, poverty and the workplace at NDSU on Sept 2nd at 7:00. Barbara will discuss her work as a journalist, historian and social critic. She is an author of 20 non-fiction books which often explore the American workplace and social justice. In 2001 ’s Nickel and Dimed On not Getting by in America she worked blue-collar jobs to see what life was like for those working at $6 -$7 an hour jobs. She moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting jobs from working at a Minneapolis Wal Mart, to a waitress, hotel maid, nursing home aide and other jobs. She discovered that even the “lowliest” occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough, you need at least two if you want to live indoors.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership event

I have mentioned Dave Ramsey’s courses in a previous post.
On November 5th, Dave’s EntreLeadership 1-day course will be simulcast LIVE to hundred of locations across the country. The local host site is Bethel church at 2702 30th Ave S, Fargo from 8 am – 2:30. The tickets are $39 and they are having a Buy one Get one Free offer. It is good today and I am not sure if it is only for today or for longer. If you are interested you can try to see if it is still BOGOF. When you go to the register site, select 2 seats and if it is still BOGOF it will come up with a total of $39. Even if the deal is only for today, they may be having more promotions in the future.
During the conference, Dave will present practical ways that owners and leaders can take their business to the next level. Throughout the event, attendees will learn directly from Dave as he teaches critical business lessons about growing a business and leading a team.
I have followed Dave Ramsey on television but have not attended one of his events before. I have registered for this one, so I hope to see you there.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect review

John C. Maxwell’s book, “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” is not only for people who want to be public speakers. While it does include information for public speakers to connect better with their audiences it also includes ways to connect with others in all kinds of occasions. He utilizes both stories from his many years as a pastor and stories from others to explain tips on ways to connect with others better.
Communicating involved more than just talking. As he states in the book, “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”
The book includes John’s proven method – Five Principles and Five Practices, so you can connect one-on-one, in a group or with an audience. Each chapter of the book ends with a recap of the information included in that chapter.
I would recommend “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” to people who currently do public speaking or are aspiring to become public speakers. It would also be helpful to others, even if they do not plan on being public speakers.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I write impartial reviews for the program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's Your FICO score

Most of the time when we think of a FICO score the first thing we think of is how it affects our interest rates when shopping for a loan or mortgage. But there are several other ways it could affect you. Many employers may now check your FICO score when considering you for a job. Also, apartment managers may check it when you are applying to rent an apartment.
One of the major factors that affects your credit score is if you pay your bills on time or not. The more bills you have outstanding or have had outstanding is one thing that can make your score drop. Also, if you apply for or take out a lot of credit cards or department and store cards. One thing to try not to do is have a lot of available credit that you may not need. It is common at stores for them to offer you to apply for their card. Even if you don’t plan on using them, it can affect your credit score. They look to see how much available credit you have. The way they look at it is if you have all of that available credit, you could go out one day and go on a great shopping spree.
So when thinking about your credit score, the main things are keeping in mind how much available credit you have to your name and to keep your accounts current. Since even if you are not shopping for a loan or mortgage your credit score can affect you in other ways.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What is a Moon Jar?

Moon Jar is a website with resources to teach kids about money. The Moon jar is a coin bank with 3 separate containers, for spending, saving and sharing. The kit includes a Moon jar, a family guide to get you started and a passbook to record deposits and withdrawals. Moon jar was created as a tool for children and families to institute strong financial values and practices into their daily lives. They also have books and DVDs to teach children about financial matters.
There is also a link, “Parent Resource” with links to other sites on each of the three topics.
The Philanthropy link contains downloads of two free books on teaching about giving. The free downloads are sponsored by The Seattle Foundation.
The “Giving with a Mission” download focuses on identifying values and creating a personal mission statement and is relevant to families and individuals who are interested in developing a giving plan. The “Growing up Giving” download teaches young people about giving to others.
There are several different types of banks available from different companies. In future articles I will write about other alternatives. The main thing is to get started teaching kids as early as you can to get them on the right track.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Personal finance blogs

If you search online for websites and blogs on saving money, you will get thousands. In this article I will share with you a few blogs that I visit regularly. There are many more, but these are a few of the main ones I visit.
The Simple Dollar is a blog by Trent Hamm. Get Rich Slowly is by JD Roth. Both Trent and JD made reckless financial decisions in their early years and finally decided they had to turn around their financial lives. They started their blogs to tell their stories of the mess they were in and how they got out of it. The blogs include both stories of their own and other people. JD has various writers that now contribute their own stories to his site. The sites have great archive lists by category so you can go to the entries that interest you easily. It is basic information for people searching for answers and great reminders for others that need a refresher course. The other day when I told a friend I was writing on this site she said money is something people need to hear over and over because they may know what to do but don’t always listen. She said it’s kind of like church, you know what you should do but don’t always do it.
Also, they have both written books, Trent’s The Simple Dollar book was just released in June. JD’s book is Your Money: The Missing Manual
Another site I visit some is Wise Bread which includes articles on various financial issues and money saving topics.
While there is a ton of information out there on money, I hope you find some useful information on these sites.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Employee Financial Literacy

