Saturday, May 31, 2008

Winner Announced

The winner of the first giveaway in the Great Ask Me Any Question Giveaway, has been drawn this morning. And the winner is MzMuny.

Her question was:
What are your plans once you are out of debt?

I will be answering this question on Monday morning. For now I would like to congratulate MzMuny and as soon as she emails me her physical address, I will ship her prize out to her.

A new giveaway will start Monday as well. Stay tuned for another great chance at winning one of the other two great books.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Spending: P.T., Uniform, T. P. and a Lawn Mower

Today, I had off from work. Which was welcomed, considering I have spent so much time at work the last few weeks. The first thing I did was go to my final physical therapy appointment. Since, it was my final appointment and I have exercises and stretches to do at home, I bought 5 feet of therapy band so that I could do some of those. That cost me $5. However , since the insurance won't pay that, I got a receipt, so I could explore the possibility of it being a medical deduction (perhaps a reader, would know if it is acceptable).

I purchased the printing of my "Asst. Store Manager" name badge today. I should receive it in about 3-weeks. (cost: $8.98 plus .67 tax = 9.65). Again, I will save this receipt, to deduct as part of my uniform expenses.

Toilet Paper
I stopped by the store on the way home and picked up a package of T. P. (cost $1.29/w tax).

Lawn Mower Troubles
I went to mow my yard today, and the pull cord snapped. How much is that going to cost me? According to the repair place, about $25. The bad thing is, I need the yard mowed NOW, and they act worse then the big box stores when repairing computers. It will take a week. Jeez, that's why I prefer the small local owned businesses. When I need a computer repaired today, it might cost an extra $10 or $20, but unlike those box stores they make an effort to repair simple things the same day. I still would like to get an electric mower, instead of this gas powered thing, I bought used a month ago.

Thankfully, I received my tax disbursement check today (from People's Telecommunications). I placed it in my main savings account, which is for my bills. Normally, this check would have gone into the account, where try to save up for my taxes, insurance payments and my emergency fund. I figure, insurance helps cover certain emergencies, so having these in the same fund makes perfect sense. But, this time, since my insurance payment is due, I put it in the account that I will be writing the check from. It will remain in the savings for a few days, and then I will transfer online to the related checking, when I can afford to actually write the check. At this point, I am $50 short ($75 if you can trust the $25 figure above).

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Are You Underpaid?

Are you making as much money as you should be? That is the question many of us ask ourselves. Well recently tried to tackle that question.

If you've been pondering this question, you're not alone. A 2006 survey by staffing services company Randstad USA and Harris Interactive found that 39 percent of employees surveyed believe their salary is lower than market rates, up from 28 percent surveyed in 2005. Meanwhile, 50 percent of employers think the salaries they offer are on par with the marketplace, up from 42 percent in 2005.

So how do you figure out if you're really underpaid? Here are six steps to help you determine whether you're getting what you're worth.

Use The Tools

Several resources let you see how your pay stacks up. For example, our Salary Wizard can give you a general idea of where you stand. The Personal Salary Report provides information based on company size (larger employers tend to pay more), experience, advanced degrees, location, specific industry and other factors.

In addition, most trade associations conduct salary surveys, which tend to go into greater detail for your specific occupation.

Sounds like a great idea. However, when I went to the Salary Report, I answered all the questions and then they wanted me to pay them 29.95 to get the results. Sorry, but this guy is not going to do it. I even called, the toll-free number on the site, but customer service was so poor, that I was told by a recording that I would be automatically forwarded to voice mail. No waiting for an available operator. The only choice was to be "transfered to voice mail." To me, that is another reason to avoid paying this "company" a single dime.

Keep One Foot in the Job Market

"The best way to know your value is to be on the market" -- even if you aren't looking for another job, says Lee E. Miller, author of Get More Money on Your Next Job. You'll get an idea of which skills are valued, what other employers are offering and where your company stands as well as make valuable contacts. And if the offer's good, you might want to change jobs after all -- or use the offer to negotiate a raise where you are.

Again, sounds like a great idea. In fact, that may be part of the reason I got my recent promotion and raise. Of course, it helped that there was a position available. Now, while I am not looking for a job, my resume is still out there.

Get Friendly with Recruiters

According to Monster, becoming friendly with recruiters, even if you aren't seeking a job, is a great way to stay on top of the job market. While, I am not sure about this, especially for someone in management.
you generally need to build a relationship with the recruiter first, which means helping them out even if you aren't looking for a new job yourself. "If you give them the name of someone who might be interested, then recruiters will call you, because you've become a good source of information for them, and they'll be more likely to share more information with you," Miller says.
Talk with Your Predecessor
The article also suggests talking with the person you are replacing.
Even if he isn't willing to reveal his salary, you may still get some good insight into how fairly he thought he was being paid, especially if he just completed a job search and switched to another employer.
Recall Your Hiring Circumstances
According to the article, you never want to accept the first offer. Rarely, do recruiters make their best offer, first. Instead they expect a bit of negotiation. If you accept the first offer, it could be a red flag.

