Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 - Plans for a Better Financial Year

So, as Wednesday's post indicated, 2011 was not a good year for us financially.  We made some headway. We didn't move in the wrong direction, but we really did not move forward a whole lot either.  We basically treaded water for the year as a whole.

And I was utterly depressed when I looked at the numbers.

So for the upcoming year I am making the following, hopefully more attainable goals for our family's finances.  This is assuming that the apocalypse doesn't really happen at the end of this year and make all of these plans worthless. =)

Reread Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover:
This is the book that kicked us into gear, and I obviously need to be kicked again. So I'm going to reread this for hopefully a new burst of inspiration

Figure out SOMETHING to do with the timeshare:
If you've been here for more than a month, you know how we own a timeshare and how I absolutely loathe it. We should have the deed in hand within the first month or so of 2012 and then we will start the process of getting rid of it.  I hope to resell it to the resort for a drastically reduced cost just to get it out of our hands. Yes...we'll still owe the money on it via the Lending Club loan, but at least we won't have maintenance fees and the burden of it hanging over us.  If we have to, we are willing to just deed it back to the resort just to get rid of it, but we'll of course get money for it if we can.  Anything we get for it will go straight into paying off debt. No rerouting of any of those funds.

Pay off $10K in debt:
Last year, I had HUGE aspirations for paying off debt based on some plans that didn't fall into place. This year, we're going with what we currently have and making plans based on current income remaining the same. If we get more, then that will just be a bonus and we'll happy dance all over the place (including this blog).

Cut up my hated Chase credit card:
I know...I probably should have already done this, but I haven't.  But I want to. This year. It's my oldest and largest credit account and that fact scares me regarding what it will do to my credit score. But I plan to build up the courage to do it and throw caution to the wind in regards to my credit score. I want to live like nobody else, right?

Tithe every.single.paycheck:
I know this shouldn't be hard, but it has been in the past, so I'm working on making this totally normal...even when it isn't comfortable.

What about you?  What are your financial goals for 2012?

Photo credit: svilen001

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - What We DID Accomplish

So yesterday's post was utterly shameful. It was embarrassing. It was humbling. It was depressing.

But 2011 was not a total waste. So today's I'm going to celebrate those things that we DID accomplish over the last year.

We paid off debt:
Okay, so $5500 isn't much to brag about, but in a society that is drowning in debt, this is not really that bad. We are at least moving in the right direction.

We refinanced our timeshare:
We chose to take out a Lending Club loan to use for the timeshare. It will allow us to get our deed in hand and hopefully get rid of it soon. As a bonus, the interest rate and terms are far more favorable for us and we're making real headway now. You can read more about the numbers game of it here. Seriously paying off for us!

Started an allowance system for Patrick:
It satisfies our desire to teach him hard work = money as well as "you're a member of this family and you're going to do chores without getting paid."  He's got his first savings account get up now and we're plugging away at it.  Financial lessons for kids - here we come! Details about the system are here.

Our Net Worth Topped $100,000:
This is a real reason to celebrate. I know it's a bit crazy to be stuck on a particular number, but that just seemed like a really nice milestone. Including our depleted home value and our mortgage, this is what we come up with despite our debt woes. Thank you, retirement plans!

So that's it.  What do you want to celebrate with me today? It can be finance related, or not. Just share.

Photo credit: calderilla

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review

Let's take a moment and review a snippet from a post from about a year ago:

I'm not going to call these my resolutions. Why? I'm notoriously horrible at keeping New Year's resolutions. And I want these to stick. So I'm psyching myself out by not calling them what they essentially are.

And then I gave you a list of non-resolutions.  So let's review how these turned out:

Pay down an additional $25,000 in debt.

Oooh...this was the big one.  And how did we do?

Paid off a whopping $5721.18.

Yep...that's it.

I obviously have failed at being a debt-paying-offer.

The non-resolution of paying off that chunk of change depended on a huge item that didn't happen.  In June, Chip left for OCS (Officer Candidate School) for the Army. It would be a full time pay (at a higher rank) for 2 months along with a housing allowance and travel pay. In other was going to be a pretty sweet couple of months to pay regardless of him being away for 2 solid months with little to no contact with us.

After that, he had hoped to go for at least a few months of this year to his next stage of training, which would have been full time pay again. 

These things? Did not go as planned.  Chip was not ready for OCS.  And once he came home before graduation, he decided that he had gone for the wrong reason. He had gone for the paycheck. He really doesn't fee like he wants to be an officer or command other soldiers. He wanted a nice paycheck to round out his last eight year of military service that he needs before qualifying for retirement.

So that estimate of $25K was based on paycheck that never came. And now? He is at home taking care of our lovely daughter, which saves us a bundle in childcare, but does not add income to our household income. I'm totally okay with both parts of that, but it doesn't factor in well with paying off a huge amount of debt.

Maintain our $1500 starter emergency fund.
We actually have more in it right now because Chip was paid upfront when he went to OCS.  I put the excess money in our savings account so I wouldn't lose track of it and spend it or send it to debt repayment so that when the Army wanted it back, they could have it in one lump payment.

However, the Army has started taking it out of his monthly drill paycheck. I need to get him to find out if this is their plan going forward, because if so, we'll just go that route and I'll send the extra money off to debt repayment and up that balance down some more.

Continue tithing 10% each paycheck.
This is something I did really well for the first few months of the year. Then things got hard and faith obviously wavered.  That's hard to admit, but it is the only explanation I have for stopping our tithe. I was scared when the money wasn't there for a few weeks, which is silly because God has always been faithful to make what we have work for us when I do tithe. But this controlling part of me panicked and this was the result. I will say that the last couple of months this year, we resumed tithing, so we are back on track.

Gift an additional $200/month toward our Relentless campaign.
This is an ongoing capital campaign at our church for various projects going on.  We made a faith promise of $200/month for two years. When my faith wavered (see tithing above), this suffered as well. So we have to get back on the wagon with this as well.

Side hustle $3000 this year.
This actually turned out okay.  We pocketed $4947.00 this year by selling stuff and in debit card rewards.  Some of that was due to my etsy shop, which ran really well the first half of the year (but I decided to close until further notice when Chip left for OCS so I could spend more time with the kids).

So 2/5. 

That's depressing. A 40% success rate.  There are not many people who would bet with odds like that.

But this year we're going to see what we can do.

Although we didn't eliminate $25K in debt, we did get rid of $5K. Which is better than nothing. And we've got a plan going forward. Tomorrow we'll talk about some successes that we not planned - mainly just to make me feel better about what I had to report to you today. Then on Friday, we look into the upcoming plan for 2012.  Maybe the goals will not be as naive this go around.