In previous posts I have mentioned the importance of teaching children about finances. Along with that is teaching Employee Financial Literacy. Many of us were not taught how to manage finances when we were in school. In many cases also, people are trained how to practice their profession but then get out of school and do not know how to run the “business” part of a business.
Studies show that in 1979, 10% of adults reported they had stress from personal finance difficulties, in recent studies that number has climbed to 25%. Employees often list financial stress as the top source of all types of stress they experience.
For employers, financial literacy education in the workplace can lead to improved motivation, improved recruitment and retention of staff. Providing employees the tools to become financially literate about the basics – knowing how to manage personal savings, understand credit and create a spending plan helps improve factors that affect the organization’s bottom line, such as productivity.
Employees under financial stress can be passive, unengaged in their work, confused and anxious about mortgage and college loans, vehicle and credit card payments and more.
I feel it is now more than important than ever to face these issues. When people are having difficulties with their finances and start borrowing, that borrowing cannot go on forever and someday they will have to face it. The sooner they get to the root of the problem and start solving it the better. Also, if we educate employees they will be better equipped to teach their children about finances
For more information on employee financial literacy training click here

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thrift store deals

Walked to the thrift store this AM and found a couple of great deals. Set of 4 martini glasses still in the box (reg $25) $5. Magic bullet with blender and juicer (looks brand new reg $100) $7. I had a MB but not blender/juicer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Money Smart program

Yesterday I saw a billboard advertising the Money Smart program through the Fargo Library. Money Smart is a program to help students get off on the right foot financially and keep on the right track. There is information for both students and seniors. The website includes articles on a variety of topics and other website resources.
The topics covered on the website include buying a car, College and Financial Air resources, Credit Cards and Saving & Investing. There are also games to play, to make learning more fun. The credit card section explains what to look for in a credit card, credit limits, interest rates, etc. The saving and investing section helps to show the importance of saving for goals and retirement.
Some of the senior topics are Identity theft, avoiding fraud, end of life planning (estate planning, living trust and wills and estates) and Retiring & Saving. The identity theft websites have information to deter, detect and defend against identity theft. The fraud section covers investment fraud and frauds against the elderly.

New blogs

I have started writing articles for Directory of Fargo Moorhead and Examiner Fargo

New Credit Card Rules

New credit card laws go into effect in August. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit CARD Act) of 2009 includes the most sweeping changes in how credit cards are marketed, advertised and managed in decades.
The law limits when credit card interest rates can be increased on existing balances and allows consumer whose interest rates have been increased to reduce their annual percentage rates (APRs) to previous levels if they have been good and paid their bills on time for six months.
Consumer protections started being phased in during August 2009. At that time, all card issuers had to begin giving 45-day advance notice of significant changes in card terms. They also to give consumers at least 21 days (instead of the previous 14) to pay their monthly credit card bills. The bulk of the consumer protections – limiting when interest rates can be increased, banning universal default and double-cycle billing, and restricting credit cards for minors, took effect February 22, 2010.
Provisions for restoring interest rates to previous levels if cardholders show six months of good behavior start on August 22, 2010. Making gift cards valid for at least five years and requiring that fees are reasonable.
Other provisions of the bill include:
Fines of up to $5,000 for card issuers that violate the act.
Banning universal default and double-cycle billing.
Prohibiting over-limit fees unless consumers agree to allow transactions that exceed their credit limits o go through rather than be denied.
Fees for late payments, over-limit charges or other penalty fees must be reasonable and related to the violation.
A blog post on Get Rich Slowly includes an illustration showing Anatomy of Credit Card Statement.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Websites to teach kids about money

In this article I am going to include some websites that include resources to help kids learn about money. As with other things it is easier to teach kids when you can make it seem like fun instead of actual learning.
The Money Wizdom program is designed to teach young children valuable money skills and habits starting as young as five years old. The program gives kids the responsibility—with your help—to manage their own money. And then the cool stuff starts to happen. Kids gain confidence, make smarter decisions, and discover the joys of achieving goals and giving back to their community.
Teaching kids about money includes articles on a variety of subjects such as kids and summer jobs, teaching about taxes, etc. One of the articles mentions money flash cards. A series of coins and dollars are shown and the child is suppose to type in the amount of money that is shown. This is part of another website, a plus math which looks like a good resource to keep up on math skills also over the summer.
Another site is US Mint for kids Topics include history of coins and how the mint makes money. There is also an interactive clubhouse with games and coin news and mint history.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

I feel one of the most important things in our current economic times is to teach children how to manage finances. Many of us were not taught about how to manage money when we were growing up. The main things to teach children are the differences between wants and needs, saving and spending, and where money comes from. It's easy for them to think you can just swipe a card or write a check and you will always have enough. When I volunteered for Junior Achievement, the first day I was talking about what a volunteer is and asked the students about it. They said its when you work and don't get paid. They weren't too keen on that idea.

You can use your everyday experiences as a teaching tool. When you go to the bank, explain to your children what you are doing, making a deposit, getting cash, etc. In the book, "Money doesn't grow on trees" on the stories is about a friend of hers who took his kids on a trip across the country to see their grandparents. Everytime they stopped one of the children was always lagging behind. When they were almost home, the father asked him why he was always late. He replied that he kept having to pick up the money his father kept forgetting. He had been picking up the tips at every stop.

Now financial literacy is being promoted more and many states are including it in their curriculums.

One of the organizations working towards financial literacy is Junior Achievement. A few months ago I started volunteering with Junior Achievement. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to future opportunities. Volunteers go into class rooms for 5 lessons. The lessons are between 30 and 45 minutes. The students really look forward to it.

One of my upcoming goals is to provide a weekly article with websites and other resources that deal with teaching children about money and finances.

