Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Check your Statements

Even if you have your bills paid automatically from your checking account it is important to check your statements each month. You should check your checking account statements, credit card statements and any other you receive. There could be charges for things that you charged on a trial basis and may have forgotten about and are being charged a monthly fee and not using it.

I received my credit card bill today and there was a charge for the anti virus software I used to use and had changed to another service. I thought I had cancelled the account, but it did not cancel so I was charged for it. I called the 800 number on the statement and it was cancelled and the amount will be refunded.

Instead of air mile awards with my credit card I receive dividend dollars, based on the amount I charge. Once the balance reaches $50 dollars, I can request a check for $50. Since I am always able to pay off the balance each month, this amount is a little extra bonus every few months.

Checking your statements is also important to see where you are spending your budget and can help you set your category amounts in your budget.

Saving for Emergencies

Last night was our first summer storm of the season for our area. There were a few injuries and accidents but mainly trees and branches down, fences torn apart and patio furniture and trampolines flying around.

This is one example why it is important to have an emergency fund. This would be classified as an emergency unlike a new outfit or brand new car as some think. By putting a little money away on a regular basis, it adds up and can come in handy when needed. Even if you have insurance, you may have expenses until you get reimbursed from the insurance company and if you have a deductible your emergency fund will come in handy. When you have money saved for times like this it is less likely that you will have to put it on your credit card or borrow money from other sources. If you put it on your credit card and don’t pay it all off you will have additional expenses of interest charges.

So although times are tough for many and saving may seem impossible, look at your expenses and budget and see if there are ways that you can put money away for when emergencies come up.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Driving to Savings

At an event recently someone at our table made a comment about dreading the day she would need to replace her car. There were others at the table who agreed. Your car purchase is one of the larger purchases in most of our lives and something most of us need.

When looking for a car it is important to think about what kind of vehicle you need and how it will be used. For example, if you are single or have a small family is it necessary to have a huge SUV? Also, consider how much you drive. If you have a long commute to work, etc each day consider looking at a vehicle with good gas mileage.

Along with the cost of the vehicle, monthly payments if you need to borrow other costs to think about are registration costs, maintenance, insurance costs and gas expenses.

Even though it is usually a large expense, if you plan for it and save a certain amount each month, you may be able to pay for it or a major part of it without the added cost of interest expenses. If you do borrow, once you pay it off try to continue driving it for awhile before buying something newer. Once you have paid it off, put the amount you had been spending on monthly payments in a savings account to put towards a different vehicle when you need one.

Another thing to watch out for is buying a different vehicle when you still have a loan on the one you are presently driving. Car dealerships are more than happy to roll your current loan into your new one, but for you it isn’t such a good deal.

Practical Money Skills has a variety of calculators on different topics. One area is autos, one shows you how much you can afford to spend on a vehicle and how long it will take you to pay off your loan. Other areas covered are mortgage costs, credit card debt, household and family expenses.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dave Ramsey $10 Sale

One of the personal finance experts I follow is Dave Ramsey. This weekend most of his books, CDs and DVDs are on sale for $10. One of his books is “The Total Money Makeover”, in which he described his 7 Baby Steps to get out of debt and stay out of debt. He also has other books, and CDS and DVDs on a variety of topics dealing with debt.

Dave also teaches a number of courses and one is Financial Peace University which is hosted by churches and other organizations throughout the country. It is a 13 week course which is held one day a week, for 3 hours each day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More kids moving home

A recent survey commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) in cooperation with Forbes.com shows that 59 percent of parents are providing or have in the past provided financial support to their adult children when they are no longer in school.

Results of the survey explores how the current economic and job conditions are presenting a bigger challenge than expected for those who should be leaving the nest. Sixty-five percent of adult children, between ages 18-39 who are not in school believe the financial pressures faced by their generation are tougher than those experienced by previous generations.

If parents are going to financially support their adult children, they should have a serious talk about their kids’ expectations so that everyone protects their financial futures. Sometimes, when the parents are trying to help their children out, they may be jeopardizing their own futures or not be able to do things they had plans to do.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of NEFE from May 10-12, 2011, among 683 adults ages 18-39 who are not students, and 391 parents of children ages 18-39 who are not students.