Finally, Is Pay Really the Issue?
There are some wise words in the final two paragraph's and the related link, so without adding anything to them, I will just post them.
Finally, step back and examine why you feel you're underpaid. Sometimes the issue goes beyond money. "One of the reasons some people feel like they're underpaid is if there's too much personal cost to what you're doing," says Karen Wright, president of Parachute Executive Coaching. "If you're doing the completely wrong thing, no matter how much you're being paid, it's never truly going to be enough."

Finally, I thought you might enjoy, this great Dilbert cartoon, about raises:

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Reminder: Giveaway Ends Tomorrow

Just a reminder, the giveaway for the Living Financially Free Workbook, by James L. Paris, ends tomorrow. What's that? You say, you missed that post? Well don't fret, you can still enter, by clicking here.

Here are the rules:
make a comment, making sure I have a way to contact you (whether it be an email address or your blog). The comment must contain a question, that you would like me to answer via this blog.

Then tomorrow morning before I leave the house for work, I will post the winner, chosen randomly by the randomizer website. I will then leave a post on the winners blog (or email) notifying them to contact me so that I know where to mail the workbook.

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Spending: $1.92 and No Soda Pop Again

Yesterday, I again made it through the day with no soda pop. I did however, start my day out with two glasses of iced tea. Yes they were southern style, the only way to drink it. My fellow northerners, just don't know what they are missing when they don't add a little sugar.

I was going to buy a name badge (have one printed) for work, but I didn't have my debit card in my wallet. That is something, I can take care of today, while I am out for my physical therapy appointment.

I did buy a small package of hamburger (just under a pound) for a $1.92 (w/ tax). The burger was on sale for $1.99/lb and will be used to make hamburger gravy today.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Online Checking = Food Budget Envelope

I recently opened an account at The reason was simple. 3.25% interest! Yep, that's right, while local banks and credit unions aren't even paying 1%, this national giant is paying 3.25%. How awesome is that?

It is true, that they are very customer unfriendly. Many of you may remember, my fights with them with my Wamu (Providian) Credit Card. It's also true that there isn't even a single branch in my state. In fact, the closest branches are in Texas, Colorado and Illinois. However, that can be a good thing. Because, I won't be in the bank every other day withdrawing money. On the downside though, that also means I have to wait several days for a deposit to post.

use it as a budget envelope

I decided to give this a try, in part because of my desire to earn a better rate of return on my money. However, the was another reason. Instead of trying to carry around Dave Ramsey's envelope system, (since I am a guy) which is pretty impractical. I decided, that a debit card would work better. So I opened the account, funded both the savings and checking with the minimum $1, received my free checks and my debit card. I can carry this debit card in my wallet and easily use it when I buy my groceries. When the money is gone, I can't buy anything more, until I fund it again.

the interest

However, I haven't received any interest yet. Seems, $1 doesn't earn interest, instead you must transfer $5 each month from your Wamu checking into your Wamu Savings to earn interest. Otherwise, you have to have a minimum balance of $300.

All in all, I think this is a great addition to help with my budget, but I still must be careful to not overspend or to protect my debit card/checking account numbers. The reason is no mater what, they will charge the account $34 for overdraft fees, whether or not I am at fault. But, if I am proactive and protect who I give access to my account as well as watch what I am spending, I should never be in the position to have to worry about that. Thus, I won't have to worry about their poor customer service and big bank smugness.

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Spending: $22.15 - No Soda Day

Yesterday, I managed to avoid drinking any soda at all. I did spend some cash, but not for anything to drink. Nor did, I eat anything during my 10 hours at work.

At closing, I bought 2 loaves of bread that was marked down to 50 cents each. I put one of those in the freezer, for future use. In addition, I also bought a 3 pack of Kettle corn for $1. Popping up a bag, when I got home to eat before going to bed.

As I drove home, I stopped by the Kwik Shop, and put $20 of gas in the tank.

All in all, I spent $22.15.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spending: $0 Day and my Water Struggle

Well, yesterday at work, I avoided spending any cash at all. I had planned to stop at Kwik Shop and purchase some gas, but forgot and drove right past after getting off work.

Any way, it was difficult not to purchase anything, especially a coca-cola or quart of milk. I was drinking water all day, but felt thirstier then I ever had, when I was drinking Coke like it was water.

I know it is healthier for me, but drinking water is a huge challenge for me. Today, I plan to set out my sun tea jar on the front steps. So that I can brew some fresh tea and have that instead of pop. That will help replenish some of caffeine urge, but it wont replace that fizz that I crave. That's OK, though, because once I can cut that back, I can work on cutting the caffeine back.

image from: Dave Away From Home
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is Busch About To Be Sold To A Foreign Investor

According to the Kansas City Star, this afternoon, there are rumors that Belgian brewer, InBev NV is considering making an offer of $65 a share, or $45 billion, for Anheuser-Busch.

Deutsche Bank AG responded to the news by downgrading Anheuser to “hold” from “buy” at, saying the stock price has been driven by press reports of the possible deal.

