Friday, December 12, 2008

Going Underground

With my new job 80% of the work is prepping for the class (with 10% grading work and 10% giving lectures).


Sorry to say, but… I’ll probably not be updating my blog like I have been.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What have your utilities done for YOU lately?

Considering I live in an area where we have not yet had to turn off our A/C, we pay a good chunk of money to our power company. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they were giving us $75 in free CFL light bulbs! Free!

While I’m always up for free things, I had put this offer off thinking that it would be complicated or time consuming. Then I got a reminder notice last week with a checklist for me to assess the type of lighting we have in our apartment. From that list, it recommended the appropriate type of light bulb. It had all sort of light bulbs- little ones that look like fake candles- to ones that look, well, like a regular light bulb. They even had flood lights and insect lights.

All I had to do to get my $75 worth of lights was to log on to my electricity account and denote how many of each blub I wanted. Shipping and handling was covered by my power company and they should arrive in six weeks!

How neat is that!?!

Monday, December 8, 2008

December update

In all my excitement of getting my new job last week; I didn’t assess how my financial situation changed over this last month!

As a whole, my net worth is back into the negative three digits- whoo hoo! I haven’t been here since before the September crash! As expected my retirement savings dwindled, but at least it shrank due to external force- rather than through some error on my part.

My key savings accounts I’ve been tracking have once again inched ahead.

2008 Roth IRA 3K- was: 60.3% now: 61%
15K New Car Fund- was: 24.3% now: 24.5%
14K Emergency Fund- was: 18.8% now: 19%
100K DP Home Fund- was: 11.7% now: 11.8%

It’s pretty apparent I will not reach my financial goals for 2008, but then again, being unemployed for a year has a way of hampering personal financial goals. If anything, these small financial advancements are a testament that we, as a married couple, can stay solvent on one salary and even save a little. This year could have been a financial disaster for us, but instead, it focused us on doing what we really want to do and to not spend extravagantly.

That- that is something to be thankful for!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gainfully employed!

Yes, it’s true! I’ve got a part-time teaching instructor position!!!!


Monday, December 1, 2008


After eleven months of unemployment, hundreds of emails to department heads and hr people, and lots of deep sighs an email appeared:

“I have a vitae on file for you as someone who is interested in part-time teaching. I'm looking for an instructor for Spring to teach … Are you interested in teaching this spring, or is your plate already full?”

Is my plate full? HA!
Am I interested in teaching in the Spring- you bettcha!

AND…. (drum roll please)… the interview is on Wednesday!

I’m going to spend the next couple days getting ready- I really want this job! I’ll post an update after the interview!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that you are blessed today to be spending time with loved ones!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Ahh.. ‘tis the season of more online shopping and more online scams! Here’s an example of one I got earlier this week and my comments are in (parentheses).

PayPal investigation of an unauthorized activity claim: #PP-587-442-704‏ (nice and scary-huh?)
From: (who knew paypal had an international division- oh wait…they already are!)

You may not know this sender.Mark as safeMark as unsafe
Mon 11/24/08 3:32 PM
Dear *******, (not using my name= big tip off!)

We recently noticed that a transaction may have been made without yourknowledge or consent. We are currently investigating the followingtransaction: -----------------------------------Details of Disputed Transaction -----------------------------------

Seller's name: Hagio-HostSeller's

email: yawvaar@gmail.comSeller's

transaction ID: 7YW39066PT6017814

Transaction date: Nov 25, 2008

Transaction amount: -$80.94 USD (80 bucks! Oh no!)

Your transaction ID: 30L88064FF065545B Case number: PP-587-442-704

To see the details of this case, log in to your PayPal account by following the link below and go to the Resolution Center. (yeah, I’ll click on it and get what type of virus?)

The seller has been asked to provide information about this transaction.During this time the funds are not available in your account, but if theunauthorized activity claim is decided in your favor, we will fully refundyou for the amount of the transaction.Sincerely,Account Review Department

Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and youwill not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal accountand click the Help link in the top right corner of any PayPal page.BC:PP-587-442-704:R1:USD80.94:11/25/2008:30L88064FF065545B (nice touch!)

Wow… well of course I logged into paypal the traditional way and low-and-behold no funny transactions! Althought, I can see why emails like this could trip up the elderly or the unfamiliar with technology.

Just one more thing to watch out for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gift Card Troubles

I still had almost $100 on a gift card to Macy’s leftover from wedding gifts, so back in October I bought a suitcase since my old one took one too many abuses from airline personnel and gave up the ghost. It wasn’t the cutest suitcase, but it was functional and with tax it came in just under the gift card amount. I was pleased and looked forward to getting it.

Then, two weeks later in early November, I got an email that they ran out of my suitcase.


The problem was that when I made that purchase- I had cut up the gift card.

So, I called customer service and explained everything. After twenty minutes on the phone a representative said that they would send me a new card in the mail within two weeks.

Now, over two weeks later, I still don’t have the gift card.

So I called again. I got a new customer service person who said the last person didn’t properly put in the request for the new gift card. Another twenty minutes went by and she has assured me it will come in the next two weeks.

Anyone want to bet that I’ll actually get it in two weeks?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mentha award

This month’s Money magazine profiled and compared the top money management websites.

The top honors went to:!

(GO mint, mint, GO mint, mint)

Followed by:
A tie between Quicken and the moneycenter at yodlee
and trailing in last place….

Friday, November 21, 2008

Marriage (and credit score) on the rocks?

This month’s Money magazine had an interesting article highlighting a lawsuit against credit companies that use information from certain vendors you’ve visited to determine if they can reduce or cancel your line of credit.

These vendors include:
Massage parlors
Billiard halls
Night clubs
Marriage counselors

Wow- basically this discriminates against young singles or those who are already in great emotional distress! I can see why a sudden increase in these vendors may precede a monetary crisis in one’s life, but I also see most of these vendors as the staples of young single people’s lives.

To discriminate against them using these criterions is just bad business practices. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Kmart?

Since my first spotting of Christmas commericals on TV weeks ago, it seems like every big box store is eagerly thrusting their “deals” upon viewers everywhere. So I wasn’t surprised to see Kmart following suit. However, their ad was different. It was a wife going out to buy Christmas gifts and her husband nervously suggesting not to spend to much. She suavely replies, “don’t worry, I’m putting it on layaway.”

Even Kmart’s home page extols the virtues of layaway.

It seems easy enough:
Pick your item, pay a small down payment, make additional payments every two weeks, and then take home your item once it’s paid for.