Empowering Women

I would like to thank YWCA Cass Clay and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for hosting the Empowering your Financial Future event tonight. Many times when we think of the YWCA we think of the work they do with the women’s shelter. But part of their mission statement is Empowering Women and that means all women.

It was a great presentation with information for women to think about their finances and resources if they have questions. Surveys show that today in many families the women write the checks and pay the bills, but may not know about the families financial situations. They pay the bills, but rely on their husbands to take care of the finances.

It is important for women to be financially savvy. The number one reason for impoverishment of women is loss of their husband’s benefits because of death or divorce.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Price of Convenience

With the prices of things going up, we are looking for ways to control costs and make our money go further. One way to do this is to take a look at how you shop. At most grocery stores, you can get almost anything already prepared or partially prepared, for a price.

Sometimes you are in a hurry or away from home so it is necessary to pay the extra costs. But many times with a few extra minutes you can save the expense by doing it yourself. The other day in one of our local grocery ads, next to each other was Minute Rice in single serve portions and a box of Minute Rice. They were the same price but you got over twice as much with the box.

Another example is fruits and vegetables. Yes, it is handy to have it already chopped and ready to use. But with a few minutes of preparation you can save yourself money by doing it yourself. For items you plan on using in multiple meals throughout the week, you may be able to chop it once and use throughout the week (like peppers, onions, etc). Rachel Ray suggests washing and storing your produce when you come home from the grocery store. Then it is ready and easier to use when you need it.

When I find some fruits and vegetable on sale, I buy more than I normally would and chop and freeze on cookie sheets until hard and then store in freezer bags. Some examples are peppers and onions. I buy strawberries and other berries and do the same thing. Lately, our stores have been having whole pineapple on sale. I chop and freeze that also. When I have fruit in the freezer like this, it is easy to mix in blender or my Magic Bullet with milk or juice and make smoothies. When the fruit is frozen you don’t need ice or yogurt.

So with a few extra minutes and a little effort, you may be able to save money on your grocery bill.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Got Diploma, Now What?

Many high schools are teaching personal finance in schools. Even if you are teaching your kids about finances it may make a difference with the information coming from a different person. I am hosting a class called “Got the Diploma, Now What?” for high school graduates, college students or even high school students who want to learn about budgeting and other personal finance topics.

The class will cover the following topics:

Establishing Goals
Credit Cards/Debit Cards
Student Loan Debt
Impulse spending
Contracts, (rental agreements, car loans)
Easy meals to cook besides having to live on ramen noodles and fast food.
Laundry tips
And more

The classes will be Tues, June 7, 7:00-8:00 pm or Sat, June 18 from 1:00-2:00 pm at 1100 32nd Ave S, Moorhead. The fee for the class is $10 which includes a workbook. Contact Nancy at nancy@in-theblack.net to register or for more information.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Free Compost and Wood Chips

Fargo residents can pickup free compost and wood chips every Wednesday and Thursday from May 11 through June 2 from 3:30-5:00.

There is a one yard maximum of each and proof of residency is required.

Residents with bags or can must load their own compost. City crews will help load pick-ups and trailers during the times above. The compost and wood chips are located west of the Hazardous Waste building at 603 43 ½ St North. The pile of compost that can be accessed to fill bags or cans is located next to the scale house at the landfill at 4501 7th Avenue North.

You can call 701-241-1449 for more information.

Free day at the Zoo

529 Friday - College SAVE Day at the Zoo is Friday, May 27 in Bismarck and June 3 in Fargo. Join Bank of North Dakota and the College SAVE Plan in a celebration of saving for higher education. Admission is free. You can register for prizes includes $529 for college, an iPod, a Kindle, a mini laptop and more.

The Bismarck event will be at Dakota Zoo from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Prize drawings begin at 4:00.

