Got our shiny new Chase Freedom card in the mail this evening. The credit limit is laughable! $500! But, whatever, that is close to enough for what I'll be using it for every month.
I have a question for all of you - How do I sign up for the 5% categories online? I know how to do it via phone. Also, how do I set up my due date?
Archive for July, 2011
Got our shiny new Chase Freedom card in the mail this evening. The credit limit is laughable! $500! But, whatever, that is close to enough for what I'll be using it for every month.
around 33%? While this is the general consensus, I know from personal experience that driving economically can raise your fuel economy by around 70% and more!
Today is as good a day as any to talk about how to save a few extra bucks. And today, the method for saving is by way of driving economically. Did you know that driving poorly could lower your vehicle's fuel economy by
Take, for instance, my wife's and my personal vehicle - a 2007 Ford Focus w/ 5-speed manual that is rated at 27 mpg combined EPA (23 city/33 hwy). Now, if that sounds good to you, I feel sorry for you. Frankly, I am just not satisfied with these numbers. My dissatisfaction with these numbers has helped me to achieve 35 mpg on average over all fill-ups. My last tank was 38 mpg. So how do I do this?
There is a combination of 'tricks' that every driver can learn and execute in order to achieve 120% more than EPA estimates, and HIGHER!
Idling has quite the negative impact on your fuel economy. So, eliminate it! Stopped at a red light? Key-off your engine. It's as easy as that. I am good enough now that I can follow the pattern of lights in order to know when my light will turn green again, or even turn red, so that I may start my engine or begin deceleration respectively.
If you were unaware, hybrids utilize a technology that turns off the vehicle's engine at idle.
Don't use your brakes
Obviously, you cannot avoid using your brakes entirely. However, you can in controlled situation. Most people only look as far as the next car ahead of them, or even only as far as a few feet ahead, looking at the road directly. If you remember driver's education, this is a big no-no! I try to look at least a full two city blocks down the road. And I do not look at the road. Instead, look at the traffic lights. This will also improve your peripheral vision to aide you in better responding to situations.
If you see a light turning red that you are approaching, what do you do? I'll tell you - you continue going the same speed until about 100 ft from the light. It's true. What do I do? About a city block or more, I pop into Neutral, then begin downshifting in order to slow my vehicle without using my brakes. What does this do? This 'trick' keeps some of your vehicle's forward momentum in store for when you start back up again when the light changes back. Now, it may not be possible to keep moving, such as when a light is long, the light changed before you had a city block to slow down, or what-have-you. So key-off to avoid idling.
But how does downshifting help fuel economy? Most vehicles these days have what is called Deceleration Fuel Cutoff. What this does, is cutoff the fuel when the vehicle is under negative acceleration. Yes, it works when you break as well. However, the further/longer it takes you to decelerate, the higher your fuel economy.
Accelerate like a granny
Yep. You know all those grannies driving around their Cadillacs, while you zoom past because you're running late for work? Chances are, their V8 engines are getting as good of mileage as the typical V6.
A good rule of thumb - accelerate at the rate of 1 mph per second. It should take you five seconds to accelerate by 5 mph. While this may not sound like a long time, it is! So, practice!
If you do indeed decide to utilize these methods and attempt to exceed your vehicle's EPA, keep in mind a few things:
1) Patience is a Virtue. Driving slowly will most definitely result in your commute time becoming longer. But not as much as you would think! My commute is about 8 miles one-way in the city, and it only takes me 25 minutes.
2) Other drivers will hate you. It's just a hard fact. People will swerve around you. People will flip you the bird. They will possibly even endanger yours and the lives around them. This is nothing new. This is just more noticeable when you are driving consciously, and not like a maniac.
In fact, one person took off my driver-side mirror because he decided to use a middle turn lane to pass me...
Often, people will pass me, only for me to catch up to and even pass them at lights. It is quite rewarding!
It has been shown that no one fuel brand is more fuel efficient than the other. This is mostly due to the fact that they all come from the same refineries. However, I prefer Chevron/Texaco for the additives. That is what you need to look at. Additives. Chevron/Texaco additives help to preserve your engine by cutting down on wear.
If you were wondering what kind of savings you should expect from this, keep reading.
Our Ford Focus was getting about 24mpg before we started hypermiling (the term for exceeding the EPA). And now we are getting 35, currently (and going up as I get better at hypermiling). What kind of savings is this?
At 24 mpg, we would get about 264 miles per tank before fill-up.
At 35 mpg, we get about 385.
We fill up about four times a month (if that).
We drive about 1,000 miles per month (12,000 annually).
12,000 / 24 mpg = 500 gallons consumed
12,000 / 35 mpg = 342 gallons consumed
Look at the difference there! 158 gallons of fuel is saved! Not only saving us money, but keeping our impact on the environment lower as well! Quick note: driving economically also reduces your CO2 emissions! Go green!