It ensures that you get your item as opposed to trying to save up for it and then trying to buy the item the day before Christmas. It also seems better than charging something you can’t afford on a credit card and having a horrible reckoning day in January.

However, I’ve never done this before. Has anyone else done it? What was your experience like?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


My parent’s came down recently and they brought with them the last box of wedding planning leftovers. The week before the wedding I had a whole room full of boxes, binders, vases, and other wonderful things in their spare bedroom. Now, three months post-wedding, I’ve received the last remnants of the wedding planning.

I was sifting through all the stuff deciding what to throw away and what could be parlayed into another craft project, when I discovered all my bridal shower cards! It was so nice to read each one’s sentiments and re-look at so many cute greeting cards.

Then I pulled out my aunt’s card. It felt suspiciously full.
I opened it carefully and found… a $100 gift card to Pottery Barn!

This was way better than finding $5 in an old coat pocket- one hundred bucks! Who-hooo!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The (not so) free party

Last week Hubby’s work gave us free tickets to a ball!
I was so excited! Doesn’t that sound so grown-up?
“Sorry darling, I can’t chat- I’m getting ready for the ball tonight.”

I wore a dress I already owned, but to make it feel new again I bought all new accessories:
$25 shoes
$15 clutch
$12 for a necklace and earring set

It’s all stuff I’ll use again and all stuff I like, but it had me wondering: is it justifiable to spend $52 to go to a free event?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lots of festivities!

Wow.. this has been the week of holiday gift prep!

While I’ve exhausted my ideas for savvy presents, here are a couple more ideas for keeping holiday expenses down. I have a large extended family (each of my parents were the third child of five) plus my husband’s family makes for three (or more) Holiday gatherings per year!

Here’s how each family keep the fun going economically:

Grandpa’s birthday party- normally held a week before Christmas in celebration of my (now deceased) great- maternal grandpa’s birthday. It doubles as our Christmas celebration and we hold a giant 30+ person gift game.

The rules:
You must be 13 to play.
Bring a gift that cost about $30 and wrap it.
All people are assembled and gifts are piled in the middle.
Two hats are volunteered and one person takes it upon themselves to write out football teams and the cities the team is located in. The team names go in one hat and the team cities go in another. Everyone who is playing draws a team name.
A designated drawer draws out one team city out of the hat (normally this goes to an eager tween who can’t play, but wants to be involved)
When your team’s city is called you get to select a gift.
If you are the first person to go: you must select from the gift pile. You open it up and show everyone what it is.
If you are not the first person to go: you may select a wrapped gift or steal a gift from a person who has already gone.
There are three steals per round, and a round is over when someone opens a new wrapped present.
If you are stolen from you can not steal back your gift (you can, however, steal your spouse’s gift and your spouse can go steal the gift back for you!).
Everyone has a chance to play.
At the very end, the person who was first to go can choose to steal a gift if they have not been stolen from and they choose to go again. This keeps it fair in case the first person gets stuck with a sucky gift.

No one brings any other presents for any other adults. Young, non-gift-game-playing children may or may not get gifts, but it isn’t expected.

The family gifts- my Dad’s side of the family buys gifts for each family. Every family gets a similar gift and the gifts are of less than $20 in value.
Ex: My Hallmark crazy aunt gives every family an ornament, my aunt and uncle who went to Hawaii brought back every family a bag of macadamia nuts, or my aunt who can cook- canned peaches for every family. This means you only have to get seven of one gift for seven families, instead of 34 different presents! Cheaper and easier!

The in-law way- just get together. Bring food or even better a dessert! I’ll get my mother and father-in-law something, but I have a no-presents rule with my brother-in-law. These gifts, however, will be given in private- not at the large (40+ people) family party. Since most of the family is Jewish (practicing or not) the gift giving isn’t really emphasized. It's still fun, and a whole lot cheaper!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chic DIY presents

The last couple days I’ve been focusing on quality gifts at prices that won’t undo your holiday budget. A lot of these ideas are off of Design*Sponge (go Derek and Lauren!) and I encourage you to look at their DIY section to see if other ideas pique your interest!

Here are a couple ideas for people who want to make gifts with their own hands:

Tassel Earrings
For one stop by Michael's crafts and a few bucks you can make multiples of these chic earrings for all your girlfriends!

Eco-friendly notebook
With a handful of materials and even fewer steps, these notebooks are eco(nomically) friendly!

Family Portraits
More interesting than a standard portrait, these modern silhouettes are part traditional and part modern.

Felt Coasters
Make these in the colors of the gift recipient’s living room and they’ll know you were thinking of them!

Stenciled trivets
These require a steady hand to cut out, but the graphic could be anything you like. Try the person’s initial, a sweet saying, or a decal in the likeness of their pet!

Cake stands
I love this idea! At one point, I thought I’d do these for my wedding- but I didn’t… Still imagine these made with some garage sale milk glass… so sweet!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crafting X-mas gifts for non-crafters

Yesterday, I highlighted my strategies for buying holiday gifts in an economical way. Now I’d like to highlight some ideas for making meaningful gifts. For all those anti-crafty people who would like to tune out now: these are all gifts that you can make online! No scissor or glue required!

Three gifts to give from non-crafty people:

1. Family Calendar
Make a calendar that has all your personal holidays on there- yes it will have Valentine ’s Day and Halloween, but it can also have all your friend’s and family’s birthdays and anniversaries! It will save your friends and family the chore of transferring all those events from the ’08 calendar to ’09. VistaPrint is nice because you can choose from their stock photography or if you have your own photos (say photos of all the grandkids) choose a photo printer retailer.
Suggested vendors: Vista Print or any photo printing retailer (like Shutterfly or SnapFish)

2. Personalized items
Maybe you want a personalized stationary set, an engraved necklace, or monogrammed bed sheets. My first stop would be Alchemy at Etsy. You can write a description of what you’d like and what you’d like to pay and then crafters will bid on the project! You can also brows individual sellers sites through etsy and convo them asking them to make a personalized project for you. I’ve never been turned down, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Etsy vendors. Also, depending on what you want- just Google it. Don’t let your imagination be limited!

3. Make an investment for a gift recipient
Go to Treasury Direct and buy US savings bonds for them. You’ll buy them at a discounted rate and in a couple years they’ll be worth more to the individual than what you bought them for.

Or want to give the grandkids money, but not the kind they can use at the videogame store? Set up a 529 plan for them and help their parents save for their college years. You can set up a 529 plan through any brokerage house (Vanguard, Fidelity, etc.)

