Hope for your financial life and beyond

A New Reason I’ll Avoid the Mayhem That Is Black Friday

Whack FridayMany of you will rise out of bed at 3:00 am Friday, grab some coffee and head out the door to go stand in line at your favorite retail store, hoping to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. It’s an annual tradition, this Black Friday shopping trip that gets so many people worked up into a frenzy. I’m sure many people love the action and excitement of it all.

Me? Meh…I find it not enthralling. I’ll take my extra hours of sleep.

There are a host of reasons I chose not to shop on this day. Thanksgiving turkey hangover. The crowds. Getting prepped for the OSU/Michigan game (yes…I do this a day early…Go Bucks!).

But this year I’ve added another reason why I’ll just never go shopping on this day.

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Selling My Soul to the Devil: Why I’m Leasing a Car

Never in my wildest dreams had it crossed my mind that I’d be leasing a car. Generally speaking, leases are a bad idea and one of the worst financial products a consumer could take on. It’s almost impossible to negotiate a deal that doesn’t favor the dealer in some way. You are basically renting a car for the length of the lease and have nothing to show for it when the lease is up.

leasing a carSo no one was more surprised than I when two weeks ago I signed a two-year lease on a car. I felt a bit dirty doing it, like I was committing the cardinal financial sin and selling my soul away. So I’m writing today to explain my actions given the terrible track record leases have for the consumer.

This deal happened only because my wife and I will come close to breaking even on the lease over those two years. I’ll be driving a new car almost for free.

The Unique Circumstances That Have Me Leasing a Car

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3 Sneaky Marketing Words Companies Use to Lure Consumers

sneaky marketing wordsIt’s a beautiful, sunny October day here in the South. One where the temperature is just right and fall has knocked the humidity on its knees. The kids are playing in the front yard and I’m strolling to the mailbox to see what goodies the postman has dropped off today.

Reaching into the box I find the typical…bill, bill, Value-Pak ads, postcard advertising a lawn care service and lastly one shiny, black envelope that is obviously a credit card mailing from the logo printed on the front. What caught my eye however was not the logo but the three little marketing words printed just below the fold on the back side of the envelope…

It read: “We miss you.”

Awww…how touching.

Let me shed a tear as I throw this in the trash, all the while having Klymaxx’s “I Miss You” lyrics churning through my head.

Marketing Words of Love

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How to Make a Zero Based Budget in 3 Easy Steps

One task that may not be apparent to first time budgeters is to create a zero based budget. My wife and I had tried to make a monthly budget before but for one reason or another, our budgets never seemed to work. Putting this step in place helped us lesson those failures and move us towards a place of continual success with our budgets.

zero based budget

The process of putting a zero based budget together is not hard to understand. Like any other budget it does require some planning and attention throughout the month because you might have to tweak some numbers here and there as life happens. In my opinion it’s the best type of budget to put together as it leaves no room for money to go unaccounted for.

What Is a Zero Based Budget?

There are a few simple steps to take in order to make a zero based budget.

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My Parents Were Frugal but Sometimes I’m Not

Today I’m guest posting and commenting at the personal finance site Club Thrifty. Click the link below to find out ways that my spending patterns differ from those of my parents.

thrift store signBy every inch of the definition my parents were thrifty. They shopped for clothes at second hand stores, always bought used cars and could sniff out a sale with the best of them.

They had to be. There wasn’t another option on a social worker’s and private school teacher’s salary. It was live that way so as not to go without…

I’m completely thankful for the example my parents set in regards to the wise use of money. I’ve carried many of those same principles of frugality and budgeting into adulthood, although some like budgeting took me longer to grasp. I haven’t completely followed in their path though and some of the differences sometimes bother me.

Click here to continue reading at Club Thrifty…

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How Often Should You Change Your Mattress? Every 5-7 Years?

I don’t usually do rants. But today I’m all fired about a commercial I heard run on a local radio spot here in the Atlanta area. I won’t mention the national chains name because a) it’s irrelevant and b) the commercial was actually quite bad in my opinion. The commercial in question supposedly answered the question, “How often should you change your mattress?” I was shocked by the answer.

how often should you change your mattressThis commercial’s action message challenged consumers to replace their mattress every 8 years. I shouted “What?!” out loud when I heard that (and I never do that in the car). Think I actually scared myself…and the driver in the car next to me at the red light.

I thought to myself that there is no way this could possibly be true. Does the mattress industry really suggest that consumers replace their mattress every 8 years? Well, when I got home and started doing some research I realized it’s even worse than that.

Current industry suggestions are that consumers replace their mattress every 5-7 years.

Give me a break!

