Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolution's

Happy New Years Eve, enjoy time with your friends and family, and remember to stay safe! We'll be enjoying a low-key evening at a friends house playing Wii.

I haven't given my New Years resolution much thought, this year. It seems like the time is passing more quickly now. Below are a few things that I want to accomplish in 2010.

1. Enjoy more time with my wife, and our puppy Teagan
2. Pay off the last of my credit card debt, and be completely debt free.
3. Get rid of my gut that is starting to form.
4. Knock out the den wall, and maybe even put in some hardwood floors.
5. Live for improvement!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forget Saving and Start Paying

Everywhere you turn, people are recommending ways to save money shopping, but unless you actually use that money to pay off credit card debt, or contribute it towards an emergency found you aren't making progress. We all have a habit of living paycheck to paycheck, and when additional expenses like car repairs come-up, we grit our teeth and find a way to over come it.

Its time to start creating our own additional expenses, and forcing our lifestyles to compensate. Working backwards is a sure fire way to guarantee success. After all, you can't spend what you don't have.

Here how:
Start automating your credit card payments to an uncomfortable amount. If you regularly pay $300 dollars each month, crank it up to $500. You will definitely feel a lifestyle shock, but it might be the wake up call you need. Do you contribute $100 dollars per month to a saving account only when you remember to do so. Set up an automated monthly transfer of $300.00. The money will get zapped from your account whether you like it or not. Your lifestyle will change out of survival instead of at will. It's time to get serious with your finances. Implement the "30 day Zero rule." Lets get rid of debt once an for all, instead of just chipping away at it in your spare time.

Now is a perfect time to ramp up the amount you pay towards debt or an emergency fund. You can start 2010 with a bang, and directly see all you hard work in each larger payment.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Personal Finance and the Land of Make Believe

"Fewer than four of 10 American adults have an emergency fund to fall back on in the event of some financial disaster," according to a nationwide poll. And yet nobody seems to be the slightest bit worried. We still go about our daily routines buying lattes, going out to movies, and purchasing the latest gadgets. Who cares if we have a little credit card debt, or maybe a lot. It's not worth changing our lifestyle, right?

Wrong! As children we are raised to believe in happy endings, and fairy tales. Unfortunately as adults we learn that life isn't always fair, and bad things can happen to good people. You could lose your job tomorrow, then what? If a leaking pipe creates a breading ground for hazardous mold, could you pay to clean it up? What if you need a new transmission costing $3,500.00? What if Fido gets hit by a car and needs a $5,000.00 surgery? Can you afford those $6,000.00 braces for junior? Why did I have to get that $200.00 seat belt ticket? Emergencies happen all the time. We are all playing financial roulette with our lives, and everyone is thinking the same thing: I won't happen to me.

Well.... What if it does? Stop living in the land of make believe and start building you emergency fund now. If you don't you'll be sorry.

Take The Money

In life we are sometimes faced with the decision to accept a sure thing, or risk it all for more. Just yesterday Jake Locker of the Washington Huskies announced that he will pass up an opportunity to enter the NFL draft next year. This would have guaranteed him a $12-$23 million dollar contract. Instead he will finish his senior year playing college football, with plans to enter the NFL the following season. This shows incredible heart and dedication to his team, but it could be the worst decision of his life if he's injured.

You see it all the time on a game shows like "Cash Cab", or "Deal or no Deal". The contestants chooses between walking away with a substantial amounts of money, or betting it all on hopes of hitting the jackpot. Clouded by greed and the excitement of the show, contestants go for the jackpot and lose.

In casinos, gamblers on a hot streaks also rarely stop to leave with their winnings. Instead they give in to temptation and continue playing. Soon all of the winnings are gone.

The rational decision is to humbly accept good fortune for what it is, and to not sacrifice windfalls in the name of greed. So, the next time you find yourself in this situation remember just take the sure money and walk away. I guarantee its better than nothing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The 30 Day Zero Rule

It amazes me that "the average outstanding credit card debt for households that have a credit card was $10,679 at the end of 2008." (Source: Nilson Report, April 2009) And yet we still use our credit cards regularly without remorse.

I am fed up with trying to pay down credit cards, that continue to grow in size. It's pointless!! That is why I am encouraging everyone to start using the "30 day zero rule."

30 Day Zero Rule:
From this point forward I will not allow myself to use a credit card unless that card had a Zero balance within the last 30 days. If you pay your credit card off each month, than you can use that card; but if you carry a balance for more than a month, you cannot use that card again until is has been paid off in full.

Any credit cards that currently have a revolving balance are subjected to this rule and therefore cannot be used. This is the only way to guarantee that your payments will actually decrease your debt.

Extra Alaska Air Miles at Safeway

We live a block away from a Safeway, and do most of our grocery shopping there. It turns out that in Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montanna, Safeway will contribute 125 Alaskan frequent flyer miles for every $250 dollars spent. My wife and I do have an Alaskan Credit card, that we could also use for additional frequent flyer miles, but our Chase Debit Rewards provides a better cash back reward. Since groceries is one of our biggest expenses, we can rack up points pretty quick.