“We have concerns that such a high price requires aggressive cost reduction and risks harming brands, distribution and execution,” analysts Marc Greenberg and Andrew Kieley wrote in a research note dated May 26. “These are not positive changes, but simply what’s necessary to feed an ever-hungry global deal machine.”

The Wall Street Journal reported today that InBev was considering the deal and that while CEO August A. Busch IV and his father August A. Busch III were opposed to the deal, others in the family thought it was worth considering. While the Busch family has guided the company for 150 years, it now controls less than 4 percent of its shares.
- Kansas City Star

We know according to the article where Busch III and Busch IV stand, but who if any, are the other family members that agree with them? Disagree? More importantly, where do the majority share holders stand?
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Spending: Catching Up

I need to bring my spending diary up to date. It's been a few days, since I posted it.

  • Saturday:

  • $1.39 - bottle of coke
    Took one of my frozen dinners to work, I made up the other day, to eat at lunch. I also drove out to best buy to purchase a converter box (since my coupons expire on May 30). Which ended up being another $24.46 after tax, even with the $40 coupon.

  • Sunday:

  • I bought 2 12 packs of coke (on sale 3/$9) for a total (with tax) is 6:45.

  • Monday:

  • I was off work, so I went by a store closing sale, to see what they had left. Even though I wasn't planning to, I ended up buying a 4 pack of what has to be the world's best root beer. A root beer made, just 45 minutes from where I grew up in east central Kansas. A root beer, that is never on sale. So, when I seen it was 20% and only one pack was left, I grabbed it. Setting me back $2.74 ($3.19 -0.64 +0.19 tax).

    Now, this week I am going to work on being better about not spending anything at work.
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    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    DebtFree Progress: Over Half Way

    Wow, the month isn't quite over, but I can see the light. The light at the end of the tunnel. May marks the month when I finally passed the half way point, in my progress to be debt free. With the payments that was entered this week, with the receipt of my last paycheck of the month, I have paid off 51.32% of the beginning debt balance.
    However, my insurance is due this month, and I am $100 short of paying my quarterly property (home/auto) insurance. Still though, I will get it taken care of. And by the end of the year, my goal is to have 75% of the debt paid off. A goal that I am going to strive to make, because I want to be 100% debt free next year.

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    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Spending: $0! -- Meals For Future frozen

    I didn't buy anything to drink at work. I was able, for once, to slip out for lunch. Came home, at more of my potatoes, carrots and meatballs. All in all, I ate 2 meals from what I put in the Crockpot. When I got home from work, at 10:30 pm, I dished up 5 more meals and put them in the freezer for future use.

    In addition, I found a recipe for homemade corn dogs. Even the little bit size ones. Think I might make my own, sometime in the near future. It does mean However, I will have to buy ingredients that I have never had in this house. Like cornmeal and baking powder. My biggest thing is all the oil, I will have to use for the deep fat fryer. Then again, maybe I can make several dozen of them at once to make that oil go a lot further.

    * 1 cup milk
    * 2 medium eggs
    * 1/4 cup oil
    * 2 tablespoons sugar
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 2 teaspoons baking powder
    * 1 1/3 cups corn meal
    * 2/3 cup flour
    * 1 to 1-1/2 pounds hot dogs
    * flour for dusting (about 1/2 cup)
    * Hot Fat for Deep Frying
    * Popscicle sticks

    In a large bowl combine the milk, eggs, oil, sugar and salt. Mix it very well. Sprinkle in the baking powder, corn meal and flour. Stir it all up to make a slightly thick batter.

    Take your hot dogs and dry them off on paper towels. Dust the hot dogs with flour, coating them completely. The cornmeal batter won't stick to the hot dogs unless they are coated in flour. The batter just slides right off of the wieners naturally slick outsides. Shove popscicle sticks into the flour coated hot dogs. Set the hot dogs aside.

    While all of this is going on, it's a good idea to get your hot fat to heating up. You want the temperature to be about 375°. Allow the fat to preheat so it is almost smoking by the time you are ready to add the corn dogs.

    Now, to coat the floured hot dogs with batter you have two choices. You can swirl the hot dogs in the bowl of batter until they are coated, and then drop them into the hot fat. If this is a little difficult I know of an easier way. Scoop some of your corn meal batter into a narrow jar or cup which is as tall as your hot dogs are long. Fill the jar or cup about 3/4 of the way full. Dip your hot dog into the batter while you hold onto the stick. Swirl the hot dog to coat it evenly. Be careful or the batter will overflow. Raise the wiener above the cup and let any excess batter drip off. Quickly place the battered dog into the hot fat. The fat will bubble up and cook the outside of the batter, making the corndogs the exact same shape as the ones you buy at the store.

    Only fry a few corn dogs at a time. If the corn dogs crowd each other they don't fry very well. I only fry 2 or 3 at a time. Turn the corn dogs when the bottom side is well browned. Use tongs to remove the cooked corn dogs from the fat. Allow them to drain on paper towels. Repeat the process, coating and frying a few at a time, until all of the corn dogs are cooked. Refill the narrow jar or cup with batter from your bowl as necessary. Continue until all the hot dogs are coated or until you no longer have enough batter to coat the hot dogs efficiently.

