Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Tooth Fairy

At work we talk about just about everything to pass the time while we are working.  One night we discussed the going rate for the Tooth Fairy.  Having this information is essential for anyone preparing a budget.  Those of us over forty remembered getting a dime or 25 cents after carefully hiding our much wiggled tooth under the pillow.  Those under forty had prices ranging from $1 to $5 and one person got to go to each adult family member to collect money and even got nice presents!  Man, it's just not fair! 

The whole thing seemed significant enough that I needed to do more research.  I personally had never seen the Tooth Fairy but I was able to find a picture of her and have posted it on the left.  Since it is an actual photograph she is the real thing!  I also found a place where you could write letters to her.  She is cute enough so I'm giving the link to the address below.

I also wanted to do some research on where she came from so I went to Wikipedia.  Some of it is just plain creepy and strange but I'll let you read that for yourself. 


image by:

Monday, April 26, 2010

What's your grocery shopping strategy?

Here’s my strategy:
Before going to the store I sit down and make a list of all the things we are low or out of. I always plan for a one-month basis except for bread and vegetables. On the ride to the store I repeat my motto: “I hate grocery shopping, I hate grocery shopping….” Once in the store it’s my goal to get in and out as quickly as possible. I have probably passed by my friends and not even realized it. I don’t look at extra things. My list is my map and I rapidly pick up all the items. I buy large quantities of the great sale items for my "stocking program". I make little tick marks on my list, the ones that you make in groups of 5 so I know how much I am spending along the way and don’t go over my planned amount. When I’m all done and back in my car I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s done.

My husband’s strategy:
While on the way to the store he’s working on his list. He mentally repeats his motto: Oh good, I get to go to the store, I love grocery shopping, I love grocery shopping”. Once in the store he checks the store ads and makes note of the things that are on sale that we use and pulls the coupons that he wants to look for. In the produce section he looks at everything, touches everything to check for ripeness, smells the cantaloupes, samples the grapes, and peeks inside the corn. He strikes up a conversation with everyone that passes by him smiling as he goes. He repeats this process throughout the store and picks up snacks to add to the cart along the way. There are times when I have dropped him at the store, run errands, and come back 40 minutes later to find that he is still in the produce section. Through the month he runs to the store almost everyday to pick up just a few things, and the things on sale, and more snacks.

Can you guess who spends more money?

Who has more fun?

Both of us are extreme shoppers. He loves it. I don’t. Most people are probably somewhere in the middle. Although I do not have a scientific study to back me up I’m sure that I could prove a correlation between how much a person spends for groceries and how they emotionally feel about the event. I can pass by the store dozens of times without a blink but if my husband is with me we often end up stopping “Just for a couple things”.

So now: the moment of truth. Which kind of grocery shopper are you?  How does that affect your shopping and spending habits?  Do you faithfully do all the items noted in red?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review of In The Trenches by Money Funk

In The Trenches: Financial Survival During Times of Hardship : Money Funk Personal Finance & Frugal Living

Money Funk was the first frugal living blog I came across. I wrote an email to Christine and she wrote me back almost immediately! It was so cool to know someone was behind the blog and was willing to talk to me! Over the next few days she gave me some insightful tips and ideas. So I'm happy to say that I think Money Funk is not only a great blog but has a great writer to back it up. Click on the title to read the review and there is a link on the left for your future reference.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

American Economy - One person at a time.

There are growing reports that the economy is not recovering as quickly as many expected and they are upset or discouraged because of it.  News reports are increasingly showing angry and heated agruments, debates, and protests.  The politicians play into this by seeking to whip the crowds to fervor reactions without constructive solutions for dealing with day to day challenges. Although it means the road to recovery is longer than many expected I would like to suggest that there are a number of factors we cannot forget.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To Save on Groceries… By Growing Your Own | MintLife Blog | Personal Finance News & Advice

How To Save on Groceries… By Growing Your Own MintLife Blog Personal Finance News & Advice

It's planting time again! This year I'm very limited on time so I think that instead of trying to plant a big garden I will throw some lettuce seeds, cucumbers, and tomato plants in my flower garden to fill in the spaces. Why not? It's nice greenery and true to the "green" environment. Herbs can also have a fragrant smell.  I like the stevia that smells like licorace.  Fresh picked herbs can be added to your sauces.  You can also mix some vegetable types with your hanging baskets or planters. A nice conversation piece when the company comes.

If you are still not convinced that gardening is for you this article mentions blueberries, strawberries, and herbs which can come back year after year and have very little maintenance and lots of good eating. Don't forget grapes and rhubarb for pies (the leaves are poisoneous to many animals.)

A trip to the garden center of your favorite store can give you lots of ideas.  Gardening can be a wonderful family activity or a private getaway.  Here are some more articles to get your started.  Be sure and look at the photos and you'll be convinced:  This one is a how-to video.