Let's see how much money we are saving:
Let's say a gallon of gas averages out to be $3.68 for the entire year. So...
158 ga X $3.68 = $581.44!
That is an annual savings of $581.44! Talk about a good chunk of change!
So you're not only lowering your economic footprint, but you're saving loads of cash as well! Why everyone does not do this, is beyond me. And, frankly, I cannot respect those people as much as I can someone who actually puts effort into 'going green'. Sure, people buy hybrids. But are they maximizing that vehicle's potential. more often than not, the answer to that is 'no'. And it gets to me. Why do people have to be so lazy? Why does everyone want to be able to BUY something that will fix their problems? And then go around bragging about how much they spent on something that is 'saving our planet'. Ugh... Sickening.
Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed this topic. Please, PLEASE check out CleanMPG.com. there is loads of information on there. There is also a tool to track your mpg. However, I prefer:
GasCubby - Record and manage your vehicle's fill-ups, track your mpg, keep records of maintenance done, etc.
Click here to go to App Store
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.
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!
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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...
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!
Lorelei says "Bleeehhhhhh!" to spending money.
This Friday, I would like to talk about babies. So, before you go out and spent a boat-load on your bebe, please give this article a read.
A lot of people feel that babies are expensive. I know of people that spend hundreds of dollars a month on diapers alone. Then there's formula, or when they're old enough, baby food. There's clothing, walkers, high chairs, potty chairs, teething rings, toys, etc., etc.
However, I am here to tell you - you can spend less than $50/mo on your new bundle of joy, and she will still have everything she could ever want or need.
In the six months our daughter has been on this earth, we have spent less than $1,000, easily. I would go so far to even say we have spent less than $500. Less than $300, even!
Yes, it is true. How can you do this?
My wife's baby shower is responsible for a lot of it, I must admit. But none of the things we got were worth over $50, for one item. So, if you have any family or friends, chances are they can help you out a lot! The gals at our church were there, as well as family and friends. What we got was quite a few outfits, a breast pump, plenty of cloth diapers, about two month's worth of disposable diapers, and a few odds and ends.
Most people these days do not breast feed and use disposable diapers. However, since my wife is able to breast feed, that is what we do. Why not? Breast-fed babies are shown to develop mentally, emotionally, and physically better than formula-fed babies. Also, we use cloth diapers. A friend's rationalization for not using cloth diapers, is that he would not wear something that he'd crapped in more than once, so why would he make his child...? Interesting. Spendy, but interesting. We do use disposables when we are out of the house, and at night. We use about one case of diapers every 1.5 to 2 months. Not bad, eh?
When it comes time to start weaning your baby into solid foods, most people purchase baby foods. But why? Laziness. Would you not rather give your baby freshly prepared fruit & veggies straight from your own kitchen? All you need is food and a food processor (or you can mash the foods yourself!).
Now what about clothing and toys? As you know, babies grow out of both rather rapidly! However, this does not mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on them. If you have family and friends that are able to help contribute any amount of money to your baby fund (via purchases they make themselves), then you should be set.
My wife and I took the clothes that our daughter had never worn and was already grown out of, to a store called Other Mothers. We ended up with a lot of in-store credit. And were able to get things for our daughter that she actually needed. So 'second-hand' stores can be great for both the buyer and the seller. And don't go thinking your child is 'too good' for second-hand.
Also keep in mind that your child does not need every obnoxious toy that every store has to offer. Our daughter - now almost six months - has three toys. Her peacock from Babies-R-Us, her twinkly birdie that looks like an elephant that we don't know where it came from (haha!), and her key ring. Those are the ones that were purchased. But usually, she would much rather play with her Oragel tube, a clean toothbrush, or any sort of paper or grass so she can rip it to shreds. Other than that, she also has her walker. So, you can see that we have not spent even $50 on toys yet. Nothing can compete with a child's imagination.
Just so you are aware, our budgeted allowance for baby-related expenses is $30. And so far this month, we have only spent $12, and the month is almost over.
Some people may think we don't spoil our child enough. And we wouldn't have it any other way!
Ah, the allure of credit cards...
The reason that I am in this debt payoff situation that I am in is due to credit card and loan debts. Think about it... if there is no loan or credit line to payoff, well, there is no debt! My situation just so happens to involve too much of both.
When I was 18, one of the first things I did to prove my independence was open a credit card. And for the most part, it was not that bad. Until I began purchasing items that I did not have the money for. That is, of course, when it always gets out of hand. Sure, people say that a credit card is nice to have around in case of an emergency, but to those people, I say - nay! You should - first and foremost! - have an emergency fund set up. This is the number one priority. When you start earning an income, you want an EF. At least $1,000. Then start saving for whatever else you want, separate from that $1,000 EF.