    If you don't want to waste any unused batter, it can be dropped by small spoonfuls into the hot fat, and fried until brown. Serve these along side the corn dogs.

    If desired, you can make small corn dogs by cutting hot dogs into thirds, or quarters. Poke a toothpick up into the end of the hot dogs. Coat and fry them as described above. These are nice for fancy days, and for kids parties. Provide plenty of ketchup and mustard for dipping.

    This recipe makes about 12 to 14 corn dogs.

    - From the Hillbilly housewife

    Tomorrow, I only work 6 hours, my "half-day."
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    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    A look at my cars gas mileage

    4 cyl, 2.2 L, Auto(L4), F

  • MPG City => 24
  • MPG Highway => 34
  • MPG Combined => 28

    Fuel efficiency calculator

    Recently, I have been seeing news items about increasing your MPG's simply by decreasing your speed. Driving under the speed limit. Driving a steady speed. Something, I have been trying to do the last few days. Perhaps I can get that 24 up to 48, mainly by driving 30-35 MPH in the 40 MPH zone between here and work. More people are passing me, but, hey they are the one's paying the higher gas bills because of their lead foot. One thing, I still would like to get eventually is a scooter, so that I can really save gas on my daily trips to work.

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  • Spending: 1 soda at work. Meat and Vegies for the next few days.

    All I bought last night was a Coca-Cola ($1.39). That is until I was closing. At which time, I bought some hamburger and carrots $8.82) to make some homemade potatoes, carrots and meatballs.

    So before I went to bed, I peeled and sliced up some potatoes and carrots, and made some meatballs, and put them in the Crockpot.

    I have to say I hate how high hamburger is getting, but it is still cheaper then eating out. So what can I do. Thank God, today is payday. I will be interested to see what I actually get in my paycheck since my raise (and promotion) 2 weeks ago.

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    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Spending: Gas, Trash bags and Salt

    Since, I didn't work Monday, I didn't spend anything. Last evening however, I somehow made it through the evening without purchasing a soda pop and/or a snack. I did however, purchase 40 30-gallon trash bags (2.99) and a bottle of Loretta Sea Salt w/ grinder ($1). All in all, I spent $4.29 before leaving the store.

    As I was driving home, I stopped at the convenience store and put $10 of gas in the Thrifty mobile. Meaning overall I spent a whopping $14.29. Now, my car's gas tank is almost full.

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    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Gas Prices Around The World in U.S. Dollars/Gallons

    Think you are paying to much for gas? NBC News, last night, compared the U.S. average gas prices per gallon to those around the world.
  • Russia $3.06
  • United Kingdom $8.28
  • Netherlands $9.52
    - and in -
  • Saudi Arabia 45 cents

  • I still think, as soon as I can afford it, I am going to purchase a scooter (like I had in the early 90's, attending Washburn University). Be perfect for my commute to work and for getting around town.

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    I would like to welcome the visitors who have come from the following carnivals this week.
    Carnival of Money Stories

    Even though, I submitted my post to other carnivals, this was the only one, that I am aware of, that actually linked to my giveaway, with the comment:

    The Prince of Thrift is having a giveaway. All you have to do is ask him a question. How could I not include something about free stuff for the readers?

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    Monday, May 19, 2008

    KC-based dairy co-op under investigation

    The Kansas City Star broke a story this afternoon, that could possibly bring milk prices down in the near future. At least that is my hope, after reading the story, that I have posted in it's entirety below.

    The Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America farmer-owned cooperative, which controls a third of the nation’s milk supply, is under investigation for price fixing, according to a published report.

    The report, in the Monday edition of The Wall Street Journal, also says that the Justice Department will investigate a recently disclosed $1 million transfer approved in 2001 by Kansas City-area resident Gary Hanman, then-chief executive of the cooperative, to the then-chairman, Herman Brubaker. There was no answer Monday morning at Hanman’s home telephone number.

    The cooperative, which is based near Kansas City Internationl Airport, collects raw milk from its more than 18,000 farmer members throughout the U.S. The co-op processes and sells it for bottling or for making other products, including cheese or butter, at its own plants or at ones owned by others. The price-fixing allegations are being reviewed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is looking at whether the co-op sought to drive up prices of milk through trading of cheese contracts at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

    by Jennifer Mann

    One-third of the nations milk supply, is a significant amount of the nations milk we drank. If the Justice department finds that price-fixing did in fact happen, we could see a reduction in milk prices across the board. Something, I would welcome highly. I mean with milk prices near $4/gallon, it would be welcome to see prices drop, even it was only by $1/gallon.

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    Save Big With the Entertainment Book

    The opinions of guest writers are their own and not necessarily those of the owner of this blog.


    by Heather Johnson

    One way to obtain a lot of discounts at local restaurants, stores and more is by purchasing the Entertainment Book. Couponers are all too familiar with this holy grail of savings. Each year, Entertainment Publications releases a new book that is filled with coupons, special offers and more. Each book is specific to a certain area, tailoring its offers to businesses and services that are readily available near you.

