Thursday, December 17, 2009


living-on-a-cash-only-diet: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance: "Living on a Cash-Only Diet"

Love the title to this article. Hope you will check it out. Many years I lived with no checking account, was called a credit ghost, and paid everything in cash. It is amazing how much more you watch your spending when you are on a cash only, debt free basis. Once a month I went to the Post Office to buy three money orders. Mortgage (I had the house almost paid off), lights, and insurance. The simplicity was liberating.

I admit that I have gotten far from those days but hope someday to return. We all have to start where we are and the road may be longer for some than others but I can tell you this: a person can sure sleep good at night when they have no debts.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paintbrush on America

Jobs are one of the hottest topics. Paintbrush on America is my job creation idea and could be reviewed for a federal, state, local, or personal jobs program. Feel free to use it or pass it on. Here's the idea:

Paintbrush on America

Nothing improves the look of a home faster than a fresh coat of paint. Paint can raise the appraised value of the home and neighborhood, increase the life of the home, and improve the pride of living in a community.

Painting can benefit every community in America from the urban areas to the small rural towns throughout the nation. The work would be distributed by population area so all Americans could benefit.

The program, if managed properly, can be economical by the purchase of paint in bulk and workers would be paid minimum wage while they obtain a valuable skill that can be used to open their own business or for personal use after the program is completed, and keep them off unemployment for the duration of the project. Training required is minimal. Availability and cost of the program could be supplemented by the private sector by charging on a scale based on income. This would enable the low income people to have the service for free or in trade for their own labor. Current businesses could avail themselves of the business if they are willing to comply with the guidelines of the program. (Such as when a doctor agrees to take what Medicare pays). Habitat for humanity would be an excellent resource to manage the project.

The program would compliment other programs currently under consideration such as the weatherization and plumbing projects. Another program that could fall into the same category is roofing. Although the idea does benefit the individual it also creates jobs, boosts the real estate market, and improves the communities in which we live.

If you have ideas that would generate jobs contact your city council, representatives, or Creation of jobs is an American problem and we need to have an American solution in every community across the nation.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In The Trenches Eating

When we are in the trenches everything needs to change and the sooner we are able to EMBRACE THE CHANGE, the sooner we can get back on our feet. Eating is a major area since it is one of the few that we have control over. So here are some In The Trenches meals.

Macaroni and Cheese
Chili and Cornbread
Breakfast for dinner (one of my favorites)
Stews and homemade soups
Tatertot casserole

Add these to your menu once or twice a week and your costs will go down. Already eat like this? Me too. Some of my favorites. Eating economically does not have to be miserable.

And, when was the last time you had a PP&J sandwich or oatmeal for breakfast?

What does this have to do with financial management? Everything. Our goal is to provide for our family while we are tightening the belt. Our quality of life may not need to be diminished, just our spending.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Keep your integrity

When you are in the trenches there may and probably will come a time that you will not be able to meet all of your obligations and committments. Times have changed and as much as you may want to pay all the bills that come in there are some that you cannot pay. In earlier entries I talked about setting priorities and keep the best, sell the rest. For those committments that you simply can't follow through with above all else keep your integrity.

If you cannot make your car payment and do not foresee that you will be able to in the near future than speak to your creditor. Find out your options. Can you sell it? Will they renegotiate? If all your possible solutions do not pan out then clean up the car and turn in the keys. Don't make them track you down. You can only do what you can do but don't string someone else along or make promises you know you can't keep. Do you have to walk away from your home? Clean it up. Did you get laid off? Remember that this was necessary for the employer and go with a good attitude and keep your relationship such that they will want to hire you back if possible or give you a good reference.

This advise does not include those who would badger, bully, or seek deceptive means to get your money. Unfortunately some credit collection agencies and even worse, banks and credit card companies have resorted to these tactics and in fact profit from them. This is a different subject and my linked blog America For Fair Banking addresses this subject.