Happy harvesting!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In The Trenches - Family TV Night

We live in a busy world.  Go, go, go.  We have calendars, day planners, internet reminders.  Busy, busy, busy.  We rarely have the time even for family dinners as we grab something between the soccor practice and the homework.

When I was a kid every Sunday night we watched Lassie and Bonanza.  Mom put on the popcorn and the whole family sat cuddled together on the couch to munch and watch.  I still remember the episode when Lassie got scooped up by a back hoe.  It was dramatic and I cried but it all turned out ok.

Then, in my twenties I would rush to get all the kids together and head to my sister-in-laws to watch Dallas and Dynasty.  She would have some food and we would sit glued to the TV to see what J.R. was up to while the kids ran and played.  We caught up on all our visiting and daily lives during the commercials.

Then, when my son was a teen, it was Fresh Prince.  He would call me upstairs with a "hurry, mom" and we would lay on the bed and watch the show and laugh together.

The occasion was special because we decided to make it special.  We set the time aside and without fail made it our routine.  And with the routine came the tradition.  With the tradition came the happy memories.

Who would imagine that a person would remember a single TV episode over 40+ years later?  It's because I was sitting next to my dad with a bowl of popcorn.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Financially Secure People Eat Leftovers - Saving Advice

Financially Secure People Eat Leftovers - Saving Advice

This is an enjoyable article. Wish I would have thought of it. And the best part is the comments so don't skip them. Amazing the emotional level brought up by the subject of leftovers.  I know many people who don't eat leftovers, I should say won't eat leftovers.  Give me a leftover plate of lasagna anytime.

I remember my uncle.  Meat, potatoes, vegetable, and bread with honey every night.  The only exception was the Sunday roast.  Cucumbers and garden grown green beans were the best.  Going out to eat was a hamburger and potato chips.  That was the extent of his diet.  No casseroles, foreign food, or anything new or different.  He got so upset when he went to Japan and could not find a  "good" hamburger.  Yes, he was one of the financially secure people.  Millionaire, in fact.  Waste not, want not was one of his lifestyle principles.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Real Estate Investment - Land

 When most people think about real estate investing they think of residential real estate, vacation property, or, if they want to make a business out of it rentals in single family residences or multiple unit complexes. These can all be very good investments if you research and plan carefully. All of them to some degree or another require money, time, and work.

On of the least discussed real estate investments is land. Just land. Generally land would be a long-term investment and therefore a possible option for retirement savings and investment. The value of land generally would not go up and down as radically with the market conditions, as would residential property. In addition, taxes would be much lower.

Friday, April 16, 2010 - save money on your bills.

I found a great new blog to recommend!  What I like about it is that at the top there are tabs for all the major financial areas you are working on cutting expenses in such as energy, debt reduction, mortgages, eating out, etc.  There is even a section for Low-Income which is hard to find.  The site is clean and easy to maneuver with all the posts listed in summary form so you can do a quick scan for your interests.  I have added the link to my blog list so you can check into it often.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In The Trenches - Zero Based Budgeting

To the Professional Financial Manager of the home:

Yes, you now have a title.  A title that reflects your growing skills and knowledge.  A title is good, that's why businesses give them out.  It makes you and others feel you are a VIP.  And, you are.  :)

In The Trenches differs from other budgeting plans because it is based on zero-based budgeting techniques that are commonly used in businesses.  What this means is that every expense is evaluated before it can be included in the budget.  A thorough evaluation is made.  Is this service or expense needed?  Is this the most cost effective method for obtaining this service?  Has a comparison been made of other similar services?  Can paying on a quarterly or annual basis reduce the cost?  How will this expense contribute to my financial net worth?  These questions and many more help to evaluate and determine if this is the best possible use of funds and should be reviewed monthly for the first year and at least annually thereafter to insure that the services or needs have not changed.  An example of this is to do a price comparison of your auto insurance every year. Is this still the best plan for your needs? Is it the most cost effective?

The basic expenses are part of what is called the Minimum Basic Budget.  Additional items such as vacations or entertainment can be added but only if there is enough money to afford them without going into debt to do so.
The simple result is:  Am I getting the best deal for my money?
If we are In The Trenches most of us want to get out as soon as possible and taking the time to do this evaluation can save dollars or thousands of dollars so that we may reach our goals sooner.
Financial Web also defines Zero-Based Budgeting in this post: 
Using zero-based budgeting will assist in reviewing all the options and come up with solutions that will work your your family.  It will help you answer the question "What are we going to do?!"

How to eat well on a food stamp budget: $68.88 - Yahoo! News

How to eat well on a food stamp budget: $68.88 - Yahoo! News

Maybe you are not on food stamps and nowhere near that level. Maybe you are just trying to cut back your expenses so that you can pay more on your credit card debt, hospital bills, or put more money into savings.