    Many people use the Entertainment Book for traveling on a budget. Since the book pays for itself with
    one or two coupons, it is well worth it to purchase an issue that is local to the town(s) you will be traveling through. In fact, each book contains at least $10,000 worth of travel discounts alone. Not bad for
    something that costs $25 - $40 (depending on location).

    If you enjoy going out but are on a budget, the Entertainment Book also includes $4,000 - $8,000
    in local merchant coupons. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events, amusement parks, department stores and more. The books often sell out quickly in major metropolitan areas, so it is wise to
    jump on the deal early in the year.

    This post may read like an ad, but it is not. I use the Entertainment Book throughout the year.
    In fact, I often buy at least two. The reason why I am writing about it now is because the book is on sale for only $9.99 until the end of May. This is over half off the normal price and the book definitely
    pays for itself with one coupon if you buy it at this reduced value.

    Heather Johnson is a regular
    commentator on the subject of
    best credit cards. She welcomes your feedback and potential
    job inquiries at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

    The opinions of guest writers are their own and not necessarily those of the owner of this blog.
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    Spending: May 18

    Yesterday's spending included:
  • $1.39 - Graduation card
  • $21.12 - Partial payment on T-mobile bill
  • $10 - Gas (with cash I got yesterday from debit card)
  • $3.22 - Sweet Cherry Rolls
  • $15.99 - Food for a get together in local park

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  • Sunday, May 18, 2008

    America One Secured provieds unsecured loans

    Do you need a loan to consolidate debt? Perhaps to start a new business? There are hundreds possibly thousands of websites all over the Internet, that claims to be able to loan money to you. Of course, I personally believe that you should save up and pay cash. With that said, America One Unsecured provides unsecured lines of credit to individuals and businesses. America One provides a website that you can easily apply for an unsecured line of credit. No matter what it is for. Imagine an unsecured line of credit for personal or business reasons. So that you can fund that new business or buy that new piece of equipment to keep your business going. Or maybe, you want to consolidate your personal or business debts. Well they can do that to. Payment terms for their unsecured lines of credit are for 6-84 with interest rates as low as 7.99% (variable APR).

    Even better, they can do mortgages as well. Whether you are buying a new home or a business location, they can write the mortgage for you. Terms on their mortgage products as long as 30-years and fix and adjustable rates. Then again, maybe you want to refinance your auto loan, to get a better interest rate. They can do that as well. With financing as low as 3.9%, refinancing your car may be the thing for you.

    unsecured lines of credit

    And that's my view, what's yours?

    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    Spending: I think I can see some waste

    One thing that is strongly encouraged in many personal finance classes, especially Christian Financial Concepts (now Crown Financial Ministries), is to keep a spending diary. Keeping track of every thing that you spend through out the day, no mater how small. So, beginning today, I am going to be doing that on this blog. It should ensure, that there is at least one post every day. Of course, I hope to get back the regular financial posts that made this blog as popular as it has been over the last 2-years.

    • Biscuits & Gravy (from the Eagles Nest at the Harley Davidson Shop) $2.15
    • Pint of milk (from work) $1.17
    • Bottle of pop (from work) $1.32
    • Groceries $22.14

    • When I bought the groceries, I also received $10 back to use for gas, which I plan to purchase in the morning (Sunday).

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    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    The Great Ask Me Anything of 2008 Giveaway 1

    A while back, Trent over a the Simple Dollar asked his readers to ask him anything.
    you can ask any question you’d like in this thread - a specific personal finance question, a philosophical question, a personal development question, a pop culture question (maybe you have a video game related one you’d like to get off your chest), a cooking question, even a personal question about me. The only guidelines are to keep them family friendly and to avoid asking for personal information that, well, no sane person would provide. If you’ve ever had a simple question you want answered, now’s the time.
    - Trent

    Well, I am going to start the same project, or at least one similar. There will be a twist though. I am going to conduct a giveaway. I have been given three (3) books to giveaway, and so I will do just that give them away. Very simple to enter. Make a comment to this post. The winner will be chosen at random. However, your entry will be disqualified if (1) you have already entered previously in the current drawing cycle, and (2) if you fail to ask a question. The winner for the 1st drawing (to be held May 31st, 2008) will win a copy the workbook, "Living Financially Free," by James L. Paris. In addition, their question will be the first one I attempt to answer.

    Can you stump me? What would you like to read about? What do you want to know? I’m listening!

    The remaining questions, I will work on in subsequent posts. The other two winners will also have their question answered (or at least attempted) before the others.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now.

    other 2 books will be:
    Learning How To Invest by Beatson Wallace
    The Financial Planning Workbook by Larry Burkett

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    Humor: Having a Bad Day


    It Can Always Be Worse

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    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Closer to getting another loan pad off

    I am getting closer to eliminating the home improvement (AmeriFirst) loan. I received my dividend check, last week, and set the folks at Amerifirst $205.19 (of the $405.19). I hope to be able to payoff the last $200 by the end of the month. However, I had forgotten it was time for my quarterly insurance payment. So we will see, how it works out. Since my paycheck is now bi-weekly, I have to wait another week, before I get paid again. That date, will be, one day before the insurance payment is due. Still, I am excited and am looking forward to getting rid of this debt. Stay tuned, perhaps you will see me succeed in getting rid of this debt, pay the insurance and the utilities in this month.