Photo credit: ilco

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Free - or Almost Free - Christmas Activities You Still Have Time to Do With Your Kids

Photo credit: tome213
I know...Christmas is a mere 4 days away (WHAT?!), but there is still time to make some great holiday memories with your kids. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Bake Cookies - they can be complex, or really, really simple.  They can even be slice and bake from the grocery store although you miss out on the memory-making-mess that way (pro or con?).  Regardless, everyone loves cookies and spending the time with your kids making them gives them somethings to be proud of and something to gobble up. Bake some extra and visit neighbors. It's a great way to show yours appreciation for friendships or to even meet new neighbors you do not know.
  2. Drive Around and Look at Lights - This one is easy.  If you live in a city, drive out to suburbia or just downtown to see how stores have decorated.  If you live in suburbia, I don't have to tell you how simple this is to pull off.  Just drive. You can't miss them. Even if you live in a rural area, you'll be able to find some spectacular displays. Have your kids tell you what they like most about each display.
  3. Hot Cocoa - Make some cocoa and sit around and play a board game or tell stories. Just don't turn on the TV. That's for another bulleted item.
  4. Favorite Christmas Movie - Here's that turn on the TV part. Make it special. Maybe it's your favorite as a child, like the Frosty and Rudolph specials.  Maybe it's a classic like Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life. Maybe it's a comedy (Elf?). Maybe it's a newer holiday movie (Polar Express, The Santa Clause, etc). Whatever you like, cuddle up together as a family. Turn off the computers and cell phones and just spend time together (with popcorn?) and settle in for some memories.
  5. Visit Bass Pro Shops - If you have one of these, they offer a huge selection of holiday fun for the kids. There is a great Santa photo op where they give you a free picture, crafts, games, coloring pages, and lots of fun things to look at in the store as well.  Seriously...this store knows what it's doing.
  6. Go Skating - Okay, so if you live anywhere in the northern half of this country, this is an option for you. Some of us in the southern half have an indoor version that would work. Regardless - even if you are no good - don't be afraid to let your kids see you as a hopeless klutz on a set of ice skates. They will remember the hilarity that ensues and I promise it will be worth the exchange of your pride for those smiles.
  7. Read the Christmas story - The real one. Open up your Bible (we do this on Christmas Eve) and read from either Matthew or Luke - whichever version you prefer - or both and share the real reason for the season.
  8. Volunteer - If your children are old enough to help, take them with you to a charity or shelter and help out. They need to see you giving back while they learn to do the same. There is still time for this.
  9. Play outside - Don't just send the kids outside - go have a snowman building contest or have a snowball fight. Just on a sled and take off down the hill.  Just get out there and enjoy the time with those little ones that won't always be around to play with.
  10. Attend a church service - Most churches have Christmas Eve services, but this year we get that seldom event of Christmas Day hitting on Sunday. Do you attend?  Do you spend that time with family? My vote is to attend - He is the reason to celebrate, right?  If that means moving your family activities to Saturday or Monday, do it. Don't skip church to celebrate Christmas. That seems a little ironic.
Do you have any other suggestions that can be pulled off between now and Christmas?  Let's here them! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Financial Status - Update #22 - November 2011

If you don't love to read this bland update, I understand. It's how I keep myself accountable (knowing it will be posted publicly even if no one reads it!). If you don't want to read, just come back tomorrow for a real post. =)

Sorry this is late in the month. I planned to do this last Thursday but was sick, so it didn't happen. But here it is in all of its ugly glory:

Our income has decreased by $200/month.  This is due to the Army withholding $200 from Chip's guard check each month to pay back the money they advanced him for OCS, which he did not complete. That extra money they paid us has been sitting in our savings account waiting for them to ask for it back.  I need to find out if they just want to keep pulling it out monthly or if they want us to pay it back in lump sum.

On an up note, Chip did sale a trumpet mouthpiece, so that was an unexpected $80 in our pockets.

Gasoline: $24 under budget for the month. I guess this is the lack of work and school commuting for Thanksgiving. I don't know...but I'll take it!
Car Parts/Service: $30 under budget for the month.  Because of previous work done on the cars, we are $115 over budget on the rolling budget, but the plan is to have a few months without any service needs and let this work itself out.
Electricity/Water: $12 under budget for the month.  Because of  really high bills during the summer, we are still $37 over our rolling budget, but I'm hoping that will work itself out next month with another low set of bills.
Doctor: $25 under budget.  We had one doctor's appointment but since I get reimbursed for 2 co pays per family member a year, I was reimbursed this amount.  So we have $105 overage on the rolling budget, but pending no major illnesses over the next few months, that should work itself out as well.
Childcare: $20 under budget.  No need this month.  I'm about to decrease this amount because we don't use it frequently so I can free up some space in the budget.
Hair: $25 under budget.  Nothing here.  I think I'm actually going to use up a bit of my $156 credit in the rolling budget version of this category this weekend. As a treat to myself. I know...looking at this budget, it doesn't look like I deserve a treat, but my hair is AWFUL!
Toiletries: Spent $0 this month, but am over on the rolling budget, so I'll have to wait for that one to roll on out on its own.
Clothing: $20 under for the month, but since I bought some winter stuff previously, I'm still over the rolling budget by $120.

Auto Insurance: No surprises here.
Television: As usual.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Mobile Phone: Nothing new here.
Alarm Monitoring/Pest Control: Regular charges here.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: On course.

Fast Food/Dining Out: $232 over budget. I know...but I do know where it went.  Almost all of it ($181 of it) went to buying dinner for us and our extended family when they came into town.  We paid for it because they had paid the travel costs. We knew what we were doing, but in the transparency of disclosure on this blog, I have to tell you about it.
Groceries: $296 over budget. Another big one. This was mostly having double the number of people in our house for 5 days and needing to eat big Thanksgiving meals. We should have planned better all around, but here it is.
Pharmacy: $10 over budget. Since Chip's acid reflux has started acting up again we had to buy some OTC medicine for him. That stuff isn't cheap (even when you buy the generic), so here it is.
Baby Supplies: $15 over budget.  I cannot wait for Abigail to decide she's ready to potty train so I can completely get rid of this category.  I'm shooting for a big potty training weekend in January. Wish me luck!
Home Supplies: $11 over budget. I rarely use this category, so I'm not too broken up over this.

  • Sent $138 more than budgeted to credit cards. Every little bit helps, right?
  • Spent $40 to renew our Sam's membership.
  • Spent $125 on a night on the town for our 10th anniversary. I know...we probably shouldn't have, but we did and it was really enjoyable. Our awesome neighbors kept the kids, so we did save on that!
  • Spent $63 on Operation Christmas Child shoebox items.  I just got an email saying that our boxes have arrived in the Ukraine! Love it!
  • We spent $19 on a gym membership that I've been begging Chip to use or cancel. I would rather him cancel it altogether, but he feels he needs it to keep in shape for the Army. I wouldn't mind so much if he would at least go.
  • Spent $40 on snacks for Patrick's classroom. It's a once-a-semester kind of thing. And we'll get 8 hours of volunteer logged for buying them, so I'll take it.
  • Spent about $200 on Christmas gifts. Almost done!

Debt Paid off Since October 2011: $655.07

Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $23,289.19
Change in Networth from September 2011: -15.33  (boo, retirement plans)
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $43,611.88

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countdown to Christmas - Daily Treats

This year we are doing something different for Christmas. Although the season is always full and fun, I want to make sure it is fun of memories for our children. Fun things that may make MY schedule full, but will build excitement for our children.

