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Eventfully Crazy Week!

September 21st, 2011 at 05:59 pm

Lots of stuff has been going on recently. So much so, that I have not been able to complete a blog post recently. Here is a run-down of the most recent week, only:

Thursday, 15th - our custom-built computer took a plunge, leaving us with no way to watch Grey's Anatomy, movies, or anything for my wife to do on downtime (besides walks and what-not that she usually does).

Friday, 16th - All three of us - my wife, 7 mo-old, and myself - come down with a pretty harsh cold or flu. I got a head cold mainly, with small instances of stomach yuckiness. The wife had the same, with more severe congestion and stomach yucks. Our baby was whiney, and kept trying to clear her throat by growling. Smile 

Saturday, 17th - Still sick. Our friend, who is married to my best friend, is in town from South Korea until the 27th, and Saturday was her baby shower. We missed it, as we did not want to get anyone sick. 

We went to Other Mothers and sold some baby items. We got $31. $10 went towards a treat, as we had not had one that week, and $20 went into our winter clothing fund. Also went to K-Mart and picked up some eyeliner for my wife and two bags of dog food with an old K-Mart gift card we had. Played a couple games of Scrabble.

Sunday, 18th - Not much happened on Sunday. Still sick, so we had to miss church for the second week in a row. Went grocery shopping and got lemon and honey to make Hottie Totties with the Jack Daniels we still have from our wedding. Great remedy for sore throats and congestion. Played a few games of Scrabble. 

Our baby had a fever as high as 101, so we were pretty worried and kept a close eye on her. 

Monday, 19th - Work. Ugh! I was feeling a little better. Before work, our little one had a fever of 101 again, and was unhappy. Later, while I was at work, her temp went down to 96.8, while she is normally 97.1. 

At work, while I was driving my two DDA clients to run some errands, one had a behaviour that involved slamming on the dash of our car, popping off the trim of the vent. He then slammed against me, grabbed my head and neck, and dug his nails in, leaving cuts on my neck and temple. 

Tuesday, 20th - After picking up my paycheck from the office at work, I headed to pick up our computer from the repair shop. The power supply unit went out, which blew out one of the SATA ports (connects the motherboard to the hard drive), and three of the four memory card slots.

So, obviously a computer cannot function without power, memory, or storage. 

$55 was the flat rate for them to diagnose the computer.

Got home and my dad was in town (truck driver), and as some of you know, we currently live in my parents' house. Unfortunately, so does my oldest brother. He has been there for a few years, and has made no progress towards financial stability. 

Long-story-short, my older brother attacked me. It was quite the scuffle, and it created much unrest in the house. My wife is even more uncomfortable with him in the house, what with his explosive behaviour and booze and drug problems. Her parents are very unhappy with how the situation was handled. Basically, he will continue to be allowed to live there. Now, I was not beaten up or anything (ONE good thing I got from the Army), but I do not like to fight. I can. I choose not to. I am a Christian, and a family man. 

Anyways... So, we are stuck with him living in that house, where my baby and wife reside. How's that for stress?

Later that night, I ordered an iMac. Now, our Windows computer is fixable with a motherboard and power supply. However, a good power supply unit is about $100, while the motherboard would be around $200. $300 for a computer we are replacing in March anyways? No, thank you. 

So we ordered the iMac we wanted and planned on getting in March with our taxes. While we do have money for the computer, it is in emergency funds and other savings, so that is not an option. I remembered receiving a letter saying I was pre-approved for BillMeLater's 6-month period of no interest or payments. That should take us to March 20th. We should have taxes back before then. 

I am going to part-out my current computer. Should be able to get a few hundred out of it. 

Quite the week we have had, eh? Any positive vibes, prayers, etc. are much appreciated!

Current Happenings - Road Trip, Car Stereo, etc.

July 25th, 2011 at 07:26 pm

I wanted to post another regular blog entry today, but I simply have not had time lately. So, instead, I will post the current happenings in my life.