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    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Success is More Than Dreaming

    One of my long time dreams has finally come true. Even though, some of my readers, friends and acquaintances don't think it is a good move. For them it may not be. For me, however it is. For many years, I have wanted the position of Assistant Manager, in fact for nine years. For the past, 3 or 4 years I have been actively seeking it. Every manager, I have worked for, those 4-years has known of my interest. Some, have even known of my interest to own my own store(s). That is the case, of the manager and owner of a store in a small town. A manager, who even though, I left employment with him some 9-years ago, I have kept in contact with. It is because, of this dream, that I am motivated to get debt-free so that one day, that dream can come true also.

    A friend of mine, recently mentioned a book, he seen in the library. A book, entitled "How come that idiots' rich and I'm Not" by Robert Shemin. It reminds me, that I must remember that the only way to achieve my dreams, whether it be promotion, owning my own business, or simply being debt free is hard work. I haven't read this book, but after looking up the authors website, I can quickly see that is the jest of what he is teaching. Which, is what personal finance guru's, Dave Ramsey, Larry Wingett and John Cummuta teach also.

    I cannot say how long it will be, before I will see my dreams become a reality. However, I will continue to work hard, to see those dreams become a reality. Yes, it may mean 50 or 60 hour weeks, but it is something I am willing to do, to accomplish my dreams and make myself more valuable.

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    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Three Most Admired on Forbes 400

    Forbes annual list of the 400 richest people in the world is out. Guess what. Bill Gates, the man, who was the richest man in the world for the past 13 years, is now number 3 on the list. The number 1 spot, is once again held by the guy who was number 2, for the past 13-years. That of course is the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. As most of my readers know, he is one of the people I most admire.

    In fact, three of the men that I most admire, are on the top 400 richest people list. All three are people I would love to meet, but realistically, probably never will. Still, one can dream, and dreams sometimes do come true. So without further ado, let's take a look at the profiles of those three people.

    1. #1 Warren Buffett

    2. America's most beloved investor is now the world's richest man. Soared past friend and bridge partner Bill Gates as shares of Berkshire Hathaway climbed 25% since the middle of last July. Son of Nebraska politician delivered newspapers as a boy. Filed first tax return at age 13, claiming $35 deduction for bicycle. Studied under value investing guru Benjamin Graham at Columbia. Took over textile firm Berkshire Hathaway 1965. Today holding company invested in insurance (Geico, General Re), jewelry (Borsheim's), utilities (MidAmerican Energy), food (Dairy Queen, See's Candies). Also has non-controlling stakes in Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo. Insurance operations flourished in 2007. "That party is over. It's a certainty that insurance-industry profit margins, including ours, will fall significantly in 2008." The Oracle of Omaha issued a challenge to members of The Forbes 400 in October; said he would donate $1 million to charity if the collective group of richest Americans would admit they pay less taxes, as a percentage of income, than their secretaries. Had long promised to give away his fortune posthumously. Irrevocably earmarked the majority of his Berkshire shares to charity in 2006, mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gift was valued at $31 billion on day of announcement; donation will far exceed that sum so long as Berkshire shares continue to rise.
      Forbes Magazine

    3. #307 Ronald Burkle

    4. Son of a grocery store manager spent childhood stacking bread, chasing shopping carts. Joined union local as a box boy at age 13. Tried college, returned home to stock shelves at dad's Stater Bros. store. Rose to store manager, eventually vice president of Stater Bros.' parent, Petrolane. Tried to purchase company via leveraged buyout; failed, was fired. Severance: $8,450. Founded investment company Yucaipa 1986; made fortune buying and selling supermarket chains Fred Meyer, Jurgensen's, Ralph's. Often buys distressed operations in poor neighborhoods to pay low prices, avoid bidding wars. Worker friendly: uses union sources to find hidden value in possible takeovers. Internal rate of return from 1985 to 2003: 43% a year. Failed to buy Tribune newspaper company with fellow Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad; advised Dow Jones' union during company's negotiations with Rupert Murdoch over sale of Wall Street Journal, other assets to News Corp. Close friend of Bill Clinton; former president became Yucaipa adviser in 2001, reportedly cashed out recently for perhaps $20 million.
      - Forbes Magazine

      For my Topeka, KS readers, Burkle was the guy that bought Falley's and Food 4 Less from Lou Falley. Burkle was responsible for introducing Food4Less into California.

    5. #368 Donald Trump

    6. Son of Brooklyn developer borrowed heavily, built big, lived large, became a billionaire during 1980s. Eviscerated in 1990 real estate crash; stayed flamboyant, embraced reality TV. Now other builders pay him millions to license "Trump" brand. Despite looming housing woes, the Donald's retail, office and hotel business is up. Recently signed Gucci in record lease in New York's Trump Tower; Trump Chicago hotel opened January. Annually disputes FORBES' net worth estimate: "I'm worth $7 billion."
      - Forbes Magazine

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    Monday, May 5, 2008

    Charges for Physical Therapy Reduced

    As I mentioned the other day, the physical therapists called and said that they needed to redo the paperwork for the charges. The reason is that they figured in a charge for a treatment the insurance wouldn't cover. So, without that charge my total bill will be $665. Plus the 5% processing fee that brings it up to $698.25. With the payments being $29.09 for 24 months.