So each day, we will be doing SOMETHING holiday related.  And bonus - most of them cost nothing. =)
  • December 1 - Decorate the tree and pull out the Fisher Price Nativity for the kids to play with
  • December 2 - Attend Christmas musical that Chip is playing in
  • December 3 - Savannah Lighted Christmas Parade
  • December 4 - Shop for Angel Tree child and take Christmas pictures
  • December 5 - 8:00 Charlie Brown Christmas special (ABC)
  • December 6 - Pinecone Trees
  • December 7 - 7:30 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated) (TOON)
  • December 8 - Bake and decorate Christmas cookies
  • December 9 - The Journey
  • December 10 - City Market Christmas in downtown Savannah
  • December 11 - Gingerbread Village
  • December 12 - Bake Treats
  • December 13- Watch 2 Christmas cartoon classics (Rudolph, Frosty, etc)
  • December 14 - Gingerbread House Kits
  • December 15 - Snowman from Socks
  • December 16 - 6:30 Mickey's Christmas Carol (ABCFamily)
  • December 17 - Make pottery for Nana for Christmas
  • December 18 - Bass Pro Santa's Wonderland and choose this year's ornament (kids get a new one they choose each year)
  • December 19 - Take treats to Police Station and Post Office
  • December 20 - Make handprint ornaments
  • December 21 - Watch 2 Christmas cartoon classics (Rudolph, Frosty, etc)
  • December 22 - Take Food to Fire Station
  • December 23 - Drive around and look at Christmas Lights
  • December 24 - Church, reading of The Christmas Story
What about you?  What are some fun things you do at Christmas to make it memorable?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Age Appropriate Chores

Yesterday I spoke about the chore system we are starting to use for our son.  I am a firm believer in children learning work and responsibility from a young age.  Whether or not you want to pay them for their work is a personal decision.

Please note that the handling of chores might vary with your child's maturity level and any physical limitations your child might have, so the ones I'm laying out are from experience and just to be used as a general guideline or a place to start. Regardless, these are tasks that may be age appropriate for your little ones.

1-2 Years (I told you - we start early)
  • Picking up Toys
  • Putting clothes in hamper/laundry basket
  • Putting dry food in pet bowl using a plastic cup
  • Brushing/flossing their teeth (with assistance)
  • Putting items in trashcan
  • Picking out their clothes for the next day (with guidance for weather considerations of course)
  • Help make their beds
  • Clean up spills they make
  • Put things back where they found them

3-4 Years (including any listed above)
  • Making their beds
  • Brushing teeth/flossing (supervised but unassisted)
  • Putting food and water in pet bowl using a plastic cup
  • Dusting (use a sock on their hand)
  • Dress themselves with minimal assistance.
  • Bringing in lightweight items from the car
  • Start learning how to sweep or holding dust pan for parent (no, the sweeping won't be pretty at this point, but they have to learn somehow), use dry mop on floors
  • "Help" wash the car
  • Help water plants
  • Clean own setting at table

5-6 Years (including any listed above)

  • Put away laundry
  • Sort laundry (colors/whites/etc)
  • Fold towels, socks, etc (some might even be able to clothing)
  • Sweep
  • Clip coupons
  • Clean windows (inside)/glass doors with supervision
  • Clean walls/baseboards, doors, doorknobs
  • Help wash the car
  • Water plants
  • Weeding (with supervision)
  • Hang up towels in bathroom
  • Pet's food and water
  • Load dishwasher (with supervision)
  • Dictate thank you notes for parents
  • Set table
  • Fix bowl of cereal
  • Prepare school items (backpack, homework, etc) for next day
  • Getting the mail

7-9 Years (including any listed above)
  • Pet's food, water, and exercise
  • Vacuum rooms
  • Wet mop rooms
  • Wash windows (inside) and doors without supervision
  • Put away dishes from dishwasher
  • Help prepare food (with supervision)
  • Pour drinks
  • Make PB&J sandwiches
  • Get own snacks
  • Help use coupons at store
  • Help put away groceries
  • Take out trash
  • Rake leaves
  • Weeding
  • Answer phone
  • Write thank you notes
  • Dry dishes by hand
  • Learn how washer and dryer work
  • Clean own room entirely
  • Clean mirrors
  • Help pack lunch for following day
  • Basic organization
  • Prepare own bath

10-14 Years (including any listed above)
  • Solely responsible for homework (parents can check over, but should not have to remind)
  • Get self up and ready in morning
  • Wash dishes by hand
  • Launder own clothes
  • Iron clothes (with supervision at first)
  • Learn to fold fitted sheet (yes...this is a skill)
  • Wash windows inside (and out if your windows fold inward)
  • Change sheets on bed
  • Deep clean own room
  • Put away all groceries
  • Change light bulbs
  • Clean kitchen (with supervision at first)
  • Clean bathroom (with supervision at first)
  • Mow the lawn
  • Help make grocery list
  • Cook a basic meal (reheating, grilled cheese & soup, etc)
  • Bake cookies and cakes
  • Older of group can baby sit in some states
  • Prepare lunches for following day
  • Change a litter box (for cat owners)
  • Give dog a bath
  • Basic home repair (painting, hanging picture, etc)
  • Learn basic car repair/maintenance

15-18 Years (including any listed above)
  • Cook a meal
  • Landscaping (edging, trimming, etc)
  • Run errands to grocery store
  • Make shopping list
  • Run carpool errands for young siblings
  • Baby sit
  • Purchase own clothes
  • Maintain their vehicle (gas, oil, possibly insurance)
  • Deep cleaning appliances (oven, fridge, defrost freezers, etc)
  • Check and replace vacuum cleaner bags
  • Clean gutters
  • Chop wood
  • Clean fireplace
What do you think?  Any I should add?  Any I should shift around? 

Photo credit: hortongrou

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Chore System

Now that our son is six, we've decided to start giving him an allowance. He often wants to buy things and we don't like to buy things "just because" but really do understand that he should have the right to buy something he wants if he has the money and he should learn how spending works.

 Before we get into an argument around here about whether children should be paid for their chores or not, let me give you a few different views on the matter.
  1. Yes - Children should be taught to equate work with money and learn that hard work = payday.
  2. No - Children should do chores because they are a member of the family and should not get paid for their chores.
  3. No - Children should get paid each week to have spending money but not in direct response to the work they have done. However, lack of work or behavior problems can result in lack of payment for the week.
And us?  We're kind of doing a combination of the three above. 

Here is what our plan is.  Patrick already has some chores that he does just because he is a member of the family.  This includes setting the table, cleaning up after himself after dinner, putting away his clean laundry, picking up all toys before bedtime, putting all clothes in the hamper when dirty, and picking out clothes for the next day of school. He will be making his bed as soon as we have him in a full size bed at the beginning of next year (currently he sleeps on a daybed without any covers - by choice). Other things come up, but those are the usual culprits for him.