This fall I am teaching a Community Education course on this subject of ways to teach your children about how to handle money.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NAWBO July meeting

New Organization for Women Business Owners forming in Fargo Moorhead. Under the sponsorship of US Bank, a steering committee is starting a local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

NAWBO is an organization which works to: STRENGTHEN the wealth-creating capacity of our members and promote economic development; CREATE innovative and effective changes in the business culture; BUILD strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations; and TRANSFORM public policy and influence opinion.

They are planning on having meetings the 3rd Thursday of each month. The next meeting is a networking event on July 15th from 4:00 to 6:00 at Sarellos at 28 4th St N, Moorhead. The cost is free for members and $15 for non-members.

They request guests to bring work appropriate clothing donations for Dress for Success and Clothing Connections. Clothing donations will be accepted on an ongoing basis at all local US Bank locations.

If you have any questions about memberships or applications, contact Natalie at

Friday, June 25, 2010

Seeing Stars in Moorhead

Another affordable and educational outing is a trip to the MSU Planetarium. The planetarium is located at 11th Street and 8th Ave. South on the MSUM campus in Bridges Hall #167, in Moorhead, MN.

The planetarium simulates the night sky. It can show the sky from any location on the Earth, now or thousands of years in the past of future. The planetarium offers approximately five different shows for the general public each year. Groups may choose the current public show or one from the planetarium’s growing collection of shows. Most of the shows are about 45 minutes long, except for shows designed for pre-schoolers which run 20-25 minutes.

Summer shows are Thursday nights at 7:00. Starting in September they have shows at 2:00 on Sundays and Thursday nights at 7:00.
The next show, Red River Skies: Our Moon starts July 1st and runs through July 29, Thursdays at 7:00 pm. The Full Moons of summer ride low in the sky. They often appear larger than the Full Moon at other times of the year. Come and learn more about our closest neighbor-its phases, features and lore and learn how to use a star map to identify summer stars and constellations.

General Admission $3
Children (12 & under) $1.50
Seniors (65 years and older) $1.50

You can also schedule a group showing, for school group or other group. This would be a great outing for a Boy Scout or Girl Scout group. Cost for groups is $1.00 for students and $2.00 for adults. School groups, the teachers and chaperones are admitted for free. Minimum group cost is $20.

I have been to the Planetarium a couple of times. It is a fun activity which is also educational.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Money Activity Book - Free Download

Have a World of Fun Learning about Money Activity Book
ING DIRECT has extended the Planet Orange Activity Books I & II for parents! The books were originally created for schools, teachers and educators. But the response has been overwhelming ING is offering it to individuals also!

Activity Book II is completed and Activity Book I, is in the final stages and will be here in mid July.

Planet Orange Activity Book II incorporates reading, writing, and higher-level math into more advanced lessons about money. Lessons include: budgeting, paychecks, and pay stubs, deposit slips and checks and the fundamentals of investing.
Planet Orange Activity Book I is for those just beginning to learn about money. It incorporates addition, subtraction, word problems, creative writing and simple activities, which reinforce the vocabulary and basics of money and finances.

These books are designed for kids in 1st – 3rd for Book I and 4th -6th grade for book II. They have not put a grade level on any of the books due to the fact that there are many people that were never taught these valuable lessons and they do not want to limit the amount of kids they can educate.

So in fact, even though the illustrations are on the younger side, these books can be used as a guide to teach just about anyone :)

If you are interested in receiving the book, you have two options…
One is to access.pdf>click here for the free download of Book II. It's a large file, but just give it some time to download and your child will have a wonderful activity to do through out the summer.

Or if you would like the soft cover book, just pay for shipping and we can mail you the book! click here to order

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stretching your Grocery Dollars with Angel Food Ministries

Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. There are no qualifications, minimums, income restrictions, or applications.

The The Signature Box contains items to assist in feeding a family of 4 for a week, which is $30. The retail price of the items is estimated at approximately $60. There are also other boxes you can order such as meat, fruit and convenience meals that only need to be heated.

Everyone is encouraged to participate. Some churches even encourage participants to apply the money they saved to help someone else in need.

The orders and distribution are handled by church host sites. Orders are collected by the host sites during the first part of each month. These orders are then turned in to the Angel Food main office in Monroe, Georgia, on a predetermined date. About a week later the food is delivered to the host location for distribution.

The local host site is Metropolitan Baptist Church, 2612 25th St S, Fargo, and is sponsored by First Lutheran. The online order deadline for June orders is Sunday, June 20, 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Order pickup is Saturday, June 26 12:01 pm to 1:15 pm local time.

I have not personally used the service but have heard about people using it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Genius and Purpose Workshops

Genius and Purpose Workshops scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, June 23 & 24 (9 am to 4 pm) at the Wingate Inn in Fargo.

The Genius and Purpose Workshops, based on the book Is Your Genius At Work? by Dick Richards, provide a wonderful opportunity for participants to dig deeper into their own effectiveness and awareness to learn more about themselves. Through interaction with others in small groups and pairs, along with facilitation by Dick himself.
On Day One in the 4th Annual Fargo Genius Workshop, Dick skillfully guides participants through a process of discovering their genius, that part of each of us that is inevitably linked to our work and career but lies behind the experience and talents catalogued in our resumes. Day Two (the Purpose Workshop) takes the Genius Workshop one step further, and concentrates on Life Purpose, which allows you to be more intentional and effective in fulfilling it, and that purpose gives focus to a life. Day One is a Prerequisite for Day Two.

