Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Goal Round Up and Debt Snowball Progress

Well, this year is drawing to a close. It's been a year with a lot of ups and downs. Some bad things happened, some good things happened, and we rounded it out with a gorgeous new baby for my oldest friend (which really puts things in perspective, let me tell you!).

I hit most of my goals for 2008. I made some good financial progress this year and feel like my debt is in a less scary and manageable place.

So, my 2008 goals were:

Get My Networth to -$28000 - DONE I'll be updating my Networth this week but I can tell you that it is below -$28,000

Get my Prosper Loan down to less than $2000 - DONE It is at $1985!

Pay off my Banana Republic Card - DONE

Pay off my American Express -DONE

Get Emergency Fund to $1000 - NOT DONE Currently it stands at $455.

I am happy that I accomplished so many of these goals. I really tried for that last one, but I just couldn't make it happen. I'm okay with not hitting that goal, because I know that I just have to work a little harder on it for next year.

Debt Snowball Progress

I have made tremendous progress on My Debt Snowball over the past few months. I paid off my American Express card right before Christmas, which was Step #4 in my Snowball. 

Here is where we are:

1. Banana Republic Card - PAID 

2. Medical Bills - PAID 

3. Car - PAID 

4. American Express - PAID

5. Prosper - Balance $1985.93 - Minimum $119.01

6. Bank of America - Balance $4701.29 - Minimum $102

7. Student Loan - Balance $23821 - No Minimum

Once my car was paid off, I was finally in a position where I was actually making more money than my bills, so I eased off and quit my extra jobs. I'm still working on making a little more money on the side, and will need to amp that up in the New Year since in February a line of passive income that has been helping me pay down my debt will come to an end. 

This Blog

I started this blog with the hopes of tracking both my personal progress, writing about finances, and keeping up with my writing skills. I'm hoping in the New Year that I will be able to get back to regular posting and start growing my readers and subscribers again. I should have a Networth update and my final list of goals for 2009 up in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I wish everyone an enjoyable New Years!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Arrival and a Thank You

Last night after 20 hours of labor my oldest friend Heather gave birth to a beautiful and perfect baby girl, weighing in at 6lb 6oz. Mommy and baby are both doing well, but I haven't opened my computer since sunday and I'm now pretty behind on a lot of things. I'm going to try and get back on schedule for tomorrow. The baby wasn't due until January 22nd so we all got thrown for a loop just a little.
Thank you for your patience and for continuing to visit my blog! I appreciate it!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Booked for the Holidays

We just had a massive holiday party and we have an out of town guest with us for a few days so I'm not really here right now. We should return to regular programming sometime this week. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Having a Late Christmas to Save Money

This is a guest post from Michael Caldwell at Use The Dollar.
If you would like to write a guest post for Distilled Rose Personal Finance, simply contact me!

Michael Caldwell is a lifelong entrepreneur who has become active in the Financial world. As he experiments and finds working methods to building wealth, he shares them with others.

For those who celebrate, Christmas is supposed to be a time of family togetherness, outward love and giving.


What it actually becomes for many of us, though, is an impoverishing end to the year.
How can we fix this?

The Problem

Any time that retailers can predict hundreds of millions of people rushing to the stores in unison- I can promise you- That is not the time to go shopping!

Even though everyone knows that it is the very worst season to shop- millions do.

But how can you avoid that? Christmas falls on the same day for everyone. It does it each and every year. But does it have to?

The Solution

Change the Day your family celebrates Christmas!

What if your family celebrated Christmas on the 28th instead of the 25th?
What if you could take advantage of the post-Christmas sales that nearly every retailer offers?!

The day is close enough to the standard Christmas day that you'll be able to take advantage of everyone elses' Christmas parties, keep the sense of the season, etc.

Aren't you losing the meaning of the Season?


For those of you who are concerned about changing the day because you want to preserve the integrity of Christ's birth, you should be celebrating much earlier.
Israeli meteorologists best guess places the real date of Christ's birth on September 29th, 5 B.C.

The Catholic writer Mario Righetti candidly admit that, "to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the 'Invincible Sun' Mithras, the conqueror of darkness" (Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, P. 67).

So if Christ wasn't born on "Christmas Day", and there's no other real motivating factor to keeping your family's Christmas on the 25th, then there are only two reasons you would celebrate on the 25th:

  1. You're a huge fan of keeping to Pagan-Fooling, Roman Tradition

  2. You enjoy spending far more money than you need to spend.


If either of those qualifications fit you- Feel free- Go ahead and continue celebrating on December 25th.

If not though- Make the smart decision and move it back a few days. Purchase your gifts during the sales- Save hundreds, if not thousands- and have a Merry Christmas!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

6 Frugal Items You Should Get for Christmas

Are people asking you what you want for Christmas at the last minute this year? Or do you want to find something to buy for someone who you know lives a frugal lifestyle? 
Here are my six top picks for anyone faced with this question!

PUR DS-1800Z 2 Stage Water Dispenser
I adore this water filter tank. When combined with a good solid water bottle, you never really need to buy bottled water again. It can also be a great way to get out of the soda habit!

Reusable Grocery Tote Bag 6 Pack ComboI keep these in my car and use them not just for groceries, but for taking our recycling or taking things to work. These are great for the environment and buying a large pack of them is cheaper than buying them as you go shopping.

Honeywell FocusPRO 6000 Programmable ThermostatA programmable thermostat can save you a fortune in energy costs! Just have it set to stay off at night and switch on right before you get up, that way you aren't wasting energy while you are unconscious

CamelBak BPA-Free Better Water Bottle with Bite ValveHere is a fantastic water bottle to go with that Pur Water tank!

365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving MoneyTrent Hamm is a well respected personal finance blogger who has just come out with his first book! 

The Complete Tightwad GazetteThis book is one of the most highly recommended frugality books out there! 

Hopefully this list will help you with your shopping list, be it for you or for someone else!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Get a Space Heater

Many people have central heat in their homes. Often you don't get to decide what vents are open or closed, or where they are located. As an example of this, the vent that we have that works the best in our loft is the one that goes directly into our bathroom. Not the smartest of locations. 

We recently obtained a programmable thermostat for the house which we only have set to turn on in the mornings. What we do for the rest of the day is use an electric space heater to heat the area of the house that we are in. Because it costs so much more to use gas, and because when we turn on our central heat it distributes through the whole apartment, it makes more sense to use something smaller that we have set right by us. 

Space heaters can cost anywhere from $20 to $200. I think a really decent one can be had for $40, depending on what kind of room you are heating. 

Click here for more Saturday Handy Tips!

Friday, December 12, 2008

5 Worthy Causes to Donate To This Year

Tax season is coming, and if you're looking at making Tax Deductible donations, now is really a good time to do so. Also, the holiday season is really about giving. I try and donate something every Christmas, even if it is only $10. I just plan it in as an extra "present" that I have to buy. I know that I don't have a lot of money to spare, but I believe in doing a little good. 