We've decided that we're going to leave those alone.  General tidiness is something that I expect from all members of our family pertaining to their body and their living space.  I don't think people should get paid for being neat.

We are going to add some tasks though that he CAN get paid for.  What?  Yep - none of his chores will be required work, but will only be done if he wants to earn money.  They will be weekly chores that Chip or I currently do, but our son is capable of doing. Harder chores will be worth more money. If he wants to earn some money for the week, he will do those chores. If he feels he does not want to do those chores, he will not earn any additional money that week and we will do those chores ourselves as we always have.  And - money will be deducted from his weekly total with behavioral problems that come up.

I think this will teach him the following:
  • Work = Money
  • Hard Work = More Money
  • No Money = No Spending
  • How to do the tasks in question by practical hands-on learning.
  • Stupid choices (behavioral problems) can cost.
Also - it will just help us out because we won't have to do it that week.

To put this into practice though, I am using a system that I saw on Pinterest.  I am modifying it slightly by not specifically using chalkboard paint and weighting each chore the same, but the same concept applies.

One will be a bucket of chores using craft sticks to note the chore and the amount that chore will earn.  The other bucket will be completed chores.  After he finishes a chore, he can move the stick from one bucket to another.  At the end of the week we will tally up the completed, deduct $0.25 for each red stick in the completed bucket (indicating a behavioral problem) and pay him.  From this total we will teach saving and tithing, but that is a post for another day, as this one will be long enough as it is!

Currently, this is the list I have for weekly tasks:
  • Bring trash from upstairs bath and his bedroom downstairs to big trashcan - $0.25 (once a week)
  • Sweep kitchen - $0.50 (once a week)
  • Sweep living room - $0.50 (once a week)
  • Feed dog - $0.25 (up to 4 times a week) - she doesn't eat a full bowl a day
  • Fold laundry (towels only) - $0.25 (once a week)
  • Fold laundry (his and his sister's - all) - $1.00 (once a week) - it's one load for the two of them combined. And he actually folds laundry really well.
  • Dust - $0.25 per room, up to 6 rooms
That would total up to $5.00 if he did every task possible.

And I have ideas for specialized tasks that are not every week deals, but will be added to the bucket on an as-needed basis:
  • Clean baseboards (all) - $1.00 per level of the house (we have 2 stories)
  • Clean windows (all) - $1.00 per level of the house (we don't have that many windows)
  • Clean storm doors - $0.25 per door (we have 2)
  • Help wash car - $0.50 to $2.00 depending on amount of participation
  • Clean doors/doorknobs/scuffs on walls (all) - $1.00 per level of the house; $0.25 for small jobs
  • Clean cabinet fronts - $0.25 per bathroom; $0.50 for lower level of cabinets in kitchen
  • Water plants - $0.25 (we don't have that many plants - it would increase with more plants)
  • Put away groceries - $0.50 - $1.00 depending on level of participation. Not a weekly task because we often grocery shop while he is at school.
For those variable tasks, we can incorporate our other colored craft sticks (that we already own) by color coding the amount.  For instance, move the "Clean baseboards" stick to the completed bucket and two blue "$1.00" sticks if he does all of the baseboards on two levels.

We'll modify it as we go.

But that's the plan.

What do you think?  Do you pay children for their chores?  What type of system do you use?  What other tasks could our 6 year old do?

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Honor of Our Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, I am posting this email forward I received. I confirmed it on Snopes to be true. Enjoy!

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School, Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten.

On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room, they discovered that there were no desks.

"Ms. Cothren, where's our desks?"

She replied, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk."

They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

"No," she said.

"Maybe it's our behavior."

She told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period...still no desks in the classroom.

By early Afternoon, television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and, as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk less classroom, Martha Cothren said, "Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you."

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, "You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it."

By the way, this is a true story.

Thank a soldier and their family today.  If you've been part of a military family, you understand the sacrifice that these people make.  If you haven't, be grateful that someone in the past was, and still today is, willing to sacrifice so that you could be free. Free to learn, free to earn, free to believe - or not to believer, free to speak, free to read, free to write, free to gather, free to vote, free to work, free to spend, free to save.  You are free to make every choice you make in our nation because thousands were willing to die for the dream of those freedoms. Enjoy your freedoms and do not take their gift for granted.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Handmade Christmas Gifts to Save You Money

If you are anything like us, you are finding yourself this year on a more limited budget than you might have found yourself in the past.  Or maybe you're just attacking debt.  Or maybe you're doing fine financially but decided there is no reason to spend a lot of money on Christmas presents when you can make some that mean more to the recipients.

Regardless of why you're reading this post, obviously you are looking for some low cost alternatives for Chritsmas presents.  Here are some ideas that I've run across (mostly on Pinterest) for some great gift ideas that won't break the bank.

Click through below (sorry - I didn't want all of the photos clogging up my front page).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our Financial Status - Update #21 - October 2011

If you don't love to read this bland update, I understand. It's how I keep myself accountable (knowing it will be posted publicly even if no one reads it!).  If you don't want to read, just enter some giveaways (listed in right sidebar) and come back tomorrow for a real post.

So this month we made just a little headway on our debt and a couple of costly purchases. Let's take a closer look:

Our income was right on target.

Pharmacy: $5 under budget. Since I only have a $5 budget, this works out well. =)
Home Supplies: $0 spent in this category this month as well. Hooray!
Childcare: $40 under budget for the month because of some awesome friends who watched the kids while we went out for our anniversary! Love them!
Hair: $25 under budget.  I'm actually WAY under the rolling budget because these days I'm cutting Patrick's hair, Chip is buzzing his own for the Army and I haven't had a haircut in far too long. I'm hoping to get it cut this month though, so it will be over my $25 monthly budget but certainly not eat up the $131 rolling budget I have built up here.  Looks like it's time to lower this budget!
Auto Insurance: No surprises here.
Television: As usual.
Doctor: Patrick went for his annual check up and was perfectly healthy. Hooray!  Since I get reimbursed for this visit, this will soon go away making the rolling budget more friendly.
Term Life Insurance: Done
Alarm Monitoring/Pest Control: Regular charges here.
Mortgage/HOA/Timeshare: On course. This budget went up a bit thanks to a larger payment on our new loan for our timeshare (that's seriously not a complaint - read here for why).
Toiletries: On budget for the month.

