Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Round Up and Best Referrals

Another month is drawing to a close and in the next week I'll have my Networth Update and how I'm doing with my Savings goals.

A big thanks to my Top Referrers in August. They were:

Student Scrooge

Fire Finance
Jacob York

And these were the top articles read this month:

Frugal Food : Lunch for Less
6 Tips for Water Conservation
Frugal Food : Cost Analysis of a Lasagna
101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 1
A Mix Tape for My Readers

And last but not least, a huge nod to Scott over at The Passive Dad for being by best commenter this month!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Freeze Leftover Wine

Photo by Lord Khan

Often I'll have a glass of wine at home and I won't quite want to finish it, or I'll have a tiny amount left in a bottle that isn't enough for a decent sized glass. 
When this happens, I pour the wine either into an ice cube tray or into a tupperware container and freeze it. 
When I'm making stocks or Ragu, or anything that requires a lot of liquid and could use a little extra flavor I just throw in the saved up wine, or add just a couple of cubes. It works like a charm. 

Check out these other Saturday Handy Tips:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Watching Storms Coming In and Remembering Katrina

I tend to keep a pretty close eye on storms heading towards the United States. I have the National Hurricane Center bookmarked and it's one of the things I check every morning while drinking my coffee (along with my Google Reader and my bank account balances). 

In the Spring of 2007, my husband and I went down to New Orleans. It was more than a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina had hit and the city was still devastated. We went down for the weekend to help gut houses and build a playground. It was heartbreaking. So many houses were ruined. Some had been picked off their foundations and spun around and others were simply gone. Deserted yards were filled with children's toys. I cried so much when we were there. It was a very emotional experience. 

So now I tend to watch for storms coming in because I like to know what we're up against. I am also awed by the tremendous power of nature. I like to be ready, to not be surprised, to be aware of the impact that nature is about to have on millions of lives.

Right now, there are two Tropical Storms that are likely to hit the US; Gustav and Hanna. Both will likely be Hurricanes within the next couple of days. Gustav is currently on track to ht Louisiana. 

I'm not going to talk about being financially prepared for a hurricane, or the economic impact of what happens. I'm not going to talk about the effects on the cost of oil (though if this is your interest, Trees Full of Money is currently on an Oil Rig in the Gulf of Mexico). 
What I will do, though, is ask you if you can take the time in the next few days to go and donate blood, or sort out some old blankets or children's toys that you don't need any more. Maybe you have a few dollars that you can send over to the Red Cross, or maybe you have room in your house to take in a friend that might be about to evacuate. These are little things that can have big impacts, and you might even save a life. 

Today is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

Photo by Andrew Maier - Spring 2007

Thursday, August 28, 2008

101 Top Personal Finance Tips - Part 1

You may think you've heard it all before, but maybe you haven't!

With so many fantastic tips and advice around, I'll be covering the absolute top personal finance tips and advice in a series. These tips are about getting out of debt, building wealth, being frugal and keeping on top of your finances. To be sure you get all of these, click here to subscribe.

1. Spend less than you earn

The golden rule of debt management. You have to stop adding to it if you want to pay it off. 
Many people would advise cutting up your credit cards or making a budget. I would add to that and say that if you're making a purchase of over $50, you have to pay for it in cash. No excuses. If you don't have the money, don't buy the item. If it's a major incident like a home repair or a medical issue, then dip into your emergency fund.

2. Snowball your debt

Sort your debts out in order of the amount. Pay the minimums on everything but your debt with the lowest balance. Throw everything extra onto that debt. When it has been paid off, add the minimum from that to your next debt, lather, rinse and repeat as needed. This will enable you to have little victories as you go to keep you motivated, and to make larger and larger payments as time goes by. Be sure to keep track of your progress!

3. Pay off your credit cards

Getting rid of credit card debt is hugely important. You're paying finance charges that are adding to your debt regardless of whether or not you are still spending. If you are paying any interest at all, knocking out that credit card should be very high on your list of things to pay off. Paying interest to giant corporations is soul crushing after a while. 