An Inconsistent Mattress Message

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Give Up to Go Up: Spending Money For Personal Growth

Hidden Nuggets Series #56 – “…Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God…” (Hebrews 11:24-25)

give up to go upToday and tomorrow I’ll be immersed in all things personal finance as I’m attending a conference in New Orleans known as FinCon. Finance professionals, bloggers and financial news media from around the country will be engaging one another on the current trends in the industry. I probably won’t see the craziness that might happen at an event like Comic Con or Dragon Con but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

I’ve read over the past few weeks that some of my colleagues were able to afford the conference trip through travel rewards received from their credit card. I think that’s awesome for them, as they will be getting a nearly free stay in The Big Easy. I’m completely off credit cards though so that option is not available to me.

Once I factor in all the expenses – conference fees for my wife and I, our hotel stay, food and travel expenses from Atlanta – we will spend over $1,000 for this trip. That seems like a lot of money and maybe it actually is for a three-day conference for two.

The more difficult part is that I’ll be missing one of my daughter’s volleyball games and two of my youngest son’s T-ball games. It’s his first season playing so I’m really looking forward to being there for him. Yes, there will be other games but I’m sad at having to miss two of them.

In the end though, shelling out the money and missing family time are all sacrifices I’m willing to make for the trip because this one thing I know…

You have to give up to go up.

Give Up to Go Up

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The Hidden Costs of College: How to Manage the Incidentals

costs of collegeMy alma mater, Cedarville University in Ohio, has a favorite destination that attracts students each and every day while school is in session – Young’s Dairy in Yellow Springs. It’s definitely one of the hidden costs of college because I had no idea how much time I would spend there. It seemed like once a week someone in my dorm would yell, “Hey, we are making a Young’s run. Who’s coming?”

Boy, that was always tempting. Seemed like it always came at the right time too. You know…at 9 o’clock at night when your punching out that term paper and your stomach is rumbling. What college student could resist a grilled cheese, fries and milkshake in that moment?

Defining Hidden Costs of College

Those late night snack runs are one example of the hidden costs of college. They are hidden because we miss factoring them into the overall expense of college. Students and parents focus on the big college numbers that are causing so much trouble: tuition, fees, room and board and forget there are a bunch of little incidentals that, when taken cumulatively, add up to big dollars.

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Why a Travel Budget Should Be a Must For Everyone

travel budgetAh…the joys of having a travel budget. It’s 1:00 pm in the afternoon and I’m doing something so commonplace in today’s world it hardly seems extraordinary anymore, except maybe through the eyes of a child. I’m at an airport watching planes take off and land. Boring, huh?

Except this is no ordinary airport.

I’m standing on Maho Beach…in St. Maarten…with dozens of tourists…and a fenced in Princess Juliana International Airport just a few yards behind me.

Out over the water a tiny speck appears on the horizon. “Ahh…right on schedule,” the person next to me says. As it moves nearer, the onlookers at the beach scramble into position, iPhones in hand recording the moment. Closer and closer it comes. “Ooh this is a big one,” someone exclaims.

I dig my feet into the sand to sturdy myself. Right now, I’m realizing how exciting it is to have a travel budget.

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It Is Not a Sin to Buy a New Car

buy a new carIs it ever OK to buy a new car? You won’t find many people advocating that practice. Rather it’s viewed as the cardinal personal financial sin. Anyone considering buying a new car instead of a used one runs the risk of being called a foolish, image conscious over spender.

That’s a tough rap. I don’t want to be lumped into that crowd. But c’mon…is it really that big a deal to buy a new car?

I’ll answer my own question by saying “It depends.”

Buy a New Car: Want vs. Need

I don’t believe anyone can justifiably say they need a new car. There will always be a used alternative to satisfy any life scenario. Even a family of twelve can find a used passenger van on the market.

Clearly a new car is a want and I’m perfectly fine with that. People should not be condemned for wanting something new. My wife and I just purchased our first completely matching bedroom suite this past week after 18 years of marriage. We’ve wanted a new one for a really long time but kid priorities and other financial matters have always taken precedence.

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Back to School Savings I Don’t Care About

Back to school shopping at TargetI don’t know the schedule in your neck of the woods but in five short days my kids go back to school. Oddly enough, for the most part they are looking forward to it. In a way so am I as it will mark the first time that I will be home alone as a stay at home dad. It’s going to be eerily quiet around the house but I’m anticipating that will benefit my writing.

Of course back to school means shopping. Ugh! That dreaded time when you realize the kids have grown two inches over the summer and the school pants that fit in May are now riding up their shins. And of course, the mile long supply list the school sent with all it’s specialty items has your mind spinning. What in the world is “Mod Podge” and where can I buy it?

Helping Consumers Save on Back to School

Some retail stores do a great job this time of year revamping and organizing their floor space to make it easier on the back to school shopper. Our two destinations – Target and Office Depot – had school specific zones where we could easily shop and pick up our items. And naturally they got the word out through advertisements on how we could save on back to school items at their store. Amazon does a great job of this as well, offering specials discounts on school items and free shipping for college students if you purchase items on their site.

Local and state governments also get involved to help consumers save a little bit of money during the back to school season.

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