Registration for Day 1 is $150 and Day 2 is $100, both days for $225.
For more information or to register, contact Jodee at

Friday, June 11, 2010

NAWBO Chapter Forming in Area

Under the sponsorship of US Bank, a steering committee is starting a local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

NAWBO is an organization which works to: STRENGTHEN the wealth-creating capacity of our members and promote economic development; CREATE innovative and effective changes in the business culture; BUILD strategic alliances, coalitions, and affiliations; and TRANSFORM public policy and influence opinion.

They are planning on having meetings the 3rd Thursday of each month. The first meeting will be an Achievement Luncheon, which is a time to learn and socialize, on Thursday, June 17th from 12:00 - 1:00 pm. New members are asked to arrive at 11:30 for the Membership Welcome. The meeting will be at the Courtyard by Marriott in Moorhead. The cost is $15 for members and $30 for non-members. The speaker for the event is Missy Ohe of the Ohepen Mind.

They request guests to bring work appropriate clothing donations for Dress for Success and Clothing Connections. Clothing donations will be accepted on an ongoing basis at all local US Bank locations.

If you have any questions about memberships or applications, contact Natalie at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Can Learn to Be Good With Money

One of the things I hear people say about finances is that they have never been good with money. One reason is it is one thing many of us were not taught when growing up. It’s the same as when you trying learning other things, just do a little at a time. I feel it is important for us to learn about finances and to teach children how to manage finances before they get out of school.
One of the first things is to track your expenses. For at least a week, keep track of everything you spend money on. Either keep a small notebook with you and write down each expense or keep your receipts and write them down each night. At the end of the week, take a look at what you spent your money on and see if there are any expenses you can cut out.
Once you have an idea of how much you spend on the different categories, it is easier to work on a budget. Most people think of a budget as a shackle. But having a budget you are controlling your money instead of your money controlling you. Start by listing your income and then list your fixed expenses that you need to pay each month. Once you subtract your fixed expenses from your income, you can see what you have left to spend on other items.
It is also important to save some each month also. If you have an emergency fund saved, when unexpected things happen, you can use that money instead of going into credit card debt.
One resource to get information and to hear stories from people who have conquered debt is The Dave Ramsey Show at 7 – 10 PM weeknights on WDAY AM 970.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mind Your Mortgage Review

“Mind Your Mortgage” by Robert Bernabe is a great resource for both people searching for their first mortgage and people who already have a mortgage. Like he says in the book, most things we purchase the prices are cut and dry. But with mortgages, the companies can present the fees in a way that you are not sure what you are paying for and it is important to shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal.

I have worked in the Real Estate appraisal business for 20 years and have seen first hand the downfalls of using your mortgage in the wrong way.
Even if your mortgage broker tells you they can help you lower your payments and save money, in most cases after the fees are added you don’t end up saving as much as you thought and may have added additional years and interest charges to your mortgage.

In the past few years too many people used their houses as an ATM machine. When the interest rates went down, people refinanced their homes and took some of the equity out as cash. In some cases, they used this money for purchases such as vacations, swimming pools and other items they could not have afforded otherwise. But in some cases they added additional years onto their mortgage which also adds interest.
He also reminds us not to rely on your home as a retirement plan. When the values go up you may have quite a bit of equity in your home. But when values drop like they have in the last few years so does your equity.

By adding just a little to your mortgage principal each month, over time can make a big difference in the amount of interest you end up paying on your mortgage.
I would highly recommend “Mind Your Mortgage”, as a resource to understand how to shop for a mortgage.

I am a member of the blogger book review for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I received a copy of the book for the review. I did not receive payment for this review.

ISBN: 1595550887
ISBN-13: 9781595550880
Format: Trade Paper
Trim Size: 5.40 x 8.10 x 1.10
Style#: 9781595550880
Page Count: 320

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer Reading Programs

I know it may be difficult to get children to read during the summer, but it is important to keep them in the habit of reading. Following are some reading programs available. Some of these are national and some are for Fargo Moorhead Libraries, etc. You can also search your local libraries for Summer Reading Programs.

Scholastic Summer Reading Program

RRV Fair Read and Win Program
Love to read? Enter the Red River Valley Fair's Read and Win Program! Children between the ages of 6-11 are eligible to participate. All you have to do is read 10 books, have the reading verified by a teacher, parent, guardian, or librarian, and mail in your completed from by June 1, 2010. All children who enter before June 1 will receive one gate entry pass and an official Ribbon Bookmark from the International Association of Fairs & Expositions.

Barnes and Noble Reading Program

Participation is fun and an easy way for kids to earn free books. They simply read any eight books – library books, books borrowed from friends or books bought at Barnes & Noble – write about their favorite part, and bring a completed tear page to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children then choose their free book from a list of paperback titles.
Our 2010 program features Scholastic's best-selling multi-media adventure series 'The 39 Clues®'. Authors Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, Patrick Carman, Linda Sue Park, and Margaret Peterson Haddix will make appearances at select stores across the country, and will also participate in a Summer Reading blog at Barnes & (, where they will post about summer reading memories and children's literacy. The free program kicks off in Barnes & Noble stores across the country May 25 and continues through September 6. Teachers, parents and children can download the Summer Reading materials for free at

Fargo Library Reading Program
Make a Splash at our Summer Bash!