With that said, here are a few of my top picks for places to donate money. Last year I donated to Doctors Without Borders and this year my money will go to UNHCR. 


An organization of professionals that bring medical aid to countries without it including vaccinations, disease prevention and cure, and emergency aid.


The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is committed to helping refugees from war torn countries. Often, they will help wither relocate refugees or help them get back home. 


Medical aid and disaster relief. The Red Cross are a dedicated world wide organization.


This organization builds homes for impoverished people.


A charity dedicated to the conservation of Polar Bears and their habitat through research and education.


Do you have a charity that you support? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And Then There Was Christmas

I had been incredibly successful with my No Spend Days. So proud, was I that I was saddened when it had to end. It had gotten to the point where it wasn't as much about the money I was saving, as it was the challenge of continuing to not spend. True, I needed the money for other things and was working hard on saving up for a few expenses, but really the challenge was what had kept me going for so long. But, after 16 successful days of not spending a penny on anything other than gas, I had to cave in. 

I was a little sad as I hovered over the pay now button, I felt like I had come so far, but it had to be done. 

I know that in a couple of weeks, when my husband opens his Christmas gifts, it'll all have been worth it.

I'll be starting another No Spend Day round on January 1st and I am hoping that maybe you call can join me. Let's see how far into the new year we can get!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Contemplating Retirement Savings

I know that I am only 25 years old, but I am starting to think about saving for retirement. I think it's the appropriate time to start working on this, especially since I plan to "retire" early. 
I don't know much about retirement savings, and there is no plan through my job. 

I have a few options to consider. Firstly, I could get a Roth IRA. I've been thinking about this a lot, but my concern is that this is something that I would have to manage a little, and with the stock market dipping, it seems that a lot of IRA's have lost value. People seem to not be concerned with this as it will "go back up again", but what if the stock market crashes right before you plan to retire? What is that value disappears. I'm not a fan of investing in the stock market in general because to me, it feels like gambling. 

My next idea is to start a CD ladder and just start socking money away. I'd get a guaranteed rate of return and my money would be pretty safe. I don't get tax benefits, but it seems so much more stable. 

I can understand how people go the 401(k) route or other such programs if a company is matching the money that will be put in there, but I don't get that luxury. 

This is quite a conundrum for me and I really would like to have a plan in place for my 2009 Financial goals. So what do you think? What would you do if you were me? I welcome any and all advice!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Keep Generic Gifts on Hand

Around this time of year especially, it's entirely possible that you will receive a Christmas present from someone who you didn't put on your list. It's a good idea to find some fairly generic gifts to have on hand at all times. Things that can work well are stuff like candles, home made preserves or pancake mix (which is what I did last year). 

Another person I know knits dishcloths year round and keeps a few on hand as gifts throughout the year. 

So be sure to pop a couple of generic things in a drawer for Christmas and maybe for the rest of the year too! It could be your saving grace in an awkward social situation!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's New at Distilled Rose Personal Finance

This is an update post to let you know of some changes!

I'm putting this blog on a regular posting schedule, since I'd like it to be a little less erratic. There should be new posts going up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the regular Saturday Handy Tip on Saturday's from here on out. I'll probably do a couple of extra posts here and there. 

I'm very interested in having guest authors come on here to share their work with readers. If you are interested, just use the contact form in the sidebar. 

I'm also taking questions for a question and answer section that I am trying to get off the ground. These can be about personal finance, or about me, or anything you like really. 

As always, the best way to get updates is to subscribe to my RSS Feed

On a side note, I'm on No Spend Day 12. It's now become a "how long can I go" game, which is proving quite fun. I recommend you try it!

Thanks for all of the support over the last few months. It means a lot to me!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Buying in Bulk : What Items are Best?


Image by Pygo

Buying items in bulk is great way to cut down on costs. Not only do you save money on the price per unit, but you are also saving money on trips to the grocery store as you'll need these items less. 

It's best to use somewhere like Sam's Club and Costco. If you don't have a card, ask around and see if someone has one you can borrow. If you know any small business owners, they are certainly good people to ask.

One of the primary concerns people seem to have with buying items in bulk is storing them. Be creative! Look for little unfilled nooks and crannies. Do you have a book shelf of paper backs with space behind them? Could that space hold toilet paper? Can you tuck items on a shelf in your garage? How about in your crawl space? Or even under your bed or your couch. 

The key when picking items to buy in bulk is to look for things with a long shelf life. Be sure to check expiration dates on everything. If you end up purchasing something and not using all of it, when the expiration date comes near shoot an email to your friends and family and ask if anyone needs 1lb of flour or so. Ask them to either donate for it or give them the actual price of the item. 
You can even consider splitting bulk items up and charging just below standard retail for a quantity of the item so you are making a little profit.

Here are some of the best items to buy in bulk:

Toilet Paper

I buy this in 36 roll packs and it lasts us a really really long time. I have these stored under the sink in our bathroom. 

Dishwasher Tabs

I use the tabs, not the powder because I like having a pre-measured amount of detergent. A big tub of 70 tabs takes up about as much room as a normal box of powder would. 

Laundry Detergent

We use eco-friendly detergent and always opt for the biggest size available. 

Trash Bags

I buy these in the industrial sizes... about 100 bags to a box.

Rice

My in-laws got a huge bulk bag of rice a while ago and gave us 5lb of it. We're still working our way through the bag.

Flour

I haven't yet found a good source for bulk flour, though I do tend to buy big bags. If you do a lot of making your own bread or baking, this is a good idea.

Pet Food

Pet food tends to have a long shelf life, so I buy big bags of food for the cat, as well as the multi-packs of wet food pouches. I choose the variety packs so that she doesn't get bored.

Cereal

This is an often overlooked one, but if you eat cereal daily this can save you a ton of money.

Monday, December 1, 2008

November Net Worth Update

It's time for my regular Net Worth Update!

Here is how the breakdown looks for November. This was another strong month for me, with a 2.33% increase in Networth overall.


The Cash is my Savings, and Stocks is my Prosper balance. I am currently pulling out of Prosper. My savings are down a smidge because I had to go to the doctor briefly (all is well).

My progress chart is continuing to ascend.
My main goal for the end of 2008 was to get my Net Worth to -$28,000 and as you can see, I am just $37 short of that goal. So, barring any huge disaster, I should have that covered!

