Hope for your financial life and beyond

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…

[Read more…]

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

[Read more…]

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

[Read more…]

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. So 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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

5 Life Changing Moments That Lead to Lifestyle Inflation

In simplest terms the concept of lifestyle inflation refers to a person’s spending going up as their income goes up.

lifestyle inflationSome lifestyle inflation may be unavoidable but it’s a good thing to keep it in check as much as possible. Otherwise you end up living paycheck to paycheck and having little or no money let over to pay down debt, save for retirement and use for other investments.

When a person is at that point, with no money left to create a cushion, life gets really stressful.

Moments of Lifestyle Inflation

We can be drawn to increase our lifestyle at any point in life. As I see it though, there are five instances when we are most susceptible to increasing our spending. Here’s how it often works.

1. After college graduation at the first real job

[Read more…]

After 7 Years of Wedded Bliss We Are Dumping Costco

Costco wholesale warehouse entranceSeven years ago, I was introduced to and fell in love with Costco. For those who may not be familiar with its format, Costco is a membership only wholesale warehouse club that sells a wide selection of merchandise in bulk sizes. It’s a giant of a company coming in only behind Walmart on the 2014 list of largest U.S. based retail stores for total worldwide sales.

The allure of Costco is palpable the moment you walk in the doors. Big open spaces, big shopping carts, big packaging, big slices of pizza at the food court…it’s all big. Add to that the big savings of buying in bulk and you have a shoppers dream.

Indeed, I was intoxicated all those years ago at its format and the prospect of saving money. “Look how much we are saving on diapers!” I remember exclaiming the first time we shopped there. It only took one trip for me to become hooked.

Two years ago the unthinkable happened. I began to fall out of love with Costco. The reason was simple…the company began to rethink its target audience.

Costco Business Centers

[Read more…]

This One Trick Started Our Process of Doing Successful Budgets

successful budgetsThe first attempt we made at budgeting years ago was a nightmare. Our intentions were good and what we did seemed logical at the time. However, after a few short months it became apparent we could not put together successful budgets.

For those first budgets, we calculated what we wanted to spend per category for the entire year. These numbers were based on our income and what we knew (or thought) our expenditures would be. The next step was to divide by twelve to get the budget number for each month.

Seems easy enough, right?

Well, there was one big problem that showed up rather quickly that forced us to conclude this type of process was not going to work.

Every Month Is Not The Same

[Read more…]

Why I’m So Excited to Spend Money Again on Cable TV

cable TV

I revealed last week in “The Fear of Spending Once the Debt Is Gone” that my wife and I haven’t begun to wildly spend now that we have paid off all of our debt. It was a relief to know the discipline that drove us to pay off our mortgage early has continued to define our post-debt lives. We have no inclination to spend, spend, spend now that more money is available in our monthly budget

In all honestly though, we have loosened the reins on our spending a little bit.

We’ve brought back cable TV!

What? That’s blasphemy in the frugally-minded personal finance world. Cutting cable TV is always the first expenditure to go in those “10 Ways to Save Money and Pay Off Debt” posts. I’ve surely even said that before myself.

If cable TV is the first thing to cut, why can’t it be the first thing to bring back? Seems logical to me.

Needless to say everyone in the house is thrilled with this decision.

Short Term Cable TV Sacrifice For Long Term Gain

[Read more…]