Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In The Trenches - Recycling

This story is a little off-season but still fun.

As Christmas approaches the excitement of the children grows. The tree is up and the simple presents are being purchased. It’s time to start the wrapping. Mom gets on the stepladder and to the top shelf to get one of our favorite boxes. The wrapping paper box. From this we carefully select from the beautiful papers that were on the gifts we received the previous year and the years before that. The tape has been carefully removed and the paper folded for just this time. We sort though them to find just the perfect piece to fit our gift for this year. Some of the paper has been used for the last 10 years and we are able to remember what it originally covered. Then we pick the right ribbon from the ribbon box.

Sound familiar? Probably not. To this day I still cringe when the paper is ripped off the packages, wadded up and thrown in a garbage bag. Maybe a special ribbon or bag is kept but probably never used again. And, it makes me a little sad. Somehow some of the preciousness of the moment is gone.

You’ll enjoy reading some of the things we used to recycle:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jobs That Are Growing--Despite the Recession- Yahoo! HotJobs

There is still opportunities out there despite the radical changes in the job market.  It seems that all professions related to the medical profession are still growing and some of the professions on the list are a little surprising. 

Jobs That Are Growing--Despite the Recession- Yahoo! HotJobs

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Write down every dollar you spend.

Every time we leave the house we spend money.  Whether it's gas, groceries, a lotto ticket, lunch, or paying a bill the list goes on and on.  And now with auto bill pay, on line shopping, and ebay we can spend money from home.  It's so easy that it's hard to keep track of it all. 

Before we know where to cut back and make adjustments we have to know where the money is going now.  Even the best budget will fail if you don't stick to it.  What we think we are doing and what we are actually doing can often be two different things. 

Whether you have made a budget yet or not it's a good idea to write down every dollar you spend at least for a month.  If you are comfortable with excel you can input all you information with a code by catagory, sort it and see how much you have spent.  If you don't like computers a 13 column spreadsheet will allow you to do it manually.

Next time you ask yourself "Where did all the money go?" it's time to start writing it down.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Living UNDER your means - part 3

Warning.  For some reason the writing of this post struck an emotional cord in me.  I considered not even posting it.  Upon consideration I decided that those who are In The Trenches needed to hear it.  So if you are looking for something lighter you might want to start with Living UNDER your means - part 3 the other version that is below.  This one's from the heart....

Living UNDER your means - Part 3 The other version

It's not a mistake that I've written two posts with the same name. This is the one I intended to write in the first place. The other was written days earlier but I decided to post them at the same time. Pick the one you want to read or read them both. If you do read both I would appreciate knowing which one best met your needs right now. Feel free note your impressions in the comments or if you would like it private you may email me.

Developing a savings plan is just as important if not more important than figuring out how to reduce your debt. The reason for this is that is because even if you could get out of debt tomorrow if you have not disciplined yourself to save, which is the true test of living UNDER your means, you will go right back to the charge cards whenever a minor or major glitch in the plan comes up or you find something you really want. So the time to start saving is now. The initial amount may be small but it can be increased as you develop the habit. Just as we would not expect a runner to start off running 5 miles the small consistent efforts will eventually pay off in increased stamina and ability.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unemployed? An American Opportunity

Got too much time on your hands?

Our students need help in all areas of the country.  For years the call has gone out that more adult participation is needed to keep these kids at the top level and help them from falling behind.

If even some of our unemployed could offer their time to our kids the future would be changed for generations to come.

Tutoring is one on one involvement.  Don't feel qualified?  You know more than you think you do.  Can you spare some time to listen to a child read or help with their multiplication tables?

Contact your local schools and see if they can use your help. 

And, it would sure look good on your resume.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

top-5-reasons-why-people-go-bankrupt: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

top-5-reasons-why-people-go-bankrupt: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

I am beginning to really appreciate the articles from INVESTOPEDIA. Their articles are always easy to understand, concisely written, and have good possible solutions presented.

This article about the top five reasons for bankruptcy is included because if we know the possible pit falls we can build a better strategy to avoid them. Also, as we know the statistical facts our incorrect preconceived ideas can be corrected.

In this article for example, one of the top reasons for bankruptcy is loss of job. Yes, that's a pretty obvious one. We know that. But, what have we actually done in our own finances to prepare for this possibility? Are we spending every dollar we make and more? Or, do we sit and worry everyday that it could happen? Yes, it could. If this is the case losing our job will rip the rug out from under our feet. Maybe it already has been.