The breakdown looks like this:

Assets

Car Value - $2,480

Prosper Loans - $222 ($232)

Cash Savings - $385 ($394)

Debts

Student Loans - $2,3821

Credit Cards - $5,039 - AmEx $295, BoA $4744  ($5,547)

Scooter Loan - $2,266 ($2,445)

Net Worth

- $28,037 (-$28,707)

I didn't hit my goal of paying off my AmEx for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I accidentally paid my Scooter Loan payment twice. This took a good chunk off the principal and it's all going to the same cause. I am also missing two checks totaling $500 that were due this month which would have completely knocked out the card. Instead, I will be aiming again for December and trying to hit my 2008 goal of having my Prosper/Scooter loan down below $2,000.

Savings

I decided to combine my savings for some streamlining and just increasing my targets instead of having my medical and auto fund. I've just condensed these into one emergency fund with a target of $5,000. I am keeping my travel fund, though. I'm not sure what money will be put in there, but I really want to keep that savings account. As a result, both savings account have stayed about the same as last month. 

So I have two goals for December, to pay off my American Express card and to get my Prosper Loan down below $2,000. My other 2008 goal that has not yet been met was to have $1000 in my savings account. I think that it is very unlikely that I will meet this goal. I'm a bit disappointed, but if I can still hit all of the others, I won't be terribly upset. 

I am also on my eighth day of No Spend Days. I'm pretty stunned that I have made it this far and I plan to see how long I can go. I'm essentially trying to get back on track from overspending in my discretionary income account. I'd love to make it 11 more days, though I am not sure how realistic that is!

August Net Worth

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : How to Clean Your Shower Head

Here is another tip from my series of home made cleaning products!

Does your metal shower head have deposits on it that prevent it from flowing well? The easiest way to fix this is to put half a cup of white vinegar in a quart of water. Place it in a large pan, add the shower head, and boil it for 15 minutes to safely and easily remove the deposits. Rinse and put back in your shower!

Check out the other tips in this series:



Friday, November 28, 2008

Here Come the Bills : Winter Heating Season


Image by Smig44

Well, we just got our first gas bill of the winter and it was high. Very high. High enough to make me instantly switch the heat off and stomp around the house in an irritated fashion. 

Since we got our bill, we only turned the heat on once for about 20 minutes. We have a space heater that we are keeping near us whenever we are home now and we only plan to use the heat if it gets too cold to handle. 

Space heaters are definitely a great investment if you are trying to save money on your heating bills. I also recommend good pajamas and wearing socks to be as an alternative solution. 
Whenever I use the oven these days, I always leave it open when I am done with it so that the heat inside can be put to good to use.

We live in a big open loft with huge poorly insulated windows, so extremes of temperature are never fun for us. Since we'll be staying here a while longer, we're going to need to get creative with the heating and cooling of this place. I have a feeling that we will be investing in a programmable thermostat pretty soon. 

In the meantime, what are your tips and tricks for heating and cooling large spaces? 

On a side note, a new project that I have been working on, UX Booth launched today. Please check it out and share it with anyone you think would enjoy it!

And also, I'm on No Spend Day number 5!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're about to head on down to Aunt Sherry's house for Thanksgiving. She is the matriarch of our family and we always look forward to seeing her and her family.

Today, I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful that I'm healthy and (officially now) fully recovered from the accident I had this year. I am thankful for my job. I am thankful for my readers. I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and food on the table. 

I hope that you all have a lovely Thanksgiving too!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No Spend Days Update and Setting New Goals

A few days ago I wrote about No Spend Days as a way to try and keep on top of spending and saving. Well, yesterday I posted about how I've gone off my budget. As a result, I've started the no Spend Day plan. 

So far I'm on day 2 of No Spending. I'm setting my first goal at the end of the month. I don't want to spend any more money other than on budgeted items for the rest of the month. This includes no discretionary spending at all while I catch up from going over budget. 

It's also getting close to the end of 2008. Just another month and a week to go until the new year. This means that I need to start preparing my 2009 financial goals and to see what I managed to accomplish in 2008. 

I'm going to set my first goal now. By the end of 2009 I want my Net Worth to be at -$20,000 or less. This would mean I need to clear at least $8000 worth of debt. I honestly think that this is an achievable goal, though it might end up being close. 

So what about you? Are you having No Spend Days? Do you have an accomplished goal for 2008? Do you have an idea of a goal for 2009? 


Random Posts

Monday, November 24, 2008

Be Wary of the Little Things, They Add Up


Image by Michael Henderson

When you're working on debt repayment, every little counts. Normally, this is applied to paying off the debt. Many small amounts eventually add  up to large ones. The same can be said of putting the debt back on, though. 
It may just be a little at a time. $2 here, $10 there, but eventually all that adds up and either impedes getting out of debt, or sends you straight back down the rabbit hole again. 

I'm guilty of this. I've done really well sticking to my plan and my budget, but I've been spending money that I don't have with the intent of "paying it back". I've not been able to get my budget back in the black for a couple of weeks, though, and I need to be pretty stern pretty quickly. 

Some examples of my backsliding:

11/23 $4.26 - Dinner and a drink at work
11/22 $2.00 Morning Bagel
11/21 $13.67 Smoothies
11/20 $6.24 Smoothies
11/19 $37.79 Video Game
11/17 $8.80 Brunch
11/13 $6.21 Lunch
11/13 $3.25 Coffee
11/12 $6.00 Lunch

Basically, in 11 days I spent $50.42 on miscellaneous edibles and $37.79 on a video game. My weekly discretionary budget is $25, so I was $38.21 over budget. I also put more gas in my car than I had budgeted for. 

These are all small items that have put me over budget. So now I'm about two weeks behind in my spending account and christmas is coming. 

So don't forget that it's not just about paying off your debt or saving in small increments, it's also about keeping your small increment spending down or eliminating it entirely. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : How to Make Drain Cleaner

I'm continuing my Saturday Handy Tip homemade household products series today. If you haven't started switching your household products to homemade ones, I highly recommend you start now! I'm switching one over a week and I will happily accept requests in the comments for what product you would like to replace next!

To unclog drains, pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes and follow it with boiling water. Do not use on plastic plumbing or after you have already tried a commercial drain cleaner.

Check out these other Saturday Handy Tips:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do No Spend Days Work?

One of the little personal finance tips and tricks you see around the blogosphere is the concept of the No Spend Day. The idea is that you have at least one regular day (usually on a weekly basis) where you spend absolutely no money no matter what. 

My questions is, do these actually work? 

Say I need gas in my car, but it's a no spend day for me, I would not put gas in my car. I would make it stretch. Then tomorrow, I would still need gas. The fact that I had a no spend day doesn't help me out here because I have to spend the money at some point.

I can see how this would work from the perspective that some people do a fair bit of shopping or impulse buying, but I have a feeling that it would end up being situation specific. 

I'm going to undergo a little experiment and implement some no spend days for myself. We're going to start with next monday and go from there. 