Join us Thursday, June 3, on the lawn at the Main Library as we kick off the 2010 Summer Reading Program with a carnival bash! From 4 to 7 p.m. we'll have games, food, entertainment, and more! Take a toss at the dunk tank, enjoy some ice cream, or get a workout in the Bounce N Slide. Then laugh along with ventriloquist James Wedgwood and comic magician Kristoffer Olson. Kids, teens, and families are invited to help us start the summer with a splash! Check back soon for more information on all the activities we have planned during this year's Summer Reading Program

West Fargo Library Reading Program
June 1st – July 31st
• Program is geared for Kindergarten through 8th Grade
• Goal is to enhance reading skills with fun programs and crafts
Students must sign-up for Summer Reading Program in order to participate in the following activities:

"Be Creative" Kick-Off
June 1st
Library tours, program sign-up, and explanation of Summer reading program.

Craft Times
1:00 – 2:30
Take-home crafts, help in choosing books, update journals, turn in reading log. Pre-registration is required for craft activities.

June 1 Door Hangers
June 8 Design your own Cup Drink
June 15 Make Guatemalan Worry Dolls
June 22 Flower Pot (Picture Holder)
June 29 Science Frames (Magnet)
July 6 Heart Pins (Photo)
July 13 Wooden Spinners
July 20 Painted Sun Catcher Mobile

Cass Clay Imagination Library
In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort to benefit the children of her home county in east Tennessee. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.

So she decided to mail a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child under 5 in Sevier County. With the arrival of every child’s first book, the classic The Little Engine That Could ™, every child could now experience the joy of finding their very own book in their mail box. These moments continue each month until the child turns 5—and in their very last month in the program they receive Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saving Money by Checking out Your local Library

Another way to save money on entertainment, is to check out your local library. When you think about libraries, most people think about books. You can check out all kinds of books from the library - how-to, personal finance, fiction, cooking, children's books - you name it. Any time you hear about a book that sounds interesting, you can always check your library first. Most libraries in the country have inter-library loan systems, so if they don't have the book you want, they can get it. Not only are you saving money by not buying books, but sometimes you can learn things from them that may allow you to save more money. It is also great for books you will only read once or you can read the book and decide if it is worth purchasing. Many times I do end up purchasing a book but like to check it out first to make sure I am interested in buying it.

This can also help you control clutter in your home, if you check books out of the library instead of buying all of the books you are interested in reading. This is helpful for books you need for reference just once in awhile.

The library also has videos, DVD's, CD's, and magazines. There are book clubs, interesting speakers, and stimulating children's programs. Many libraries also offer movie viewings for kids. It's also a great place to access the internet if you don't have access at home. There are also classes on different topics such as computer programs, teaching people how to use computers, and other courses. Your library may also have private study rooms. Some also have meeting rooms either for rent or some are free for non profit organizations.

Most libraries now have access online that you can check availability of books, movies and other items and are able to reserve and renew items online. They may also have ebooks that you can download. Some libraries also either have book sales a few times a year or have books for sale all year long as a fundraiser. These books are either copies taken from the shelves or they have been donated by citizens.
Many libraries are also looking for volunteers, to help with shelving, and other duties. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity this may be something to look into.

With a little research you can find out what a treasure trove your local library can be.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Buying a House Means More than Just a House Payment

The All American Dream is to own a home of your own. Many people think that paying rent is a waste of money. But when you do buy a house, you have more expenses than when you rent that many people do not consider. The monthly house payment may be similar to your rent payment but you will have utilities that may have been included in your rent payment. When you own a home, you have utility bills, garbage and water bills. You either have to do your lawn work and snow removal, or have it hired out which is another expense. Also, you have to have money saved for unexpected expenses and regular upkeep and repairs. When you rented, if something went wrong you could call the landlord. Now it is up to you to either fix it or you have to hire someone to do it. While renting the landlords were responsible for updating the carpet and painting. Now that is your responsibility. There will also be increased insurance expenses.

When you buy, in most cases you need a down payment besides your monthly mortgage payments. It is recommended to have as high a down payment as you can. If you do not put 20% down, you will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). In recent years, in many cases people have been able to get a mortgage without having to put any or very little money down.

It is recommended if you are thinking of buying a house, to put that amount of your anticipated monthly mortgage payment away, while you are still paying rent. If you can do this consistently for 6 months or so, you should be able to afford your mortgage payment.

Many people end up in homes they can’t afford when the beginning payments are too easy. In some cases, there are interest only mortgages. That in the first years you pay only interest on the mortgage. In these cases, you do not build any equity and in some cases when the market goes down, the value of your house could go down and you end up owing more on your house than it is worth. When this happens and you have to sell for some reason you would then have to come up with the difference.

A couple may think they can afford the house because they can make the payments but if something happens that they lose one of the incomes then they get into trouble. Experts say that younger people are living in homes and own cars that took their parents 30 years to afford.

So while owning a home is a great thing, it is also important to make sure you can afford it, so it does become a dream instead of a nightmare.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Every Little Bit Makes A Difference

One way to see what you spend is to track your expenses for a week. Either have a small notebook that you keep track of everything you spend money on. Or keep track of your receipts and add them up each evening. This helps you see what you spend money on and which expenses may be able to be cut. It shows how small expenses can add up to larger ones.