Credit
I decided that, since all my credit debt is done away with, I should get a card without an annual fee and with cashback rewards so that I may use it every day in place of my debit card, so as to build my credit up, and to get free money. 

I began researching cards, and the two that suit me best were the Chase Freedom and Capital One Cash Rewards cards. I rather liked the Discover and AMEX cards better, but they did not provide the "everywhereness" that Visa/MC does. I may yet use an AMEX of Discover in places that will take it. Probably just stick with one card though. I was declined for the Capital One card with no annual fee, but was approved for Chase's with a $100 cashback if I send $500 in three months. No problem! So, that is in the mail.

I did some quick math, and estimated that I can make at least $84/yr off of this card. And, since it is not a budgeted income, and do not have to redeem it at any time, I can let it sit there until I feel like having a surprise.

Also, just received confirmation that my Best Buy credit card account was closed with zero balance and that it is being reported to the three major credit bureaus. Woohoo for that!

Road Trip 
As of the 30th, my wife and I will be in Tillamook, OR, for a family get-together on her mother's side. It will be the longest road trip I've ever driven, so it should be fun! 

We have $381 set aside for this trip (money from selling my class ring). We also have $306 leftover after paying bills (technically, about $250, as some is for gas). I was thinking we would keep this $306 in case of any emergencies during travel. However, I have not made a double-payment on my current target debt, and I do have $1,000 in EF, so I was thinking also that I should probably just make that double payment...

We will also be visiting Portland on our last day there. And, as a possible future home for our family, wenwould really like to get a non-touristy feel for the city. We are going to visit a coffee shop or two, a place for breakfast, a place for lunch, and I place for dinner, and then possibly visit some neighbourhoods. We are not sure. Any ideas?

Car Stereo
While still paying down debts, I was able to save $100 for a new car stereo. We are so excited! It has been pain not being able to listen to anything other than the radio! So I went onto Crutchfield's web site and looked around there, as well as other retailers. Got a beautiful stereo with USB, AUX in, CD player that reads MP3 and WMA, Bluetooth for hands-free, a remote, and HD Radio! So excited about the HD Radio! The wife and I tried to install it ourselves in order to save $50, but it was unsuccessful. Taking it in today to get it done. Maybe they won't charge the full $50 since it is 3/4 done...

This stereo retails for $139.99. Crutchfield had it for $99.99. A simple Google search found me a $20-off coupon code for Cruthfield. So I ended up paying $79.99 for the stereo, totaling $98 for everything, including free shipping and gear for installation.

Work
I will be working at another location tomorrow. I am not entirely happy with this change that my employer is doing (again!), but I am their go-to guy, so it is to be expected. A long-time employee left for a better job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and I will be taking his place. I do not look forward to the higher maintenance and more fragile work environment, but it may help make the days go faster as well. 

Baby
Our daughter, Lorelei, is growing every day! Saturday, she decided that she would suck through a straw. This morning, my wife calls me to tell me that she is saying 'mama'. 

Our little 5.5-month old will be presenting us with teenage material in no time! Ah!

Rounding
Some of you know that I execute a wonderful tool called rounding. What this entails, is I round up to the nearest dollar on all withdrawal transactions and run down on all deposit transactions, then  record it in my PocketMoney app. 

The total saved from rounding this month was $17.61. This goes straight into savings.

Fuel Economy
I am consistently achieving 120% of my vehicle's EPA rating. The car is rated at 27mpg city/hwy (55%/45%). However, I am getting - on a long-term average - 35mpg, driving 85% city, 15% hwy. Last tank, I reached an astounding 38 mpg. This is great for a 2.0L engine. Granted, my previous Honda Fit's engine got 42mpg without trying...

Groceries
We came in $27 under budget for the month! Our grocery budget really is helping out! 

So that's what's been going on. Hope everyone finds a bit more time off than I - I will be busy this week!