4. Lower your interest rates

It doesn't work every time, but calling your credit card company to see if you can lower your interest rate only take a few minutes and can save you a lot of money. If you let them know you love the company and want to stay with them but it's hard to turn down these 0% offers, they may just double check and see if there is a special offer that they can give you. 

5. Open a high yield Savings account

If you've got money put by, be it an emergency fund or saving for college for the kids or for a house, getting the best return on those savings will only help you build your wealth faster. Most bank savings account not only have minimums or maintenance fees, but they usually have a very low APR, often below 1%. For the best savings account, it's best to check out the ones available online such as ING Direct. They will usually have no minimums, no maintenance fees, and an APR of over 3%. Make that money work for you!

Be sure to check back for more of the 101 Top Personal Finance Tips!

This post is also my entry into the ProBlogger Killer Titles Contest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Handling Impatience

I'm at a point with My Debt Snowball (yes, I'm capitalizing it now... it's time) where I'm having patience problems. I'm working hard on my second of seven debts, and I'm making great progress, but I feel like it's not moving fast enough. After this debt, I have to work on a really really big one that is more than double the last one. If I'm getting impatient now, how will I be then? I still think that I can clear everything except my student loans by the middle of next year, and probably clear a lot by Christmas, but I'm really flagging here. 
Right now I'm working seven days a week at two different jobs, I'm trying to do some freelance writing and I'm using some of my down time to make some money online
I know I'm running on empty and  just have to keep working at it, but I really really wish that I could make it all go faster. Patience, I know, is a virtue. But wow this is hard!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Switch Your Credit Card to Save Money

Photo by Alfredo Neto

I had an American Express Delta Skymiles credit card for the longest time. When I opened the account I did it because I got a huge Skymiles bonus with my first purchase, and I knew I had some traveling coming up in the future. After a time, though, it became evident that without more bonuses like that one, I would never earn enough miles for a second flight after I took my first. 

After realizing this and deciding it wasn't worth the annual fee if I was unlikely to earn the rewards, I decided that I would switch to a different American Express credit card. 
The benefit of changing to a different card within the same company is that you can make the move relatively easily and you can essentially get a different credit card without having an inquiry to your credit history. 

I moved to a Blue Cash Rewards card, which allows me to get cash back and has no annual fee. American Express also refunded me $61 of the $85 annual fee that I had already paid this year. 

This account is the current target for my debt snowball and I am fairly confident that I will have it paid off by the end of next month. I've been using the card here and there, but paying off the amount immediately from my checking whenever I charge something. This allows me to get the reward benefits for very little extra work. 

So now is a good time to look at any credit cards you have that you still use and check the company for one which has rewards that would better benefit you. 

This is my 100th post at Distilled Rose! Here are my five personal favorite posts from the last 100. 

Want to read the next 100 posts with no effort? Subscribe to my RSS Feed!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Mix Tape for My Readers

I tend to get stuck on the same music over and over again. Since I'm living a frugal lifestyle, purchasing new music is out for me and I don't tend to enjoy pirating it. 
However, there is a great way to experience new music that has been around for decades and will never go out of style. The Mix Tape. 

Mix Tapes are a collection of songs put together on a Tape, CD or Playlist and gifted from one person to another. They are a great way to learn new music. 

One of my friends and I have traded several mix CD's back and forth and it has opened me up to new (to me) music that I now really enjoy. 

If you are finding your old music stale, email a bunch of your friends and ask them to make you a mix of what they are listening to now, and then reciprocate by putting some of your old favorites together for them. 

With that in mind, here is the mix tape I would make for my readers. These are some of my favorite songs. Feel free to leave your mix tape for me in the comments!

All links are to the Youtube, some are not music videos but just something that used the song, some are live performances so sound quality varies.  

14. Calamine - Trampoline (You need to select the song and hit play)

A big thanks to Jacob York for reminding me how awesome mix tapes are this morning and encouraging me to blog about them. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

6 Easy Tips for Water Conservation

Photo by Malla Mi

A short while ago I asked readers for water conservation tips. My water bill increased by 10% last month and with it being dry season here in Georgia, I feel motivated to cut my water usage.

Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been in pretty serious drought situation for a while now. Because the population of Georgia and Florida is not getting any smaller, this will surely only get worse. Conserving water and using it responsibly is important for us, because Atlanta gets most of its water from Lake Lanier and last year the lake dropped to record low levels. If that lake somehow gets drained, it's going to be very difficult for the city to get as much drinkable water as it needs.

Even though I know I won't make a dent in the water levels on a grand scale, I can certainly still try and do better by being thoughtful and taking a little extra time to be smart about my water habits. It will probably save me money too.

6 Great Water Conservation Tips

I got some fantastic responses from readers about water conservation, and with a little extra research I have some tips that anyone can implement without having to purchase any special equipment.

1. Use one glass or refillable drinking bottle throughout the day instead of using fresh glasses each time. This reduces how often your dishwasher will be full and allows you to run it less, thus reducing water usage..

This is a great point and something I am particularly guilty of.

2. Instead of putting leftovers in the garbage disposal and washing them down with water, throw them in the trash or compost them.

I can definitely start doing this, but I live in an apartment complex so I can't compost yet. I will try to when i get a house though.

3. Catch tap water in a watering can or bucket while you are waiting for water to warm up. Use this to water the plants.

I used to be great about doing this but have slacked off recently. Time to start again.

4. FrugalWannabe recommends putting a small bottle of water in the tank of your toilet to displace water and therefore using less each time you flush.

Now that I've stopped drinking bottled water, I'm just waiting for the right bottle to come along to try this.

5. Andrea G recommends putting a bucket under the shower while it's warming up and then putting that water in the washing machine.

I think this is a brilliant idea, since washing machines really do use a lot of water.

6. Kelly from Almost Frugal recommends selective flushing, where you don't flush the toilet after you pee, only after you um, do more solid things. Make sure that everyone in your house is okay with it and remember to flush before guests come over.

Of everything on the list, this is the one thing that I am already doing

So with a tiny bit of extra work and no money, I think anyone can reduce their water conservation. Even trying one of these tips will probably help! Please let me know if you have other water conservation tips that work for you!

Are you a member of Cash Crate yet?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making Money From Cash Crate

I've jumped on the Cash Crate bandwagon and signed up for an account. 

It's an interesting system and a great way to make a little extra money. The way that Cash Crate works is you sign up for an account and you do a lot of little surveys and fill out online forms. You make small amounts of money for each. Anywhere from $0.50 to $7. When you've filled out an offer, you submit it to Cash Crate and it lists as pending. Cash Crate confirms that you have completed the offer and deposits the money into your account. 
The real kicker though is that they have a great referral program, allowing you to earn a percentage when anyone signs up under your referral link. You then also get earnings from people that they sign up. It has a lot of passive income earning opportunity. 

Pros of Cash Crate

1. You can cash out each month for as little as $10. Many other companies require a higher dollar amount before they actually send you the money. 

2. You earn money for referrals, so it's possible to make completely passive income from it. 

3. Making money from it is pretty quick and easy. $10 took me a little under half an hour and not a lot of brain activity. 

Cons of Cash Crate

1. It's all about volume. To get into the making hundreds of dollars, you will need to actively work on gaining referrals and filling out offers. 

2. When filling out forms or offers,  you need to supply your mailing address. I will update this if I end up getting any Cash Crate related mail. You also need to put your email address in quite often, though I have a special email address that I use for just that purpose. 

3. Not every offer gets approved. Some of the surveys you fill out might not end up getting approved. This seems like a pretty low percentage, though

I think this program is a wonderful thing to make a little mindless money. If you're surfing the net or bored at work, you can fill out a couple of offers here and there and it will add up over time. 

I'll certainly update with progress as I try this program. For now, though, if you would like to try it out, you can sign up here. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Give Your Savings Account a Raise

Photo by mag3737

When working on building substantial savings, many people agree that you should put away a percentage of your earned income.
Personally, I am currently putting 5% of my paycheck away to help meet my savings goals. I am working at building my Emergency Fund first, and then I have a list of other things that I am saving for.
I am about to get a raise at my regular job and with that, I will also be giving my savings account a raise. Not only will I be depositing more because it will be 5% of a bigger number, but I'll also be raising it to 6% and intend to do so every time I get a raise up to a maximum of 10% for now.