The Fargo event will be at the Red River Zoo on June 3 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. There will be animals, activities, carousel rides and more. Animal shows will be at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30.

Keep Saving

I know with the current uncertain economic conditions for many it is getting difficult for many to save money. But it is important to look at how you spend you money and see if any more money can be found in your budget.

With predictions of the end of the world, some people have quit saving since they think the end is coming. And also, when young people die, some say maybe we should all live like there’s no tomorrow since we never know when the end will come. It is important to live an enjoyable life, but I feel it is also important to be able to put some away for the future.

I understand it is difficult when you are younger to put money away that you will not be able to use for 20-30 or more years. But the more you put away when you are younger the less you will need to save. The more time the money has to grow the larger it will become. Even if you older and have not saved much, it is still important to save. I hear some say it won’t make any difference. But even saving some is better than not saving anything.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Finances on TV

If you are looking for sources of personal finance information, there are two shows on CNBC, The Suze Orman Show and Til Debt Do Us Part. The Suze Orman Show is on from 8:00-9:00 PM (CT) Saturday nights. Til Debt Do Us Part has two segments also on Saturday from 9:00-9:30 (CT) and 9:30-10:00.

On The Suze Orman Show, Suze usually has a guest on that has a financial problem, answers questions from callers and the “Can you Afford It” segment. During the “Can you Afford It” segment viewers call in with something they want to purchase, after looking at their finances, Suze either approves or denies them. Sometimes you may wonder why she approves them, but like she says with their finances they can afford to do it but many times she still tells them she doesn’t think they should make the purchase. Sometimes she has a follow-up call where she hast the person on the show again to see if they did make the purchase.

Til Debt Do Us Part is hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. She meets with couples once a week for a month to work on getting their finances in order. In a lot of the cases, some couples are spending $3,000 - $5,000 more each month than they make. Some couples spend twice the amount of their income. She shows them where their money actually goes, how much debt they actually do have and how much debt they will be in 5 years from now if they stay on the track they are on. Each week she gives them an exercise to do to either make more money or to learn to work together better. If they follow her instructions and show they are willing to continue to work on getting out of debt, at the end of the show she rewards them with a check of up to $5,000 to go towards their debt.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Race to the finish line

Since this is the weekend of the Fargo marathon, I thought I would write about hot training for a marathon is similar to learning about your finances. Learning to manage and save your money can be compared to training for a marathon or other competition. Just as you need to train and take small steps to run a marathon you also need to take small steps and obtain knowledge on how to deal with your finances. If you would go out and try to run a marathon without any training, you probably wouldn’t get very far and would be in pain. The more you train the easier it will be to finish the race. The same is true with your finances, the longer you keep track of how you spend your money and watch your spending the easier it will get.

At first, it will seem like a lot of work but over time it will become a habit just like learning anything else.

A budget tells you where your money goes like your training schedule suggests how much to run each day and maybe what to eat and drink.

So just as you may need a trainer to get you in shape for a race, it may also be helpful to have someone assist you to get your financial life on track.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

$100 College fund for babies

Children FIRST is a program to help people start a college fund for their babies. It is open to every baby born in North Dakota on or after January 1, 2011. The plan administrator and state-owned Bank of North Dakota will contribute $100 for the baby which is earmarked for his or her higher education fund.

Anyone can apply for a Children FIRST Grant for a North Dakota newborn - including parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, or friends. (Only one grant is allowed per child.)

To get $100 for a little one's college fund. Here's how:
1. Complete the short Children FIRST Enrollment Form.

2. Bank of North Dakota will make a $100 contribution for the baby.

3. Open a College SAVE account and contribute at least $100 within the next four years. The Children FIRST contribution will be added to your College SAVE account for the child's future education.

4. Continue to add to the College SAVE account for the child's future higher education costs at the pace that's right for you.

Click here to apply.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deal on books

This afternoon I stopped at the thrift store for a quick trip of browsing. I ended up with 8 books for $6 (total value of almost $100). Some are books that I have read and buy when I find them like this to give to others. A couple that I have not read are The 250 Personal Finance Questions Everyone should ask and The Buck Book. The Buck Book has instructions of things to do with a dollar bill besides spending it, such as making a bow tie, a ring, elephant and peacock.