What do you think? Have you tried a no spend day? Does it work for you? Is it pointless? Comments are always appreciated!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Overcoming Time Management Issues with a Microwave

Image by Jek in the Box

I'm the first to confess that time management is not my strongest skill. I never miss deadlines, but sometimes it gets close! My house is often messier than I would like, and hanging up laundry is one of the things that never seems to get done.

My saving grace in getting things done, though, is my microwave. I don't know what I would do without it. You see, my microwave has a timer on it and not only do I use that to measure how long my tea has been steeping for, but I also use it for things like writing, cleaning the house, folding laundry, filling out online surveys and so on. 

I set my timer for ten minutes, then head upstairs and start putting laundry away. If I finish before the timer, great. I saunter downstairs and check my email. If not, I stop the laundry and start on the next task. Another ten minutes can be spent doing Cash Crate surveys to make a little extra money. The next ten minutes can be spent reading a magazine, then another ten brainstorming blog articles. Then another ten minutes searching for good recipes. 

Breaking up an hour of free time into chunks like this, and being sure to allow yourself one of those chunks to do something you like such as reading a magazine or playing a quick online game will balance out the feeling of rushing around doing chores and give you a minute to catch your breath. 

So next time you have an hour spare, make a list of six things that you can do in ten minute sections, set your oven timer, or your alarm clock, or your microwave and see how much you can get done!

Let me know how it goes or if you have any other neat time management tricks.  

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Eating out of the Pantry Again

Image by skitzianist

It's been a hectic month financially already. This was the first month that my husband and I switched to a new financial plan with a very set budget. We had it all planned out... groceries, eating out, entertainment, everything. 

Well of course this didn't go to plan. Firstly, it's our anniversary month so we went out to a nice dinner.... a really nice dinner. It eliminated our entire eating out budget on November 5th. 
As far as groceries, we started $70 down due to the Very Pricey Chocolate Cake and then we went to Jacksonville for the weekend and had to pull out some hotel money. We also had someone over for dinner and we tend to go all out when that happens. So that made our grocery budget run out on about the 14th. 

We're out of grocery money and food money. So, we'll be eating put of the very meagre pantry. I made a big batch of chili that should last two more meals. I have a sack of potatoes and a carton of eggs. I have bread ingredients. 

We're stocked up on other stuff and ready to hunker down. Only 13 days to go. 

This is going to suck. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : How to Make a Home Made Dryer Sheet

Here is the next tip in my series of getting away from store bought household products and making your own. 

To make your clothes smell nice and fresh in the dryer, take an old rag or an old mismatched sock and put three or four drops of your favorite Essential Oil on it before throwing it in the dryer with your clothes. Essential oil is not very expensive and a little will go a really long way. I find Lavender really soothing, but you could also try lemon or peppermint, or any other fragrance that you personally enjoy. 

Check out these other Saturday Handy Tips



Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Blogosphere Round Up and Freelance Availability

It's been a crazy week over here. My husband just had his work hours reduced by 40% and will be spending two days out of the week on freelancing projects, which will make things a little tighter. It essentially eliminates his personal discretionary income. I'm sure that it will be fine though!
If you are looking for a freelancer for Web design, Graphic design, Blog themes, Logo and Business Card design and so on and so forth. Feel free to use my contact form in the sidebar to get in touch with him. He is incredibly talented.

I'm also available for Writing, Editing, Proofreading, PR, Debt Management planning and consultation and Voice over work (British and American). 

This week some of my favorite posts in my Google Reader were:



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Review : ProBlogger



Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett have produced a wonderful collaboration with the ProBlogger book.
I've been a fan of the ProBlogger site for a while now and was excited to read their book. I find that blogging has become a big part of my life and I know that it is a medium that interests a lot of other people.

Overview

This book is separated into ten chapters packed full of tips and advice ranging from Niche Blogging, Blogging for Money, Promotion, and Writing. Chris and Darren draw a lot from their personal experiences and successes with becoming professional bloggers who earn over six figures from their sites. The first few chapters hit on a lot of beginner information, including basics on how to set up for a blog. The later chapters give better advice for established bloggers, such as information on joining blog networks and how to buy and sell blogs.

The writing style is casual and not too overwhelming. The book is well organized and planned with images interspersed throughout. The chapters are laid out similarly to blog posts with lots of sub headings, bullet points and text boxes.

The Good

Blog Writing is a great chapter in particular. It goes over 20 types of posts, how to write a successful series and how to make your blog more interactive. There are a lot of great examples, case studies and statistics.

The book is an engaging read and is written in a very comprehensive format. It would be exceptionally good for a beginner or for someone who is new to blogging and curious about how to use it as side income and make it successful.

The Bad

The pictures chosen are not always helpful. One example is an example of a traffic spike. It's essentially just a very tall column alongside many short columns with no additional data. It was a bit superfluous and felt as some of the images were an afterthought to break up chunks of text.

If you are more of an intermediate to expert blogger, this book will not change your life. It's helpful and good at reminding you of things you may have forgotten, but the bulk of the book is for beginners. It is also a very Wordpress heavy book, as most sites and books about blogging tend to be.

My Recommendation

This is a worthwhile read. I enjoyed it and have gained some valuable advice from it. I didn't have a major epiphany, but I was reminded of some techniques and tactics that I had let slide.

4 out of 5




Other Book Reviews:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Short Guide to Paying Off Debt in Baby Steps

Image by Oli Young

When you first get started paying off debt it is by no means easy. It's a series of baby steps and little wins.

I've been working on a debt reduction plan for several months now. This is not the first time I've had to pay off a chunk of debt, but I plan on making this the last time. Getting started paying off debt is intimidating in the beginning, but very worthwhile in the long term. 

Discover the Problem

The first thing to do when paying down your debt is to go through your finances and figure out how much money you owe and to whom. Make a list of your debts from smallest to largest. It also helps to check out your interest rates and see if you can do some 0% balance transfers or call and see if you can get your rate lowered. Once you understand what you are up against, you can make a plan to eliminate your debt. 

Make a Plan

Figure out how much all of your minimum payments on your debt are. Next, make a realistic budget for your life including your living expenses, putting money in savings and so on. When making the budget, try and give yourself a little extra breathing room for those times when your bills are higher than predicated. Now work out how much extra money you have to pay off your debt. Even if you can only squeeze a few extra dollars out of your budget it will make a difference.

Put Your Plan in Action

Start by paying all of your minimums on time and then put the extra money you have to spare on the smallest of your debts in addition to the minimum payment. Any time you get a windfall or any other extra money, put as much as possible onto that one debt. When you've paid it off, roll your minimum payment over onto the next biggest debt. This is the Snowball method and is very effective because you start out with those little wins that give you a psychological boost. All of the little snowflakes add up to a big thundering ball of progress.