Next, we now know that 62% percent of those who have declared bankruptcy have done so because of medical expenses. Does that change our perspective at all toward those facing this challenge? As a landlord. if a prospective tenant marks the yes box on the application can we now ask more questions before drawing conclusions?

Another good item on this post is the additional links. The one titled "Digging out of debt in 8 steps" was a good one. There is an abundance of information on finances right now. Let's find the good ones and pass them on.

No, yahoo does not pay me to promote them.  I just like their articles.  :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In The Trenches - Wardrobe planning

I admit, this post is mostly for the ladies.  Unless, of course, a man wants to use it to point out something to his wife.

Most women love to shop, have a closet full of clothes and yet the frequent complaint is that they have nothing to wear.  This is baffling to men but it really does make sense.  Without good wardrobe planning you can end up with a closet full of mismatched, don't fit, don't look good on me, and why did I buy this thing clothes.  Some may still even have the price tag on them.  This is expensive and ultimately unsatisfying.  And, an opportunity.

When I was in banking I had a friend who was a fashion consultant at Nordstroms, the leading store in the Seattle area.  Spending an afternoon with her was more educational and ultimately saved more money than anything I could have done.  If you are In The Trenches, before you spend another dollar on clothing it's time to stop and make a wardrobe plan.

The first step is to know your colors.  What colors look good on you and which ones don't.  Maybe that blouse you never wear in you closet is telling you something.  When you put it on it just doesn't look right but you are not sure why.  It may be that it would look great on someone else but when you put it on you look like you have had the one-week flu.  This is not your imagination.  It is not your color.  Colors are divided into the four categories of winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Do you know which category you fit into?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Simple Dollar

The Simple Dollar

I've Had Enough. This is another great post from The Simple Dollar. If you have not signed up as a subscriber to this blog yet I hope you will check it out. Trent has such a straight forward encouraging way of motivating us to positive action. He just tells it like it is.

The American Dream or an Image?

The essence of the American Dream is that if a person works hard they will be able to better themselves and achieve their dreams, goals, and ambitions. It is the foundation of our country's success and why immigrants continue to pour into the country. It truly is a great place to be!

Recently though there has been a blurring of the lines between the dream and the reality and what has passed as the fulfillment of the American Dream has actually been just an image.

Free flowing credit has created an image of success and now all that is left for many people is the bills. Homes have been foreclosed, cars repossessed, and credit reports ruined. It is my opinion that this was a systematic attempt by the banks to promote big spending by us to to make big short term profits for them. The financial institutions have enticed us into thinking that spending more than we make is the quickest and best way to fulfill our dreams. Yes, there is much fault on the economy, the banks, and other forces that have brought many families to a downturn but much of where we are at now may be a direct result of our own choices. I know that either one of these positions - corporate greed and manipulation, or personal responsibility can both be touchy subjects but unless it is said we will not have the will or the courage we need to deal with the tasks that need to be accomplished.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Between Friends

Gone are the old days when people considered finances a private matter or when women knew nothing about money. In these times the taboo of discussing money has been removed. Not that you have to discuss your business with every body but you can pick and choose who you want to and how much detail you want to include.

The following is an email discussion between two friends. It is not intended to give specific financial advice or suggest a specific approach to a problem. It’s somewhat long but as you read through it you will find many basic financial principals discussed and it may raise your own questions and thoughts. The conversation spans a two-week period and is a little long, but raises many important issues to consider so I didn’t want to shorten it.

The important part of the story and why I have included it is to show how talking to friends before we make major decisions can help us arrive at a better conclusion than we might have on our own. Most importantly is to know that professional council can either solidify our ideas or help us to make better ones. And, don’t be in a big hurry! When making financial decisions take all the time you need.

What will you do with an extra $400?

As part of the government stimulus package there has been a MAKING WORK PAY and GOVERNMENT RETIREE CREDITS added to the tax form. It is line 63 on the 1040 form and refers to Schedule M. See your tax preparer for more information.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs - Yahoo! News

Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs - Yahoo! News

To many this type of headline comes as a terrible shock and leads them to scramble in panic. To others this is news we have known for almost 20 years. The facts are real. The timing of the headlines has more to do with political agenda than what the media would like to classify as "breaking news".