    Of course, I hope to have this paid this year as well. With my larger paycheck (even though by the hour, it's lower) I should be able to get all three of the small debts paid off this year. Then, my hope is to get both the car and the IRS (currently deferred) paid off by the end of 2009.

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    Fantastic Live Event Was Largest Ever

    On Saturday May 3 (2008), I drove to Kansas City. My purpose was to attend financial guru, Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Live Event. The day started eventfully. To start, before getting out of the driveway, I realized, I had forgotten the directions to Kemper Arena. Once, I was on the interstate and barely past the last free exit, I realized that I had forgot my ticket and camera. So, I had to take the next exit, which cost me 30 cents to get back into Topeka.

    Now, with everything I needed I was on the road again. Seventy-five minutes later, I was pulling into the parking lot at Kansas City's Kemper Arena (45 minutes before the doors opened).

    Last years Live Event sold 10,000 tickets, making it the largest Live Event in Dave Ramsey history. That record stood until this past February when the Dallas Event sold 11,000 tickets. However, Kansas City, once again regained the title of the largest Total Money Makeover, by selling 12,000 tickets.

    When Dave came out on stage, he said that everything he teaches, he stole from God and his grandmother. As last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the event. As I have over the past 2-years, I will continue to compare him to other financial guru's.

    To those that I met at the event, and who are reading this blog, perhaps for the first time, welcome. If you were at the event, please leave a comment and share your thoughts. If you have attended any of his Live Events, please feel free to comment and tell us your thoughts as well.

    Finally, once again, here is the video of the Saturday Night Live skit, that Dave plays every year during his Live Events.

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    Friday, May 2, 2008

    Pay Raise

    I received word tonight, that when I return to work on Sunday morning, I will have a new job title. I will no longer be a shift supervisor. Instead, I will be the Assistant Manager. Which means I will be getting a nice pay raise. However, it also means I will be salaried. Which as you know, means I will be working 50-60 hours instead of 40.

    I am excited, I finally made it, to the position that I have been after for a long time. My job search, will now be put on hold. The income level is finally at a level, that I like. It's not $60,000, but it's realistic for an industry that there isn't much profit in (1 cent out every dollar, is profit , according to industry statistics).

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    Financial Literacy and Children

    I recently received an email, suggesting I talk about teaching children financial literacy. That is something I view as very important, the younger they learn the better off they will be, when they grow up. However, it boils down to being the parents responsibility. If the parents doesn't teach them, their inaction will speak louder then anything the kids learn in school. Let's face it, kids learn by watching what their parents do. I am a great example of that. I knew from school and church the right way to handle money, but seeing my parents bad habits spoke louder then the head knowledge I was given.

    Everyone knows that young people are pros at spending money; millions of dollars are spent annually on advertising aggressively directed towards them. They know how to use ATM machines to take money out. But, in these uncertain economic times, do they know how to save it? And do they know how to think long-term – beyond the weekend – about their finances? What about credit card debt? Or investing for the future?

    The National Council on Economic Education (NCEE), a nationwide organization that serves to promote financial literacy with students and their teachers, has this to say on its website: “NCEE surveys show that nearly half of our young people don't understand how to save and invest for retirement, nor how to handle credit cards, don't know the difference between inflation and recession, nor how government spending affects them. If we fail to act now to improve economic literacy in this country, our children will be at risk for crippling personal debt, costly decisions at work and at home, and lack competitive skills in a fast-paced global economy.”


    Even Robert Duvall, PhD, President and CEO of NCEE, agrees. In the above article he says, “We know that the skills of managing your money well, are not skills that you’re born with. It’s learned behavior.”

    So what can parents do?
    1. First and foremost, set a good example. Because kids, as I said above, watch everything their parents do. It doesn't matter what a parent tells their kids, it's what the kids see their parents doing.

    2. Start saving – at any age. The earlier a person starts building their savings, the better off they will be financially in their future.

    3. Budget sense. The article suggests including the kids in on the budget discussions with you and your spouse. This way the kids get a better understanding of their families financial situation and how to handle money properly.

    4. Make it a long-term conversation.
      Financial matters can get complex pretty quickly. But kids who learn basic principles of earning money and saving it, of what things cost and how to budget for their expenses, will be in a much better position as young adults to understand the more complex issues of mortgages, credit cards and interest rates. Parents who introduce their kids to solid financial principles early on are providing an important part of their children’s preparation for the "real world."

    5. Shop Together. This is the perfect time to talk finances. It allows the kids to see and understand the prices of things. Why does this item cost 50 cents more than the other one? What does that extra 50 cents buy you? Is it worth it?

    April was Financial Youth Literacy Month, which means it's as good a time as any to start talking to kids about money. Lori Mackey, the "Money Mama" and author of "Money Mama & The Three Little Pigs," a read-aloud book that teaches the basics of sound money management, visited "Good Morning America" to explain how to teach kids about saving and spending.