Keep Yourself Debt Free

The last baby step is to keep yourself out of debt. Don't buy things you can't afford. Protect your progress by cutting up your credit cards, keeping the card with the best rate for emergencies. Be sure to build an emergency fund so that if something does happen, you don't have to rely on your credit cards any more. Plan large purchases in advance and save for them rather them buying them on credit and paying interest while you pay them off. 

Take one tiny step at a time towards debt elimination and before you know it, you'll be sprinting.
 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : How to Make All Purpose Cleaner

Going green is a great thing that is best done item by item. I'll be working on posting saturday tips that help you get away from store bought disposable items and move towards more natural products, products that you can make yourself, or ideas for switching to things that are reusable.

Instead of buying an all purpose surface cleaner, mix 1/2 Liquid Soap (shower gel or shampoo works just as well) with a gallon of water and 1/4 Cup of lemon juice or vinegar. This can be used on all surfaces to clean and then just rinse with water. 

Check out these other Saturday Handy Tips:

Friday, November 7, 2008

101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 6


Image by Kiki99

Welcome to the 6th Post in my series of 101 Top Personal Finance Tips! You can find links to the five previous articles at the bottom of this post!

Make sure you never miss a post by subscribing to my RSS Feed!

26. Never Buy a New Car

Everyone has heard the stories that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot it's value decreases by up to several thousand dollars. Buying a used car allows you to avoid that problem. You can also get a much better deal on a used car by buying it from a real person. Used cars also tend to be cheaper to insure. Also, if you get a bit of a scratch on it emotionally it will be less painful. 
I purchased my Toyota Corolla from a real live person for $1300, then paid another $200 for tires for it. I was able to pay it off in installments with no interest, and the car is in great shape and should last me for several years. Driving cars until they die of natural causes is the best way to get good value for your money.
Be sure to get a mechanic or another car competent person to check over the car you plan to buy before you take it home. 

27. Brush Your Teeth

Prevention is the name of the game here. Brushing your teeth twice a day can really help you to steer clear of severe dental issues. My husband recently broke a tooth and had to have a root canal and a crown. This cost over $1000. Even if you have insurance, a tube of toothpaste is much cheaper than a co-pay. Take care of your teeth! 

28. Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Although a little clunky looking, not only do CFL's use less energy, but they also last longer than ordinary light bulbs. According to the manufacturer, a CFL can save you as much as $185 on energy costs over the life of the bulb. They are now becoming available in a variety of shapes, brightness and light color. Have a quick look around your home and see how many light bulbs you have, then try and replace maybe one a week. They will pay for themselves in no time.

29. Pay Off Your Credit Cards

This is one of the biggest rules for getting out of debt. Stop charging on your credit cards and start paying them off. Paying interest on debt can be a huge money drain and can be emotionally demoralizing. To get started, try the snowball method. Be diligent and work hard and then all of the money that you are paying on your debt will one day be yours to play with.

30. Share Your Wireless

If you have a neighbor that lives close to you, consider sharing your wireless internet with them and splitting the bill. In my old apartment our neighbor got free wireless through his job and he was kind enough to share it with us. See if there is anyone around you that could do the same. Be sure to come up with a firm plan about how money will change hands and make sure you stay on good terms with them!

101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 4
101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 3
101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 2
101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 1

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Top Five Personal Finance Blogs

I read a lot of Personal Finance blogs. My Google Reader is regularly jam packed with fantastic tips and information. There are so many blogs out there, though, that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are my personal favorites (in no particular order) from the Blogosphere. 



This blog is all about sensible money tips and stories. J.D. mixes his advice with tales from his personal experiences. Get Rich Slowly is an inspiring blog. 


Trent always has great down to earth articles. He knows what he is talking about and he always comes across as honest and informed. His Road to Armageddon series is a must-read. It chronicles how he got himself into financial difficulties and how he got out of them again.


Madison has a plan. A really good plan. A plan that she is succeeding in to get financially comfortable. She writes very smart informed articles not just about herself, but also about the financial world and markets. 


Nickel is great about keeping up with financial news as well as giving incredibly sound advice. He has a great style and his articles are always interesting and to the point. 


James and Miel are a fascinating couple. She works overseas and he is here in the US a lot of the time. They both write and share their views. They are often on top of current events and have opinions worth reading.

So what are your favorite personal finance blogs? Who do you subscribe to? Check out the sidebar link for a list of everyone in my Google Reader.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thank You America!

I have tears in my eyes and my heart is swelling with pride. I am so honored to be part of this historic day. I'm sitting with my friends watching the election results, and I am overwhelmed. 

In my mind, today is an amazing step forward. I look forward to the next four years.

Yes We Can. 

Yes We Did.

Use Your Vote Because I Don't Get One

I've made this plea before and I'll make it again. 

If you are still not sure whether you are going to head to the polls today, please do, because I am so jealous of the fact that you get to vote today. 

I've lived in the US for more than 7 years, this place is home for me. I'm a Permanent Resident, I pay taxes like everyone else, I pay into Social Security and Medicare, I have a candidate that I support, but I don't get to go and vote for the people that will run this country. 

This was my choice. I chose to move here and I chose to do everything by the book, but I hate that I don't get a say. 

So if you've voted, thank you! Thank you for speaking up and being a part of the electoral process. If you're thinking of skipping it, please don't, because you are lucky to have the ability to speak. 

I'll be watching and waiting anxiously to see what you have all decided.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blogging Idol and I.O.U.S.A

Hello there to everyone who found this blog through Blogging Idol 2 over at Daily Blog Tips

For those of you who have no clue what I'm on about, Blogging Idol is a competition run by Daniel Scocco. The challenge is to gain new RSS Subscribers for your blog in creative ways. Those who gain the most or are most creative win prizes. 

I'm guessing that I won't win the competition, but I'd sure love to try! So if you haven't signed up for my RSS Feed yet, I'd love it if you could. I'll also be coming up with some Subscriber only perks later on in the month. 

For those of you who are already subscribers, thanks so much for the continued support!

Now, here is something of a more Financial note. I found this fantastic Youtube video through Dual Income No Kids. It's a 30 minute version of I.O.U.S.A and an absolute must see. It does a great job of examining the financial situation here in the States. 

Enjoy!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Resetting My Debt Snowball and Making a New Budget

Since I quit my second and third jobs and got a raise at my first job I've needed to rework my budget.
I know that I will have less money coming in, but my income will be less erratic. When I was working on my Snowball before, I found that I wasn't really paying my set minimums on to my debt, I was just chucking everything I could on there and not following the plan.
I've decided to go to greater lengths to budget my money accurately, so I've reset my snowball and created a budget that involves giving me some "fun" money.

So, here is my budget:

I earn $1345.48 a month.