Gas/Fuel: $89 over budget. This actually isn't that bad. Gas prices just won't seem to come down but I was hoping we'd be okay. Obviously not. I might have to adjust our overall budget to raise this one a bit.
Auto Parts/Services: $145 over budget.  I needed a new windshield.  While trying to kill a mosquito in side the car on my windshield, with my fist, it seems that the mosquito was perched directly on a chip in the windshield. Results was me appearing to be She-Ra as I shattered my own windshield with my fist. Found a great deal on the part and installation though by a great company.
Mobile Phone: $6 over budget This is usually in that no-brainer "on budget" category but we got a $6 surprise charge this month.  It seems that Abigail purchased some ringtones while playing with Chip's phone.
Electricity/Water: $180 over budget.  The good news is, we were only $50 over budget for the month. And then I paid next month's bill early, so next month will be way under budget and eat most of this $180 overage. So the rolling budget should look good in about 2 months.
Groceries: $196 over budget. WHAT?!  I know. See, I don't coupon like I used to and this is a huge indication that I NEED to get back into it. Imagine what I could have done with that $300 if we had not wasted it by being careless with our food money.
Eating Out: $100 over budget. This actually is not bad at all considering that we spend $150 on an annversary dinner cruise and drinks.  We would have otherwise been under budget. And since it was our 10th anniversary, I really don't feel too bad about this overage.
Baby Supplies: $42 over my monthly budget, but since the rolling budget is underway in this category, I had more than enough to cover the overage. Hopefully after the beginning of the year, we will be done with diapers and can cross this one entirely off the list! Hooray for saving $20!
Clothing: $80 over my monthly budget. I found some great sales on a winter jacket for Patrick as well as some clothes for Abigail for next summer and spring. This will roll off since I rarely spend money on clothes.  I do have to buy Patrick a couple more things for the winter, but that should be it for several months.

  • Sent over $360 more than usual to credit cards to pay them off. Every bit helps.
  • Spent just over $100 on county fair and Halloween carnivals as well as $15 on tickets for Patrick's school's fall festival.  The $15 will count as a donation with the $100 as well spent family time invested in memories for our children. Healthy small doses of this spending is fine with me.
  • $130 spent on Christmas gifts that take care of some in-laws as well as the kids' stockings. Love getting ahead and getting deals.
  • Had to spend $52 on a new cell phone for Chip. Either he or Abigail lost his old one and after 2 weeks of looking for it, we bit the bullet and bought one off eBay. I didn't put this in our "Mobile phone" category up top because it is a serious anomoly that won't roll out of the budget, but I am noting it here.
  • Spent $20 on birthday gifts this month.
Debt Paid off Since September 2011: $573.20
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $22,634.12
Change in Networth from September 2011: + $4023.22 (hooray for gains in retirement plans)
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $43627.21

How'd you do this month?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Lending Club did for Our Timeshare Loan - Our True Story

Featured in this weeks Carnival of Personal Finance!

In September we made a leap and took out a Lending Club loan to replace our timeshare financing. I wanted to give you the details of this deal. And see, I'm a numbers kind of gal. I'm logical to a fault and numbers just make sense to me. So although this post might be a bit tedious to read for some, it sheds a lot of light on the subject of debt to me. Please read on whether you like numbers or not. It's truly shocking.

Here are the down and dirty details of that deal:

Original Cost for Timeshare: $17,820.00
Down Payment: $4,716.69
Total Amount Financed: $13,103.31

That was in February of 2008. 

Balance of Loan September 2011: $10,906.17

Whoa!  WHAT?! three and a half years after paying $238.78 a month on time every time with no penalties, we had knocked down that loaning a massive $2197.14.


Yep...that's the horror of 17.9% interest. That's the horror of ANY interest. (cash is king, people!)

So, in September of 2011 we took out a Lending Club loan for $12,000 at 9.99%.  This would cover our timeshare debt as well as the loan fees associated with taking out the loan. It left us about $300 that got us through a rough period in a tight month.  But that's another story.

So we made our first payment on October 9th to our Lending Club loan in the amount of $387.15. 

So notice that our payment is now about $150 higher.  We could have settled for a payment that was closer to our previous payment but we chose a 3 year loan with a lower interest rate rather than a 5 year loan with a higher one.  We did they math and saw that we could work in the extra $150 for the hugely improved (over 17.9%) interest rate.

Of our first payment, $287.25 went to principal.  That's 74.2% of our payment that went towards principal.  One month earlier, of our $238.78 that we paid, only 31.0% (or $74.05) went towards principal. one month we've already paid more than 3X the amount of principal than we would have on our old loan.

To make it even crazier...we are paying $148.37 more a month for this loan, but in the first month, paid off $213.20 more in principal.


And as crazy as it may sound to some of you, I actually care that my interest is going to people who are responsibly investing their money in Lending Club rather than a financial company that financially rapes people like they were us.

So, if you had any questions about whether Lending Club works, I can tell you that it has certainly worked for us. Even in one month's time.

So if you need a loan, go check it out.  Do the calculator they provide on their site. Go through the pre-approval process to see if the payments would do the wonders for you that they have done for us. Interest rates start at 6.78%.

And if you're looking to invest wisely, consider Lending Club. You may not put a large sum in, but the current returns for investors average 9.6%.  Because I invested with $50 of free money, I invested in more risky loans, and my current return is 18.01%.  Either of those beats anything you'll get with a CD or even the more risky current stock market. You can rest assured that Lending Club does not lend to just anyone; in fact, the only approve about 10% of the requests for loans before people even get a chance to decide if they want to fund them. And you can know that you are helping people who are working their way out of debt the honest, hard-working way.  

Links provided are affiliate links, but the story is all mine and all true. It really does work for us and I couldn't be happier about it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

8 Unexpected Things That Make My Day

I love when the unexpected is perfect. Those little things...they really make my day.  Here are a few off the wall ones
  1. Entering a public restroom to find the seat lifted. This typically means your tush will be the first to touch it since it was cleaned. (yeah...only works on women's rooms, fellas).
  2. Parking within two spots of the front door without having to stalk fellow patrons leaving the store.  I's better to walk for your health, but when you're in a hurry, this is perfection!
  3. Finding an available register at the grocery store or Walmart.
  4. Learning that a client/vendor/friend is taking me to lunch unexpectedly on a day when I wanted to get out of the office but was struggling with the idea of spending the extra money.
  5. Finding a broken parking meter that I am allowed to park at.
  6. A song that comes on the radio that I had forgotten was once one of my favorites. Yes, I crank it up and sing like a fool.
  7. Pouring the perfect amount of milk into my cereal.
  8. Clean sheets on a bed.  Love, love how tightly they are tucked, how smoothly they are fitted and how they smell like laundry detergent and bleach. Call me strange, but this is one of my small pleasures in life.
So there they are. Little things that no one does FOR me, but I just happen upon. Okay, so you can argue that #8 doesn't JUST HAPPEN, but it is one of my ultimate happy moments that has nothing to do with anyone's actions to make me happy. It's just a moment that I get to encounter as a side effect of having to clean the linens. And it is pure bliss.

What about you?  What would be on your list?

Photo credit: bosela

Thursday, October 13, 2011

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener

Whether you are trying to run a business, manage a group of employees, or just be a good friend, really knowing what another person is telling you is key to being someone who is liked, respected, and trusted. Take these five steps to really get to know other people.

Step 1: Listen Aggressively
Make sure you are listening and really grasping what people are telling you. And I don’t just mean the words. Listen to their tone of voice and listen to what they are actually NOT saying.

For instance, if a cashier at the grocery store looks at you and snarls when she spits out the words, “Have a nice day,” you don’t honestly believe she wishes you well, do you? Obviously she is having a bad day or going through a difficult period in life. Or maybe you just irritated her. The sarcasm dripping from her lips is a clear indication that the words you heard were not truly what she was trying to say.