Every dollar you can reduce your expenses by will help in this effort. In The Trenches is not just a budget. It is a battle plan.

You may not want or need to reduce your food expenses to $68.88 but if you want to cut them by $50. $75, or even $100 a month this article can give you some valuable tips to know where and how to do it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In The Trenches - Board games.

Remember them?  Hours and hours of entertainment with no expense.  Time to drag them out again. 

These are some of our family's favorites:

Yahtzee - my #1
Crazy eights

If I missed one of your favorites feel free to add it in the comments.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Toilet Paper Controversy

I would have never thought that toilet paper could cause any controversy or disagreement. In The Trenches has a chapter called “The best Investment – Toilet Paper”. In that chapter I outline a simple plan for beginning a food storage plan without raising the amount you are currently spending on groceries. This idea has recently gotten high praise from Food Storage Made Simple and Christian Finance. The complete reviews are on the next page and their links are in my blog list.

In the past week I read an article that suggested certain products that are not ideal for a person’s storage plan. Paper products were one of the items on the list because of the amount of space they take up.

Hum…this puzzled me until I looked and noticed that a the article was written by a man. That explained it all. Guess it all depends on your perspective!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why (Most) Women Like to Shop : Discovery News

Why (Most) Women Like to Shop : Discovery News

This article came out a couple of months ago.  I had intended to post it earlier but forgot. 

Shopping...that's a good word isn't it?  Not necessarily when we are trying to cut back on expenditures.  There is a chapter in In The Trenches called If shopping is your passion get another hobby.  In it I talk about the reasons I have seen for shopping and some suggestions for new things to do.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I don't always agree with the experts.

There will be times in this blog that it may seem like I'm not in line with the experts in the field.  The reason is very simple.  Experts are paid by someone and because of that they are going to represent someone else's agenda even if you are paying them.

Consider this:
  • It was experts that made all the subprime loans that resulted in the morgage bubble that broke.
  • It was the experts who encouraged Americans to invest their money in the mutuals funds and now  hard working people I know have lost their retirement funds.
  • It was the experts who encouraged customers to get multiple credit cards and are now garnishing their wages.
  • Need I continue?
So who do we turn to?  There are basic financial principles that have stood the test of time and are most commonly known by those over 65.  They are the ones who have made it through the great depression and have rebuilt our society in a way that allowed all to prosper who were willing to apply these principles and work hard.

Thankfully, they have shared this information in many ways.  We just have to seek it out.  It's still there.  Like gold that has to be mined.  We need to watch, learn, and question.  They may not tell us the answers in the quick, attractive, catchy slogans we see in the commercials but they will tell us if we are willing to listen.

Think of your grandparents.  Some of the things that they might have said are:
  • Work hard.
  • Stay out of debt
  • Close the door, you're letting the heat out.
  • No, it costs too much.
  • We can't waste this.
  • Don't be in such a hurry.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.
  • Don't forget your offering for church.
  • If you're cold, put on a sweater.
  • Save something for a rainy day.
  • Why pay someone if you can do it yourself?
 Should we seek out the knowledge of experts and financial professionals?  Of course, but, if what they are saying contratdicts the basic principles that our grandparents have taught us we need to get more information and think carefully before we jump in to a decision.  Remember, all professionals are there to make money.  Your money.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review of In The Trenches by Christian Finance

Book review by Christian Finance

This is the newest of book reviews of In The Trenches.  Just click on the post heading to view it.  Also, I would like to introduce you to the site Christian Finance.  I have found their posts to be common sense, thoughtful, and missing the jump on the bandwagon mentality.  The author of the posts does his reseach and provides timely facts to back up his opinions and observations.  The site is also in my blog list for future access.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The American Status Symbol

Picture this….Beautiful woman, handsome man, elegant restaurant. And, at the end of the romantic dinner the bill comes and the credit card gets placed on the tray while the couple smiles at one another.

Or this….Family vacation, smiling kids, loving couple, happy memories. Priceless, and for everything else there is ……..

When did borrowing money become the American Status Symbol? Past generations would have rolled in their graves at the thought of borrowing money for lavish dinners and expensive vacations.

Who was responsible for making borrowing money the American Status Symbol? The banks, of course. They sold the image that borrowing money was the fastest way to the high class life style that appeals to our hopes and dreams. And all this can be yours for only a signature. Can’t get much easier than that. How did they do it? Commercials, of course. Almost a whole generation of Americans is now digging their way out of debt because of fantastic commercials.