$850 - Living Expenses (this is a fixed rate that I contribute to our joint account)

$91 - Savings

$80 - Gas (this is a bit of an estimate, since gas prices are odd right now)

$101.01 - Prosper Loan

$105 - Bank of America Credit Card

$15 - AmEx (Minimum Payment)

$100 - Disposable Income

This gives me a potential $3 wiggle room every month. The gas money and the fun money will come straight out of my weekly paycheck and be moved to my ING Direct Checking Account and I will stop using my normal debit card. By isolating this money I think it will be easier to keep on track with this budget. I've put $50 in the account as an initial floater because that $45 won't immediately clear when I transfer it over.

The income from the sale of my business will go straight on to my debt. Any additional income over $50 will break down as 50% to debt, 25% to Savings, 25% to Disposable income fund. Anything less than $50 will be snowflaked towards my debt.

So that's my new plan. I guess we'll see how it goes!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Net Worth Update

We're on month three of an increasing Net Worth. I'm delighted about it. I managed to increase my Net Worth by 1.91% over the course of October. I could have done better in a couple of areas, but I made some really great progress and I'm feeling quite proud.



Here is the breakdown for the month:

Assets

Car Value - $2,480

Prosper Loans - $232 (I am pulling out of Prosper)

Cash Savings - $394


Debts

Student Loans - $2,3821

Credit Cards - $5,547 (AmEx $750, BoA $4,797)

Scooter Loan - $2,445

Net Worth

-$28,707

I may have paid off my car this month, but I was a bit lax and increased my credit card debt by a couple of hundred dollars. I'm a bit disappointed in myself. 

Savings

This month showed a steady increase in savings, though I'm not making nearly the headway that I would like. 

Emergency Fund - 9.9% (7%)

Thailand Fund - 0.8% (0.8%)

Medical Fund - 8.3% (5%)

Auto Fund - 0.0% (0.0%) 

Down Payment Fund - 0.08% (0.08%)

The numbers in Parenthesis indicate last months status. As you can see, I've been stable or increasing all month. I gave my Savings a raise this month by increasing from 5% of my paycheck to 6% of my paycheck. It's not an enormous increase, but every little helps!

I did indeed manage to pay off my car this month. It was a great feeling and not having that $200 payment allowed me to reanalyze everything. I made the decision to quit my extra jobs which will enable me to be less stressed and focus on my writing more. It's already lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I'm finally in a position where I am earning more money than I need for bills with my regular job. 
This month I'm going to try very hard to pay off my American Express card. It won't fit within my current projected income, so I'll need to try and make a little extra money somehow this month. If I pay it off, I'm down to just three debts.

So, my November goal is to pay off my American Express card!

Want to track my progress? Subscribe to my RSS Feed

Friday, October 31, 2008

$25 Gift Certificates for $2 at Restaurant.com Today

Today Restaurant.com has a special where you can buy a $25 Gift Certificate to many restaurants for just $2.

Restaurant.com is a great site that normally offers you $25 gift certificates at participating restaurants for $10. Today, though, they have an 80% off special if you put in the code TREATS at checkout. Offer expires at 11:59pm October 31st.

I just snagged $100 worth of certificates for $8 for restaurants that my husband and I already go to. Certificates are valid for one year, but be sure to check the restaurant terms because most have a minimum purchase requirement.

Thanks to Get Rich Slowly for posting this initially!

October Round Up

It's been another quiet month here at Distilled Rose Personal Finance, but it's about to get a lot louder now that I am down to one job and have some dedicated blogging time!

This months most popular articles were:


The winner of my book giveaway was Garnishments! Garnishments, please let me know your email address so I can get some information for you. 

Thanks to everyone who commented in October!

My top referrers this month were:


And the most searched for terms were:

"atlanta gas crisis"
"ing direct high yield"
"passive forms of income"

So thanks to my 482 visitors and 49 subscribers!

So here is my question from last month again (since I got no replies).

What do you most enjoy reading about on Distilled Rose? Do you like reading about finance news, opinions, being frugal, my personal journey getting out of debt.... what do I post about that peaks your interest?

Here is how last month went:


Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Very Pricey Chocolate Cake


Image by JessicaFM

Every Tuesday, my husband and I have date night. This Tuesday, we decided to do something a little different and bake something together. We flipped through my cookbook and settled on a really delicious and unhealthy Chocolate Cake. It was complex, and would take about two hours to make. We didn't have most of the ingredients, so we toddled off to the store and bought:

Organic Dark Chocolate (Used 10.5 of 12oz) - $3.99
Organic Milk Chocolate (Used 1.5 of 12oz) - $3.99
Organic Eggs (Used 8 of 12) - $3.99
Organic Vanilla Extract (Used 1 Tbsp of 15Tbsp) - $8.99
Organic Dark Brown Sugar (Used 4oz of 32oz) - $3.99
Organic Granulated Sugar (Used 4oz of 32oz) - $5.99
Unsalted Butter (Used 1.5 Sticks of 4 Sticks) - $2.69

Plus 8% Tax

Total Spent - $36.36

We picked up a few other things that we "needed", which brought our total to a whopping $69.31.

To me, thats a very expensive chocolate cake. I worked out that we ended up using $10.23 worth of ingredients, the rest will be used in other things. Thats not a bad price per serving for a high end cake, but it's the other items we bought while at the store that caused problems.

Where we went wrong

Impulse buying is what did it. I picked up some Vital Wheat Gluten which will get used at some point, I'm sure but certain wasn't necessary that day. We also bought a smoothie for my husband and two energy bars for me which we didn't need. Those came to more than $5. We also bought food for a small dinner we had last night, one of the items being a $6.50 block of cheese. If we had been at Publix instead of Whole Foods, we probably would have paid about $3 for the cheese.

Stick to your list

I went in with a list and we didn't stick to it, which usually happens when my husband and I go to a grocery store together. We are both easily distracted and tend to put a lot more than we should in the cart. Next week begins the start of a new budget for us, and hopefully having a strict budget will enable us to lower our impulse buying. I'm a bit concerned, though. I think we'll have to lay off the chocolate cake for a while.

By the way, it was quite delicious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back Down to One Job

Today I quit my other secondary job and now I work just one job. I'm very relieved! I'm glad that I did that extra work for a few months and made the extra money because it did enable me to pay off my car and medical bills early, but I'm also very glad that I'll be able to get some rest and work on writing and this blog more. 
I know that I could use the extra money to pay my debt down more quickly, but I would rather do that freelancing. My emotional well-being is worth it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pulling out of Prosper

Prosper is not currently accepting new loans while it goes through a new verification process. They are also canceling their referral program.
I'm a big big fan of Prosper, and my intent has been to keep re-investing the money that I get when loan payments come in. Since they are holding you from making new loans, though, I'm going to start pulling that money out of my Prosper account, keeping track of the totals, and putting it in my savings account.
When Prosper reopens new loans, I will put the money back in.
I'm hoping it will reopen soon because I love the person to person lending concept!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Christmas Is Coming: A Plan for Painless Shopping

Image by Sister72

I confess, I'm not a fan of Christmas. I love the idea that you get together with your family and have a day of gifts and happiness, but most of my family lives 4,000 miles away from me and I usually can't get home more than once a year. 
The one thing about Christmas that wears me down is how expensive it can get. If you play your cards right and get ahead of the game, though, it can make everything easier and less stressful. 