Over the past few years, I have found quite a few books that I was interested in reading for a fraction of the retail price.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summer budgeting

Along with the warmer weather of summer in most cases also come extra expenses of summer. While you may budget your monthly expenses, it is also important to figure out what extra expenses you may have over the next few months and work them into your monthly budget instead of having to charge them.

Some examples of extra expenses are graduation and wedding gifts and other expenses, summer vacation and kids activities. Graduation and wedding gifts can add up and if you have a number of weddings to attend you may have expenses besides the gifts such as travel, and extra clothing costs.

Especially, this year with other costs such as gas and food prices going up it is more important than ever to make room in your budget for the added expenses of summer activities.

So with a little planning and tweaking of your budget, the activities of summer can be more enjoyable if you don’t have to worry about taking on more debt to cover them.

Free Womens Financial Future Presentation

The YWCA Cass Clay and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans are hosting an Empowering Your Financial Future presentation on Thursday, May 26. The event is free will be at the VIP Room at 624 Main, Fargo. Social will be at 5:30 and the hour presentation will start at 6:00. Heavy Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served.

Guest speaker will be Sheri Cooper, Regional Managing Partner for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The topic will be “Financial Independence: It is Women’s Work.”

The one hour presentation will cover budgeting and investment principals along with family and retirement planning.

No products will be sold at this event.

Please RSVP by May 20th to Darren Buttke 701-232-2547
or dbuttke@ywcacassclay.org. Space is limited.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is it a deal

There was a coupon in the Parade magazine on Sunday in many newspapers for a free frozen Lemonade at McDonalds. This is a good deal if you were planning on going anyways. But this and other coupons are not good deals if they are for items you were not planning on purchasing or places you were not planning on going to.

When hunting for deals something you have to consider is if it is worth the extra time and stops. Also, if you have to travel a distance or out of your way for it, consider if it is worth the extra costs and time.

Also, watch out for coupons for a percentage off, or even free discounts. Some stores give a coupon for a certain amount for your birthday. One example I know of is a store giving $15 certificate. This is great if you find something you need and not spend much over that amount. But if you spend quite a bit more and it is something you don’t necessarily need, you would possibly be better off not using it at all.

This is one thing I had to change in the past also, thinking about if I really needed something instead of buying it just because it was on sale.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Put your dream to the Test review

In “Put your Dream to the Test” leadership expert, John Maxwell walks you through 10 steps to see, own and reach your dreams.

It consists of 10 questions to ask yourself about your dream.

1) The Ownership Question
2) The Clarity Question
3) The Reality Question
4) The Passion Question
5) The Pathway Question
6) The People Question
7) The Cost Question
8) The Tenacity Question
9) The Fulfillment Question
10) The Significance Question

The various questions make you think about your dream and what you need to do to get closer to your dream. It includes stories of his own and others he has known and what they had to do to accomplish their dreams. One thing he stated is that many times you don’t get to pay once and then achieve your dream. You have to pay again and again.

It was a very interesting book and an easy quick read.

I received a copy of the book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a Book Review blogger for this review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

Max on LIfe Review

“Max On Life” is a collection of answers to questions that Max Lucado as received over the years as a pastor and author.

The chapters in the book include Hope, Help, Hurt, Him/Her, Home, Have/Have-nots and Hereafter.

Each chapter contains questions and answers on a specific topic. So you can either read the book in order or you can jump to the chapter with the topic you are interested in. It would be a good book for either adults or teens. There are some topics dealing with teens.

The answers contain both scripture and answers from his own experience or others he has known. The stories are interesting and the book is easy to read. I read it in a couple evenings.

I received a copy of the book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a Book Review blogger for this review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review of The Final Summit

I have read a number of books by Andy Andrews, so I was anxious to read “The Final Summit”. The main character is David Ponder, he was also in “ The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews.