It’s important to watch large expenses but it is just important to keep track of smaller expenses. A dollar or two here and there can add up to be larger expenses.
If you find expenses you can cut, you can apply that money to pay off your debts.
On the other hand, just adding a little more to the minimum amount due on credit card payments can make a big difference. As an example with a balance of $3,000, the minimum payment due is $90. Making that payment, it would take 11 years to pay it off and you would end up paying an estimated total of $4,745. If you increased the payment to $103, you could have it paid off in 3 years and pay a total of $3,712. By paying an extra $13 a month, you would save $1,033. Many people think they are doing alright by just paying the minimum amount requested. In most cases, this amount barely covers the interest and finance charges so it takes years to gain any ground in paying off the balance. When you do this, you end up paying several times the original cost of the items you purchased. If you bought those items on sale, it didn’t end up being such a great deal if you have to make payments on it for several years.

This is a concept similar to compound interest. You can start by saving a small amount, but if you keep adding the interest to it each month, it can add up to a substantial amount over time. On the other hand, if you owe money the interest keeps accumulating each month on the amount due.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Budgeting Presentation

I did a presentation on budgeting to a group this afternoon.

The topics included budgeting and other topics including some of the dangers of credit. The difference in pay off time of credit cards when you add just a little to the minimum amount requested by the credit card company.

Saving up for things you want instead of having to have instant gratification. Sometimes when you save up for something, by the time you save the amount in many cases you may have changed your mind.

The dangers of payday loans, 90 days same as cash and rent to own.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review of Friendship for Grownups

Friendship for Grownups by Lisa Whelchel

Lisa is currently a part of Women of Faith and an author. I grew up watching her as Blair on The Facts of Life. This is the first of her books that I have read, but am looking forward to reading more of them. Growing up while being on a television show didn’t give her much of a chance to make friends besides with her cast mates.

The book chronicles the struggles she had trying to make friends since being done with the show and how to trust people. She describes situations that are familiar to many of us, the difficulty of making friends when you are an adult. Some people she considered good friends and they ended up turning against her.

Three of the lessons she explains are 1) It is Okay to be needy; 2) It is important to be needy with safe people and 3) It is helpful to know who the safe people are. It took her years to realize it is okay to need people sometimes.
I think the subtitle describes the book very well “ What I Missed and Learned Along the Way”.

“Friendship for Grownups” was a great read and I highly recommend it.

Thomas Nelson publishers ISBN: 978-1-4002-0277-5

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.")  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review of Plan B

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show up The Way You Thought He Would?

Plan B is written by Pete Wilson who is the lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Plan B is a compilation of stories of Pete’s life and of other people he has known and how sometimes things don’t turn out the way you think or hope they would. He also relates these situations to stories in the Bible.

Three of the questions he asks are 1) What do you do when your dreams are shattered? 2) What do you do when your life isn’t turning out the way you thought? 3) What do you do when you have to turn to Plan B?
Many circumstances in life happen are out of our control, i.e. health issues such as cancer, divorce, loss of a child or unable to conceive. The book shows that if you look at things differently you can find a Plan B when your life doesn’t seem to be turning out the way you thought it would.

The book consists of separate stories so it can be read when you have spare time, but it is so interesting you may not be able to put it down.

I highly recommend Plan B as a resource to see there is a way to handle things when you lose hope and feel like things are out of your control.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Book Review program.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Volunteering for Junior Achievement

I recently started volunteering for Junior Achievement. Volunteers from the business community go into classrooms and present 5 lessons about financial matters.

I have been volunteering in a 4th grade class. The lessons have been pertaining to resources needed to start a business and how to keep track of income and expenses. I had each of them come up with an idea of a business they would like to start and where to have it located. What resources they would need and if it is located in a good location for the resources they need.

The kids enjoy having visitors come into the classroom.

It has been a very rewarding experience.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

529 Plans

One of the topics at the Financial Literacy conference I attended on Thursday was College Save

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged program created by Congress to help families like yours save for future education expenses. The name, "529," comes from section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code that specifies the plan's tax advantages.

Most 529 plans are sponsored by individual states and, to encourage their residents to save for college, many offer tax incentives to residents who invest in their 529 plan. The College SAVE Plan is sponsored by North Dakota, which offers a special tax deduction to its taxpayers.

College SAVE is the only 529 plan in the country that offers North Dakota taxpayers a state tax deduction. Single individuals can deduct up to $5,000 of contributions from income on state tax return each year. Married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $10,000 of contributions from income on their state tax return each year.

When you enroll in a 529 plan, you will be able to choose from a variety of professionally managed portfolios. It is never too late to start saving in a 529 plan, but the earlier you start, the more time your money will have to work for you.
The minimum amount for initial and ongoing contributions is $25.

College SAVE investors who are ND residents may qualify for a matching grant of up to $300 from the Bank of North Dakota. Grandparents may qualify for the matching grant due to lower retirement income.

At the most basic level, there are five steps involved in using a 529 plan:
1. Review the plan disclosure statements and choose a 529 plan that fits your needs (be sure to check your or your beneficiary's home state 529 plan to see if there are benefits)
2. Open an account, either online or by paper form
3. Select from the plan's investment options
4. Contribute over time via check, automatic investment plan, or electronic bank transfer1
5. When your designated beneficiary is ready to attend college, use your 529 plan account assets to pay for tuition and other qualified higher education expenses2

See the College Save website for more information.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Financial Literacy Conference

Yesterday I attended the Financial Literacy conference which was put on by ND Jumpstart

I will be having future posts on information presented.

Again it was stressed how important it is to start teaching financial literacy in school.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Recap of the book "The Power of Half"

The Power of Half by Hannah and Kevin Salwen

Following is a short recap of The Power of Half, I have not read the book yet, but saw them interviewed on the Dave Ramsey Show tonight.