Fund someone’s ROTH IRA. If you know someone who is eligible for a ROTH IRA, but hasn’t funded it (i.e. college students or young working but struggling people), you can do it for them. Since the ROTH IRA limits ($5K if aged 49 and under) are under the amount of money you can give tax free to someone ($12K in 2008) there won’t be any surprises on your tax forms come April.

Give a charitable donation in their name. Any large charitable organization (to see how much of your donation goes to the cause see: charity navigator) will be able to handle this for you. Creative ideas include: giving a water buffalo or honeybees ( Heifer ), a tree (Arbor Day), or start a business in the developing world ( by making a loan at Kiva ).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The gifting season

Didn’t you know? It’s Christmas season (or at least that’s what retailers would like you to think)!On my birthday, last Thursday, November 6th, I saw my first Christmas shopping commercial. Also, on the same day, my local shopping mall had erected the giant silver 20-foot menorah.

Ah.. yes.. it’s dipped below 78 degrees and SoCal is envisioning a profitable Holiday season...

Now here’s the shocking part: I do (kind of) agree with them. It is time to think about holiday gifts, but only because you want to make and give sentimental well-priced gifts.

If you tend to be a person who just rolled their eyes at my “make ... holiday gifts” statement, then I suggest that now is the time to start looking for good deals on the gifts you want to buy for people.

Here are my suggestions for getting what you want at the price you want:

1) Make a list of all the people you want to give gifts to.
There are people in your life that you’ll want to gifts to every year. I like to keep a running list throughout the year with these people's names on it. Whenever someone expresses that they like something- I simply write it next to their name. Then I’ve got plenty of gift ideas when a special event comes along.

I also like to get three general gifts. I like to find either: candles, nice towels, simple jewelry or stationary that I can give if any surprises come my way. I actually plan for these gifts in case a gift doesn’t ship in time or someone extra shows up at a function and has a gift for me. These are gifts that are cheap for my wallet, but helpful for my heart because I know I won’t feel badly if something unexpected happens. I never buy more than three extra gifts and I always keep these receipts and return unused items in January.

2) Decide what you want to spend.
You can decide this on a per-gift basis or per event basis. For example, you may want to spend $20 per gift or $200 for all Christmas gifts.

3) Research!
Websites like PriceGrabber or NextTag can give you ideas on where you may want to buy the gift, and help you research if the gift you want to give is in your price range. I also like Amazon to look up reviews for individual products.

4) Shopping time!
Check out when the retailer you’re buying from is having sales or free shipping offers. Also make sure to buy all your gifts from each retailer at one time to save on shipping or time invested in going to that store.

If you are going to buy gifts in stores make sure that you go at a time where you can spend the time parking and shopping by yourself at leisure. You want to be in a good mood, well feed, have a water bottle, and all your self-control in check. Retailers will have special “deals” on stuff you don’t need. But you’ll want them- so stick to your list and don’t give in!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Splurging- without emptying your wallet

MSN shopping had an article posted today called: Wardrobe Economics: Save or Splurge. The idea was that with a tighter economy you’ll have to make some spending choices, and the article presented some guidelines for where to cut corners.

It had the following recommendations: Save on evening dresses (you’ll probably only wear them once), hosiery (all hosiery runs, why pay more?) and activewear (remember: you are going to go sweat in them).

However, it said to splurge on jeans. When I say splurge they recommend jeans in the $100-$200 range. Now I’ve spent $60 on jeans before and they’ve lasted me almost a decade. I’ve also had jeans that cost much less that have lasted 5+ years. I’ve also tried on those designer jeans and had little success with them fitting. So, I personally wouldn't spend that much for jeans.

It also suggests splurging on handbags- to the tune of over $200! With handbag trends changing every season, why would anyone (who is trying to save money) spend so much on a purse? There are good-enough quality bags at much lower prices points, and I don’t see why someone who is trying to save money in the short run would need to buy an investment-grade leather carryall.

I guess what I don’t like about articles like this is that they are really just mouthpieces for advertisers. I tend to buy good quality pieces that I can use through the years, but a $300 sweater and a $60 sweater will both fade and lose their shape after years of wearing. I also like buying trendy pieces, but only at trend store prices. Shoppers should splurge only if they are able to and only on an item that they know they personally will value. Also, a spurge doesn't have to mean that you spend more than three digits.

The moral of this article should really be: Any reasonably good shopper can find good quality at sensible price points. No matter what the item is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Financial update

The good news:
1) I reduced my student loan by $71 even after paying interest
2) I focused on my ROTH IRA this month and gained almost a 2% increase in it.
3) Since I made extra payments on my student loan and increased my cash holdings my NetWorth increased to only: -$1307!

The not-so-fabulous news:
1) ING rates have taken a dive with interest rates. It’s currently paying only 2.75%, but with the new rate cut that is also likely to decrease. So my accounts that I didn’t contribute to, didn’t have much interest. So my New Car, my Emergency, and my Home Down Payment funds didn’t budge.

Like many of you, I’ve found this past month both exciting and sickening. However, the things I could control (my spending, paying down debt, and where I’m putting my cash) have gone well. Being in control of those things- that’s satisfying in an uncontrollable world.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bittersweet Birthday

It’s true.
It’s official.
As of 7pm tonight, I enter the last year of my mid-twenties.

While many of my friends freaked out when they turned 25, it had been no big deal for me. However, that was last year. Last year I was recently graduated, employed and newly engaged. Everything was fabulous!

Now, unemployed and desperately awaiting my phone to ring for interviews- it makes me feel, well- uncertain.

This year, to me, 26 feels old. While I’m excited to be celebrating with friends and family, my emotions are mixed this year. This birthday, I don’t feel like I’m doing what I wanted to be doing at 26, and that’s hard.

However, I feel like my life is on a tipping point. I feel like this year, this year I’m going to be employed and full of joy. There is so much hope in this next year: jobs have just recently posted openings, I’m going to host our first big party at our apartment, and I’ve got two friends getting married! There is so much possibility this year, and I hope I can experience it all!

My birthday wishes:
1) A job.
2) A less volatile year. I’d like 26 to be fun and challenging, but a whole lot less stressful than 25 was.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This past weekend I was flying back home on Horizon. I was sleeping comfortably when the stewardesses wheeled the beverage cart right next to me. I lazily opened my eyes and saw that they were working on the rows in front of us, so I had more time to nap.

Then- all of a sudden- there was a burning hot sensation on my leg!

In one swift movement I was awake and unbuckled my seat belt to find that a stewardess had spilled hot coffee all over my lap! My husband said she had poured it out of the carafe and had set it on the cart. Then she hit it with her elbow.

