Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In The Trenches - Camping

Summer is almost here and with it the biggest camping day of the year.  Folks flood from the city with their motor homes, campers, and tents.  Since I have lived in a rural area for years I have seen them driving by on the highway.  Even rural people love to plan a camping get together for family and friends and the barbeques and picnics are awesome.   Compared to many vacations or weekend excursions the cost is minimal and doesn't have to cost much more than a tank of gas if you live close enough to the camping areas.  If you don't want to deal with such big crowds weekdays can be much more peaceful.  If you plan to stay at established campground make sure to make a reservation or you might find yourself with no place to stay.  Above all bring the marshmellows.

If even a weekend trip is beyond your budget some of the most fun I had as a kid was sleeping in the backyard under the trees with my cat on the corner of the sleeping bag keeping guard all night.  When my children were small my mother would invite them all over and they would all camp in the back yard.  They didn't even realize they were not out in the woods until it was time to run in the house to use the bathroom. 

Fun times and good memories don't have to cost a

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

12 Ways to Fix Social Security - Yahoo! Finance

12 Ways to Fix Social Security - Yahoo! Finance

This subject is a really big deal as more and more individuals have relied upon Social Security as their primary retirement income or lost much of their alternate retirement investments in the recent downturn of the stock market. In a town hall meeting I attended a couple years ago where our representative was trying to inform and prepare the crowd his comments were met with anger and fear.

There is still time for most people to prepare. Be informed. The changes will affect us all.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are You Financially Offence or Defense?

Over the years I read many financial books, attended seminars, and been in financial professions so I’ve heard many ways to classify people and their habits.  Recently I was listening to something (sorry I don’t remember what) but they used the term Financial Offence and Defense. I had never heard the term before and it has mulled in my brain for days. The more I contemplate the idea the more I realize it is awesome so I wanted to share it with you.

Offence is the ability and focus on making money. Defense is the ability to manage the money frugally and wisely. Now with that simple definition think of a number of people you know including yourself. Which category do they fall into?  Me, I’m by far a natural defense player. Any name or family member I can think of I can immediately decide which player they are. Cool isn’t it?

Now for the interesting part. We naturally gravitate to those things that are easy to us and are our inclination. For example, since I am a defense player I always read and attempt to figure out how to be a better defense player. But, what I realize is that I need to learn more about offensive if I want to improve my game. Make sense?

I recently read The Millionaire Next Door. One of the things that was interesting was that it mentioned that the husband was usually the primary wage earner (offence) and the wife was usually frugal and managed the money (defense). Between the two of them they were a winning team.

Isn't this is exciting? I like simple things. When we remove all the sales pitches, long explanations, and personal analysis of why we do what we do just give us the simple answer and we can go with it.

Knowing this, isn’t it easy to see why some individuals or couples are more successful than others? Now I’m not talking about the gamblers, big spenders, and those with obvious financial flaws. This is for the hard working, diligent people who can never seem to get ahead. Maybe they are losing the game because they have not recognized or worked on the area they lack so they keep missing the touchdowns.

I would be very interested in knowing what the readers would call themselves so I hope you will humor me and write it in the comments. You can put anonymous if you don’t want your name out there. My guess is that most In The Trenches readers are defense. Why? Because you are reading blogs about frugal living, saving money, and cutting back. If you were offense you would be probably be reading about how to invest a dollar to make a million in a month. Am I right?

 Football 7

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review - Living Trusts for Everybody by Ronald Farrington Sharp

“This is a book for the 95 percent of the population that has done no estate planning...”

The author is an attorney and has personally prepared over 4,000 trusts and estate plans. In the first chapter he reviews the differences between a will and a trust and states “The fact is that nearly everyone would be better off with a trust than with a will. In most cases the only person who benefits from our having a will instead of a trust is your lawyer. Attorney fees for making the will and probating the estate are a lawyer's bread and butter.”