Being Frugal & Living Healthier @ the Same Time

July 15th, 2011 at 03:28 pm



A lot of people say that it is just too expensive to live healthy. And for the most part, they are right! $50/mo gym memberships, produce and other raw ingredients costing more than pre-packaged food items, bottled water being so expensive. 

Well, guess what? It's really not that bad - it just takes a little work.

Start at the Beginning - The Grocery Store
The grocery store is absolutely the number one place where we spend the most money that directly impacts our health. This could be for good or for bad - for both our health and our financial fitness. 

However, keep in mind my post on developing and sticking to a grocery budget. With a grocery budget in hand, my wife and I are able to save money while eating healthier as well. If you look at our grocery budget, you'll notice that we do not eat much processed foods. The popcorn, chips, crackers, and other possible bad foods that we eat, are all natural with no artificial colouring or flavours, and are low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium.

Kettle Brand, Lays All Natural Baked, Tim's (mostly), Sun Chips, etc. are all brands that are less unhealthy than other brands/types. But remember - you still need to monitor your intake. Wheat Thins, Triskets, and others for crackers.

Notice that the most we spend on, is produce. This is a must. You need to prioritize your grocery spending. Also remember portion control - one serving, do not eat until feeling full, etc. Drinking water will help curb your hunger also. More on water later...

Really, you just need to be creative with your meal planning. My wife - thank goodness! - is a natural cook. For those less fortunate, there are some great web sites with great frugal recipes. Some of those include: a frugal recipes blog, MiserlyMoms, Frugal Recipes, and many more!

When you eat healthier, you perform better. You are more likely to want to exercise, and be healthier in other aspects of your life. 

Healthy Activities
A lot of people associate the word 'healthy' with a tight firm body on a treadmill. This is not necessarily the case. Health status should not be determined by the outward appearance, rather, it should be judged by what you take in. Nutrients, vitamins, alcohol, smoke inhalation, etc. And chances are if you feel healthy, you are. And if you don't, well...

Let's say that you actually do need to exercise. Come on now, everyone needs exercise! But if you are one of the many Americans needing supplemental exercise activities because you do not get enough throughout the day, then there are plenty of things you can do, without spending loads on a gym membership. 

Yoga - My wife does yoga daily (when the baby allows!), and she loves it. It is rejuvenating, revitalizing, and renewing. (Ah, I love synonyms!) She can perform it relatively well in our living space, though ceilings higher than 6 feet would be better. Ha! 

Running/Walking - Something that I personally need to get back into! When I was in the Army, I learnt one very important thing about running - do not walk. Everything in motion, tends to stay in motion. Everything at rest, tends to stay at rest. When you slow down, you are more likely to slow down again. Do not break that rhythm. Get into a good breathing pattern that aligns with your steps. If you have shin splints like me, it will be a painful experience. But it is most likely because you are running wrong. Chances are you're over-striding. To get a good running stance, take a deep breath in. You know that straight up standing position you're in at the peak of that breath? Keep it while you run. But please, do not hold your breath!

Running can be done anywhere - around your neighbourhood, a recreational paved trail, the local school's track, etc. I have actually found that running in dirt does not hurt my shin splints. I honestly cannot say why, but some avid runners suggest that it is simply because our bodies were made for uneven surfaces.

And what about walking? Everyone should enjoy a nice walk. Especially with the family! Even with our baby in-tow in her stroller, we can speed-walk together. Speed-walking is not even required necessarily. We took a 5-mile walk down one of Boise's historic residential districts, and did not even realise the distance. We took pictures (see them here at my flickr set), gazed in awe, and just enjoyed our time together. Afterwards, we both felt great as a result of a bit of a workout!

Working Out
There are loads of exercises you can do with absolutely no equipment, or very little equipment.
Here is a good article for men.
And here's one for women.
And a web site dedicated to home workouts. 

