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.


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. 


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:


Car Value - $2,480

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

Cash Savings - $394


Student Loans - $2,3821

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

Scooter Loan - $2,445

Net Worth


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. 


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!

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