Also keep this in mind when responding to others (although that is a topic for another day).

Also…pay attention to what the person is NOT saying. For instance, is there some important point that is missing? Are there words that would normally fit into the conversation that you are having but are absent from this one? Is there anything they are avoiding telling you?

Listening is very different from hearing. Make sure you know (and practice) the difference.

Step 2: Observe Aggressively
Have you ever what one of the many police dramas on TV (can you miss them?!) or courtroom shows where it is obvious that something just doesn’t look right. Take a step back and look at the other person while they are talking to you. Do they look withdrawn? Do they look uncomfortable or nervous? Are they avoiding eye contact or fidgeting? Is their body facing toward the door like they are ready for a quick escape?

These are all signs that somewhere there is some missing truth in what they are telling you. They are avoiding the truth or covering up with a lie. Even a lie of omission is a lie and something is really going on here.

Did you know that I was told that FBI agents are told that during their first interrogation, they are to completely ignore what the person is saying and strictly observe. Pure observation is what tells them who to bring back for a second interview most of the time. That's serious business, people!

Step 3: Talk Less
Listen 75% of the time and talk 25% of the time. People are coming and talking to you because they have something they want to tell you. Don’t assume that they want your opinions or for you to relate to them unless they ask for it or the conversation leans in that direction. Don’t immediately turn the conversation into something you’d rather talk about or into something about you. They didn’t come to learn about you, most likely, but to relay something important to you. Make sure you are listening and get your ego out of the way.

If you do learn that they seem to want confirmation or acceptance, you can relate a similar story about yourself, but keep it brief. They have come to talk. Rarely do people come to you just to sit and listen to whatever you feel the urge to say at the moment.

Step 4: Take a Second Look at First Impressions
As the conversation continues, sort out for yourself how this needs to be perceived. Don’t go off of your first gut-reaction. You need to observe the person and think about the situation entirely before jumping to any rash decisions or assumptions.

Why is this person coming to you with this information? What do they expect to get from your conversation? What would you like to hear in a similar circumstance but with the tables turned?

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if you are wrong, you’ll feel better about being wrong than if you had not trusted a person of integrity in the beginning.

Step 5: Step Back
Take your emotions out of the equation. Force yourself to step back and use your observation skills to make a decision rather than your emotions. Although our emotions are a gift from God, we do not always use them correctly and often cause hurt, distrust, and degradation. When you check your emotions out of the game, you immediately become more observant, a better listener, and are able to think more clearly. Carry on the conversation in this manner, not with the emotions that may have arisen during your talk. Make sure you act and do not react.

Are you a good listener? If so, what do you feel contributes to this? If not, what can you work on?

I swiped this info from a presentation that I attended for work purposes. The five steps and some examples are not my own although some of the elaborations are mine. I shared them in hopes that you can use them as I plan to be able to.

Photo credit: Ambro

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Columbus Day!

Our Financial Status - Update #20 - September 2011

Well holy cow! I mean seriously, where have these updates been?  The last one was in April of this year and a lot has happened (and has NOT happened) so this will be a strange update with some bits and pieces updated.

Let's start by looking at the regular monthly expenses. I'm going to warn you's pretty ugly.  We had an extra paycheck this month (three paycheck month for me) but some other items fell through (Chip didn't get paid the $400 he was promised for a wedding he played).  With the extra money, we paid off some bills and used some to fund a bigger than usual birthday party for Patrick. The rest went to pay off some credit card debt.

Also since my last update?  The stock market has done some severe dipping and took my 401k with it. So although it didn't affect my monthly spending/budget, it did affect my net worth. Boo, hiss.  Oh well....

Right on target for the month.  Since the last update Chip has not been through OCS with the Army (long story) but plans to go next summer. So we did not get the bonus we were hoping for this year and he does not yet have regular income except for the monthly drill pay.  I have gotten a small cost of living raise, which I will take any day. =)

Pharmacy: $3 under budget.  Not bad since I only allot $5/month for this area. =)
Mortgage/HOA: This was actually $283 under budget. Why?  We refinanced our timeshare this month and didn't have to pay this month. This budget needs to change to allow for the new higher payment (for lower interest rate and quicker payoff) for next month.
Baby Supplies: $20 under budget for the month.
Childcare: $40 under budget for the month.
Hair: $25 under budget for the month.

Auto Insurance: No surprises here. We're still saving over $500 annually because have officially deemed our cars not worth full coverage due to age and mileage.
Mobile Phone: No surprises, but the bill is $15 cheaper a month than it used to be due to getting a military discount. Woo hoo!
Term Life Insurance: Steadily plugging away at protecting the family.
Alarm Monitoring: Regular charge.

Car Parts/Repairs: Had some major issues with Chip's car, so we're $554 over budget for this month. That's the price you pay when you have an 18 year old car. Also my car had an issue that had to be fixed as well. Hooray. But that's why we have an emergency fund.
Electricity/Water: $120 over budget. That's the price you pay for living in the South during the summer. The overage should iron itself out during the fall and the rolling budget should even out. That's the plan at least.
Gasoline: $229 over budget. Ouch.  We did travel to see my mom who lives over 6 ours away. And Chip has been traveling for drill as well as for some trumpet rehearsals with a church orchestra he sometimes plays with.
Groceries/Eating Out: $557 over budget. What happened, you might wonder?! I's ridiculous. Some of it was eating out (for two different birthdays). Some of it was groceries for Patrick's birthday party. Some of it was poor planning.  All the way around...bad, bad month!
Doctor: $110 over budget.  This was a bill I received from some health issues and their resulting tests that were done in June. When our "extra" paycheck came during the month of September, this was paid off.  No more doctor's bills. So although it wasn't part of the regular budget, I don't mind since it's a debt elimination. =)
Pest Control: $165 over budget because we had our annual termite inspection.  I really don't count this as over budget since we knew it was coming and our "extra" September paycheck covered it nicely, but it is out of the norm, so I'm counting it.
Home Supplies: $3 over budget. Negligible. Cleaning products.
Toiletries: $23 over budget for the month. No big deal - these will roll out with our rolling budget soon enough. Everything just hit at once, it seems.
Clothing: $57 over budget. Great sales to get some nice clothes for the kids for this winter.  This will get swallowed in the rolling budget over the next couple of months, so I'm not too worried about it.

  • Spent $86 on Halloween costumes for the whole family. That's pretty unusual for us to spend much of anything, but we're going to be awesome for Halloween. =)
  • $86 for auto tag renewal.  This is $40 less than expected because Chip got a huge discount for getting a National Guard tag (only had to pay ad valorem tax and got the tag free).
  • Spent $400 on Patrick's birthday party.  I know...that's a bit extreme. But it was his biggest ever and we probably won't have another like it for a long, long time. It was awesome though and I'll be sharing pictures soon.
  • $25 went to the charity for a good friend.
  • We had one wedding gift and one birthday gift to buy this month.
  • The awesomeness:  Paid more than $635 over what I usually send to credit cards this month!  YIPPEE!
  • As noted earlier, we took out a Lending Club loan for our timeshare.  We're going to have higher payments but will pay it off FAR sooner and save a LOT of money doing it!  Read more about that here.
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $22,060.92

Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $39,603.99

Next month we'll get back into the regular posting of this so it's not so chaotic!