Staying Hydrated
Absolutely every single person needs to keep hydrated! Even if you do not feel thirsty, chances are you are still dehydrated. What I always say is, If you are not peeing every hour, you are not hydrated.. Truth be told, if you are hydrated, you are most likely visiting the restroom often throughout the day. And you will know for sure that you are hydrated when your urine is clear and not of any colour. (Unless you have kidney issues...)

A Discovery News article notes:
...dieters who drank two cups of water before each meal lost 5 pounds more than a group of dieters who didn't increase their water intake.

Water helps in so many ways, that they are just too numerous to list here. But among them, some are: help breakdown of fats, stimulation of metabolism, boosts immune system, etc. 

But what about how much it costs? A case of 24 12-ounce bottles of water costs around $4 on average. If we are drinking the suggested amount of water daily (which is about 80 ounces for a 160-pound adult), we are consuming 6.5-7 of these bottles a day. So a $4 pack will only last one person about 3.5 days. So we are looking at over 8.5 cases per month, about $40/mo for a single individual. Quite the expense to stay hydrated! 

Now... Think of all that waste! Having to recycle the bottles, the waste that the manufacturing plants produce, etc. There has to be some other way!

Most of us hate the taste of our municipal tap water. And I don't blame you - So do I! However, there is a way to take the convenience of filtered water and the frugality and enviro-friendliness of tap water with you, by combining the two. 

There are a few companies with similar concepts, but the best has to be bobble. This nifty creation consists of a clear BPA-free bottle and a BPA-free carbon filter in the colour of your choice. There are solid colour filters, multi-colour filters for the kids, and a special edition two-tone green filter that, upon purchase, 50% of purchase price goes to an environmental protection organization, The Nature Conservancy. There are three sizes of bottles as well. One for the kiddos, a 'regular' sized one, and a super-hydrator size. Check 'em out!

Gold for Cash & Under Budget Again!

July 15th, 2011 at 01:58 am

We had been meaning to take in my class ring to sell for cash. Finally had the chance to do so today, as I got off an hour early, since I came in early. 

We headed to a not-so well-known gold and silver shop. I believe it was called Idaho Gold & Silver. My class ring was 14k, had two small diamonds in the middle of the 0's for the year (2007), and one larger one right in the middle of a large grey stone that was set on the top of the ring. I cannot remember the name of the stone, but it was - at least at the time - the most expensive stone available from Jostens. 

Unfortunately, the shop did not pay for either the stone or the diamonds, but that was the general consensus around town. They believed the diamonds were too small to salvage, except "maybe" the large one. I am sure that any of the shops would take it and use it or sell it though.

When it was new, my father paid around $850 for the ring. Today, with his permission of course, I got $381 just for the gold. Not too shabby, eh? At the time I sold it, gold was at $1,585/oz. So, of course, they pay a percentage of the gold content. 

For an unaccounted-for income, this is a pretty good chunk of change. I had already planned on having our car's driver-side mirror fixed (~$120) and getting a stereo for the car ($~60). The stereo is already "free," because it was planned for before I received the free alignment for our car. So, really, the mirror will be the only planned purchase that has not been paid for in some other way. If this makes sense...

So, at the end of it all, we come out very much on top! We have a planned trip for Portland coming up, and we will be using some of this money for that as well, and applying the money we will be saving towards debt.

I love FREE money! 

Also, came in under budget on our grocery budget for the third week in a row! We are currently $30 under budget, and will most likely end up $40 under budget by next week! How cool is that?! And we are getting more food each time!

Mistakes for Young People to Avoid - [Not] Saving & Budgeting

July 11th, 2011 at 08:44 pm



Mistakes for Young People to Avoid - Savings & Budgeting

I can tell you right now - When I was 18, I never thought about budgets or savings or anything like that. I was in college and was going to be making loads of money when I got out. I had a MINI. I had a brand new TV. Brand new furniture for my apartment. Etc., etc. 