Do all you can to go the extra mile and keep your integrity. This downturn is temporary and what goes around comes around. After winter comes the spring and the hard times now can be turned to a blessing if we respond in a righteous way.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Comingling funds

One of the quickest ways to loose track of your expenses is to comingle your funds into all one pot. Pretty soon all of your good planning is messed up and you just can't figure out why. How much did I pay for food this month? Why is the business not making a profit? There are as many ways to keep things straight as there are people but some of the most common are the ledger book, excel, color code your check register, or separate envelopes for various cash expenses. Figure out what works for you and if it doesn't, try something else. Unless you can keep track you don't have a clear picture of what's going on. This gets even more tricky when two people are dipping into the pot and have different priorities and habits. Above all, keep business and personal expenses separate. This is imperative as it affects not only your record keeping but tax preparation and other legal matters. This may seem obvious but it is so easy in a small business to have money in one account and not the other and the mixing begins.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Chipmunk and the Bear

Once upon a time there was a busy little chipmunk who spent all his days gathering nuts and hiding them in little clutches so he would always have plenty to eat when the winter came. He scampered and scurried in his daily search and then would run to hide his treasure. There was only one problem with his plan.....

In the same neighborhood forest was a huge bear who lumbered along always looking for the chipmunks treasures and when he found them he would smash them up, stomp them down and rob all the nuts the chipmunk had collected. His appetite was unsatisfiable and his mission in life was to scout out, follow, and find out some way to steal the nuts from all the chipmunks in the area.

And, there was nothing the chipmunks could do. They were too little and the bear was too big. But wait, what is that in the distance? A bear hunter with all his dogs coming closer and closer.......

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

$1 million in savings.

Personal financial management is the talk of the town. The financial downturn has gotten people thinking and talking about their budgets as one of the hottest topics around. It's no longer a hush hush topic. Everyday there are news tips, financial articles, and local talk about how to save and manage money.

The following article highlights the benefits of saving money and I am including it because of the charts that show how quickly $1 million can be saved. Hard to believe but possible for many more people than would ever imagine it. The popularity of stocks for a retirement plan seems to have dwindled with so many loosing so much and good old fashioned savings plans are back in style.

And, what seems to be the most noted area to find ways to cut expenses? Restaurant meals and mochas. Why do you think Starbucks is getting so rich? We like our coffee. It is that same money that can turn into your own little nest egg.

Friday, September 25, 2009

There are those who are good at making money.
There are even more who are good at spending money.
And, there are a few that at good at saving money.
But, the wisest of all are those who are able to manage money.

Monday, September 14, 2009

They call it a bubble.

If you have been following this blog or read the older listings on June 3 I wrote about what I thought was the next steps in the American economy. Sounds like the professionals are starting to agree as evidenced in the linked story.^gspc,^dji,xlf

The story is more scholastic than what I normally like to read and much to complicated for me but the point is: once the gov't boost to the economy runs out if we have not taken personal responsibility to prepare ourselves for the next wave we could be in another wave of the storm. I sound like such a radical but I do believe these are radical times.

Is this a gloom and doom message? No, not at all. It is a move to higher ground message. Gather what is important like family, friends, and values, and be prepared to shore up or let go of what can be replaced.

Save money, don't spend irresponsibly, and cut expenses where you can before you are forced to give up things you need. Basically, get In The Trenches and don't expect the gov't to do it all for us. They are doing what they can with the new credit card laws, home mortgage modifications, and extention of unemployment benefits. They can't do it all and we will be disappointed and angry if we expect them to. Many already are and are marching the streets.

We are not victims, we are participants and we need to participate in the recovery just like we participated in spending spree. It's our homes, our neighborhoods, and our country. Anything we can do to prepare ourselves, our families, and our community is a good thing. If our neighbor is out of food we will need to help feed them one way or another so let's get to higher ground and help our neighbor to get there also.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Have you seen the new Walmart commericals? More importantly, have you heard the new slogan? It's simple, easy to remember and great advice that reflects the times.

Lest you think that advertising in unimportant and does not influence us consider two examples:

Just Do It - Nike. A generation of people grew up on the motto Just do it. And, they are. If it comes to their mind they do it.