She was most apologetic, and all the stewardesses rush me with paper towels, dry and wet. I was fine. It had been hot, but thankfully, not burning hot. I was fine and I told everyone so.

Then the guilty party said she’d be back to "comp. me". My ears perked up! Compensation? Cool! So... I’m thinking: how are they going to compensate me? The price of dry cleaning? A free flight? What?

Later in the flight she brings me over a form to get compensated. I scan it and it is clear that spilling a drink on a customer is the smallest infraction with piddlely compensation.

My choices:
1,000 air miles (but we don’t have the Horizon mileage plan, so that was out)
An e-certificate for $25 to
A $5 giftcard to Starbucks
Or, get this-
A teddy bear

Maybe I had gotten my hopes too high, but I kinda thought these were pathetic options. I mean, “sorry we spilled hot coffee on you, would you like $5 to get a new one?” Pretty sad.

Of course, before she said anything, I hadn’t even thought of being compensated. I’ve been a waitress, and while I never spilled a drink on anyone, I know accidents happen. However, this level of compensation still seems a bit weak to me.
What do you think?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008!

Really, nothing I could say could be more important than this:

Remember to vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Freaky Friday

I’ve been waiting for a call about an application I put in, so whenever I see SoCal area codes I flip out!

So I was soo excited when a SoCal area code popped onto my phone on Friday!

The conversation went like this:

“Hello, is (asked for me by my maiden name) there?”
“This is she.” I grumbled- I was w-a-y let down. It was obviously not for an interview, all my applications are in my married name.

Then the phone called got weirder.

“I’m calling from (something) dental and I’m wondering what you’re going to do about this $85 charge.”

“What charge?” I said totally flabbergasted. I went to a dentist office months ago, but this wasn’t a dentist I had seen.

She goes on I tell me about the services I supposedly had in two cities which I’ve never been to before!

I tell her I’ve never been to those offices- let alone those cities. She says that if I don’t pay them she’ll send them to a collection agency. I tell her that I’m not going to pay for services I never sought.

She asks me if I’ve ever gone by two other last names- one of which is my new married name and the other was Ludbeck (or something like that). I told her just this and she said “fine” and hung up on me.

SO I’m freaking out! I’m thinking: Is some collection agency going to come after me for fraudulent charges? What would I do about that? Or was someone else just using names and happened to use mine? Was it someone phishing for my information and I gave too much??!?!?

I checked my credit score and it was still the same, and I had no unusual charges on my credit cards. I placed a fraud alert on my credit and I’ll request a copy of my credit report when I get the offer in the mail. But beyond that- what do I do?

Nothing? Do I just sit and wait for something to happen? GRrrrr…. What would you do?

Friday, October 31, 2008

So you need a costume tonight...

Here's a bunch of cheap DIY ideas if you've put off getting a Halloween costume until this very moment! Enjoy and have a safe night trick-or-treating!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The next not-so-random years

I just finished A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel and there was one part that captured my attention:

First was a table that read:
Era III- January 1982 - March 2000: the age of exuberance
S&P 500= 18.3%
Bonds 13.5%
Inflation rate= 3.3%

Then this quote:
“During our third era, the age of exuberance, the boomers matured, peace
reigned, and a non-inflationary prosperity set in. It was a golden age for
stockholders and bondholders. Never before had they earned such generous

I’ve always been optimistic that small investments over time will produce good results for my husband and me. However, seeing this information, am I just a product of my upbringing?

Literally all the formative years of my life, my first eighteen years, are encapsulated during this age of exuberance.

This age of exuberance was preceded by two other ages: the first was good and the second was bad. Adding the third phase into the mix and we are due to have another 10-20 years of bad times. In other words, the fourth age isn’t going to be pretty.

Given this information, how does the idealist adolescent in me reconcile poor returns that will dominate the young adult years of my life?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

it was an itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie yellow pokka dot...

Fun money quote of the day:

“a firm’s income statement may be likened to a bikini- what it reveals is
interesting, but what it conceals is vital”

~ in A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The chicken or the egg (or evolution)?

Yesterday I wrote about a phenomenon that pointed out “that investors who made written plans by the time they were 40 years of age wound up with 5 times as much money by age 65 as those who didn’t have written plans” (Fortune Magazine, 1999). However, I felt that this occurrence was due to another factor: A person’s own willingness to be actively involved in their finances.

This made me think about an article in Money magazine (August 26, 2008) that rubbed me the wrong way. It was an article highlighting Law professor Lauren Willis and her belief that you can’t teach financial literacy. Excerpt:

Question: What's so bad about financial education?

Answer: It doesn't work. Sellers of financial products spend billions drowning out
well-meaning messages to consumers from nonprofits or government
Also, financial products are always changing - credit and insurance
products have changed dramatically in the past 20 years - making it hard for
educators to keep up.

Teaching them is a waste of money. Studies show that sending people to either high school personal-finance classes or adult retirement seminars does not result in better financial behavior.

Anyone else have the hair on their neck standing up? This article got a lot of bad press, and negative reactions all around.

I kinda dismissed this article thinking: look at me! I’m learning financial literacy! I can do it, and so can everyone else!

However, months later, it’s still (obviously) rumbling around in my head.

I have to wonder if this too has a chicken and egg conundrum. Perhaps financial literacy can’t be taught to those who have no interest in it, or shouldn’t be taught to those who want to learn get-rich-quick schemes. Financial literacy can be taught, but only to those who want to learn about the basics.

In Psychology, we call this a third-variable or latent variable problem. When a statement holds up as true, but not because of the statement itself, but rather because of some extraneous factor.
Let me give you an example: Shark attacks and ice cream sales go hand-in-hand. When shark attacks increase, so do ice cream sales. This is a true statement. However, it’s pretty apparent that shark attacks do not cause people to crave ice cream (help, help me! I’ve been bitten- and I need Ben and Jerry’s!).

No, instead it is the temperature of the weather that increases both attacks and sales. When the weather is hot more people are likely to go to the beach (and therefore increase their chances of being attacked by a shark) and more people desire a cold, frosty treat when the mercury rises.

(Another puzzle for you: violent crime and church attendance go hand-in-hand. When there is more crime, more people attend church. This is a true statement, but why?)

I bet what Law professor Lauren Willis said was true. In general, you can’t teach financial literacy. Increased knowledge about finances leads to worse financial behaviors. However, it’s not the knowledge itself that is the problem, instead it is the demographic: the general public. The general public may not have a true interest in the subject or possibly they only want to do the cool, over-hyped, get-rich-quick schemes.