Fast-forward five years to now. I am 23, married, one child, driving a grocery-getter, living in the upstairs of my parents' house, working the same job I was when I was in college.

So what happened?

I did not budget. I did not save. I did not have a realistic outlook. 

I thought a job would just come with my Certificate. Dead wrong. When my long-term girlfriend left me, I figured it was time to get a new TV and videogaming system, by way of getting a Best Buy credit card. I just paid that card off last month...

I was single for six months, and in that six months I made the worst financial decisions in my life. Along with getting that credit card, I also decided it was time to get a truck. You know, so I could do man things, like go hunting and all that. I did not even own a firearm or had ever been hunting. I took my beloved dream car and traded it in, financing the difference. Insurance sky-rocketed and I was now paying for two cars. 

All the while, since I started making money at age 12, I never once saved my money - except for a big purchase - and never had a budget, never had money for emergencies, etc. 

Here are some great tips for anyone:

Create a Budget
Sure, you may have more income than you do expenses, but that does not always mean you will have money at the end of the month. You need to create a budget. The best way to do this - in my opinion - is to use a spreadsheet. Google Docs has great, free tools for this. 

Add up your income to get the total of one month's worth. Now, round down to the nearest hundreds place. If you make $1,989/mo, round down to $1,900. This will help you create a buffer. It's like finding an extra $20 bill in yesteryear's ski jacket, but it's $89 every month!

Now, get your bills. For every bill, round to the nearest ones place. Your phone bill is $46.13/mo? Round to $47. This, again, creates a buffer. The point of this is to 1) Guarantee you always have enough for the bill, and 2) Account for any fluctuation in amount due month-to-month. My phone bill varies between $1-2 difference on some months, so round accordingly. 

With your bills, find all of the due dates. Chances are they are not all due on the same day, so you have to consider this in your budget as well. 
 
You may also want to include any percentage rates on your loans/credit lines, so as to easily set up your payment plan. I use the snowball method. Pay off the highest percentage rate first. Therefore, I put my highest percentage loan at the top of my budget spreadsheet, though I do not list the percentages. You may. 

You should have about five or six columns now. From left to right, it may look like this: Amount | Payee | 5th | 20th | Due Date | Rate. Obviously, in each column, you would put the appropriate information in there. 

Remember, make a budget for everything!

Click here to see our budget as an example

You may also decide to do a grocery budget - which I strongly recommend. Head on over to my blog post about that

Pay Yourself
Wouldn't it be great if we all had the ability to pay ourselves? And then, if something ever happened, we could just reach into our pockets and pull out the needed dough? Oh, it is possible...

Many people do not save money. As a result, they end up with unreliable vehicles, broken-down homes, empty wallets, and - quite often - torn relationships with loved ones. 

Like I said before, I never saved. Until about a year ago. Now, I keep at least $1,000 in my emergency fund, $500 in my healthcare fund, and $300 in my auto maintenance fund. Obviously, I do not stop contributing to those savings, but I do slide the priority of savings down to number two while I pay down debts. 

Many people find that remembering to save is one of the hardest things to do. There are a couple workarounds for this.

- If your employer allows direct deposit, you may select a certain amount of your check to be automatically deposited into your savings when your salary check goes through. 

- On your W-4, you may select a specific amount to be withheld from your paychecks. This is great because it will be like the money is not even there. Then, come tax season, you get even more back. Which, I suggest, you throw straight into savings or - if you already have enough in there - into an investment. 

- Make it part of your budget. You can add 'Savings' as a Payee so that you will pay it just like any other bill. This creates a smaller 'difference' between your income and expenses, and seeing that smaller number will be less tempting. 

How I Do It
I incorporate quite a few different techniques into my savings strategy. 

Probably the biggest player in my savings is - believe it or not - an app for my iPhone. With this app, I am able to create specific budgets for spending categories (auto, toiletries, etc.) that help me stay in-line with my spending (this app does not replace my spreadsheet budget). It also acts as a checkbook register. So every time I spend money, I record the date, payee, category, and amount. With the amount, I always round up to the nearest dollar. See? Another buffer. So we round up with expenses, and down with income. 