How did you do this month?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fees for Using Your Debit Card?

Is your bank one of the ones about to start charging you for using your debit card?

Mine's not.

Find a bank today that will let you use your own money for free!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Time to Check the Credit Report

If you've been following along with me, you know that every 4 months I run a credit report to make sure nothing looks crazy or out of whack.  You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies every year.  So every 4 months, I run one from a different agency. That means within the year I have run all three and I can follow my credit throughout the year rather than just once in a calendar's turn.

So if you are playing along, it's time to run our Experian credit reports.

Go to (the only truly free site to use and sanctioned by the government) and select your state.  Fill out the info your are asked and tell it you want only the Experian report (if you're doing the every 4 month plan with me). you go!

For me?
I had 0 potentially negative items in my report
I had 20 accounts in good standing in my report.

When I read that 20 account bit, I was like, "Wha...?"  But as I look through them, 16 of them are old accounts that are already closed and have to appear on here until a set date (ranging between 2012 and 2020).   So that's 4 open accounts. 

What are those 4 open accounts? 
  • American Express - Chip's credit card that I'm a joint account holder on.
  • Chase - my "big" credit card that I hate and am attacking now. It will be the next to go for balance and emotional reasons.
  • GMAC Mortgage - Our current mortgage.
  • USAA - Our bank and my preferred credit card.  This will be the only one we keep when all are paid off.
Everything else looks all well and good.  So one more report done and I feel safe and sound about my credit.

How did you fare?

Photo credit: LotusHead

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update on Timeshare Saga

So a little while back I told you that we were applying for a Lending Club loan. I never really gave you a follow up to that though, did I?

Well, the loan went through with a 9.99% interest rate, which is significantly lower than the 17.9% rate it was at! If I solely pay the minimum on this loan (which I will do until the high rate cards are paid off) until the end of the 3-year term of the loan, I will pay $13,937.40 on our $12,000 loan. If I were to pay the minimum on the old loan, it would take 8 years and $19,906 to pay it off!

Now of course, the plan was never just to make the minimum payments, but until I have knocked out my Chase card (read my loathing for it here), I will be paying the minimum. And I can save a LOT in interest just by lowering the interest rate until time to pay more than the minimum arrives!

AND – Now we should be getting the deed in hand soon. Once that is done, we will be calling the manager of sales at the resort and attempting to sell it back to them at a discounted cost just to get out from under it. Whatever we sell it to them for, we will then be rid of it and its maintenance fees and we will apply that amount to our Chase card.

Win-win, right?

I hope so.

I’ll keep you updated on how selling it back to the timeshare company goes….

What do you think? What would you do with the money?

Photo credit: penywise

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are Your Kids Safe?

I shudder to think of the danger that we once put Patrick in. His parents. The people who should be the most protective of him and look out for his well-being more than anyone else on earth.

And the reasons we did it were pretty stupid.

We turned Patrick from a rear facing seat to a forward facing seat just about 1 month after his first birthday. He barely weighed the required "20 pounds" and we would have turned in on his 1st birthday if he had already weighed enough. At least we were listening to that part.

What we did ignore was that he was still tiny and petite. He was still safer facing backwards.

All for the sake of us having an easier time checking on him, looking at him, talking to him. All for the sake of him getting to see the world as we drove down the road rather than the back of the seat and a glimpse of whatever we had passed by already.  Because you know...he needs to see where we are going at 1 year of age.

Although we, like most parents, are more relaxed with our second child than with our first in most ways, this area is an exception. Abigail is currently 2 years and almost 3 months old. And she is still facing rear. She has outgrown her infant seat and is in a convertible seat, but she still stares at the back of the car and anything that we can see after we have driven by it already.

No, it's not convenient for us to see her. No, it isn't comfortable to not be able to push the front passenger seat back further because of the cumbersome car seat in the back (although the passenger seat is a safe distance from the airbag).

But she's safer. And because she's never faced forwards, she doesn't know the difference.

Our little barely 25 pound two-year old is happy as she is and we are pleased that she is safe.

This week (September 18 - 24) is Child Passenger Safety Week. Although you can still find sources that tell you that turning children forward in their seats is okay at 1 year, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendation back in April to extend that milestone until the 2-year mark. All agree, even those who think earlier is "okay", that rear facing is safer and therefore should be done as long as possible.

A study by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked parents of children 7 to 48 months old about their use of rear-facing car seats. The study found that 73 percent of parents switched their child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before the age of two. Thirty percent of parents turned their child's seat to face forward before their child reached one year of age. (cited) Now, I can't blame all of the parents who turned them around before 2 because all of the people polled did not have the new guidelines at the time their children were between 1 and 2. However, the 30% that turned them around earlier...that just makes me shudder. we all know. Leave them backwards until they are at least 2 and longer if you will, as they will be safest this way. It's okay if their legs are longer than their seat...that will not hurt them.

Also - did you know that car seats expire? Yep...the plastic they are made up can start to weaken with age. Some manufacturers put an expiration date on the back of the seat, but if you can't find one, use 5 years from the date of manufacture as a rule. And if you can't find that date on the seat, consider about 4 years from the time you bought it new. I really would not recommend buying one used for this and other reasons (in case they were compromised in an accident at any time).

Another fuzzy area for most parents is booster seats. 47 states (plus DC) require them and all have their own age/weight requirement. In the end, know your older kids are safer until a seat beat fits snugly across their thighs (not stomach) and across their should and chest (not their face or neck). And always, always, always in the back seat. Until they are 13. And after 13, still keep them there until they physically take on the shape and size of an adult.

Did you know that the NHTSA found that 3 out of 4 kids are not as secure in the car as they should be because their car seats are not being used correctly. I know...I thought I was smart too and could figure it out, but all of those darn things are different! Don't guess. Don't hope. Check it out. This Saturday (September 24) is National Seat Check Saturday where a number of local resources in YOUR community will be available to check out your car seat for free. You can use this locator to find nearby car seat inspection stations on National Seat Check Saturday and throughout the year.

And lastly, the Child Passenger Safety Twitter account (@childseatsafety) will be hosting a live Twitter Q&A today, September 21 at 2 p.m. ET. Safety experts from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be available to offer essential information on car seats and how to safely travel with children of all ages in cars. Just use the hashtag #CPSweek to follow along and ask your questions.

I'm not trying to preach at you. I'm not perfect, as I plainly admitted to you in the beginning of this post. I don't want you to have to learn the hard way. I don't want you to have any regrets. I don't want you to be ignorant as we were so long ago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Carnival of Personal Finance #327 - The Pirate Edition!