Make a Shopping Plan

Now is the time to figure out what you want to get everyone. Make a list of what you would like to get for everyone. Include a dollar amount that you will be spending. Total that dollar amount up and add ten per cent to cover tax and the fact that you are likely to have forgotten something. There are 9 weeks until Christmas, but you want everything to be in your hot little hands a week before to minimize stress and allow yourself some wiggle room. Divide what the amount you need by 8 and that shows you how much money a week you'll be spending on Christmas up until Christmas. 

Now every week take your money and see what on your list you could buy with it. If you have items you can pick up, go and grab a few of them in your lunch hour or on your way to run another errand. If you don't have enough that week for an item, roll it over to the next week and keep going until you do. If you have a week where you aren't picking an item up, take the time you would spend doing that wrapping presents that you have previously bought.

If you follow this, you have the week before Christmas to do any additional preparation like cleaning the house up or cooking in advance, or picking up things you might have forgotten. 

Make Presents if You Can

I'm a huge fan of handmade presents. I knit a lot of gifts at Christmas time and I hope that they are well received. Knitted items are great, but another good inexpensive idea is to make up things like bread or cake mix, or pancake mix and gift that to people that you tend to give smaller gifts to. Pancake mix is a really good one because home made mix is cost effective and simple, and most people have the pans and added ingredients in their homes to make the mix up without having to buy anything new (like a bread pan). Some nice cellophane bags and ribbons along with hand written instructions on a small card can make this simple gift look sweet and special. 
If you aren't into making presents but still love the handmade feel, check out Etsy for handmade items. They have just about everything you can think of.

If you send Christmas cards, now is also a good time to start preparing them. You can purchase them and write up a few a week, then send them all in the first week of December. 

What other ways to you prepare for Christmas?
 
3 Months Ago on Distilled Rose Personal Finance

Monday, October 20, 2008

Debt Snowball Progress #3

It's so exciting that I can post more Debt Snowball Progress. My last post on this was five weeks ago when I paid off my medical bills. Now I get to report that I've paid off the third of seven debts.... my car! 

My car was technically Debt 4 but I chose to pay it off earlier than my AmEx card because it was to a real live person and it was my highest minimum payment. Paying this one off allows me to finally make more than I spend in bills, so I don't have to worry about scrambling to find extra cash in order to break even. 

So here is how my Snowball looks today:

1. Banana Republic Card - PAID ($20 Minimum to Medical)

2. Medical Bills - PAID (106.40 Minimum to Car)

3. Car - PAID (306.40 Minimum to AmEx)

4. American Express - Balance $570.15 - Minimum $321.40

5. Prosper - Balance $2435.46 - Minimum $101.01

6. Bank of America - Balance $4693.28 - Minimum $101

7. Student Loan - Balance $23821 - No Minimum

Total Remaining - $31519.89

I am, again, making really fantastic progress on all of this debt. I'm down to two jobs now, and I feel so much stronger financially than I did a few months ago. I'm so much less stressed about money. My plan is obviously working, and I'm confident that I'll have my AmEx paid off by the end of November. It's scary to think about hitting the Prosper Loan and the Bank of America Credit Card because those debts are both really big, but I think that if I keep my eye on the target I will make it. 
I've still got several more payments from the sale of my company coming in, and I'm hoping to get some more freelance writing work soon. 

I have met my October goal 11 days early!

Here are how my 2008 goals are shaping up:

Get My Networth to below -$28000 - Currently at -$28,567 - So close!

Get my Prosper Loan down to less than $2000 - Currently at $2435.36

Pay off my Banana Republic Card - DONE

Pay off my American Express - Currently at $570.15

Get Emergency Fund to $1000 - Currently at $244.71 (This took a hit when I had to buy tires)

I'm getting really close to hitting some of these. I still think that I might not make my Emergency Fund goal, but with my raise I'm putting more money in it a month than I used to, and I'll be saving more of the money from my second job to give it a boost. I really want it at that $1000 mark, and I might bite the bullet and put some extra in there if I manage to meet the other goals. 

If I keep going this way I really will have everything but my student loans paid off within a year. That will be such a sweet and fantastic feeling!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Happy Day at the Pump

Image by Bitzcelt


Since I bought my car, I have had the hardest time dealing with the price of gas. Going from using a gallon every two weeks to ten gallons every week has made it hard to deal with tighter finances. Today, though, I was pleasantly surprised. Today I filled up my car for $26. 

Gas is now about $1.20 a gallon cheaper than it was three weeks ago. This means that everyone is probably breathing a little sigh of relief. We're also coming to the end of hurricane season (November 1st), which means that technically, things will ease up. However, it's started getting cold, which means the demand for heating oil will start to go up. 

So what does this mean? Well, it means that although we are seeing a bit of slack on gas prices, it's unlikely to hold. 

Now, if I had more money, and if I were better at keeping track of things, I would take that $10.80 that I didn't spend on gas and put it in a savings account or earmark it somehow for the future. That way, I'm still acting like I'm spending $4 a gallon on gas, but I'm putting that extra money away for when it either goes higher, or to use it when I really can't afford to fill up. 

I hope this price holds for a little longer, though, because I know that everyone could really use a break.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

I'm being patient right now. very patient because I have two checks that are "on the way" to me. Once I have received them, I can write and mail the final car payment, and I'll have $200 a month off my minimum payment list.. reducing it by about 47%. I want those checks so badly. I can't wait. I'm so antsy.
It's hard being patient when you are so close that you can practically smell it. It's also difficult because I have absolutely zero control about when these checks will arrive. One is a week overdue and one is two days overdue. I know they will probably both come at the same time and there will be much rejoicing.
I'm also excited because yesterday my husband and I agreed to work on some joint savings, something which we have not done yet. We're putting away money for future travel, and eventually for a house. It's a big step for him since he has never been much of a saver. I'm really proud of him for deciding to do this. I know that this will make me feel very good when I see us working towards a financial goal together.
And so I will remain patient, and I will continue to check my mail obsessively until those checks come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 : Poverty

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2008. The idea is to have many voices talking about one issue at the same time to build awareness. I wrote this post as a stream of consciousness on what I think about poverty and I wholeheartedly welcome discussion in the comments about what I have to say.