The ultimate decline of the social security system has more to do with the baby boomers now coming of age than any specific actions taken by the Whitehouse administration. Policies do have an impact, not on the outcome, but more on the acceleration of the process. The Bush Administration used some of the funds for the war efforts, the Obama Administration is also facing challenges to hold up what would have been a collapsing financial system. There are many in the media and in political positions who would now use the situation to point fingers, place blame, and quote figures to back up their position. One of my previous bosses frequently said "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure". This is the strategy of politicians on both sides of the aisle. They know it's going to happen but they are more concerned about not getting the blame than being honest with the American people. And, if they can spin the situation to get more votes than so much the better.

Now, getting off my soapbox, we will consider what we need to do as the American people. We need to get In The Trenches. Like when the warning of a volcano is coming the sirens will get louder and louder. The earlier we begin to prepare the more we will be prepared.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In The Trenches? Find a funny friend!

I have friends who are very funny! Have you known those kind of people who bring sunshine into the room? They tell their stories in such a way that you laugh so hard the tears come? Even the setbacks in life are the beginning of an interesting and entertaining adventure.

Being In The Trenches is a serious thing but it does not have to be without fun and happiness. These seasons in life can remind us the the true joys come not from what we have but those with whom we develop wonderful relationships with.

Ann woke up every morning, did her chores which included outside and household work. When it was time for school she would bundle up all the kids to take them to the local elementary. At 9:00a.m. I would have the coffee on and we would share a few minutes every morning. We talked about gardening, quilting, books, love, kids, faith, finances, and the state of and future of the American Economy. The topics were far ranging and nothing was off limits. We had fun and laughed and then she would be on her way and we would both begin our daily tasks and activities.

This continued until I went back to work and the topics we discussed have impacted my viewpoint of life and events until this day. I have been blessed with many friends in my life and each have been like the bright flowers in the cloudy days.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The American Dream - one step at a time.

I love to dream big. I love to take a small idea and figure out how to turn it into a winning enterprise. I am an American. That's what we do.

Sometimes I have been successful and sometimes I fail. I am learning what makes the difference and a big part of it is taking things one step at a time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Worry is like spinning your wheels in the mud. The more effort you put into it the deeper you dig your own ditch.

Instead, give thanks for all the good in your life - Your family, friends, experiences, and daily food.

Giving thanks, even during our times of hardship, is one of the greatest and most powerful lessons we can learn while we are In The Trenches.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Living UNDER you means - part 2

I've been planning to write about saving. And, I will. But, first I think there is an even bigger issue that needs to be addressed in order to be prepared to save. We all have been culturally indoctrinated to always seek bigger and better. This is not bad in and of itself because we do want to work toward our goals and do what we can for our families. The trouble comes in when we push this so hard that we become willing to go into debt in order to do it.

I remember a time before I went In The Trenches that I looked around my house and realized that my home had a debt, and I was making payments on my car, furniture, washer and dryer, and even my clothes! And, it all happened with the simple phrase "Minimum Monthly Payments". I was making good income and $15 per month seemed so small but I didn't realize the slippery slope I was treading. It all became abundantly clear when my income level changed. All of a sudden my small payments were a big headache.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In The Trenches - Entertaining

Just because you are in the trenches doesn't mean you can't have fun. Potlucks have been around forever and can bring your friends together in your home, at the beach, or on a camping trip. They can be full meal or deserts only. One fun event I attended was a pasta making party and of course the 70's were famous for fondue.

If your friends live close by try a progressive dinner. The first house serves appetizers, the second salad, the third main dish, and last is desert. The expense is then shared by the participants. This is fun at Christmas time because you can enjoy the decorations as you move along.

And, there's movie night. Rent your favorite movie, make some popcorn, and relax. Or, if you just want to visit you can put on the coffee pot and have a movie to entertain the kids.

With summer coming I just have to mention barbecues. There just can't be enough of those.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Living UNDER your means

For the last few days I have been dwelling on the expression "Live within your means". I have heard the phrase all my life, seen it on frugal blogs, and even used the term on this blog. The more I thought about it I realized that living within our means is a good first step but what we really need to do right now is live UNDER our means. That's what living In The Trenches is all about.

There were a couple of seasons in my life where I was able to achieve this. I had only three payments a month - mortgage (down to $15,000), electric, and phone. I did not have a checking account because it was just as easy to buy three money orders. Can you imagine? My monthly required expenses were under $650. I was able to pay these on less than one paycheck a month so all the rest of my money I could choose to do what I wanted with. What freedom!