The Power of Half is a book by a daughter and her father. In 2006, when Hannah was 14 on the way home from a sleep over she noticed looking in one direction, a homeless man and the next direction was a man in a Mercedes. She told her father, if the man in the Mercedes didn’t have such a nice car, the homeless man could have a meal. Her father, said also if they didn’t have such a nice car.

Later that evening Hannah was getting upset about the situation and her mother asked “what do you want to do, sell the house?” And she said “Yes”. And they did.

They sold their house, bought one half the size and donated ½ the profits to a charity. They also try to donate half of their income to charities.

The book also talks about how to get your children involved in volunteering and donating to charities.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Need for Financial Education

I have recently started volunteering for Junior Achievement. Business people go into classrooms and present lessons on financial matters. Each course is 5 sessions.

I have been to the current classroom two times so far. It is a fourth grade class. They are interested and receptive of the information but it is important to share this information.

Some comments from the students are: One said she wished you could go to one day of elementary school, one day of high school, one day of college and then make a billion dollars. I was talking about learning about this so they don't get into credit card debt when they get older and she made the comment about her parents being in debt.

Our last lesson was on starting a business. They had to come up with a business idea, location for it and resources they would need. Many of them had good ideas but I had to remind them that they would also have to find a way to make money to start their business. And the importance of having a business plan if they were going to a bank to get a loan.

Many college students think they will finish school and get a high paying job right away. They also don't realize all of the expenses they will have when they are out on their own. So much a month for mortgage or rent and car payments, etc may not seem like a lot but if you add them up and get quite a few they may get out of control.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cutting a deal on Credit Card Debt

Sometimes if you have credit card debt, you can call the company and cut a deal to have them write off some of the debt. If you owe $1,000 and say you could pay $500-$600 now if they would forgive the balance.

One thing about doing this is that you would owe taxes on the amount that they write off.

Also, if you sell your house on a short sale (for less than you owe on it), you may have to pay taxes on the difference and in some cases the bank will come after you for the difference between what it sells for and what you owe on it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Financial Literacy Month - Day 14

Here is Step 14 Expect the Unexpected

It is important to have 6-9 months of monthly expenses saved in case of job loss, medical expenses, etc.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Financial Infidelity

Financial Infidelity

Last night on the Dave Ramsey show the theme was financial infidelity. I had heard about on his show before and decided to search online about it today. I was surprised to find a number of references on it.

Financial Infidelity is Rampant

Lies may signal significant problems in the relationship. In the Harris poll, people who said they were happy in their relationships were far less likely to have lied or been lied to than those who were less happy. Nearly half of those who said they were "not satisfied" said they had lied or been lied to; only one in five of the "very satisfied" crew reported that they or their partner had been untruthful.

Talking about these issues, rather than trying to avoid them with lies, can help a couple work out their differences and create a plan that gives both what they need, McCurdy said. The saver can still be assured that the family is building financial security, while the spender doesn't have to delay all gratification.

The first way in which financial infidelity robs you of opportunities to achieve greater intimacy is that it makes it possible for you and your spouse to go for long periods of time without sharing with each other how you spend your money.
I have recently seen a number of articles on the topic of "financial infidelity" -- telling lies about what you spend money on to your spouse or life partner, or keeping secret from him or her your ownership of a hidden stash of assets. Many experts suggest having one account together to pay all the bills and then each of you has a specified amount of money each month that you can spend how you want. Also, to have an agreement that you will check with the other person before spending over a certain amount.

It is also important that both parties have a say in the budget and are both involved in handling the finances. One instance when couples get in trouble is if one is given all of the responsibility of the bill paying and tries hiding some of the details when there is not enough money to pay all of the bills. If both parties are involved, they will both know what the situation is and can handle issues as they come up. But if one is handling the bills and the other is out spending not realizing they may be in trouble. Also, if the one that is in charge of handling the finances doesn’t want all of the responsibility, resentment can start building in the relationship.

The consensus view is that it is bad because it undermines trust in relationships. But I think that there is an added harm done by financial infidelity that is not as frequently noted.

Sexual infidelity not only undermines trust in relationships. It also undermines the efforts of those who engage in it of achieving true sexual intimacy with their spouses. It’s the same with financial infidelity. Those engaging in it not only risk seeing harm come to their relationships as a result. They also give up opportunities to achieve growth.

Studies show that money problems are one of the leading causes of marriage problems and divorce. I feel it is important to sit down and do your budget together and discuss how you are going to spend and invest your money. As with other marriage issues, communication is the key to a happy marriage and financial life.
So if you have been hiding financial issues from your spouse, it is time to confront them and get assistance to get back on the right track. The longer it goes on the harder it will be to fix.

Financial Literacy Month - Day 10

Here is Step 10 Set Your Priorities

It is important to figure out if things are a want or a need. Also, prioritze the expenses according to your values.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Financial Literacy Month - Day 7

Here is Step 7 Make Your Money Count

Yesterday I stopped at CVS and saved $51. I paid $35 out of pocket and got $7 in ECB. I will post more details and photo later.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Financial Literacy Month - Day 1

April is the official National Financial Literacy Month; however the experts at Money Management International know that regardless of the day or month of the year you begin, the 30 step path will help you achieve financial wellness.
Step 1 Committment to Change

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Ugly Attitudes of Entitlement

Mary Hunt made a post on her blog today about the The Ugly Attitudes of Entitlement

I feel this is applicable to both adults and children. It is our responsibility to teach responsible spending to children. There are alot of adults that have to learn to curb their instant gratification too.