When I think abut poverty, the first thing I think about is starving children in Africa. I think about countries that are so poor that their children are born already in debt. I think about people unable to feed or clothe their families, or people that have no access to clean water.

Then when I think more, I start to think about the United States, and then I think of desperation. I think of people who are really very rich by world standards, but who consider themselves to be so poor that they become desperate. They are not starving. They still have cars, jobs, or food. Maybe they have to forgo a vacation, or they need to downsize their house, but they aren't fighting for survival.

Poverty, to me, is a global issue, and it is unbalanced. I think that many people are richer than they think they are. But then, there are those who have no homes and are living on the street. Those who are denied basic necessities due to their lack of wealth are poor.

But in that respect, in the US, does that mean that everyone without health insurance or access to proper healthcare is poor?

A right to medicine, isn't that a basic need? Or does it really get limited to food and shelter.

Some people who are homeless do not consider themselves poverty stricken. They have food, and sometimes shelter. To you or me, they might seem poor... but not to them.

So lets get back to poverty as an issue. I think we're talking about developing nations where there is no clean water, little food and shelter, no clothes or shoes, and where children die every day of preventable illnesses. Places where people are starving to death every day. Places where children have no education, where schools are as rare as hospitals. Those are the places where I think we should turn our eye today. Those are the people that really need help, and I think that many of us are in a position to help them. I think that if everyone denied themselves one small thing and gave that to a person in a developing nation, it could really make a difference in a persons life. 

You can even give a little of your time instead of something tangible.

Discuss.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grow Your Own Basil and Save $40 and the Environment

Image by Darny


In our house, we use basil in just about everything. We put it in salads, in pasta, on pizza, in omelets, on bruschetta, in sauces, and we make our own pesto. I would buy a pack of basil from the grocery store about every other week for about $5 each time, and I would throw half of it away. 

A while ago I bought a planter, and I started growing my own basil. It was such a good decision. I never have enough to make pesto, but my basil plants always yield enough for my other recipes. I also grow my own rosemary and I used to grow parsley as well.

I like keeping plants in my house because I firmly believe that they improve the air quality in my home. I like the idea that they are taking care of some of the carbon dioxide that my husband and I are exhaling, and enriching the environment with the oxygen that they give off. 

I would say that my basil plant has saved me about $40 in basil purchases, helped me feel like I am doing my part for the environment by oxygenating the air and by avoiding purchasing basil that would come in a plastic packages, and it definitely makes my house look a little prettier. 

So are you growing your own kitchen plants inside? If you are, let me know what you successfully grow! I'm also on the lookout for natural fertilizer ideas, so feel free to share.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

News and Progress

Today we sold my husbands car. It was a tough decision for him because he really loves his sound system, but since he got his scooter he has been driving the car maybe once or twice a month. Since I have a great car, we decided it would be better to just be a one car one scooter family again. 
It also went to a friend in need. Someone I know had had a car accident and her car was totaled. She desperately needed a car, so I believe that it was a great decision for all involved. She seemed very happy with it as she drove off today. 

The other news is that I have gone on hiatus at one of my jobs. I no longer work my regular saturday job. I will still be called in if it gets busy and they need something, or if someone gets sick or takes a day off. Since it's really a seasonal job anyway, this is probably best for all involved. I wasn't making much money there so it won't feel like too big a hit and I could really use having the weekends free again. 

I'm still working on paying my car off this month, and I'm hoping to get on a more consistent blogging schedule. I'm also in need of questions for the next Monday Reader Mailbag. I still don't have enough, so feel free to ask them in the comments. 

Have you entered the drawing for my book giveaway yet?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 5

Image by Kiki99


Welcome to Part 5 in my series of Top Personal Finance Tips! 

Be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed to get all of the rest!

21. Work Out at Home

There are so many ways to work out at home and cancel your gym membership. One of my favorites is the deck of cards method. I shuffle a deck of cards and draw as many as I have time for, which is usually 10 or 15 cards. For me, red cards are squats and black cards are sit ups. You can pick any, and do suits instead of just colors if you want to add more in. Then I draw a card and whatever number value that card is, thats how many of that exercise I do. I was so happy to hear that other people use the same method as me!
I play Wii Fit as well when I can, but I have attention span issues with it. 

22. Take Advantage of 0% Balance Transfer Offers

Many credit card companies offer limited time 0% balance transfers. If you are carrying credit card debt of more than $1000, these are fantastic opportunities to save money on interest. 
When you use one of these offers, be sure to make a note of when it expires and make sure you make your payments on time or you can invalidate the offer. There is a great list of cards with these transfers available here. The reason I advise moving $1000 of debt or more is that there are usually transfer fees associated with moving the money and often if you move a really small amount it isn't as worth it. 

23. Start an Emergency Fund

I can't stress the importance of creating an emergency fund enough. I put 5-6% of my income into a high yield savings account. I am saving for three months worth of living expenses. The benefit of this is that if something happens, I can pay for it in cash and don't have to charge money to my credit cards. Also, if something happens and I couldn't work, I would not only have breathing room for a couple of months, but I would also be able to make payments on my credit cards and I wouldn't have late payments on penalties. 

24. Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

A little change can go a long way. Switching all of your lights to CFL's can save 4-10% on your energy bill. My husband claims that he doesn't like the way the light looks, and I can understand that but I can't honestly tell much of a difference and I think it is worth it. The price of CFL's is going down, and they last longer than regular lights. I highly recommend the change if you can!

25. Get Rid of Your Paper Towel Habit

I'm working on a project here. I knit, and I'm trying to make enough cotton dishcloths to stop using paper towels altogether. I hate buying them, they aren't good for the environment in that they contribute to the cutting down of trees and the encouragement of landfills. Dishcloths are incredibly inexpensive to purchase and tend to last a long time. I would recommend hand knit absorbent cotton ones if you can get them. 
There is a great Etsy store here that is selling them very cheaply and even offers free shipping through December 15th if you don't feel like making your own. 

Check out the other posts in this series:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Book Giveaway - Stop the 401(K) Rip-Off



With so much going on in the financial market and so many issues with the value of 401(k)'s dropping, I've decided that it's time to pass along my hardback copy of David Loeper's Stop the 401(K) Rip-Off
This book contains a lot of advice and solutions to improving your 401(k), getting rid of fees, and saving you a bunch of money. 

Here's How to Win

I will be drawing a name from a hat next Tuesday, October 15th. There are multiple ways to enter:

Make a comment on this post recommending a Personal Finance Book (1 Entry).

Subscribe to my RSS Feed and then notify me via me comment form in the sidebar (2 Entries).

Add my blog to your Blogroll or Link list and notify me via my comment form (3 Entries).

Write about this giveaway on your blog, link to this post and notify me via my comment form (4 Entries).


Have fun, play nice, and I'll contact the winner next week!