Ahoy, landlovers! Today ye might hearrr pirrrate rattlin' on all arrroun' ye and wonderrr what in th' name o' Davy Jones be chartin' a course. Did ye be knowin' it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day?! I can't keep that up. It's exhausting and it would be impossible to read. But have some fun with it today in your regular life.

Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #327 - The Pirate Edition!

There were SO MANY entries in this carnival it was almost overwhelming! I couldn't possibly include every last one of them, but that should show you the scope of this week's editing task by the number that DID make it in! Please don't let the number of posts scare you, as there are a LOT of great articles included.

And to add to the theme of the day, I've included a bit of pirate trivia as well.

So without further ado....

Editor's Picks
I could load you down with all of the posts that I could have labeled as "great!" this week, but instead my Editor's Picks are those that introduced me to a new perspective. Honestly, I don't agree with them all, but I love posts that make me think and these did.
Edward Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate in the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic during the early 18th century, a period referred to as "The Golden Age of Piracy." Blackbeard often fought wearing a large feathered tricorn hat and sporting multiple swords, knives, and pistols. He had hemp and lighted matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle. Accounts of people who saw him fighting reported that he looked like the devil.
  • Bret from Hope to Prosper presents Money Fail: Broke on Thursday. This is the beginning of a new series and a great perspective to effect a change of how you handle your financial life.
Born in County Cork, Ireland, Anne Bonney disguised herself as a man in order to join John Rackham's (aka - Calico Jack) crew aboard the "Revenge." The couple stole the sloop at anchor in the harbor and set off to sea, put together a crew and took several prizes. Anne took part in combat alongside the male pirates and accounts describe her as competent, effective in combat and someone who gained the respect of her fellow pirates. According to legend, she once stabbed a fellow pirate through the heart when he discovered her gender.
Red Legs Greaves' was known for merely stealing loot and leaving. His greatest success was his capture of the Island of Margarita. After capturing the Spanish Fleet, he turned the guns of their warships against the forts which he then stormed and was rewarded with a huge booty of pearls and gold. He didn't sack the town or rape and torture the Spaniards. Greaves then retired to the life of a planter in the island of Nevis. One of his former victims turned him in for the bounty on his head. He was quickly tried and sentenced to be hanged. When the great earthquake came that destroyed the town in 1680 he was one of the few survivors. Greaves then turned pirate hunter, retired to a plantation and died of old age. He got the nickname "Red Legs" because his legs continually burned from the tropic sun.
Port Royal is situated in Jamaica opposite Kingston in the same harbor. Gallows Point, where a number of pirates were hanged was one of the first points of land visible when entering the port. The gallows were placed there conspicuously to discourage piracy. The bodies were left there after they were hanged. Calico Jack and Captain Charles Vane were among the many pirates hanged there during a 100-year span.
Piracy was quite a problem in ancient Rome. At their height, pirates had about 1,000 ships and raided over 400 cities, including Ostia, the port of Rome. Julius Caesar was captured while on a sea voyage and held for ransom until his wealthy family paid up. This was a fairly widespread practice. In the end the effects on Mediterranean trade became so serious that Pompey got the commission to get rid of the pirates, which he did in about three months in 67 BCE.
  • FIRE Finance educates us in What is the Current Unemployment Rate? by taking a hard look at how unemployment is measured and what it means for our economy.
  • Khaleef Crumbley from Faithful with a Few presents No More Checks for Social Security Benefits (and he’s talking about paper checks). There is more to this post than just a fact-of-the-matter point stated in the title. Go read and weigh your options.


The cutlass, the most well-known of pirate weapons, was a slightly shorter, curved, single edged sword. Its size and shape made it a better weapon for fighting in the limited spaces aboard ship. The sharp outer edge made it ideal for hacking and slashing at an opponent rather than stabbing. It could also double as a tool for cutting through rope and so on. Other pirate weapons were also useful as tools, like the marlinspike and the gully.
Klaus Stoertebeker was a famous German freebooter of the 14th century who plundered Danish merchant ships during war time and brought the goods to besieged cities along the Baltic and North seas. But soon he and his men were plundering ships of other nations and the German Hanse itself. Do you know what his name refers to? "Stoertebeker" means roughly translated "bottoms up". He and his men were finally captured and faced execution. Legend has it that Klaus Stoertebeker made a deal that all his companions should be lined up. After he was beheaded he would try to walk by as many of them as he could, and they would be spared. He managed to walk past eleven of them and could have gone farther if the executioner had not tripped him.
So this is a bit of a departure from the rest of the post, but did you know that pirates have their own stock market? I mean, an actual stock market for today’s pirate funding. Please check out the advice below instead of investing in those funds:
Money Management:
Bartholemew Roberts was captured by pirates in 1719 and ended up joining them. He became known as one of the most successful pirates in history for having taken 400 ships in the space of only three years. Due to his competency he was elected captain upon the death of the previous captain, Howell Davis. Roberts was killed in 1722, in battle. His crew threw his body overboard rather than let it be taken by the British Navy.
Real Estate:
Captain Woodes Rogers was a former privateer became governor of The Bahamas and is credited with driving the pirates from the islands. Rogers was appointed Governor-in-Chief over the Bahama Islands by King George I on February 6, 1718. After he became governor he offered the "King's Pardon", which gave amnesty to most of the pirates in the isles. The most notorious and powerful pirates were not granted the amnesty and were hunted down and killed. It was Woodes Rogers who found Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the novel "Robinson Crusoe."
  • Miss T. from Prairie Eco Thrifter presents No Cost Refinancing--Pros and Cons. She explains that a no cost refinancing loan can be a great idea, but only if the circumstances are right.
  • Melissa from Everything Finance Blog tells us to Pay Biweekly to Shave Years off Your Mortgage and save some money in interest!
  • Ben from Money Smart Life instructs us in FHA Loans 101. You’ll learn about about benefits and drawbacks of an FHA loan and how it can help if you don't have much money to put down.
  • Crystal from Stupid Cents presents Why You Need House Insurance and stresses why it is so important regardless of the cost.
Captain William Kidd was commissioned as a pirate hunter in 1696, before turning pirate in the Indian Ocean. Kidd was neither particularly successful nor ruthless. While hunting pirates and not being able to find any he decided to turn pirate, he took prize of an English ship which had been flying a French flag as a lure to pirates - Kidd wanted to return the ship to its owners but the rest of the crew wouldn't allow this. Upon his return to New York he was arrested and sent to trial in England, found guilty and hanged.
  • Tim from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 insists that people should Stop Bitching & Save Already, a rant about people who won't save and ways they can actually do something about it. To #3, I want to yell out a hardy “Amen!”
Piracy continues today. An average of 500 deaths occur every year due to contemporary pirates. Pirates of today usually board large luxury motoryachts with a swift and quiet dinghy and try to steal things, kill, or do both and take over the yacht all together. For instance, the Seabourn Spirit was attacked by pirates on November 5th, 2005 about 70 miles off the coast of Somalia. Pirates boarded the ship from two small boats. The pirates used machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades when attacking. Luckily only one person, a crew member, was slightly injured - due to shrapnel.

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