The Importance of Starting To Save Early for Retirement

I know it is hard to convince young people the importance of saving for retirement when they first start working. I was in my mid 20s when I started and it was weird to think there were more years until retirement than how old I was. But when you start early you have the power of time and compound interest on your side. Also, if the employer matches your contribution, you are leaving money on the table by not investing.

It may be difficult to put aside that extra money but if you make cuts in other places, before long it will become a habit. I consider it another bill so I arrange my budget around it.

Importance of saving early for retirement

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review of Kaleidoscope

I am a book review blogger for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I received a free copy of the book in order to review it. This is the only compensation I received for this review.

Kaleidoscope – Seeing God’s Wit and Wisdom in a Whole New Light
By Patsy Clairmont

”Kaleidoscope” is a collection of stories by Patsy Clairmont relating stories from her life to several verses from Proverbs. Each chapter begins with a verse from Proverbs, then a witty story and ends with a few questions to help you relate the verse and story to your life. At the end of each chapter are a few more verses that relate to the verse of the chapter. Each chapter is only 3-4 pages so it is easy to pick up and read whenever you have time. It could also be used as a daily devotional book by reading a chapter are reflecting on it each day.

Patsy is speaker from Women of Faith events. This is the first book I have read of hers. But I am looking forward to reading and hearing more from her.

I highly recommend “Kaleidoscope”.
Product Details
Format: Jacketed Hardcover
Trim Size: 5.70 x 8.40 x 0.90
Page Count: 208
Retail Price: $16.99 ISBN: 1400202701
ISBN-13: 9781400202706
Style#: 9781400202706

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's How you Look at Things

This past weekend our area experienced our almost yearly flood. After surviving a record flood last year and similar conditions this year, early predictions were for a flood of the same as last year. The river crested about 4 feet below last year’s crest. Over the past year I have been taking steps to think about things differently. Positive thoughts create positive actions. Although things were worse closer to the river and out of town, the atmosphere in the city seemed different than last year.

The same principle can be applied to the state of the economy. Even though there are a lot of people who are unemployed and are in dire straits. There are a lot of people that think it is worse than it really is because of the way they think about it. If you listen to all of the hype in the media about how bad everything is, you are going to start to believe it.

I have not been paying much attention to the news and have had opportunities coming in many different ways.

So one way to change your life may be to change the way you look at life.

Book Review - The Financial Fairy Tales

I was given the opportunity to review the book, Dreams Can Come True by Daniel Britton of The Financial Fairy Tales. Daniel has written a series of stories to encourage young readers to learn about money, enterprise and the business in life. A couple of words on his logo are Learning before Earning.

Dreams Can Come True tells a story of Tom, who is the son of a woodcutter who wants a horse of his own but can't afford one. He gets a job in a stable and gets to work with the horses and also gets to ride them. His uncle teaches him how to start a business and also how to teach others what he does and have them help him earn money.

It is a great story teaching kids how to work and save for things they want. I feel part of the problem with some kids is instant gratification and not having to wait for things that they want.

I feel financial literacy is very important and this is a terrific book to teach those lessons and I highly recommend it.

CVS and Walgreens savings

On Sunday I saved about $45 in about a 1/2 hour, including driving time between stores by using sales, coupons and ECB.

Yesterday I saw this blog post about free shampoo and there were a few things I needed at CVS again so I stopped yesterday and used my $9 of ECB that I earned on Sunday. So I got about $15 worth of items for $3 out of pocket.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Free Kids Workshops

Home Depot and Lowes both have Kids workshops, usually on Saturday mornings. Home Depot doesn't have any currently but Lowes has a workshop to make a kaleidoscope next Saturday, 3/27

Michaels craft stores also have free In-Store events for both children and adults.

Free Painting Workshop at Home Depot

There will be a Martha Stewart Painting Workshop at Home Depot on April 15th.

Interior Painting Featuring Martha Stewart Living
With a little painting know-how, even projects with a small budget can make a big difference. Find out how by registering for our 90-minute Do-it-herself workshop. We'll cover the following topics and more:
Learn how to choose paint and paint colors using the Martha Stewart Living color center
See the tools and materials you will need for a professional finish
Prepare and mask walls and trim for paint
Watch and learn the best methods for painting ceilings, wall, and trim
Thursday, April 15 2010 from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Watch for Kelloggs coupons

Keep an eye out for specially-marked Kellogg's cereal boxes. They contain multiple $1 off coupons. You'll find them in the following cereals:

Corn Pops
Froot Loops
Rice Krispies
Frosted Mini-Wheats
Frosted Flakes
Apple Jacks
Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars
Corn Flakes
Raisin Bran

This week Target has some Kelloggs cereal for 4/$10. One box of Rice Krispies I bought had the coupons in it. Also, this week at Target, if you buy 4 boxes you get a $5 gift card to use on a future purchase. Target sale is good thru Saturday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Target Cereal Deal

This week Target has selected Kelloggs cereals and pop tarts on sale for 4/$10. If you buy 4 items you get a $5 gift card to use on a future purchase. I had 4 $1 coupons so I will end up getting the 4 boxes for $1 total. Some of the boxes have $5.00 of coupons inside ($5.00 of coupons is mentioned on the box) I had bought one of these another time and used those today.