Why is this Important?

When you receive a raise, you are getting above the money that you currently have budgeted. It's easy to increase the amount of money that you are saving because even with that added percentage, it is likely that you'll still have a higher disposable income. It won't impact your every day life to put more money away, but it will build your savings much more quickly.
A 1% raise in my what I deposit into my account along with having a higher amount anyway due to my income being increased knocks 47 weeks off how long it will take to hit my Emergency Fund goal, assuming I put no money other than that into my savings.

What Will I Do When I Hit My Goal?

Essentially, when I hit one saving goal I will move on to the next in a Snowball fashion, and there will be more coming on that at a later date. Having reachable goals is an important psychological motivator, which is why I track what percentage of my goal all of my Savings accounts are currently at. I adjust this every time money goes in and it makes me feel as though I'm getting somewhere, even if all I have added is a tenth of a per cent.

Even though I don't save as much money as I would like and I do still have a lot of debt, working on my emergency fund helps me to increase my financial comfort level greatly. I feel like I am securing my future and when bad things happen I am much more prepared.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ask the Readers: Should I Make the Switch to Wordpress?

I've been deliberating for a while whether I should move this blog over to Wordpress. There are many more templates available and the plugins seem to work a little better. 
My other option would be to hire someone to customize my Blogger template (if you are or know someone who can do this, please let me know!) so that I can have a blog a little more my style and with a more professional look. Since you are the reader and I just work here, please let me know what you think. Should I stay or should I go? What do you like or dislike about my blog appearance and layout? What would you change. 
All comments be they positive or negative are greatly appreciated!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Get a Notebook

This is a great tip for writers and personal finance people alike. You should always keep a notebook on you. 

You never know when you might have a brilliant idea, or meet someone you've not seen for years and need to write down their email address. You could see a great price on something when you're out and about and want to check the price online later. 

I mostly use my notebook for writing down article ideas and keeping track of my to-do list. 
My personal favorite is my Moleskine Small Ruled Notebook. It fits neatly into my purse or my pocket and I get so much great use out of it. It also has a handy little pocket inside where I tuck business cards that people have handed me so I can get them safely home to file them away. 

Amazon has the best price on these, but you can also find them in most bookstores.

Check out these other Saturday Handy Tips:

Overcoming Writers Block

Friday, August 15, 2008

Distilled Rose Bath and Beauty is Moving!

A while ago I mentioned that there would be a big move in store for my bath and beauty company. Well the handover day is finally here!
If you are a fan of Distilled Rose Bath and Beauty you can now find my products under the name Cottonwood Herbals.
Nicole, who owns Cottonwood Herbals, is a fantastic herbalist and subscribes to the same philosophies about natural skin care that I do. 

She and I have been working hand and hand to move the same products that you know and love over there. I hope that you will go and visit her store and keep experiencing the products that I designed, as well as trying some of her wonderful stuff. 
I also hope that you keep coming back to this blog, or subscribe to it so that you can follow me on my new projects and endeavors. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What is Passive Income and How Do I Get Started?

This is a guest post from Scott at The Passive Dad. Scott runs a great personal finance blog focused on his success with Passive Income and filled with great advice on how you can follow in his footsteps. 

If you would like to submit a guest post to Distilled Rose, please feel free to contact me!

What is Passive Income and How Do I Get Started?

You might already own a passive form of income and not even know it. Actually, you don't own it, the bank does. Banks earn income from your mortgage payments in the form of interest. If you are a landlord, you also are earning passive income on your apartment or rental house. Basically, passive income is derived from investments that require little to no work. They can require a basic investment, but the maintenance and time requirement are very minimal.
Getting to the point where you have several thousand dollars to invest in real estate may be a huge step for you.