This is my favorite:

I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan....cuz I'm a woman... If you are over forty the tune is probably already going through your mind. And, I don't even know what they were advertising. Feel free to put it in the comments if you know. The point being, this ad affected the viewpoint and goals of a whole generation of women in the 70's. We worked hard, were mothers, and loved and played hard. Now we are in our 40's and 50's and are slowing down but that's a story for another day.

SAVE MONEY, LIVE BETTER. The word for 2009 and living In The Trenches.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Savings Bonds

The following article is from the yahoo news. We were just talking about savings bonds two days ago! If you have a little money that you can save this has historically been a great way to go though almost forgotten by the average person. Cost is affordable, it's convenient, return is preset, and if you absolutely need the money you are allowed to cash the bond in early. For as little as $25 dollars you can start your own retirement fund. Years ago I purchased one bond per payday and years later was able to cash them in when I was really In The Trenches financially. Whether you want to buy or sell right now bonds are a good option to consider.

A Source of Cash: Those Old Savings Bonds
by Anna PriorThursday, September 10, 2009
provided by
Wall Street Journal
It Might Be Time to Redeem Matured Savings Bonds, But Getting Cash Can Be Tricky
Remember those savings bonds your grandparents gave you for your second birthday?
Now might be a good time to dust them off and see how much they're worth, especially if decades have passed since you received them.
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"There are $16.7 billion of matured savings bonds out there that people have not redeemed," says Joyce Harris, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt. "It's money that can be used in tough times."
Savings bonds are sold by the U.S. Treasury to raise money for the U.S. government and can't be sold to other investors. In other words, you can only redeem them; you cannot trade or sell them.
The bonds never expire, but they do reach maturity and stop accruing interest. Savings bonds that are no longer earning interest include Series E bonds issued from May 1941 through September 1979, Series H bonds issues from June 1952 through September 1979, and Series HH bonds issued from January 1980 through September 1989, according to the Treasury Department's financial-services Web site,
There are several ways to redeem savings bonds. Newer electronic bonds can be redeemed through For older bonds, call the Treasury's Savings Bonds Direct customer-service department at 1-800-245-2804 to find out how to proceed.
The fastest way to redeem Series E, Series EE and Series I paper bonds, says Ms. Harris, is to go to your local bank. But first check with a bank to make sure it redeems bonds. She also suggests calling ahead to see what is required for redemption. Some banks may only redeem bonds for customers with longstanding active accounts.
Also, be sure to check the value of your bonds before heading to the bank branch. You can use the savings-bond calculator found in the tools section of If a bank teller informs you the bonds are worth less than the calculation you received online, call Savings Bonds Direct before authorizing redemption.
If you need cash, you also may want to redeem some of your bonds that are still earning interest. First check their current value and their earnings rate. If you're thinking of redeeming relatively new bonds, know that you can't redeem a bond for at least a year after purchase, and you'll forfeit three months' interest if you redeem the bond in its first five years.
The features of savings bonds have changed considerably over the years. Currently, the U.S. sells Series EE bonds that earn interest at a fixed 0.7% rate. The fixed rate for new EE bonds is set each May 1 and Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, the earnings rate for Series I bonds is a combination of a fixed rate, which applies for the life of the bond, and a semiannual inflation rate. The initial combined rate for bonds purchased from May through October of this year: 0%, reflecting the fact that consumer prices have actually declined.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Banks are changing, but are we?

The new credit card laws are going into effect today. They have been long needed. But, have we learned anything or would we just run out and do it all again given the opportunity?

It's hard to change our basic nature and habits. I probably should not admit it but we are still paying on a truck that has not run for three years. It started with an argument of whether to pass on the deal and wait to save the money and ended up being a credit card purchase because the price was low. That got wrapped into a balance transfer, that got wrapped into a home equity, that got wrapped into a 30 year fixed. All with the lure of lower rates.

Yes, it sounds crazy because it is. I dare say I'm by far not alone and would bet there are some cappacinnos out there that are now on a 30 year payment plan.The banks will continue to take advantage of us as long as we allow it.

Something to think about everytime we pull out the credit card or don't pay our balance off in full at the end of the month.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm just not good at handling money!

Warning. This entry is not for everybody. Just those who have either said this or thought it, or more obviously have been told it by somebody else.

