Track it Baby

Track it. Keep it fun.

When I started running again and de-fatting myself, I keep track of my progress. In addition to weighing myself, I recorded all my workouts on an online training log. If need be I could tell you my workouts for April 9th, 2007 for example (I ran 5.5 miles, biked 18 miles and swam 1800 yards. I knew that secretly you wanted to know).

Do the same with your finances when you start getting your financial butt in gear. Make a spreadsheet with all your financial info on it. List all your assets (house value, savings accounts, checking accounts, stocks, 401k etc…) and all your debts (credit card balances, car loans, home loans, student loans etc…). Then subtract the debts from your assets, this will give you your net-worth. Which very well may be negative at first.

Like looking down at the scale when first starting a weight-loss program, it can be painful at first. But the progress, and there will be progress if you stick with it, will be fun to watch…serious fun.

I update my spreadsheet once a month to get the big picture of my finances, if you are just starting out you might want to do it more often for the motivation factor.

Post your progress where you can see it. Bathroom mirror is a great place.

Another plus to having all the financial data on one spreadsheet, it will help your spouse if something happens to you. If during one of my morning runs some cell-phone-talking makeup-applying carpool-mom pancakes me with her mini-van while driving her overweight lazy kids a quarter mile to school (this is a fairly likely scenario) all our financial data is on one spreadsheet on my laptop…password protected of course. And another copy of it is stored in a bank safe deposit box.

Change your future now. Don’t be a typical American consumer.

Too Much Information?

How much is too much when sharing on the internet? How much do we really need to be sharing with each other compared to what we share with those in real life?

Do you need to know tons of details about those that contribute to this website? If you don’t, does it make what we post less trustworthy and relevant to you? How much personal information is safe to share from the author’s perspective?

People reading articles on the internet, especially on new sites like this one, have no way of knowing if what write is true or fabricated. I could be a single, 15 year-old kid making up stuff to jerk around with people. As opposed to the 50-something father of many that I am (honest).

And assuming you do take us at our word, how many personal details do you need to know in order for us to get our ideas across? At least some details are needed to give credence to what we are writing about.

It’s easy to say “spend less than you make” and “save more”. But without practical examples that have worked for us, will these saying help you at all? Probably not.

I’m a runner, I probably run too much. But if someone asks me how to train for a marathon. And I say “go run”. That’s particularly useful. It’s true, but some more details and personal experience would make the advice a lot more useful. But you wouldn’t need every detail about my running life. Sharing stories about chaffing and and toenails falling off, while amusing to some, wouldn’t contribute much to your running goals.

So we will try to balance over-sharing vs leaving out any personal information at all. You might get posts with some details of our financial status, marriage and child rearing tips (if we can think of any good ones), homeschooling how-to’s and personal data on other topics of interest.

So rest assured, you won’t ever know if/what underwear we are wearing. But you will know what works for our family and some of the basic details.

Don’t Be Normal

“Normal” in America is:

  • Buying a new car every 5 years and having a car payment the rest of your days.
  • Or even worse, leasing a car. Do the math.
  • Buying more house than you can afford and re-mortgaging it over and over.
  • Having more credit cards, that you don’t payoff, than sense.
  • $853.6 billion in credit card debt. Average credit card debt: $15,263
  • $994.0 billion in student loans. Average student loan debt: $31,646.
  • Saving nothing or minimal amount for retirement and counting on the government (who handles money like a drunken sailor) to provide for you.
  • #1 reason for divorce is money issues/fights
  • Getting all your financial information from the mainstream press.
  • Having more month than money…spending more each month than you make
  • Paying loads and high management fees on your mutual funds.
  • Not contributing enough to your 401k to get the company match.
  • Not maxing out your IRA, or contributing to it at all.
  • Buying new when used will do, buying used when borrowing will do, borrowing when doing without will do.
  • Not thinking outside the box.
  •  Enabling your spouse, family, friends in their money mistakes instead of showing tough love.
  • Taking out student loans for a college degree of questionable value, when other options are out there.
  • Living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Never making extra principal payments on your mortgage.
  • Buying whole life insurance not term.
  • Not having a budget.
  • Borrowing from your 401k for “emergencies”.
  • Consolidating credit card debt and NOT cutting up the cards

Pros and Cons of Being Debt Free

Being debt free is great for your finances and it’s also a great feeling. This may be even more important for larger families who have less wiggle-room in their finances. Not having to worry about debt and having an emergency fund set up goes a long way to giving you financial peace of mind. When life happens (car breaks down, medical emergency, appliance dies) it’s less stressful to deal with when you have the funds to cover it and don’t have to borrow to handle it.