How do you start out earning passive income then? Well, it's actually easier than you think. Start with something you love and are passionate about. If you don't have a passion, think of something you would love to do if you won the lotto. Got it? Great, now write it down. Is this something you would like to research and maybe tell others about? This is how your passion can become passive income. You have so many tools available that if you are truly passionate, the passive income will follow. Let's say you are passionate about raising horses. If you won the lotto tomorrow, let's say you would want to move to Kentucky and buy a large horse ranch. You would still need to research real estate, horses, land, breeding, etc right? Now is the time to write about it and teach others about your passion.

Utilize any of the following to start turning your passion into a passive income stream:

-Create a blog for free on blogger, typepad, or wordpress
-Write an ebook
-Create a Squidoo page

Want a really easy way to start earning passive income quickly? This will help you understand how passive income works and the importance of network marketing your ideas and passions. You are already shopping online and in stores, so you might as well earn some money for your efforts right? Join BigCrumbs and start earning passive income today!

I hope you have a passion that gets you excited and fired up. If you don't, use that lotto example and think of what you would do with your winnings. Think about it and start writing your way to passive income today.

For more of Scott's articles, check out The Passive Dad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rich People Gone Broke - Jerry Lee Lewis

The Personal Finance Bloggers Network Group Writing Project is talking today about Rich People Gone Broke. There is certainly a watching a train wreck mentality when rich people lose everything that people like to watch, but the one thing a lot of people don't do is learn.

Jerry Lee Lewis (of Great Balls of Fire fame) has been a fantastic performer since the 1950's. He kept company with the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, and you can be sure that he had a lot of money. 
He also spent a lot of money on drugs, cars, instruments and houses. It's rumored he once set a Steinway Piano on fire during a Great Balls of Fire performance. He certainly wasn't frugal. 
He also didn't keep up with his taxes and eventually was hit by an unpaid tax bill for $3.75 million. Financially, he was ruined. 

What he did was pick himself back up, get into the studio to make a new record, and settled with the IRS. Through hard work, he managed to continue a successful career and get his life back on track. He's never stopped touring.

Granted, he had the leverage of being a celebrity with the ability to make more money than most people, but he also owed more money than most people. The lesson to be learned here is that when you've made big financial mistakes in the past, and when it's all caught up with you, if you knuckle down and work hard instead of pulling the covers over your head, you can certainly fix it. 

Everyone makes mistakes, we're human and we are prone to err. But most of us don't err to the tune of $3.75 million. It can always be worse!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blogosphere Link Love

Here's what I've been reading about in the Blogosphere today:

Nora Dunn over at Wisebread explains all about how to make your own Tofu, Soyburgers and Soy Milk out of Soy Beans. At $1.50 for 24 meals, I think she's definitely on to something.

Garrett McCord over at Simply Recipes has a recipe for Coconut Cupcakes that makes my mouth water. You can be sure I'm picking up the ingredients next time I hit the grocery store. 

J.D. at Get Rich Slowly introduces us to Fuelly. It's a great site that allows you to track your vehicle's fuel consumption as well as a bunch of neat add ons. I've already signed up and think it's fabulous. 

Jen at Cake Wrecks found an Olympic themed cake that made me burst out laughing. If you haven't checked out this blog yet, I highly recommend it. It's kind of  guilty pleasure for me. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Need to Save Money on Entertainment? Watch the Olympics

I get very excited whenever the Olympics come around. I'm not a sporty person, but I really enjoy watching the Olympics. So many countries come together in the spirit of friendly competition and thousands of athletes get to fulfill lifelong dreams. To even get the opportunity to compete is a really really big deal. 

Since the Olympics are in Beijing and there is a 12 hour time difference, that means that the events are being covered live in the evenings. That also means that for the next two weeks after you get done with your day, you can just flip on the TV and hang out and watch live Swimming, Gymnastics, Basketball, Fencing or anything else you might fancy.... and it's all free! You can also watch almost everything online if you don't have television. Just cook an easy meal or get a bunch of friends together and cheer on your country of choice!

I'm lucky, I get to support three countries in the Olympics. I am an American Permanent Resident, having lived here for seven years, but I also get to support my home country of Great Britain, and since my great grandfather was from Switzerland I can cheer them on too. And of course, if all of that fails you can always root for China since it's their games and as the hosting country they automatically qualified for every single event!