There is a demographic that is the exception to this rule. This exception is the personal finance community, a group of people who have taken on just this task, and are probably a lot better at it than the general public. Which is, of course, Money magazine’s target demographic.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The chicken or the egg (or an almighty creator)?

I’ve been reading Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money! by Paul Merriman which was a great read! It nicely explains why asset allocation is so important and gives step-by-step explanations on how to increase your portfolio performance.

However, like in many books, I see supporting evidence such as this: a study in Fortune magazine found that “investors who made written plans by the time they were 40 years of age wound up with five times as much money by age 65 as those who didn’t have written plans.”

I know he’s trying to underscore the importance of having a written plan, but we seem to have a chicken and egg problem here. Does writing down a financial plan guarantee more returns? No, probably not. If a person does nothing with their finances beyond writing a financial plan they are not going to see an amazing gain in their portfolio.

Or is it that people who are likely to pay attention to their finances (and thus make a written plan) make more money than someone who doesn’t? Probably so.

Friday, October 24, 2008

feeling a bit better

Hey everyone! I’ve been knocked out by a nasty sinus infection, but I should be clear-headed by Monday. So, until then, have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Carnival of Money Stories: Edition #81

Welcome to this week's edition of Carnival of Money Stories, I’m SoCal Savvy and I’m very excited to be hosting this event!

I am pleased to welcome all new readers to SoCal Savvy. I’m newly married and out-of-work. On one income I’m making our bucks stretch and still enjoying everything Southern California has to offer us. I want to save a buck, but also enjoy life as a twenty-something in the city. It’s a process, but I want to share what I’ve learned and get feedback from others!

If you like this carnival, please - help me, yourselves and the carnival by:

Subscribing to this feed
Submitting the carnival to sites like PF Buzz, Reddit, Digg, Stumble Upon, or Technorati
Linking back to the carnival.

There were many submissions to the carnival this week, but many were not "money stories" or "money experiences" as specified by the carnival guidelines. (If you’ve never hosted a carnival you wouldn’t believe how many self-promoting ads and much spam there is!) Here are the submissions that made the cut:

Editor's Picks
Being creative pays off big time for The Personal Financier

Personal Finance Analyst provides five funny ideas on what to do with your gas guzzler. However: I’m not sure I’d want my mother-in-law to live in my driveway….

If you had revealed your deepest, darkest financial secret to Broke Grad Student you could have won a computer!

The Stylist Tycoon proves that you can reverse credit card fees.

Ask Mr. Credit Card poses a scenario where you are asked to help your son by co-signing the loan, and the possible bleak result.

Soon to be Debt Free writes what happens when you wrestle with inner demons- and lawn mowers.

Ever wonder if those politicians really know what their talking about? The Wandering Tax Pro gives them an earful.

Market Crisis
Advice from an old classmate of Joe Manausa

Maintaining an even keel in a topsy-turvy market, simple advice from Uncommon Cents.

Which investor do you see yourself in? Money and Such reviews how three investor friends have responded to the roller coaster stock market.

Asset allocation can be a retirement saver in this fictional scenario put forth by No Debt Plan

A needless run on the bank as viewed by Cash Money Life.

The topic of risk is explored by Investing School.

A reminder that we could all learn from our mistakes was presented by Stock Market Investing For Beginners

The Investor’s Journal.Com takes a look back his first stock purchase… ahhh… the naïve days…

Now if only I lived next door to Oprah… Actorlicious provides 10 tips to gaining wealth.

Real Estate
To List or Not To List? BeThisWay ponders the question.

Wow-weee, Not the Jet Set finds a good surprise on a mortgage statement.

The bleak reality of neighborhood foreclosures by Funny about Money

Hopefully not too many people are indulging in the unintended consequence described by Kirby on Finance.

Serendipity is brutally honest with what it is like to be in foreclosure.

Don’t we all fear getting ripped off by the mechanic? Just this happens to Debt Prison and he’s steaming mad at them!

What would happen to your goals if your expected bonus didn’t come? Budgets are $exy reevaluates.

A good deal for the East Coast commuting contingency presented by BluePrint for Financial Prosperity.

Harvesting Dollars didn’t get the pink slip, but wonders about those who did.

The most magical mailbox belongs to Almost Frugal as she got over five hundred euro in checks and a 6% interest rate on her French ING account! (My own California mailbox is quite jealous!)

Constructive complaining can be lucrative as Two Pennies Earned shows.

Another pet peeve of mine- pressure driven sales! Living Almost Large has a bad experience with a rude HVAC serviceman.

Financial Wellness Project loses money on free books because it is so easy to do so.

Until Debt Do Us Part reminds us that we all must take care of ourselves when tackling tough issues.

Saving even $14 is a big deal for Free Money Finance

MoneyNing shows that money philosophies can be handed down from father to son.

Thanks to everyone for submitting such great work! Tune in next week to blog host The Financial Wellness Project for the 82nd Carnival of Money Stories.

~SoCal Savvy

Monday, October 20, 2008


By Friday I was itching to get out of this house!

After skimming the rates in Vegas, we decided it would still be wwwwaaaayyyy to expensive to go there. Instead, I got a call from a friend who lives near the beach and we were off to a localvation (local vacation) in Orange County.

We spent most of Saturday kayaking around Newport Harbor spotting not only sea lions and pelicans, but the houses of the rich and famous. After working up an appetite we stopped by a grocery store to get goodies for a matinee movie. Then it was time to pick up a pager for P.F. Changs and some shopping (I only got a pair of leggings to replace the pair I had ripped last winter). After a decadent dinner of asian steak, kung pow chicken, prawn lo mein, lettuce wraps, and Szechwan style asparagus, we knew it was time for Cold Stone! We made some quarts and were home in time to see Sarah Palin on SNL.

Sunday we spent ogling open houses and getting our butts whopped at tennis (no, literally, I took one high speed tennis ball to my left check and I still can’t sit properly!).

Over all, it was a good time in the fresh air. However, because we stayed with friends and our friends happen to be the majesty-of-coupon-uses we spent less than $90 for both of us to have a fabulous beach weekend.

Kayaking: $30
Cookies: $3
Matinee tickets: $14
Leggings: $11
P.F. Changs: $25 for dinner and drinks (love the buy-one-get-one-free)
Cold Stone: $6

Total: $89

How about you? What great localvations do you like to do?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hosting the 81st Carnival of Money Stories

I’m hosting the 81st Carnival of Money Stories which will début on the 21st of October! It’s my first time hosting a carnival and I’m a) excited and b) not sure what to expect. Any advice?