Here are some screen shots of the app: 

Set up multiple accounts for one actual account, in order to more easily divide your money. I use 'ICCU: Payment' to put aside extra money to use on the debt that I am paying down, on top of what I already have budgeted to pay.


Round up for expenses/purchases. See the $12 in the first image, in account 'ICCU: Payment'? That is what was saved last pay period just by rounding up. So it is going to be applied to the next payment on the highest interest loan.


Keep in-line with budgets.


Track what you spend most on, using expense reports. See if you can cut costs anywhere.

You can download this app, PocketMoney, here: http://bit.ly/q11c3q

I also drive economically and track my mileage. My vehicle is rated at 24 city / 29 highway. I am getting 35 mpg with 80% city mileage. Check out CleanMPG for more info, and stay tunes for my blog on this topic in the future.

Again, we budget our groceries. We also eat very healthy, by shopping mainly the outer rim of the grocery store.

We do not dine out. That's right. No dining out whatsoever. No quick trips to the grocery store for anything 'extra'. No fast food. No restaurant dining. 

We cut all unnecessary costs. Got rid of Netflix, even though it was only $11/mo. Putting that towards monthly payments on debts instead, shaves months off of the payoff time. 

We have only one frivolous item on our budget. 'Treats'. $30/mo. This includes: coffee shops, chocolates, unnecessary groceries, toys, etc. 

There is so much to list. But most importantly, the biggest money savers have been my own genuine ideas. Rounding and driving safer/more economical. No one mentioned these or suggested them. They came to me. Therefore, you will most likely find something that works for you, and that's great! 

Mistakes for Young People to Avoid - Car Hopping

July 4th, 2011 at 09:27 pm

I have decided to start a new series - Mistakes for Young People to Avoid. Really, this series could be helpful to anyone and everyone, but it will pertain mostly to stupid mistakes that young people - like myself - quite often make. In fact, nearly every installment in this series will be from personal experience. 

These installments will be periodic, so stay tuned! Remember, blog posts will be made - usually - on Mondays and Fridays. This series will most likely be once per week. So since today is Monday, chances are that each new installment in the series will be made on Mondays.

----------------


Being swooned into a new car is not as fun as it sounds.

I am 23 years old. I have been licensed since I was 16. I have also had a total of eight vehicles. More vehicles than years I have been licensed. If this does not sound like an irresponsible way to live your life, then you are beyond my help.

This first installment of my series, Mistakes for Young People to Avoid, is on car-hopping. That is, whimsically jumping from vehicle to vehicle. Let's start from the beginning.

At age 16, my parents purchase a 1984 Honda Prelude 1.8L Dual-Carb with automatic transmission, from my aunt, for $500. It was worth $2,000. This baby was MINT. Still had that clean smell. After two years of ownership, I had jacked up the front end so bad that both front wheels toed-in (inward angle), so much that any speeds above 40 were shaky and dangerous. I had backed the car up with the driver door open, and caught the door on som shrubbery, bending it backward against the hinge. The transmission was also slipping and would not shift thru second gear. Needless to say, I needed a new car. And armed with my newfound responsibility and my parents' credit scores, we headed to a dealership.

First dealership we get to, I decide on a 2003 Nissan Sentra 1.8L with automatic and air conditioning. It was a very basic car. Power nothing and no CD player. I had that car for two weeks, and decided I did not want it.

This time, I did a little more research. Went online and looked at some other cars. Found a 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP and a 2000 Cadillac Catera. I was interested in both. The Pontiac had better ratings, but the Cadillac was... A Cadillac. Heated leather, air ride suspension, sport mode, winter mode, Bose surround sound, On*Star, wood grain, etc. This baby was mine!

...For about a year...