On a personal level, this is our debt situation:

  • Credit card, car loan, and all other debt (except Mortgage) – Debt Free since 1988.
  • Mortgage – Debt Free since 2012

Pros:

  • You will sleep much better at night.
  • Your marriage will improve; the #1 reason given for divorce in the U.S. is money arguments.
  • You can take advantage of good deals or investments that arise. Chicken breasts on sale for $1.69lb? You’ve got the funds to buy a few hundred pounds if you want.
  •  More freedom to move or change jobs if you want/need to.
  • Graduating with no student loans will enable you to start saving sooner and investing in your future.
  •  You are not paying interest to The Man on stuff that you probably can’t even remember purchasing.
  •  You will be able to establish an emergency fund and start saving for retirement, vacation, new home or car etc…
  • You will be able to help others more easily, Donate to your church, favorite charity etc.

Cons:

  • Since you will be sleeping better you won’t be able to watch all those late-night infomercials.  How will you know which new product will be the next Pillow-Pet or Snuggy?
  • With no money problems, you will have to find something else to fight with your spouse about…maybe he/she squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle.
  • You will no longer get to keep eating non-sale $5.99lb chicken.
  • You won’t have an excuse to keep living in that house you are upside-down in and keep working in that sucky job you hate.
  • Since you didn’t borrow for college, you won’t get to pay back $50,000 in loans over the next 20 years.
  • You won’t get to pay 18% to Visa and MasterCard for those carbon-fiber golf clubs that are gathering dust in your garage, sitting next to a financed sports car.
  • You will have to find your excitement elsewhere since you will be missing out on the excitement of living paycheck to paycheck and being on the financial edge.
  • You will have to say yes when someone knocks on your door collecting for the Association to End Cat Juggling

 

Go Ahead and Splurge

No really, I’m serious. Splurging once in awhile can help you get out of debt faster and save more in the long run.

If you are constantly paying down debt and/or stashing money into savings and doing nothing fun, you may soon become frustrated. Especially if the results are slow in coming. And then you might go out and blow a ton of money on something silly instead of just blowing a little bit.

Living like a desert monk is good for the finances but all that scrimping and saving can get to you. Instead set aside a bit of money each payday for fun. Call it your Blow money. Once you have it, go Blow it on something. Dinner out, new shoes, a box of Lucky Charms cereal, disco-ball, whatever meets your fancy.

Just don’t go bonkers and spend tons of money each payday doing this, make it a reasonable amount for your current financial situation.

Want to splurge on a larger purchase? Then save your monthly splurge money until you have enough and then go for it. Buy that leopard-print couch or that autographed collection of Kim Kardashian bikini pictures*.

*this website does not endorse the buying of this product, nor accept any responsibility for what happens to your eyes if you look at this product

Working From Home

The Benefits (and some cons) of telecommuting aka Working at home.

No not everyone has the option of working from home, but if you get a chance to do it, you need to seriously consider it. The Pro’s outweigh the cons. At least they have for me.

9 years ago I started working from home 2 days a week, then 7 years ago I started working from home 3 days a week and 6 years ago I started working from home all the time.

Benefits, economic and otherwise:

It saves gas and wear and tear on the car. I was spending $200 a month on gas. And that was with an average commute and free parking. Plus I was adding over 1200 miles per month to my car.

It saves on electricity. I seem to be the only one capable of turning off a light in this house. My bride and children have some genetic disorder that prevents them from turning off the lights when they leave a room.

It saves on food. I never went out to eat lunch that often, but there was always some event that came up that I felt obligated to go to. No more going out for silly luncheons.

My office is my computers, 2 laptops. I can work wherever I can get an internet connection. Is the weather nice? Why not work on the back porch and get some fresh air and sunshine.

Don’t feel like shaving or showering? Don’t have to. Want to work in your boxer shorts? Sure, that’s allowed. Want to sleep in until 8:59am and still be able to start work at 9am? That will work too.