Trusts are most beneficial for those with one or more of the following situations involved:
  • Minors
  • Disabled Beneficiaries
  • Spendthrifts
  • Unmarried Couples
  • Blended Families
  • Separated Couples or Separate Trusts
  • Large Estates
  • Small Estates
The author outlines all the benefits that a trust has over a will such as asset management, tax reduction, probate avoidance, avoiding court-ordered conservatorship, and privacy. He also gives specific advice as to how to recognize and avoid estate planning sales seminars that merely want to sell commission based asset management and choosing a lawyer who is specialized in the area of trust preparation.

The author has done an excellent job in giving detailed information without being dry or boring. Everything that he has written is important and no words are wasted.

I highly recommend this book as it is specific yet easy to understand. A quick read will convince you of the importance of trusts or in the rare case of why you don't need one. One very interesting facet of a trust is that the benefits are for the living and not just a method to disperse funds when someone passes away. As a reference tool the chapter headings allow you to review time after time as questions arise. My copy is now highlighted in yellow and green.

Very useful reading and a must for anyone who desires to manage their finances responsibly and profitably.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Support Our Troops. Wear Red Friday.

It's been a while since I posted this so I thought it was time for a reminder.  The news tonight said that 4,397 men and women have given their lives in Iraq, and 1,037 in Afghanistan.  We get so busy it's easy to forget the places so far away.

Many of you may not be aware that there has been an email circulating that asks us to support our troops by wearing red each Friday until the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get back home.  It's an easy thing to do to show them and their families that we have not forgotten them. 

We are forever grateful for the men and women and their families who serve their country and put their lives on the line for our freedom and safety

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

100 Best Blog Posts for Extreme Budgeting

Online Degrees has selected and compiled the links to 100 blog posts that they have classified as the best for extreme budgeting.  While not everything will be something you'll want to try, you'll likely learn a few tips and get some advice that can help you in the long run.

The page is very well organized so you can browse for now and keep as a handy reference for later.  As the name implies they have many programs  for online learning so if you have been thinking of improving your skills or education here is another resource for doing so.

Their Extreme Budgeting categories include:
  • Basics
  • Creating a Budget
  • Spending on a Budget
  • Living Frugally
  • Getting Out of Debt
  • Inspiration
  • Tips and Advice
  • Extreme Budgeting Cautions
  • Ways to Save
  • Miscellaneous

With so much information available online a person can spend hours (that's part of the fun of it) and never run out of ideas.  If you are trying to maximize your time or need to make some quick changes this might be a good starting point.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In The Trenches - Baked Potatoes

My coworker Jeryne's husband went to the grocery store and in an effort to save money bought a 50 pound box of big potatoes at a very discounted price. This is a two person family and Jeryne knew that there was no way they could eat all these potatos before they spoiled. So she came up with a great idea:

Have a party!

Actually it was a office potluck but we had not had one for so long it felt like a party. Jeryne brought in the big baked potatoes and we all brought the toppings.


Sour Cream
Bacon Bits
Green onions
White onions
Salt and Pepper
Shredded Cheese of any kind
Your favorite?

A couple of weeks later it was my last day at work.

A Taco buffet was on the menu:

Re-fried Beans
Shredded Cheese
White onions
Green onions
Black Olives

Both of these ideas are fun, economical and can be used to start your own get-together of friends, coworkers, church or club members, or family. They are potluck in nature but even less expensive. Combine it with movie night and your entertainment budget can be less than $3.

Who says that living In The Trenches can't be fun?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review - The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide by Martin D. Weiss

There is more that I don't know about the stock market and common forms of investments than I do know so it is not a subject that I plan to write much about on this blog.  I prefer my investments to be something I can feel, see, and touch such as small business, real estate, or metals.  And, I certainly would not turn over all my money to someone else to manage.  If someone were to lose my hard earned money it would be me.  However there are those out there who are experts in investing and I would certainly put Martin D Weiss in this catagory.  Between he and his father there are almost eighty years of professional and personal experience through the the first and second great depressions and everywhere in between.  Martin D Wiess has spoken before congressional leaders and provided answers to their own questions about the where and hows of the current economic crisis.