After centuries of greed, pride and hate, this is humanity’s final chance to get back on the right path. David Ponder is named the head of the summit and gets assistance from some of history’s best and brightest minds to uncover the solution. Some of the individuals selected to assist are Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, George Washington Carver and Joan of Arc. They have five chances to come up with the solution. Each of the solutions they come up with seems like it is the right solution, but ends up not being right.

It was an easy to read book. I read it in about a week, but it would have been quicker if I would have had more chance to read during those days.

The story fit our current situations and makes you think about some of the challenges we are facing now and how we can tackle them.

I received a copy of the book to review as a Blog reviewer for Thomas Nelson publishers. That is the only compensation I received for this review.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Can A Dollar Buy

When you think of shopping at a dollar store, you may think you will only find junky items. But at many stores there are items to help you make your money go further. Some grocery stores and other stores also have sections with items like this. Following are some items you may be able to find at your area dollar stores.

1) Mylar balloons – Some stores have mylar balloons for a dollar each. I received one and the helium lasted for over a month.

2) Party supplies – paper plates, cups, napkins in a variety of colors and themes. They would be good to use for showers, graduation parties, birthday parties and other events. Most dollar stores have a variety of kid birthday themes and also for graduation and other occasions.

3) Gift bags, wrapping paper and greeting cards. Most stores I have visited have gift bags comparable to the more expensive stores and since wrapping paper usually just gets torn off and thrown away, it may make sense to find ways to save money on it. Many stores have greeting cards for under $1.

4) Storage bags, plastic wrap, garbage bags. Some of these products may not be the same quality as more expensive. The garbage bags may work in bathroom garbages and others without heavy garbage. I buy the cheaper garbage bags to use for leaves from raking.

5) Baskets, organizing items. Also baskets and other items to make gift baskets.

6) Dishware, glassware. I have noticed lately some stores have plates and glasses. They would work good for dorm rooms and apartments when just starting out. Also, to use so you don’t have to worry about breaking your better dishes.

7) Party favors for kids birthday parties. Items to put together for a gift basket. Vases and other items for centerpieces for bridal showers, baby showers and weddings.

8) Health and beauty items – I haven’t purchased many of these items at dollar stores. I usually find deals at drugstores on these items. But I have heard of others who do purchase them at dollar stores.

9) Food items – I also haven’t purchased many food items but from articles and new shows I have seen on this, it should be alright. Most of the items are discontinued or containers damaged in some way, but the food should be okay. Check out the expiration dates before purchasing.

10) Craft items – With summer vacation coming up you may be able to find items for crafts to keep the kids busy.

Even though the prices are a dollar it is important to keep an eye on what you are putting in your basket or cart. Those dollar items can add up quick. You need to consider if it is really something you need.

What you find at the dollar stores will vary from store to store, but it may be worth checking out an area store. If you purchase a few items that you would have paid more for at another store may make a difference with your p

Monday, May 9, 2011

Money Savvy Generation

The Money Savvy Generation website contains products and resources to teach kids about money from 4 years of age through teenagers.

One of the resources you can sign up for is the “Helping Kids Get Smart About Money” E Newsletter.

The Money Savvy Saving Banks have 4 separate chamber for Save, Spend, Donate and Invest. The banks come as pigs in blue, pink, red, purple, green, and platinum and also as a clear cow or a football.

They have recently added an I-phone app/game, Savings Spree which teaches kids how the choices they make each day can add up to big savings or big expenses. It is for children ages 7 and up (or younger with help from mom and dad or older sibling).

This is one of many resources available to teach kids about money.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Procrastination can be costly

Many of us put off doing things we do not want to do. Lately, I have procrastinated on a few things, but once I sat down and worked on it, it wasn’t as bad and didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Also, I felt relieved after completing the tasks.

Sometimes it’s the same with our finances. If you are in debt, you may put off opening your bills and looking at what you owe. Or you may delay in paying your bills. The longer you wait, the worst your situation will get. In some cases, once you sit down and figure out what you owe, it may not be as bad as you thought.