You also get mental benefits from avoiding traffic and all the crazy drivers out there. No putting up with traffic jams, thunderstorms, snow, ice etc…or the crazy co-worker that wants to tell you about the great weekend he had building a new climbing toy for his cats.

You get time for “free”. My commute was 35-45 minutes each way. I now have an extra 70-90 minutes each day in which to do something I want to do, or to sleep.

Taking a work-from-home job with a lower salary may be worth it. Do the math and consider the fringe benefits.

It’s not all ice cream and cheesecake though. There are some issues that have to be dealt with.

Especially in a homeschooling home with 12 kids still living here to one degree or another.

It can be difficult to stay on task and focus on work. It is easy to get sidetracked and start doing other things around the house: little projects, watch TV, work on the cars or yard. BS with the wife and kids. Take kiss-breaks with the Misses.

The spouse and kids will think you are fair game and that you can be asked to do things or help with school. Especially if you are working in a common area of the house like I do at times. I have a desk setup in my bedroom but like to work in other areas of the house. Since my office consists of 2 laptops it’s pretty easy to work wherever.  I just have to make sure I focus and get the work done that is expected of me.

Is it Time for Drastic Measures?

Not enough income to bust up the debt and get ahead?

Do something radical. Get crazy and creative. Bump up the income and/or slash the expenses.

Sell stuff. Gather up all the unused things in your house and start selling them. Besides getting some needed extra cash, you’ll de-clutter the house a bit and learn some detachment.

Create an eBay and PayPal account, if you don’t already have one, and start listing things. There are plenty of articles online on how to do this. We did this last Fall and sold over $2,000 worth of things. Find things that are easy to ship.

List things that are hard to ship on Craigslist. Just be careful. Don’t sell to some psycho-killer and end up as the subject of some crappy movie on the Lifetime network.

Have a garage sale, get other families involved and make it a large sale to attract more buyers.

Get a side gig: cut-grass, delivery pizza, wait tables at night, leverage your existing skills (handyman, computer repair).

Get rid of other money sucks:

Too much house? Move and downsize. Besides a lower payment, the taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities will be less. Or just rent for awhile if rental rates are good in your area.

Car payments draining your funds? Sell the car(s), payoff the loans and buy some reliable older ones. New cars can be a huge waste of resources. After 5 years, the average new car as lost 63% of its value. Your $30,000 car is now worth $11,100. Be the person who buys the 5-year-old car and keeps it for another 15 years. Buy an air freshener if you want that “new car smell”. They make them in that scent.

Spending a bunch of money each month on pets? Get rid of them. No I’m not talking about dumping Fido in the country. A cat maybe, but never a dog. Find a good home for them. Better they go and that the kids are fed.

Get rid of the expensive gadgets. A free pay-as-you-go flip phone will make a call just like that Smart Phone.

There is nothing wrong with going a little crazy every now and then to avoid going insane. You are not your khakis.

Teaching Kids About Money

Topics to discuss with kids:

  • Saving vs spending. You have a limited amount of money. You can’t spend all of it. You need to save some of it, at least 10%.
  • Delayed gratification. “You can’t always get what you want” Jagger/Richards. They need to learn patience and how to save up for something they want to purchase.
  • Savings – get them a piggy-bank or an old jar to save money in. Open a savings account and teach them about interest.
  • We don’t do allowances, they get fed. But consider allowances, and use them as a way to teach them to work for money and what to do with the money they make.
  • Teach them to give of their money and time. Have your kids give away some of their own money.
  • Be careful using credit cards around them. They will think that whipping out a card is all you have to do to buy things.
  • Teach them about credit cards. Make sure they know not to use them unless they have the money to pay them off in full each month. That they will have to pay interest (a lot of interest) if they carry a balance.
  • Teach them that it’s better to use cash or debit cards for purchases.
  • Teach them how to shop (take them to the grocery store). I know shopping with kids can be more painful than watching a Miley Cyrus video, but take them with and teach them how to comparison shop and how to stick to a list of items that you need. This will also teach them some math skills. Have them hand the money to the cashier, not a credit card, and make sure they get the correct change.
  • Teach them how to balance a checkbook.
  • Teach them how to make a budget. And why one is important.
  • Teach them to protect their financial and personal, data. Be careful who has your SSN and account info. Be careful shopping online.
  • Teach them about legalized thievery. Taxes.
  • Explain how loans work: mortgages, cars, student loans.