This book and the cd may be more detailed than many In The Trenches readers may want to pursue but for those who do it will be a tremendous learning experience.  By understanding the basic concepts he presents it will help you to have a much greater knowledge of the big picture of what's going on so that you can make sound decisions about what you should do in your current situations.  I think this is especially true if you are nearing retirement and have lost your first investments.  Don't be convinced that the crisis was just a fluke and it will all get better.  This book does not promise miracles but it does outline a basic strategy that can help you be years ahead of the pack in the recovery process.

I believe that the information in this book is important enough that I may write more in the future or do a series on it. And, I hope and plan to implement some of the strategies myself.  In the meantime, I recommend that you get the book or cd's at the library and familiarize yourself at your earliest convenience.  There is a lot to chew on in these ideas. 

The author has written a number of other books as well as his website.  Would love to hear any comments you have on any of them.  To some, his writings may even seem somewhat controversial.  Being right often is.

Money and Markets Website:

Amazon book link  :

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mardy Gilyard - What a story!

If you didn't catch this true life In The Trenches, Rags to Riches story you are missing something.

So, here it is:

Rams rookie Mardy Gilyard goes from 'rags to riches'
By Chris Chase,240266

From living in his car to the NFL.  Would we go this far to acheive our goals and dreams?  Lucky break?  Don''t think so.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In The Trenches - $10 Education

Not all education has to be done in the classroom.  Especially if it's something you love.  I've always been an avid fan of the library but don't have enough time to read all the books I'm interested in.  Non-fiction seems to go somewhat slower.

But I'm getting smarter now.  I've discovered books on CD.  The players can be purchased at Walmart for $10 to $15 dollars. 

Most libraries now have the online browsing feature that allows you to pick the subject and then specify CD only.  Once you've placed the request you're on your way. You can pick any subject you want, from gardening, to novels, to biology.  If you are interested in finance most of the blogs on the left have recommended reading lists to give you some ideas of titles or you could browse Amazon and then see if your library system carries a copy.

 It's great! Just choose your subject and you can become an expert in no time!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Excepts from In The Trenches by Free Money Finance

Freemoneyfinance offers many articles and tips from investments to job search tips to other financial ideas and opportunities.  My favorite part of the blog is the authors personal story of his childhood through his adult life and how he was able to start with difficult challenges and through education and hardwork was able to accomplish what is known as The American Dream.  It is an inspiring no excuses approach that can encourage us all.  I have placed a link below: 

My Story from Rags (Kinda) to Riches (Kinda)

The links below are from In The Trenches - Financial Survival During times of Hardship.  If you have not purchased the book yet it gives an idea of what you are in store for.  Especially interesting is the comments of freemoneyfinance readers.  Add your own on their blog or this one.

Millionaires Among Us

The Annual 50%

If Shopping is Your Passion, then Get Another Hobby

To order the book just click the book on the left and it will take you right to Amazon.

Happy Mother's Day to all and hope you had the opportunity to spend some time or talk on the phone with your most valuable assets in life.  And, thanks to all my kids for calling!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reading the signs.

Imagine driving down the road.  Not quite sure where you are going you take a couple of side streets than get back on the main road and keep going.  There are lots of other cars going the same direction.  Along the way the tire blows and a kind motorist stops and helps change the flat.  Onward you go.  Hundreds of miles pass, lots of ground is covered and the car sputters to a stop.  Oh no, out of gas!  A neighbor spots your predicament.  He brings out a five gallon gas can and gets you to the next gas station.  After your pit stop it's back on the road for hours more until you finally reach your destination.  A DEAD END SIGN!

What?!  How could you have come this far only to reach a DEAD END SIGN? 

How many millions of people have reached their dead end sign with using their credit cards?  In doing so they have messed up their credit ratings, run out of money, and finally gotten themselves to the end of the road.  Now it's time to turn around.

Unfortunately the farther down the road you have traveled the farther it will be to get back but there are lots of others that can help and will keep you company along the way.  They can also show you the shortcuts. And as they are passing many are rolling down their windows and telling you "Turn around, dead end ahead, turn around".  Some of their blogs are listed at the left.