After replacing the Mass Airflow Sensor ($280 under extended warranty) and recently finding out that the California Catalytic Converter needed replaced (some $700 or something), I opted to go car shopping again. 

This changed my entire life... I was in the middle of college, getting my Certificate in Massage Therapy. I looked into getting a student loan for a downpayment on a new vehicle. I wanted a two-door, manual, brand new sporty coupe. I headed to a dealership that had just what I wanted... The [then] brand new Pontiac G5 GT, a 200-HP turbo four-cylinder. And they had one... In screaming yellow with a leather package. 

A couple days of negotiating revealed that I could not get financing for that car. "Do you like MINI Coopers?" were the words I heard after my denial. And my eyes turned into the biggest, dopiest puppy-dog brown eyes you couldn't even dream up. My heart pounded. A MINI Cooper... My dream car since they came out in 2002. 

And there it was... A 2003 electric blue MINI Cooper S. Six-speed Getrag transmission, Harmon/Kardon sound system, panoramic roof, the works! I knew all there was to know about these cars! And what's more? It only had 8,800 miles on it! One test drive and I was hooked! 

Okay, let's do it! $23,000 sticker price. Nope. Denied. Okay, now what? The salesman goes to the back room. Comes back with this deal: $21,000 sales price, $6,500 down payment, and they take my Cadillac in at full retail! (And yes, it was full retail - $7,000. Trade-in was $3,500.) Okay! Sign me up! 

So I pulled out another student loan for $6,500, and I was outta there! Then the first payment hit... $583. Whoa! Okay... I don't think I can do this... But I could have, if I'd known how to budget. 

I kept making the payments, and boy was it hard! But I did it; I just never had any money for anything else... I thought. But, really, I just didn't go to movies or go out as much as before. I was saving no money at all. 

Then I graduate college. Woohoo! My parents decide to pay off my auto loan and lower my payments to $200/mo. Sweet deal! 

Fastforward about half a year down the road (have now owned the MINI for about a year and a half), and I decide I need a truck. I didn't even know how much I still owed my parents, but I didn't care. 

I found a 2003 Toyota Tacoma Pre-Runner (2wd) with the fancy TRD Off-Road package. Monthly payments of $162, no problem! Retail price, $18,500. Trade-in, $14,000. They convinced my dad to sign the MINI over if they gave him a $1,000 check (out of my trade-in value). I was on my way with my new truck. Funny thing, I wanted a 4x4, and still ended up with this two-wheel driven one. 

Half a year later, I'm commuting to work 20 miles one-way, getting 20 mpg. Compared to my MINI's 23 mpg in the city (and hot-rodding it everywhere), I was not happy. During this time, I met my wife-to-be. Her family invites me on a trip to Seattle. 

While in Seattle, we talk about our future plans and all. And my truck comes up. Long story short, I decide I want a Honda Fit. I begin doing research when I get home. Great cars, great mileage, great reliability. Sign me up!

Found a 2007 Honda Fit Sport, with a short-shift 5-speed manual, tinted windows, and rare factory optional goodies. I leave the dealership with it, trading-in my truck. 

During my ownership of the Fit, I loved it almost as much as I loved my MINI. I was getting 42 mpg and was loving it! But at $282/mo and insurance pretty close to that, I had to do something else. 

This time, I'm a little smarter about things. I decide to use my $1,500 tax returns to purchase an older Jeep Cherokee. Their 4.0 inline six engines are known to be one of the strongest. I sell my Fit for KBB value, which happened to be $2,000 less than what I owed. So I got a personal loan for the difference amount from my credit union and was on my way. Found a 1990 Jeep Cherokee with the 4.0. Unfortunately, it was not the exact same 4.0 that I had researched. They put those in the '91's and up. I was bummed. But it ran pretty well... For a while. 

I got the Jeep in March of 2010. January of 2011, the Jeep blows its head gaskets while my 9-month pregnant wife is driving it. Needless to say, she was without a car for a while, and I was off in the Army.

