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Showing posts from 2011

Control Your Money - A Budget

There are two keys to an effective budget - having it and following it.  If you haven't got one, you're probably overspending simply because you don't know how much you're spending.  If you don't follow it, well, what's the point of having it?

A budget is not a trivial undertaking.  Don't expect to be able to bang one out in an hour and not have to worry about it anymore.  If you want a budget that's actually accurate, you need to revisit it often in order to track your progress, make updates, add new expenses, etc.  On the bright side, a budget does not have to be a complex document.  I use a very simple spreadsheet.

My budget (we'll use mine as an example) has two sections.  One is a list of all of my expenses including bills, savings, miscellaneous expenses, etc.  The second section breaks it out by paycheck (I get paid twice a month so my second section has two parts) and shows which bills get paid per paycheck.  It shows the amount budgeted fo…

Control Your Money - Get A Good Credit Score

Getting good credit is easy to say and can be REALLY difficult to do.  Here are the basics:

Pay your bills on time - late payments bring down your credit reportPay down your debt - the more debt you have, the riskier it is loan you more money and that is shown by a lower credit reportDon't have too many credit cards - credit cards are like soft debt, you may not actually owe money but you could at the drop of a hatPay off your credit cards - technically this is just part of paying down your debt but it's worth saying Like I said, easy to say and difficult to do.  Nobody wants to give up things and/or lower their standard of living. My experience is that people (or maybe just me) tend to adjust to a raised standard of living in about 10 minutes but may never really adjust to a lowered standard of living.  I think it's human nature.  If you used to have more stuff and now you don't, you miss it.
All is not lost, however.  There are things you can do to lower your expense…

Control Your Money - Your Credit Score

If you want to spend less and get more bang for your buck, one of the best things you can do is have a good credit score.  No, it won't make everyday purchases cheaper, but it can put more money in your wallet for those everyday purchases.  You see, having an excellent credit score can save you thousands of dollars.  How?  Here's how it works.

Say you're buying a house or maybe you're looking at refinancing your current home.  The first thing a bank will do is run your credit report.  If you have good credit, you will get a lower interest rate.  If you credit is not good, you will get a higher interest rate.  This is what costs you.

To illustrate, here's an example for a $200,000 mortgage (houses for big families aren't cheap you know):

Amount Borrowed: $200,000Interest Rate: 8% (this is for a poor credit score)Monthly Payment: $1,467.53Interest Paid (over 30 years):  $328,310.29Total Amount Paid (over 30 years):  $528,310.49 Wow, those numbers are just plain u…

Control Your Money

There's an old saying, "If you don't control your money, then it will control you."  I've taken it to heart and would like to share some blog posts on what I've done and how I've done it.

When you have a large family, you quickly find that your money doesn't go very far.  When you've got 8 people in you household, you find that your income is quickly eaten up by food, clothes, power bills, house payment (a small house just doesn't cut it), etc.  With money going out that fast, you need to keep things under control financially.  Here are some of my financial goals that I will be writing about:

Have an effective budget - This is key.  Not only do you need to have a budget, but you need to keep it, control it, and update it regularly.Live frugally - Figure out innovative ways to get what you need/want at less than full retail.  Also realize that as you appreciate what have, you find that you want less (not an easy thing to do).Save money - You ne…

Gadget Lust - Cool New Toys!

There are lots of cool new tech gadgets and toys out there.  In fact, it seems like there are new things coming out all of the time.  There are smartphones (iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, Palm phones, etc.), personal media players (iPods, Zunes, etc.), digital media players (Roku, Apple TV, blue ray players, HD TVs, etc.).  It seems that no matter what you're interested in there are gadgets coming out for those interests.  Even books are being replaced by eReaders like the Kindle or Nook.  The problem is that all of these things are expensive and they may end up being more cool than useful.  For those of us striving to prosper financially (on a budget), getting them all may be out of the question.  Heck, getting one or two can still be a stretch.  So what do you do?

I've found, with myself, that I suffer from what I call gadget lust.  When a new gadget comes out, instead of evaluating it to see if it fits into my life, I seem to try to find/create a gap in my life t…

Combining Blogs

A while ago I decided to start a blog for more personal stuff and leave this blog to the more political stuff.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but I'm starting to feel a bit fragmented.  I'm also realizing that my political persona overlaps my personal persona and that it's less effective to try to spit myself up.

So I'm going to discontinue my other blog and move the posts to this blog.  Then I'll just have this blog and my work blog (tech-astute.blogspot.com for all of you who are into information technology).

Hope you all enjoy!

When Did Compromise Become Evil?

I think I've probably ranted about this or similar things before but it continues to be a frustration.  As politicians and political activists get more and more polarized, the art of the compromise seems to disappear.  I would like to remind my readers that our country was built on compromise.  Even today, the voters are split down the middle.  Sometimes they lean right and sometimes they lean left but there are always significant numbers of people on both sides of the aisle.  The art of the compromise is finding a way to satisfy both sides.  I'm just not seeing it anymore.

Nowadays, it seems that all I hear is rhetoric.  This official is evil, that one is ignorant, this other one is going to bring our country to ruins.  Our leaders are so busy vilifying their opponents (and by extension everybody who votes for their opponent) that they have no opportunity or even a desire to work with them.  There is no mutual respect between parties.  In fact, it seems that there aren't …

The Debt Compromise Passes

Wow!  Talk about a last minute save!  The compromise passes and we don't default on our debts... yet.

Unfortunately there's still a lot to be done and a lot of disagreement on how to do it.  As near as I can tell (in very broad terms) the Democrats want to expand revenue and the Republicans want to cut spending/reduce the size of government.  The problem is the lack of compromise.

Our country was built on compromise.  You get some of what you want and I get some of what I want and we both come out ahead.  It seems that in Washington, the tone is just the opposite.  At least with the extreme ends of the political spectrum.  Out there it seems to be I get what I want and then I get more of what I want.  There were those voting against the bill because it didn't cut enough.  There were those voting against the bill because it didn't raise taxes.  In my opinion, both extremes are wrong.

Where is the statesmanship?  Where is doing what's best for the country?  The bill …

Who's Got Skin In The Debt Ceiling Game?

There's a lot of discussion, posturing, blaming, etc. going on with this whole issue on raising the debt ceiling.  Both sides blame the other and are predicting dire things if they way isn't followed.  What I wonder though, is how invested are they?

If an agreement is not reached, how will it affect the President and the Congress?  Will they stop getting paid?  Will they lose any benefits?  Do they have any real skin in the game?

It's a lot easier to be cavalier and idealist about these things when it's other people's money that's at stake.  Perhaps an agreement would come faster if our leaders actually had their paychecks at stake.

Just something to think about.

Pragmatism vs Practicality

I recently wrote, in another blog, about what I called Gadget Lust - you know, the desire to get those cool gadgets that are coming out all the time.  A desire that can transcend their usefulness and leave you with a cool gadget that you never use.  I've been thinking about that and wondering if it doesn't pertain to politics as well.

Many of us are idealists.  We follow our principles and try to leverage them into policies in an attempt to make the world (or even just our hometown) a better place.  Some days I find myself brimming with ideas and energy and I want to make all of them reality.  It's here that I wonder - perhaps I'm running faster than my feet can carry me.  Perhaps some of these ideas, ideas which sound good and right, are not all they're cracked up to be.

This is a bit of a cautionary tale.  When you come up with a grand idea; one that seems so perfect and right: stop for a bit and reason it out.  Will it really have the effect you think it will?  …