Credit cards are not as horrible as they sound. In fact, it is like with all things - in moderation.
The best way to use a credit card is to first get a card that you can use anywhere. Then use it to purchase your normal expenses - gasoline, groceries, etc. But, be sure that every time you make a purchase on your credit card, you record it so that you may put that money aside to pay for toward the card. In fact, I would even suggest recording the credit card transaction in whatever you use to record your debit/checking account purchases. This way, you are not tempted to spend what you do not have.
When you get home - that day - payoff what you just spent on your credit card. It's just that easy.
Department store cards are hardly another matter. The only difference is that you cannot use them other places. Only get a department store card (or otherwise limited card) if it offers incentives. And remember - only spend what you would otherwise use cash for already. If it is not a planned purchase, do not go through with it.
Of course, the aforementioned practices are of my own preference. You may want, say, an Amazon.com Credit Card, because you make frequent purchases from them, and you would be less likely to overspend on it than you would a general credit card. It all depends on your weaknesses/strengths and preferences.
I cannot stress this enough! Credit cards are NOT free money! Nor are they a 'payday loan' to put off paying. They are, in fact, a great tool - when used responsibly - to raise your credit score/credit worthiness.
Loans can be great. But most of the time, they are very bad. I can say for certain - I am going to try my hardest to never again open another loan that is not 0%. With that said, it is not to be said that I will not ever again have another loan that is not 0%. There are some exceptions...
Student loans are a little excusable, as you are [hopefully] opening them in order to better yourself and to earn a better income. It can be hard to work enough in order to pay for school at the same time, but it can be done - though not by everyone. If a student loan is the only line you have open that has a balance, I would not harp on you!
However, do not abuse those student loans! I used my first student loan to pull out a $6,500 down payment on a car - bad idea! Use it only for schooling.
Mortgages are one of the exceptions to the no-loan policy. Homes are huge purchases, and can rarely be done without a loan or two. Keep in mind for mortgages - do not allow the monthly payment to exceed 29% of your monthly income. This includes HOA, insurance, closing costs, etc. I will not go any further into mortgages at this time.
Business loans are another excusable type of loan. It is quite impossible to start a business without loans. Unless you have some great investors, or already make caboodles from your current income, chances are you will need some startup loans. I have read that you should not expect to pull out more than what your business could realistically earn in two years. While this is not to say that the loans will be paid off that quickly, it is simply a guide.
Personal loans can be dangerous. When I was 18, another thing I did to prove my independence was pull out a $2,200 loan to purchase a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. Why? Because I felt that I needed one. I did not.
A loan that I was sort of forced to get was a personal loan to cover the difference on a vehicle's sale price and loan amount. I sold my 2007 Honda Fit last year in order to cut costs. I sold it for $13,000, and owed $15,000. I still feel I got a great deal because I sold the vehicle above KBB value. And, that loan now has under $900 left on the balance, and is my current paydown target. It will be paid off in a couple of months. That loan was only good because it helped to cut my debt considerably.
This entry has not been as thorough as previous entries. That is because of two things: 1) Credit cards and loans are very extensive matters that require a lot of research, 2) but at the same time, I believe credit cards and loans are some of the most simplistic things in finances - try to avoid loans, and do not overspend. Of course, there are special circumstances, percentages and incentives to consider, types of loans and credit cards that could be beneficial, etc.
In the end, as with all things financial, it is in your hands.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
I just thought I would take a moment to let everyone in on a little-known secret.
So, everybody knows that you can get a free credit report annually. However, very few people realise that you can actually get one for free every four months.
The 'trick' is just going to each individual credit union and getting a free report through them, rather than going to one of these free credit report web sites with a ridiculous jingle.
Here is my rotation:
Equifax - November 1
Transunion - July 1
This way, you can monitor your credit report regularly, and for free. Remember, you cannot view it for free again one year later. That is why we use a different one every four months.
Happy Credit Reporting!
You would never think it, but you can score great deals on OTC drugs at your local dollar store.
Last night, my wife and I took our daughter for a walk up to the dollar store around the corner. Not exactly the normal family walk destination, but tonight it was, as I had just run out of my antihistamine. And some of us know how miserable that can be!
Unfortunately, this dollar store only stocks one variety of antihistamine, but thankfully it is the one that works for me - cetirizine. I also need to take decongestion medication, as the antihistamine does not take care of that. And, luckily, they carry that as well.
So I got five packs of 14 pills of cetirizine, and three packs of 24 pills of the decongestant. Now I can live somewhat allergy-free for about a month. Total price? Just under $9. But, remember to round up!