Things to Learn From the Olympics

1. It really doesn't matter what country you come from... it matters how you play your sport. Differences get put aside and become irrelevant. 

2. Dreams can be achieved with hard work. 

3. Team work can lead to greatness. Just ask the American Mens 4x100m Swimmers Relay Team. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekly Financial Round Up 08/10

Since I managed to get my spending under control I have stopped tracking it weekly. I've also had to start paying for gas in a car and that isn't something I like to put too much thought into since it's a tad depressing. But I would still like to use my Weekly Round Ups as a way to track my savings and debt progress. Kind of like a state of the union address, only weekly and with less made up words. 

Debt Progress

75% of my Second Job paycheck went on my debt snowball. I made a good payment on my BoA card. 

I made a car payment, which was scheduled but still knocks a good amount off my balance.

Savings Progress

5% of my Second Job paycheck went towards my savings and my accounts look like this:

Emergency Fund - 8.7%

Thailand Fund - 0.8%

Medical Fund - 1.2%

Auto Fund - 0.3%

Down Payment Fund - 0.07%

Saving in these account right now will be incredibly slow. 5% of my regular paycheck goes towards my Emergency Fund and then 1% of my Second Job pay check goes into each of the five accounts. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Friends and Money Debate

Sometimes friends can make you spend more money, and sometimes less. There is a debate on how peer pressure can be a negative influence on your spending, but then collaboration and shared expenses can be positive. 

The Negatives

1. Going out to dinner or drinks with friends can get expensive. If you're in a group, it's easier to end up ordering more food and keep filling up your glass. Friends can suggest splitting bottles of wine, or sticking around for desert. 

2. Going to see new movies fueled by the excitement of one or two people can lead to a $10+ expense for everyone else. 

3. Sometimes friends have completely different budgets, so if things are tight for you and not for others, they might not understand. If everyone has more money than you it's likely that the activities suggested will not be in line with your budget. 

The Positives

1. A Pizza split five ways and a movie rental at someone's house can make for a pretty frugal evening. 

2. Good friends can be added to a family plan on your phone to keep the phone bill down. Since lines tend to cost a small amount to add, you can then split the bill more ways.

3. Friends can share resources like books, games, DVD's and music. Friends can also give each other rides, look after each others pets, and help with other day to day things. 

So are friends more expensive to have or cheaper to have? Or does it just depend on the friends?

Some Tips for Managing Friends and Budgets

1. If you're on a budget, be honest with your friends and tell them that you might not be available to go to the Opera due to your lack of funds. 

2. Suggest pot luck events or host them at your house so that you can still hang out with the people you want to. 

3. When you sit down at a restaurant, immediately let the server know that you want separate checks and still to your budget.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Falling Off the Wagon

A Cosmopolitan at a bar costs $9. 
Mental note: Never order liquor in a bar. Please learn from my mistake. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Keeping Vacations Frugal : Trading Hawaii for North Georgia

When living a frugal lifestyle, you really can't have it all. What you can have, though, is little chunks and small victories. 
We have a standing invitation to go to Hawaii for Christmas, but since the plane tickets are so expensive, we are probably heading to my favorite bed and breakfast in the North Georgia mountains for three days or so after Christmas. 
It won't be quite the same as exploring Hawaii, but it will save us between $1000 and $2000 so it really seems like a good decision. 
I firmly believe that everyone should try and get out of the house and away from their lives at least a couple of times each year. It helps you reset and gives you personal time with your loved ones that you might not otherwise get. 
It doesn't have to be pricey. Try looking for locations of natural beauty near home, or find a really great hotel, spa or bed and breakfast to spend a couple of days at. You don't have to fly for five hours to go on vacation.... you just have to get out of the area code. 
I personally will look as forward to log fires, great views and giant bath tubs as I would to volcanoes and beaches. It's not necessarily about where, but about why I'm going and who I'm going with. 
A break is a break, regardless of how far away you go. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why Are Cell Phones So Expensive?