In the same month, we found a 2007 Ford Focus S. Has air conditioning, but little else. I read up on cars, and this was by far our best deal. We set out to get a Focus and we found one. And with only 30,000 miles! We paid $5,500 (financed $3,800, car retailed at $9,000) and we couldn't be happier!

Now... It's July of 2011, and we still have the Focus, and it's serving us pretty well. We will be in this car for some time to come. Now, a little more detail...

After all the trading of vehicles, I am left with so many bills! First off, the balance owed on the truck transferred over to the Fit, so I am - in all reality - still paying for the truck in that personal loan (which is almost paid-off). I am still paying on the MINI and have over $11,000 left to pay on it! So, at one point, I was paying for three vehicles, while only owning one. Where's the sense in that?

Right now, I am paying for two and only have one. But if you think about it, I could have two - the Focus and my MINI. I could have avoided all that and still had the car of my dreams, as well as a vehicle for my wife. Unfortunately, I did not have the guidance or foresight to think of that when I was single.

Every day, I kick myself for getting rid of that car. $200/mo for that is very affordable. And I only had 22,000 miles on it when I got rid of it. 

I have not done the math on how much money I have blown on vehicles, but I am sure it is in the 20,000's, easily.

I was irresponsible, as many people are these days. It is the lack of financial education and the wrong mindset that got me there. I will never forgive myself for getting rid of that MINI. But all these experiences has made me realize things and has lead me to where I am - on a path to financial freedom! And it is my goal to one day own a MINI as good as or even better than the one I had, and to pay cash for it. Among many other goals.

I hope this account of mine has helped some of you or relates to you in some way. Please, teach your kids (and yourselves!) about finances and responsibility. And don't be afraid to tell them (and yourself!) NO. 

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series, and be sure to keep reading! 

You will forever be missed...

Groceries on a Budget - Literally

July 2nd, 2011 at 01:53 am

Do you have a budget? Most of us do. They include items like car payments, mortgage, credit card bills, and most definitely groceries. But do you have a separate budget for groceries?

A what?

Most people do not think to actually make an itemized budget for their grocery shopping. However, it is not only a great financial tool, but it will also help you cut down on unhealthy foods, and will help you stick to your grocery lists!

A few days ago, my wife wrote up a budget on Google Docs. And I must say, I am quite impressed!

Click to see the Grocery Budget

As you can see, she did a great job of categorizing items and applying a set amount, as well as laying out how often the items are purchased.

Such an easy task, yet such a huge helpful tool!

What's more, you need to be able to stick to your grocery list! Never, ever go to the store without a list. You are much more tempted to make impulse buys this way. Even with a list, impulse buys are still a hazard. Also, try not to go to the store hungry!

A great way to make your grocery list correspond with your budget is to write the amount you plan to spend on the particular item, next to that item. See below.



Doing this, we were actually able to get MORE groceries for LESS. We ended up saving $13 than what we usually spend on the month's first week of groceries.

Now that's what I call a good job budgeting and saving!

iPhone App: A great app for shopping, that I like to use, is called ShopShop. Super simple, and super FREE.

My Daily Frugal Lunch

July 1st, 2011 at 07:06 pm



I know a lot of people eat out, especially for lunch while at work. This is not only hard on your pocketbook, but also on your health. Here is what I have for lunch every day, M-F, thanks to my wonderful wife.

- Sandwich (of some variety; PB&J, meat and cheese with spinach, etc.)
- All-Natural crackers or baked chips (Wheat Thins, Triskets, Kettle Brand baked chips, etc.) - one serving size
- Organic baby carrots
- Tillamook All-Natural Lowfat yogurt - there is absolutely nothing artificial in these cups of delicious yogurt! And, they're super cheap! About $0.40 each.
- One full bobble - I drink about 3-4 of these a day. Best part is, it's refillable and has a built-in filter!

This is a super low-cost lunch and I enjoy it every day!