Are you over 18? Then you can't use that excuse. Sorry, it's just part of being an adult. If you don't know or are not good at managing money, it's time to learn. It's strange that there is more instruction on how to drive a car than there is on how to handle finances. And, not only does that lack of knowledge affect the individual but it also affects their spouses, children, and our social structure through the welfare rolls, bankruptcy courts, and credit card defaults.Sure it maybe does sound harsh and maybe we should just ignore it. But, the first step to any change is to acknowledge the truth.

What are some of the signs you are not good at handling money?
1. No savings account.
2. Credit cards that are not paid off at the end of the month.
3. Out of money before the next paydate.
4. Having to borrow from family, friends, or businesses just to pay non emergency expenses.
5. Even when you have a job you still can't pay for your basic living expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing.
6. You are over 18, living with your parents, and are not paying for any expenses and still don't have a savings account full of money.
7. You are living with another adult and they are paying the bulk of the living expenses. Marriage can be a great place to hide financial incompetency but even that will not go on forever and is one of the leading causes of divorce.

Of course there are exceptions for the sick and disabled, students, or the temporary inability to do these things due to life changes (Temporary is the key word here).

It's true, our education is sadly negligent on the basics. How to handle money, how to raise children, how to take care of the things we use, and lately how to cook and do laundry. We are expected at age 18 to know all these things but we may never have been taught. I know that I sure have made a lot of mistakes in the last year and have found many weak spots in my own thinking and doing.

The good news is: wherever we are at right now we can learn more! And, we all can learn together! It's time to grow up, take responsibility, and improve the economic health of our nation one adult at a time.


As just a starting place for beginners at financial management.

1. Expect to work for any money you have and need.

2. Live within your means.

3. Save 10% of your income. No matter how tight money is today it could be tighter tomorrow.

4. Give generously to those in need. This can be your church, disaster victims, or orphans. A tithe of 10% is the most commonly accepted principle.

5. Invest some of your earnings. This is above your savings for it is the specific intent to have a higher return than the amount you put in.

6. Stay out of debt. That means friends, family, charge cards, or banks. If you are already in debt pay it off as quickly as possible. Debt is the negative result of not doing #2.

We may not be able to accomplish these things all the time or in every situation but they establish the direction we are going.

Simple yes. Easy no. Possible definitely.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Keep the best. Sell the rest.

Learned this saying from a lifetime farmer and wish I would have learned it earlier. I used to raise poultry. I had up to 30 peacocks and ornamental pheasants, but, our mainstay was ducks and chickens. At one point I had about 50 chickens so I placed an ad in the paper to sell them for $8 each. A man came and I told him he could take his pick. He wanted to buy about 30. He chased and caught, chased and caught, and when he left gave me a check.

I surveyed what was left and what did I find? He had picked through and taken all the best of the birds and I was left with the too small, too old, too young birds. My prime laying stock was all gone. Of course it was! He was not stupid, I was!

Everytime I reflect on this situation I want to hit myself in the head. I had set myself up so splendidly. But, most interestingly is that we all do this to ourselves when we walk into or get put into a lower income situation and do not have a plan. We can end up loosing our best house, or best car, or best anything because we have not structured ourselves to prevent it. We either try to pay everthing and end up late on it all or we pay nothing and end up late on it all.

Doing an inventory is the first step when confronted with a downturn. Realize that everything is at risk and make some decisions up front on how you will handle it. If you need help read books, go to consumer credit counciling, talk to people over 70 who went through the biggest depression and get their advice. Their experience is priceless.

Then, keep the best and sell the rest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A word to renters

Landlords like everybody else have taken it in the shorts in this economic crisis. Why? Because it is the housing industry that is at the heart of the problem, specifically the banking practices that effect the housing industry. The landlord is a person who not only has one property but because it is his business probably has multiple properties. Compounded by that, they have also been affected by all the residents that live in the properties they own. Layoffs, garnishments, and weather expenses all bundle up and the landlord has to manage the reduced income with the increased expenses of the business.

Sometimes they get behind on the mortgage payments. If this has occurred the property may be going into foreclosure. This is not a good situation for anybody, however, as renters the government has put some protections and help in place for you!