I’m hoping that lots of people submit their blogs, and if you have a story you’d like to share please submit it at the Carnival of Money Stories site!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Rewards of Charging $770B

Assuming that Paulson’s had to pull out the plastic instead of charging this financial rescue plan to taxpayers, what does $770 billion get you in rewards? Assuming Paulson has excellent credit, no annual fee, but wants some perks for giving them his business; here are some offers he could take:

Blue Cash AMEX
He has a whole year to party interest free before having to pony up (or to resign), but let’s say he wants some cold, hard, cash rewards. Since this is not an “everyday purchase” i.e. gas, supermarket, or the like, he will only get 1.5% cash back on his purchase. That is $11.55 billion in chump change to play around with. However, that reward is given as a credit on the AMEX bill; therefore Paulson owes only $758,450,000,000. At that point even if he paid $10 billion a month it would still take him over 10 years to pay it off.

Miles by Discover Card
Let’s say Paulson could care less about getting cash back. He doesn’t need a discount, heck- he needs a vacation after all this stress!

With this card he could get 1 mile for every dollar spent, and every 5,000 miles gets a $50 travel credit towards his travel purchases. Using Airtreks I made an amazing around the world trip (New York - San Francisco - Honolulu - Papeete (Tahiti) - Sydney - Bali (Denpasar) - Jakarta - Singapore - Bangkok - Hong Kong - Taipei - Hong Kong - Shanghai - Tokyo - Seoul - Beijing - Delhi - Bombay / Mumbai - Nairobi - Johannesburg - Cairo - Athens - Rome - Barcelona - Madrid - Paris - Budapest - Vienna - Frankfurt - London - Amsterdam - Paris - London - Reykjavik - New York - Montreal - Miami - Mexico City - San Jose - Caracas - Quito - Lima - Santiago - Buenos Aires - Sao Paulo - Rio de Janeiro - Lima - Los Angeles - Vancouver - Seattle - Chicago - New York) that costs about $17,542. Paulson and 438,946 of his closest friends could take this trip for free!

Or, if this isn’t exciting enough, he could mimic American space tourist Richard Garriott and dock with the International Space Station. For a cool $20 million he could only bring 384 friends along with his rewards bucks. However, he will have to start paying back the whole $770 billion after only six months and it would take him over 11 years to do so.

However, this is all assuming that $770 billion isn’t over his credit limit, if it is, he goes into the default rate- a whooping 30.99%. If he paid $20 billion a month it would take him almost 17 years to pay off.

Chase Free Cash Rewards Visa Card
Let’s say that Paulson’s a shopper. He could get 1 point for every eligible dollar purchase. If we assume these are eligible dollars, with this card he could get a $25 gift card to a leading national merchant for every $2,500 he spent. This sound like it could be enough gift cards to stuff every Christmas stocking in the US, but hold on there’s a catch! There’s a maximum point accumulation on net purchases which is 60,000 points per calendar year. That means he could only get $600 worth of gift cards per year.

So sad, but just what could he get? Why it’s a Compaq Presario CQ50-210US 15.4" Widescreen Notebook Computer With AMD Athlon™ X2 QL-62 Dual-Core Processor from Office Depot!

While the introductory offer period is a year, when it wears off Paulson will be hit with the standard 19.99% rate. Paying $13 billion a month it will take him over 21 years to make the balance hit $0.

While Paulson can’t really charge this debt, and the rewards of this financial rescue plan are different than those stated above; I have to wonder- will we as a nation have this debt paid off in 10, 11, 17, or 20 years?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Savvy or Foolhardy?

Poll outcomes:
I put a poll concerning the financial rescue plan up last week and here are the outcomes:

Are you happy that the House passed the financial bailout bill?
Yes- 50%
No- 25%
I don’t know yet- 25%

I have to wonder- if I reposted this poll in a year how will people feel about the financial rescue plan at that time? Will history books denote this as a savvy move or a foolhardy risk?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What is risky?

I’ve been reading Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money! by Paul Merriman and he had a handy little test for determining if you have taken on to much risk. Simply ask yourself the following questions: yes or no?

Have I lost sleep over my investments?
Do I feel compelled to watch the financial news?
Do I feel compelled to check fund prices daily?
Does financial new make me worry about my future?

If you answered "yes" to all of the above it's time to look at your investments!

On one hand I like this test because it is parsimonious. On the other hand, if a person doesn’t particularly understand finances and asked themselves these questions it might incite panic in times such as these. What do you think? How do you try to assess your own financial risk level?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Planet Money

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who was panicked about her money situation. Basically, all the talking heads had scared the be-gee-zzers out of her and she was wondering how to open a mattress. She was completely befuddled by my belief that this larger financial mess would change.

She then asked me, “How did this all start?”

My mind crazily flashed sound bites: mortgage mess, Fanny Mae, Freddie Mac, US trade balance imbalances, greed, too much leverage, loose credit, etc, etc.

However, the best answer I could form was: “People made stupid decisions and this mess is the repercussions of those choices.” Which, needless to say, was not very informative nor comforting for my friend.

So I wanted to find some point reference where the tangles of decisions were once wrapped smartly together to form a solid financial system. A time where all we saw was this sturdy fiscal rope which we thought was tied to a immoveable anchor holding our economy in place.

So I turned to NPR. (I know, I know, this paints a real picture of who the person is that types this blog, but I wanted a source that would give me more than sound bites and had discrete information that builds on itself over time.)

Enter Planet Money, NPR’s aptly timed new radio show about this financial crisis. Only about a month old, it started at a time where most reporters spent 15 seconds on the failing bank of the day before moving onto their human interest piece. These radio shows, which I’ve been listening to as podcasts, were explaining not only which bank was failing- but why.

After listening to about half the shows, I’m not sure I could come up with a better answer for my friend. I think that my new knowledge points to many reasons for this financial crisis. We were all looking at that same rope- except it wasn’t tether to an anchor, or anything else really. The rope was just out of sight, obscured by the water trailing shreds of rope that was slowly uncoiling as our economic yacht sailed on.

Whether you’re muddled up by conflicting advice or just scared about this financial crisis, Planet Money is a good way of grounding your fears with objective knowledge about our current situation.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bye, bye FICO?

I was watching On The Money a couple of weeks ago and they had a segment on the new credit rating system- Vantage. VantageScore is created by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion whereas FICO is put out by Fair Isaac Corporation. While it claims to work similarly to FICO it uses a mixed number/letter scale and is suppose to be better for people who have little credit history.

While I understand that the credit agencies would like to make some money, the whole thing sounds rather complicated and redundant. Has anyone gotten their VantageScore? Was it an easy process and easy to understand your score? Did you the additional benefit as compared to your FICO?