Have you cut up your credit cards yet? 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The ostrich syndrome

You know what I'm talking about.  The money is spent for the month and the bills keep coming in.  What do you do?  Throw them in a pile and don't open them of course.  It's just too depressing to open them and you don't have any money to pay them anyway.  Yes, it's a big temptation.  I've been there, I've done that.  I call it the ostrich syndrome.

Now doesn't that look silly?  Yes, that's how silly it is to not open the bills.  Sometimes we can avoid big consequences by making small phone calls.

Open the bills. You may find a pleasant surprise in that you may have already paid the bill and can throw the bill away.  Other possibilities are that your payment did not get applied and you need to review your account to see if the check has cleared and call immediately.  If you are unable to make the payment than add it to your list for monthend (or next payday).  You may need to call the company and make arrangements.  While you are In The Trenches I cannot overstress the importance of you taking charge of realistically deciding what you can and cannot pay.  You may need to disconnect the cable for a few months to get by.  Unless you have a clear and specific plan you may feel like someone with a tennis ball machine shooting out balls at you and will not know which one to hit first.

Checking accounts.  When you are In The Trenches it is even more important to watch everything closely.  Often times your account is carrying a very low balance and one fifty cent mistake can cost you $34 in overdraft fees.  And, if you are not watching closely these will mount up quickly costing hundreds of dollars that could have been used on bills or food.

In my experience it is best to not use a checking account (or debit card) for all your small daily expenses.  Better to use the account for bills only and do one withdrawl for cash expenses such as gas, a loaf of bread, or other in between times.  When you are looking at $20 and need to make it last though the month being aware of every dollar is important.  You've never been in this position?  Try it.  True frugal living comes from closely watching every expense.  If you are not doing it by necessity than try it by choice to establish the disciple needed tighten the belt.  Just like counting calories will help you lose weight, counting your dollars will help you become more economically aware.

Whether you are managing hundreds of dollars or thousands and whether you are doing it by necessity or choice it is important to watch every expense and catagory of expense closely to manage to your priorities and master your frugal living strategies.  Soon you will reach your goals if you do not put your head in the sand.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In The Trenches - Decorating

There can't be anything much more fun than picking up a friend and hitting the garage sales early on a Friday or Saturday morning.  The treasures are out there for you to find if you are willing to search for them.  This cannot be more true than in the area of decorating.  Sure it's easy to go into a store and pick out a whole new room of furniture but how much more fun to contemplate each individual piece and apply your own personal artestry to make the room a masterpiece.  Each piece has a story to tell.  Here are some of the places you can begin your hunt.
  • Ads in the paper.
  • 2nd hand stores
  • Antique Stores
  • Garage Sales
  • Auctions
  • Family attics and give aways
  • Ebay
  • Trade with friends
  • Gifts
  • Swap meets
  • Estate Sales
One of my favorite pieces of furniture is a triple dresser that I picked up when I was about 20.  The piece is so heavy that it takes three people to move it and the mirror is huge.  The style is Asian.  The garage sale wanted one hundred dollars and at the time all I had was eighty.  I made the offer and they took it and I about jumped for joy for the beauty of it.  I still have it all these years later and it looks as good as it did then except for the corner our big dog took a chew on, God rest his soul.

Whether you like antique or ultra sleek it's all out there and someone wants to get rid of it. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In The Trenches - How did we get here?

It's easy to talk about financial changes when we are looking for ways to cut back, move forward, or  accomplish our goals.  The truth is that many people get  in this position through a jolting life change  that can come without notice.  This may be a  pink-slip at the job, catching your spouse in an affair, a flood, or the death of  a  family member.   These are the times when our finances are turned upside down along with the rest of our whole way of life. We cannot answer any questions about goals because we don't even know what or where we will do next.  These are the tough times.  Amidst our shock, grief, and confusion  we as responsible adults must figure out how to keep going and take care of those who look to us for provision.  It can be overwhelming.  On top of that we may  even have those who we feel want to push us under as we swim for our lives and futures.  We get so much advice or not enough. These are the realities of life and few of us can get through without one or two times of these major life changes.