The attached article indicates that you will be allowed to continue living in your residence all through the forclosure process and then 90 DAYS AFTER THE FORECLOSURE or until your lease has expired as long as you continue to pay your rent.

Take a copy of this article and then go talk to a lawyer to find out actually what your rights are.|hp-desktop|dl3|link6|

It is not the intent of this article to give legal advice. I am not qualified to do so, however, I can point you in the direction of those who can help.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Early in the game.

One of the most important things to do during financial hardship is to decide early in the game what your priorities are, and what, if necessary you could do without or minimize. IF YOU TRY TO HOLD ON TO TOO MUCH AS THE TIMES GET HARDER YOU WILL LOSE IT ANYWAY. And, you could also lose what you wanted most to hold on to. Preparation is the most important thing and it starts in the mind.

If decisions are made early you can use the money you save for other things. Example, you have deluxe cable with all the channels. If you are not willing to give it up entirely can you go to minimum service. The longer you pay for the deluxe the more your resources are depleted. Most of our decisions are not nearly so easy. If you are making a car payment can you sell it and buy one cash? Still to easy? Where would you need to live if you loose your job? Could you afford your home? For how long? Admittedly, it's getting harder. So, for now let's just end with asking ourselves....

What more can I do?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Economy Update - McDonalds

I have just heard the most disturbing news concerning the economy that I have heard thus far. Our local McDonalds has had 250 applications for one job opening!

Will post more about this later but this is a big one!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

America's #1 cause of death & ruin - Stubbornness.

Americans greatest strength is our independence and determination. We speak our minds and stand for our rights. We reach for the stars and then set out to get there. Proud to be an American and understand why so many others risk their lives to be here among us.

But, as is often the case, our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness.

Recently I contemplated the near ruin of two people, financially, health, and job. They are totally different and have totally different lifestyles. Although I could go into all the details it probably would not be wise. But, as I have watched the situations develop over the last year or more I realized one thing they had in common: stubbornness. They had received an abundance of good advice, they had plenty of time to make changes, but they choose to move forward in the same direction despite the warnings of others who cared about them.

Now don't think this was terrible and immoral things they did and I realized that all of us have this same stubborn streak. It is part of our independence, culture, and free will. For some it comes out in eating another bag of chips when the scale tips 200, for someone else it might be just one more time with the maxed out credit cards, another it might be putting off looking for a new job. All can lead to consequences that we do not want but could have foreseen had we chosen to listen, learn, and change.

As I reflected I wondered...If the truth be many of us would have Stubbornness as the cause of death on the death certificate. I suspect it would top cancer, heart disease, or any other known disease.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How quickly things can change!

The phone call! Who expected it? The announcement that due to lower volumes the staff would be cut in half. It affects everybody. The bosses, the ones who stay, but, mostly the ones who go. When it's someone else we shake our heads and are thankful that it is not us. But, in this economy it can be only a phone call away.

What can we do?
Listen, listen, listen. Listen to the news and be aware of what's going on. Listen to the money saving tips on TV, the online news, and books. Listen to your employer. What skills and strengths do they need and value right now. Do you have them, can you develop them?

Talk about it. Not the poor me kind of talk or the all the time talk but the positive exchange of ideas and needs. If you need health insurance a friend may know where to get it at a resonable price. If you are getting rid of a couch a person you know may need one at low cost.

Do. Nothing takes the place of doing. If you know what you need to do don't put it off. Each change you makes that moves you in the right direction will move you farther along.

But what does any of this have to do with being laid off? The weather report is on everyday but if we don't pay attention we may not know the storm clouds are coming, if we don't talk about it we may not know what we need to do, and we may not grab the umbrella. So it is with the ecomomy. The downturn has been going on for long enough that we all have heard. It's not over yet. And the more people it hits, the more it will hit. If it's raining all around us at some point we may get wet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The future of the American economy.