For more information on VantageScore check out: the BankRate article, the official website, SoundMoney blog, and a Liz Pulliam Weston article.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An extra helping of credit

It’s been a rocky couple of weeks for the financial markets and I’ve seen tons of talking heads saying, “Credit Crunch” like hungry children demanding a breakfast cereal. Consequently, I’ve been watching my credit card limits to see if they would shrink like the pundits predicted.

So, I was fairly flabbergasted when both my husband and I got notices that our credit limits have been extended. Extended- as in they are giving us more credit.

These are on two separate individual credit cards by different companies. Now the cynical side of me thinks that these companies are hoping something bad is going to befall us and hope that we use their card.

However, on the brighter side, this is great for our credit scores since we pay off our balances every month.

Has this happened to anyone else? Has anyone else been offered more credit? Or happen to have a theory of why I have been?


Even as an out-of-work instructor I still like hearing about things that could be helpful for future students that I will be helping in the future. I was listening to a great story on Marketplace Money about adult education savings accounts called LILA. Has anyone actually heard of these before- or better yet- used them? If so, I’d love to hear how they worked out for you!

You can listen to the story here. Or go here to find out more information on The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Carnies are taking over!

Yes, I know another carnival! This time it was the 79th edition of the Carnival of Money Stories hosted by Living Almost Large. Featured was my story about saving money on car insurance- and I don’t suggest that you have to follow that talking gecko!

Also good were:

It’s a tear jerker- Do you appreciate what you have? posted at Gather Little by Little.

Ask for discounts, my hubby is good at this, and apparently so is A Good Money Day! posted at SimplyForties.

Haha.. everyone loves a limerick- Dear “Everyday Working Class” Sarah posted at Mad Kane’s Political Madness

A book I also love was reviewed at Actorlicious

Painfully relevant job seeking advice- Looking for a Job? Here are 4 Steps to Find a Great One posted at

A common scene and relatable experience: Credit Card Companies Peddling On My College Campus posted at Trees Full of Money.

Monday, October 6, 2008

173rd edition of Carnival of Personal Finance

It’s up: 173rd edition of Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Girls Just Wanna Have Funds! I think this is the first time my blog has been mentioned in a real personal finance category. Yes, my blogs are normally relegated to the “Other” category (even if I select something different). However, this time I’m in the Economy section- whoo who! Check out my blog and some of my favorites from the Carnival!

LivingAlmostLarge presents what happens when people willingly want to Walk away from foreclosures

The Passive Dad presents Free Creative Ideas to Help Friends Facing Foreclosure or Bankruptcy

Orange Dealing with Money presents good basic advice on Women and Retirement.

The gold medal for explaining Mint goes to: Blueprint for Financial Prosperity: Review: Beautiful Money Management Tool

As an educator I found this blog especially interesting: Free College Education Exists by Destroy Debt

Looking at the alternative costs of the fiscal rescue plan: Free From Broke presents New Economic Stimulus Package - The $700 Billion Bailout

Cute but real suggestions during past hard times: Miss Thrifty presents Make Do And Mend: ‘Vogue’ for the Credit Crunch Bunch

As a psychology major I also loved: Greener Pastures presents The Psychology of Money - Neuropsychologists Study Spending Patterns at Auctions

I’ve always wondered how to do this: Ask Mr Credit Card presents How To Dispute An Item On Your Credit Report

Something that was on my “to-blog list” but Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck got there first! “Does anybody really believe that financial education is harmful? Apparently.”

Friday, October 3, 2008

It passed!

Yes, the house bailout plan just passed!

I know not everyone is excited about this bill passing, but to me it just seems like the best thing we can do to prevent a disaster in the near future. When the first version of the bill didn’t pass the House my immediate thoughts were, “Come on people- work together! Stop being so selfish!”

However, I know not everyone feels this way, so I created a poll on the top left of my blog asking people whether they are happy about the bailout plan or not. What are your thoughts on this newly passed financial plan? Add your comment below and make sure to vote in my poll on this issue!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sad September Slump

Well…. I knew I’d be starting October back in the four digit red, but it wasn’t fun seeing my lowest net worth yet: -$1,730. Basically my ROTH IRA portfolio has a grand one year return of: -25.9%.


However, I can’t control that, so I’m moving on to other brighter aspects of my financial picture. It was nice to see where things did progress, and I increased my savings in the following accounts:

2008 Roth IRA 3K went from 58.4% to 58.7%
15K New Car Fund went from 24.1% to 24.3%
14 K Emergency Fund went from 18.7% to 18.8%
100K Home DP Fund went from 11.6% to 11.7%

I also reduced my student loan balance by $30 even after accounting for the interest I paid. We were also fairly smart with money this month, and were generally under budget as a couple.

So I made progress in the areas of finance I directly control, I just need to remember that this slump is just a slump. The larger economy will turn around, but until then I think I better be ready for a few more months in the four digit red.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

78th Carnival of Money Stories

My blog on Murphy was featured in 78th Carnival of Money Stories hosted by Funny About Money! I always love getting the little email that says you’ve been accepted and that I can read some of the best of the week’s postings all in one spot!

So here are my favorites of the favorite:

Proof that it can be done:
Dividends4Life figures out a way to make blog income grow.

Free Money Finance's movie theater manager jumps into The Great Debate over Sneaking Popcorn into Movie Theaters, and the readers’ debate grows hotter.

While I’m not in total agreement with her title, this well-written strong mama article is fun to read!

Who doesn’t love a cute family story?
The Life Less Traveled features a Family Downsizes Life to a Camper, the Open Road, and Adventures Rich in Simple Pleasures.

Short. Simple. Who doesn’t like a good limerick?
Madeleine Begun KaneMad Kane’s Humor Blog Wall Street Woes

I’ve got the "LALALA!" feeling and so does The Digerati LifeFinancial Crisis in the Media: Is the Economic Crisis Overhyped?

Another example of why big business isn’t always smart is exhibited by GraceGraceful Retirement Are We Sure Our Banks Know What They Are Doing?

Kelly at Almost Frugal highlights reality with Three Life Lessons Learned Last Week.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I am young, and I’m buying stocks on sale

A 777 point loss in Dow yesterday is enough to make anyone hyperventilate; especially since this is the first real financial downturn I’ve seen as an adult!

However, it’s times like these when the big picture- the ugly whole reality of the stock market crashing down- is so overwhelmingly scary that it is best not to fixate on the whole picture. Instead, focus on yourself and your own personal financial picture. This is how I’m coping.