Here's a question. Why are cell phones so expensive? I have a family plan which I've always thought was reasonable, but now that we have two iPhones, one of which is a new 3G, our cell phone bill is very high. We are paying an extra $50 a month and I am starting to wonder if it's really worth it. I love my iPhone but it's a ridiculous expense. I really don't get why a data plan costs so much. 
Any ideas?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Menu Planning Experiment

A few days ago, my husband and I sat down with a huge stack of recipe books. I'm quite the collector when it comes to cookbooks, so we had a lot to go through. We each went through the books and marked on a post it note the page numbers of recipes we would like to try. By the time we were done with five or six books, we were a little weary and called it a day. 
However, we had marked more than sixty new recipes that we would like to try. Later this week I will be turning them into a small database and we will start going to the store to get ingredients for three or four of these new meals at a time. Then, we will start the great menu planning experiment. Anything to shake the eating out habit. 
Do you menu plan? Do you have favorite recipes? How do you avoid eating out?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Debt Snowball Progress

When I had my accident it sent me into a giant pit of financial despair. I have medical bills, I had to buy a car, I have to pay car insurance, and many other little things keep surfacing that I have to pay for. 
I decided the only way to get a grip on all of this was to just bite the bullet and get a second job. I am now working seven days a week in order to stay on top of everything. My second job is sales, so I get a base rate plus commission. So far I haven't been doing too badly, and combined with another six month long income stream, I can stay on top of my debt with a little extra to start paying down some bills.
Yesterday I received my first check and was able to pay off the first of seven debts. This was also the first end of year goal that I managed to meet. 

My debt snowball now looks like this:

Banana Republic Card - PAID ($20 Minimum transferred to AmEx)

American Express - Minimum $38

Prosper - Minimum $101.01

Bank of America - Minimum $105

Car - Minimum $200

Medical - Minimum $86.40

Student Loan - No Minimum

There are a couple of non-traditional aspects to my snowball. My car and medical payments carry no interest so although they have lower balances, I am working on the interest bearing debts first. My student loan was a loan from my parents and we have a separate agreement regarding it's payment. My normal job only allows me room to pay $130 in minimum debt payments currently, so the goal is to get all of my debt paid off or my minimums below $130 before I can stop working two jobs. 

Paying off my Banana Republic card is a great first boost. I am very happy that I was able to do that and I think that with some hard work I might be able to pay my AmEx off within another two months. 

My 2008 Financial Goals are:

Get My Networth to -$28000 - Currently at -$30,981

Get my Prosper Loan down to less than $2000 - Currently at $2575

Pay off my Banana Republic Card - DONE

Pay off my American Express - Currently at $1075

Get Emergency Fund to $1000 - Currently at $243

It looks like I am definitely on track to meet all of these goals with the only one I consider questionable being my Emergency Fund Goal. There is definitely a little light at the end of the tunnel though. 

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Get a Piggy Bank

When I was a teenager I would always save my change. I had a piggy bank and all coins automatically went into it. When I was about fifteen I finally went to put a coin in it and it wouldn't go. I emptied it out and took that money to buy my first cell phone (pay-as-you-go of course). 

As an adult, I still practice this. There are two piggy banks in my house. One is downstairs and one is upstairs. I put all my change in the one downstairs and my husband sometimes contributes to the one upstairs. When it's full or when I've fallen on harder times, I cash them out and take them to the bank. These coins usually go into my down payment fund. 

This might only add up to a few dollars, but it's hassle free saving that really adds up over time. 
However, be sure that if you do this you count out your change yourself. Banks will happily give you little paper coin rollers. Coinstar machines and other services skim a fee off the top of your money. 

Check out some other Saturday Handy Tips

Friday, August 1, 2008

July Networth Update

Here is a quick snapshot of my July Networth Update. I've actually decreased in Networth again this month. Most of this was due to my accident and having to put some medical copays and such on my credit card. I bought a vehicle that is worth more, but I still have to pay for some of it. I'll be posting a much more detailed overview of where my finances are shortly, including my savings progress and how I'm doing with my Debt Snowball.

Here is how I did last month.