Everybody wonders what is going to happen next. Most want to think that the decline in the economy will be over soon. Some predict by the end of the year. Here’s my viewpoint:

Everybody, by now, has heard or experienced how bad the crisis is. With millions of homes foreclosed and huge unemployment rates The government has pumped billions of dollars into the economy to try to resolve the situation. Americans have responded in two ways. Some are taking every possible effort to streamline their lifestyle and spending and have learned from their mistakes and change their ways so that it doesn’t happen again. The others are expecting the government to fix it all and will just be happy when the hard times are over so they can get back to their old ways and forget that the problem ever happened. I suspect that this could be at least 75% of the population and includes both individuals and businesses.

Once the government money runs out I believe there will be a second and bigger downturn in the economy primarily because of the actions of the second group. It will be like the aftershock of the earthquake. Those who have refortified their lifestyle will be ok and those have not will collapse. And the collapse will be harder and bigger because all of the reserves have already been used.

This sounds like such terrible news, even as I write I think who would even want to consider that it might be true? And, who would want to believe my gut felt ideas? But, what if I told you it will probably rain? What would you do? There would be two choices. Grab a coat or go out without one. If it rains you put the coat on and be dry or you can get wet. If it doesn’t rain you can just carry the coat and you haven’t lost a thing.

Did I see the last one coming? Those of you who know me know that I have talked about it for 20 years. Am I an expert? By no means. Could I be wrong? Yes, but there is no harm in being prepared. (I guess I did learn something from my mother).

Here’s what I suggest and you can add your own ideas:
1. While the interest rates are low ask your bank if there is any benefit in refinancing. Get your payments as low as possible so that if your income drops you can still make your payment. (Watch out for scams)
2. If you rent, find the cheapest place you can. Once you save some money try to buy on a first time homebuyer plan. There are some great low down and low interest loans available right now.
3. Start a food storage program. Start building a supply until you have 6 months to a year of food. Include all bathroom, cleaning, and female products.
4. Quit using your credit cards. It’s time. Pay them off as quickly as possible. The credit card companies can continue to change your rates for another year and whatever sounds good today could change tomorrow.
5. Start saving all your change. If things ever get really tight you will have something to buy a loaf of bread without breaking a $20. This will be really important if you don’t have a $20.
6. Continually go through your possessions and sell what you don’t need. Or better yet, give it to someone in greater need than yourself. You will be able to live in a smaller home and if you need to move for a job relocation or other reason you will be more ready.
7. Make sure everyone in your family has their dental work caught up and a new pair of glasses. Then if you can’t afford it for a year or two you will be ready.
8. Think about cutting back any of your habits that cost money like smoking, drinking, the daily cappuccino. Save the money if you can,
9. Sell any cars you are not using and change for more fuel- efficient vehicles. Walk if you can.
10. Don’t get any more pets. They need to be fed too.
11. Start reading books, reading articles, having conversations to give you ideas for managing economically. In The Trenches will be out soon. Email me if you would like to receive an email when it comes out.

The economic crisis was caused nationally by the greed of our biggest corporations, putting fast profits above common sense and long term outcome, and an American public that was willing to spend and much as they had available. Although these tips are well publicized there are many of us who still have room for improvement. The goal of all this is to get your necessary expenses to under 50% of what you are now making. Yes, under 50%. Save the rest. No, not in the stock market, not in some investments that could lose it all. Just save it. If you are the kind that has a hard time saving than it is time to learn. If you still have trouble than pay three months ahead on the bills you know you will have to pay such as car insurance. Don’t go farther ahead than this because if you have to relocate or loose a job you don’t want money tied up in a specific location and want to have the cash available.

Does this all sound radical? That’s why it’s called….In the Trenches.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are you In The Trenches? Feeling like your financial future needs an overhaul

or the choices of the past are now catching up with you? Or, have you lost your

job, home, or relationship and it's time to start over?

In The Trenches, Financial Survival During Times of Hardship is for the millions of
Americans that are starting over or just looking for a new way of doing things. The book contains stories, budgeting charts, and ideas. The great illustrations are by Cindy Gonzalez, a multi-talented local artist and musician.
It is a springboard for your future. When you run into challenges or discouragement just log into the blog and get some feedback from others facing the same issues. Or, share your own stories and viewpoints.
In The Trenches, Financial Survival during Times of Hardship is scheduled for publication soon and will be available on