Now as we struggle with the bills, cut back on the necessities, and possibly lose our homes the memories are still good but the price we pay is much higher than we expected. And, most of the commercials have stopped. Did you notice that?   (Chase does have a new catchy one so watch out before you start singing along.  If you start humming "Something tells me I'm in for something good"  watch your wallet.)

The American Status Symbol. The Credit Card. Borrowing money. Let’s find something new.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In The Trenches - Brainstorming - Ideas, Input, Advice

The 80’s were a great time to be a woman in the corporate world. One of the things that made it special was that there was a big emphasis to move away from the manager knows it all thinking to involving people at all levels to participate in finding improvements and solutions to the challenges that we faced. One of the popular strategies that was introduced was Brainstorming.

The facilitator would stand at the white board and write while the group would fire off things that popped into their minds pertaining to the topic. No idea was classified as bad or good in this initial list because sometimes a bad idea when presented would get someone else to think of a better idea. It was all part of getting creative and looking at situations with new eyes. By the way, we had NO problems – we had either challenges or opportunities. Because we approached things that way we came up with some ideas that were not just good, they were great!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's different about In The Trenches?

There are many very good budgeting books, programs, and software available. So what makes In The Trenches different?

In The Trenches was written specifically for those who are going through transitions in their finances and would benefit from making changes.

In The Trenches will help you during the transitional times and the ideas can be used with your current budgeting methods or as a starting point for those who are new to the whole budgeting process. The charts and forms will help you review and analyze your own situation and help you figure out what is your own Minimum Basic Budget.

Just as you would not want only one tool in your toolbox In The Trenches is another tool to go with your current budgeting method, research, blog information, conversations with friends and family, and professional help. It will help you get though those hard times that may last anywhere from a month, to a year, and many of the principles you will want to use for a lifetime.

Who would get the most benefit from In The Trenches?

  • The unemployed.
  • Those who are making less income than last year.
  • Those on a fixed income.
  • Those living from paycheck to paycheck.
  • Behind on bills.
  • Looking for more tips on frugal living.
  • Low income.
  • Those who have a large amount of debt or medical bills.
  • People with fluxuating incomes from seasonal or independent work.
  • Planning for a maternity or medical leave.
  • Wanting to reduce expenses to start saving or investing more.
  • Just about everyone right now. 
When I was in banking it was my job to review procedures and budgets to determine cost savings areas and productivity improvements. When my father became terminally ill I resigned from this position to be at home. This decision combined with other unforeseen circumstances put us in a financial tailspin. We were quickly in a new place with new challenges, obstacles, and opportunities.

It was during this time that I developed my In The Trenches methods and later began to write the book to share with others some of what I had learned in the process.

If you know anybody in these situations In The Trenches can be ordered through, Barnes and Noble, or many other online book stores. Don't take my word for it, check out the reviews on the next page.  I hope you will consider picking up a copy today for yourself or a friend. Just click the book on the left and it will take you to Amazon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

five-billionaires-who-live-below-their-means: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

five-billionaires-who-live-below-their-means: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

When we think of being frugal we often think of poor miserly individuals and the picture is not something we aspire to be. This is a misconception. Frugalness at it's heart is WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. In doing this we are free to acheive more that we would have imagined.

In The Trenches has a chapter called Millionaires Among Us that lists the qualities that I have observed about the millionaires that have been in my own life. I think you will find some surprises.

The article above shows another five who have achieved success that most of us cannot imagine and have done so by LIVING UNDER THEIR MEANS. (see related blog posts on this subject)

I am now reading three books at once. One of them is The Millionaire Next Door. And, guess what? Yes, the majority all follow the same pattern.

So, if you are looking for some role models on your journey to Frugal Living don't look to those who seem to have nothing, look to those who are now enjoying the fruits of their success.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seven GOOD things about a BAD Credit Report.

For years we have believed that one of the most important things about our finances is our credit report. The reason we believe that is because we are constantly deluged through the media with advertisements about our credit score. It makes us feel special when banks send us multiple credit card offers that lead us to believe that we are financial savvy and sound. We believe it because we can go into any car dealer and drive away with a brand new car. We believe it because we have been led to believe it.

WHAT WE FORGET IS THAT EVERYTIME WE USE CREDIT WE ARE BORROWING MONEY and LIVING ABOVE OUR MEANS. I’m tempted to use many exclamation points here but hopefully the capital letters will make the point. If you don’t get anything else out of this post this point is crucial: USING CREDIT CARDS IS BORROWING MONEY. I know we know it with our minds but we don’t get it with our habits. Our attitude has become casual and reflects a play now, pay later lifestyle.

So your credit score is in the tank. How is that good news? You want to get out of debt don’t you? You want to live within or under your means don’t you? So, here is the first good news to help you achieve your goal. It’s the dead end sign before going off the cliff. Here’s seven specific ways that having a bad credit report can be a good thing for you.