    In an article that ABC aired in 2007, Mackey discussed kids and money.

    Mackey said it's never too early to start talking to kids about money.

    "It's never too late, but if you can start early, you teach them to give, invest, spend and save wisely, they learn the habits of wealth," she said.

    One of her first suggestions is to teach the kids the 10, 10, 10, 70 rule.
  • 10% Charitable giving
  • 10% savings
  • 10% Invest
  • 70% Spending

  • And their are money banks (aka piggy banks) that are designed to do this from various organizations. Off hand Crown Financial Ministries as such a bank that they sell. In addition, if memory serves me, Dave Ramsey does as well. Perhaps, one of his staff members (like Chris) that reads this blog can confirm this. I have also seen other organizations promotes such banks, but the names of those organizations escape me at this time.

    Mackey also suggests playing such board games as Life or Monopoly as tools to teach kids about money. These games can helps kids learn about investing and stocks and even how money compounds and grows in a fun and entertaining way.

    Photo courtesy of
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    News of the Day

    There are several news items today, that are of interest to personal finance readers. Instead of writing two different articles, I thought I would combine it into one (1) article. So without further ado, lets get started.

    Congress & Higher Food Prices

    This is the story that has the quote of the day.

    "Why are we putting food in our gas tanks instead of our stomachs?"

    That is what Richard Reinwald, a bakery owner, asked a Congressional panel investigating rising food prices.

    An Agriculture Department economist told the panel that the use of food crops for alternative fuel is one reason for higher prices. He says other factors include global weather patterns and the declining value of the dollar.

    But the White House downplays the role of ethanol. A spokesman points to the increasing cost of energy that makes it more expensive to get food to the table.
    - KGAN 2 CBS

    No matter the reason, people in supermarkets and grocery stores all over the United States are seeing their grocery prices rise. Here in Topeka shoppers, this week, seen a 48 oz bottle of Wesson Oil go from $3.69 to $6.59.

    Government launches crackdown on unfair credit cards

    WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve and other regulators are moving Friday to crack down on "unfair and deceptive" practices in the credit card industry that have added billions in debt to people already struggling to cope with the economic downturn.

    In the most far-reaching crackdown on the credit industry in decades, the Fed and two government agencies are proposing rules that would stop credit card companies from unfairly raising interest rates and make sure they give people enough time to pay their bills.

    The banking industry is expected to fight the new rules.

    - from the AP Newswire

    Wow, I really like this idea. At least part of me does. The part of me that fights for consumers rights and protection of the consumers. Then there is the part of that supports smaller government, and I wonder why the government is getting involved. Still, though the smaller government part of me is overshadowed by the desire to protect the consumer from those business' that wish to take advantage of the poorer consumers. I am for "free trade," if you will, but at the same time, business' must be fair in their business practices.

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    Dave Ramsey in KC Tomorrow

    Filling up the gas tank last night was a pain. I paid $3.49/gallon. With gas prices that high, I wonder, if I can even afford to drive to Kansas City tomorrow for the Dave Ramsey live event. The $20 of gas I put in the tank only brought the the tank to 3/4 full. If I remember from last year, it will take me about half a tank to make the trip. Of course this year the arena, he is in will be about 2 miles closer, which means I would save about 8 miles. Last year, I drove to to the arena, found where it was then drove to Wendy's for a late breakfast. The Wendy's is accross the street from this years event location.

    The event is an awesome time. At least it was last year, and I expect it to be again this year. However, can I really afford to make the drive? Do I really need to go? I certainly could use the money elsewhere. Perhaps, the $300 dividend check will arrive today.

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    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    April Was a Terrific Month Financially

    April was a terrific month financially. I managed to pay off $1,107 in debt. An amazing amount considering my net income is only $852. Now, I know some may ask how I managed to do that. The answer is simple. I received a quarterly distribution from the Telephone company, I own a piece of. In addition I used the money from the roommate to help get this debt reduced. I am still waiting for the annual dividend check from the telephone company. That check will be $300 and I will use that to help pay off the last $400 of my home improvement loan with AmeriFirst Home Improvements.

    While, I had hoped to have this debt paid off by today. it just did not happen, because the phone company has mailed the dividend checks yet. So now, I am looking to getting the debt paid off by May 31st (or June 1st, if you will). No matter, what I can't see any reason this debt won't be paid off in this time. According to AmirFirst's automated system, my next payment due date isn't until August 10th, and the payoff in late May is $404.22. Once, I get that paid off, I can turn my focus to the Fingerhut debt.

    The downside, is today I entered another debt. A medical debt, for Physical Therapy. The portion that the insurance won't pay after the completion of 12 treatments will $1,315 of the $2,280 bill. The Physical Therapy center tacks on a 5% processing fee for financing the "interest free" billing, bringing my total debt to $1380.75. The cost per treatment is $109.58. My monthly payment beginning on June 23 will be $57.53. Which means 3 of my weekly payments to AmeriFirst will be going to this new debt.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now.

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