If you have a pile of unpaid bills, some may be multiple copies of the same things, so it may not be as bad as you had thought it would be.

Just as it is important to have checkups of your physical condition it is also important to do checkups of your financial health.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is Bigger always better

Many times we hear the more we buy at a time, the more we can save. Sometimes this is true but not always.
In the past, one of the few places to buy in bulk was Sam’s Club but now some other stores also offer larger sized products.
One thing to keep in mind when buying in bulk is if you have enough storage space and also if you will use it up before it goes bad. You don’t end up saving money if you end up throwing most of the item away. If you buy items in bulk but don’t have adequate storage space you may misplace items and not be able to find them when you need them. If you can’t find them or don’t remember you have them, you will end up having to buy the item again, in the end not saving money. But buying items that you use on a regular basis and are non perishable can save you shopping trips. The fewer trips you make to the store can save you time and also help you avoid making impulse purchases.
Most items have the price per unit (ounce, etc) on the shelf so you can easily compare price per ounce of the various sizes to determine if the bigger size is a better bargain.
When thinking of joining a shopping club, such as Sam’s Club, you also have to take into account the yearly fee and other fees. If you only shop there once in awhile you have to determine if you save enough to make up for the fees. This weekend, Sam’s Club is offering a free weekend, where you can shop there without having a membership. So it would be a great time to stop there and compare prices and see if a membership would benefit you.
Another thing mentioned in the article is that having too much on hand can lead to overconsumption as well. One mom mentioned that in her house, jumbo-sized containers of granola bars were eaten just as quickly as the standard-sized boxes until she took to “hiding” the bulk containers.
So it may be beneficial to checking into bulk buying some items as one way to control expenses in your household.

Also if you are using coupons it may be better to buy the smaller size of items. Most stores have labels on the shelves that state the price per ounce, so it is easy to see which size is the better value.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Keep an Eye on Your Spending

I have written posts previously about the importance of tracking your expenses. If you are married or in a relationship it is also important to make sure you are communicating with each other about your finances.

Saturday night on the show, Til Debt Do Us Part, the couple were spending twice their monthly income each month without realizing it. On other shows there have been couples who had a considerable higher amount of debt than they thought. Some wonder how they can spend that much over their income and not realize. But if you have credit card debt it is easy to keep adding to it without realizing.

Also, by tracking your expenses, you can see what you spend your money on. As demonstrated on the show and others, when you don’t track your spending cash can disappear from your wallet without realizing what you spent it on.

It may seem like a lot of work, once you get in the habit of tracking your spending it will become easier. You can use an Excel worksheet or there are software programs such as Quicken or Mint. I haven’t personally used Mint, but have friends who have and was surprised to see how easy it was to save money when you can see where it is going.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saving without Clipping Coupons

With the current economy, people are looking for ways to make their money go further. There are small changes you can make in the way you shop to save money instead of clipping coupons.

If you take a look at your grocery store flyers ideas. Locally, the Cashwise and Sunmart fliers run from Sunday thru Saturday and Hornbachers runs from Wednesday thru Tuesday. If you find items you use regularly on sale, stock up with 2 or 3 instead of just one. You can save some money and also by having extras on hand, you won’t have to make a trip to the store when you run out. By limiting your trips to the store you also cut down the temptation of impulse purchases.

Also, take a look at where you shop. Drug stores are no longer just for prescriptions and health care items. Many carry a number of food items and other household items. Locally, we have Walgreens and CVS, which both offer reward programs. At Walgreens, each week they have items that when you purchase, you will receive a coupon for a certain amount to use on a future purchase. In many cases, if you use the coupon, you will end up getting the original item for free. At CVS, they have the same kind of program where you receive Extra Care Bucks. If you have manufacturer coupons for the items, you can end up making money on some purchases.

I will be offering classes on how to save money without clipping coupons, $10 Fee, Sat, May 14 from 11:00 to noon or Thursday, May 19 from 6:00-7:00 at 1100 32nd Ave S, Moorhead. To register, contact Nancy at nancy@in-theblack.net or 701-293-8808.