During a single transaction at Safeway, our Credit Card-Fu is to use a Chase debit Rewards card, Safeway Club Card, the Safeway Alaskan Frequent Flyer Miles, and the Safeway gas discount.

For every $100.00 spent we get:
400 pts, 20% off on applicable items, 50 miles, and 3 cents off gas.

What are some of your Credit Card-Fu moves?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Tip: Alway Bring a Pen and Paper to a Meeting

Though obvious to most, it never ceases to amaze me how many people show up to business meetings without a pen and paper. Even if you don't take any notes, at least be prepared. Having the proper tools shows professionalism, while showing up empty handed implies that the meeting is a waste of your time.

I alway carry a pen on me, even when I'm just stepping away from my desk for a momment, but I have OCD problems. My little black book is also great for taking quick notes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Secret Cash Stash

According to, the average American family goes out to eat 50% of the time. During the holidays, it's also customary to dine out more frequently with friends, family, and co-workers. Unfortunately, dividing the bill among large groups can prove to be a hassle. The restaurant may split the bill, but usually somebody gets stuck paying more than their fair share. In the spirit of Christmas, phrases like "I'll get you next time" and "mine is only 8.99, so here's $10" are nonchalantly exchanged like cheap white elephant gifts until those with only credit cards are left to make up the difference. After table negotiates, the waiter is presented with an array of cards resembling a jigsaw puzzle with vague instructions like"$25 on my card, $47 on his blue Visa, and here is the rest in cash." Most people forget to add tax and tip when adding up their menu items. Needless to say, friends are begrudged for having to cover for others, and the waiters almost always get screwed.

Having personally been on both sides of this transaction, my advice is to always carry a secret stash of cash in your wallet. Keep the stash separate from your regular spending cash, and use it specifically for these kind of situations. When the bill comes around, look at it carefully. Make sure to contribute enough for all of you consumptions, plus tax, plus tip, and maybe a little extra as a friendly gesture. By using cash responsibly, you won't be forced to pay for everyones elses meal, and you won't be placing a burden on others at the table.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

10 Great Movies That You Never Knew Existed

Below are some of my favorite indie films of all time. Don't be surprised if you've never heard of them. Many of these movie never made it to main stream theaters, but they are definately worth renting.

Surely there are more that I forgot, but this is off the top of my head.

Quick Trick: Keep Toilet Paper at Your Desk

Take a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom at work and keep it in your desk drawer. It will come in handy for blowing your nose, cleaning up spills, or as an eraser for a dry erase board. Best of all it's free. No more spending money on a box of kleenex. Just a quick trick.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Cost of Clutter

When buying a house, we want to maximize the amount of space for our money. Real estate agents commonly do this by determining the "cost per square foot" when comparing homes. Determining the cost per square foot is simple, just divide the price of the house by it's size.
  • Price ÷ Square feet = Cost per square Foot

    According to, the average price of a new home in the U.S. is $292,600, and the average size is 2,215 sq ft. This means that a square foot of space on your floor deems a value of $132.00. I don't know about you, but junk filled boxes occupy many square feet of my garage floor and the contents of each box are not worth $132.00. Now try to imagine all of the surface area of clutter in your house. How many boxes could you fill? Think of each box costing you $132.00. All the space you worked so hard to buy is currently being wasted by clutter.

    Clutter is simply a poor allocation of resources. Would you allow a stranger to occupy a room without paying rent? Of course not, so why waste a room storing junk that will never be used. In either case you are paying rent or a mortgage for unusable space.

    So don't ask yourself if the clutter "is worth keeping", ask yourself "is it worth paying $132.00 to keep?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Send Your Finances on a Camping Trip

Ever wonder why we spend our precious vacation time camping in the woods? Why we voluntarily sleep on an uncomfortable inflatable mattress inside a dirty tent? Well...Its because it makes our regular bed feel that much more comfortable when we return home. Camping gives us an appreciation for the modern conveniences that we normally take for granted.

Our spending habits, are another thing that many of us take for granted. With Christmas just around the corner, now is a perfect time to send your finances on a camping trip.

Financial Camping
After paying your mortgage, credit cards, utilities, and any other regular bills, try temporarily living off only 10% of your paycheck. This experience can be humbling, and only leaves room for the bare essentials. You may be spending more time at home living off rice and beans, but remember its only temporary.

While "Financial Camping" you may also have to pass up a night out with friends, and the sweatshirt on sale at the mall. You will have to prioritize your trips in the car, and pack a lunch to work. You will have to scrape to make artificial ends meet, but after its over, you will be left with a large amount of unspent money.

Unexpected expenses like car repairs and medical bills happen to all of us. We some how find a way to get past them. I have faith that you can survive a Financial Camping trip, and you'll be better off for it. Plan a Financial Camping trip on your calendar today, you won't even need time off from work.