So, here is a list of financial things I can control:

1. I can stop unnecessary spending.

2. I can shop around for purchases I need to make in order to get the best deal (like on car insurance).

3. I can rest knowing that all my cash is FDIC insured, because I have checked my accounts on the FDIC website (you can too, go here).

4. I can keep my short term dreams safely financed by having the money in extremely low risk accounts like CDs and high-yield savings accounts (Go ING!).

5. I can understand where my money has gone in the past, and where my cash needs to go in the future because I map my finances through Mint.

6. I can get a 7% return (without any risk!) by paying off my student loan.

7. I can curl up with a book about the history of Wall Street (currently reading: A Random Walk Down Wall Street) and have the intellectual reassurance that bear markets happen routinely and that they routinely bounce back.

Together these things keep me grounded and keep me from making rash decisions concerning my stock portfolio. It may do little to dampen the emotional distress of seeing my retirement portfolio dip 20%, but it can keep me muttering: I am young, and I’m buying stocks on sale (and I love a sale!). I am young, and I’m buying stocks on sale. I am young, and I’m buying stocks on sale. I am young…

Monday, September 29, 2008

Top Financial Expert Reveals Portfolio!

Kevin is very busy with answering the press’s questions. See there is a book coming out about his success as a financial guru, and he is sharing his portfolio with the world!

His Portfolio:
60% in Vanguard Total Stock Market Index
30% in Vanguard Total International Stock Index
10% in Vanguard Total Bond Market Index

With this portfolio he beat the S&P 500 by over three percentage points, and 95% of money managers to boot. Oh, by the way, he’s ten-years-old and started investing years ago- in the second grade!

I guess this is what happens when your dad is a certified financial planner, who is writing a book "How a 2nd grader beat Wall Street". On one hand it’s outlandish, but on the other- shouldn’t we all be so lucky? His father, Alan, says in an interview with Paul and Don on Sound Investing that since Kevin is a kid, he actually is better at following basic financial advice than most grown ups!

For example, his son doesn’t check his portfolio every day, he isn’t emotionally attached to his investments, and he doesn’t listen to the Jones brag about their new hot stock tips. He also understands that there are two basic rules of investing: 1) Don't put all your eggs in one basket 2) Don't play a loser's game (i.e. don’t pay a lot of fees).

These simplicistic, almost kindergarten-level lessons have enabled him to start a nest egg that will most surely grow into a comfortable college fund, first house fund, and retirement fund in the coming years. Anyone else think he’ll be replacing John Bogle?

If you’d like to listen to the whole interview on Sound Investing, you can download it here. Also, I’d recommend checking out the Marketwatch article that highlights his and other lazy portfolios performance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How I saved $680 dollars this year!

I’m starting to take advantage of my newlywed status and I thought I’d start with my car insurance. Since my coverage is up in October anyways, I thought I’d shop for new coverage for both of us. It's one of those tips to save money that I always see in blogs, but I always think it is not really worth the time and effort. However, being unemployed means I have time to do things like this, so I did.

I have an old full size car and my hubby has a nice zippy commuter car. We both wanted Bodily Injury Liability of 25K person/50K accident, Property Damage Liability of 25K, Medical Payments of 1K, Uninsured motorist bodily injury of 25K person/50K accident, Comprehensive deductibles of $500, and he needed Collision for his car with a $1000 deductible (my car isn’t worth enough money to get Collision).

Boy that’s an ugly string of information- isn’t it?
Well, after I typed that information into eight different carriers this is what we came up with:

Premiums for six months for both of us:

State Farm-Couldn’t get the site to work, and after five tries I gave up.
All State-$1,038.99
California Casualty-$862.5
21st Century-$741

I thought there would be a difference, but Oh-My-Gosh a $339.99 difference! Talk about a way to save money! That’s a savings of almost $680 for this upcoming year; all for about an hour worth of time in front of the computer. $680 an hour- now that’s a well-paying job!

I had no idea that this would be such a smart thing to check out! Have other people had similar experiences with their car insurance quotes?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Free Ice Cream!

The old adage is that you can’t get something for nothing…
… but well, this promotion is darn close to negating that phrase!

See Cold Stone Creamery is having their free scoop night TONIGHT!

Cold Stone has teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is giving out free pre-made creations! The creations highlight their new ice cream flavors and any donations given go directly to make wishes for children with life threatening illness come true. This is a great cheap, fun activity of the week!

The hubby and I are going to stroll downtown and get some ice cream tonight- how romantic! We’ll probably donate a buck or so, but the whole evening will have low costs and high hedonic value. If that’s not a savvy plan- I don’t know what is!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Martha!

I had a lot of people read my blog about Blogging Rules that I saw on Martha. I wanted to update people who may not know that Martha Stewart has her own blog! I know, I know- it's not about personal finance. However, I like going there to get cheap craft activities and meal ideas. Reviewing these idea are a great way to have fun and save some money in tough economic times!

Responsibility First

To continue my series about people near (or in) retirement and their experiences with money; I interviewed ReggieMama- a self-employed mother of two grown boys.

Before she was ever a mother or an entrepreneur, she was a young nun teaching in New England. She made a bold move in her twenties to leave most of her family (and the convent) and moved to California with only $50 in her pocket. While she has been bold with her major life choices, none of them were influenced by greed. She emphasizes that personal responsibility coupled with a desire to care for her family has been the driving forces that have set her up for a comfortable retirement in the upcoming years.

SCS: When you were 26-years-old how did you view money?
ReggieMama: I didn’t give money much thought. I had enough for rent and other basics. At the time I was teaching and making next to no money, but I loved what I was doing so I was happy. I wouldn’t have turned down a lot of money, but I would never have based my profession on it.

SCS: When you were 26-years-old how did you view wealth?
ReggieMama: I never thought about wealth.

SCS: How do you think of money now?
ReggieMama: I think of money now as a colossal pain in the ass.

Oddly enough I’ve always earned a lot of money over the course of my career (I didn’t stay in teaching), but I think the reason is because I’ve enjoyed so many aspects of my work.

Raising a family forces a person to plan, save, invest, and worry about money. However, it has never meant more to me than providing for my family and it still doesn’t. As I near retirement age, it annoys me that I have to think about it even more, but it’s part of life, and we’ve never wanted to stick our kids with taking care of us or have them worried about us in our old age.

SCS: How do you think of wealth now?
ReggieMama: Real wealth has nothing to do with money. The pursuit of monetary wealth in this country has caused too many people to sacrifice their principles at the expense of others and it’s contributed to the financial mess we’re in now.

SCS: What events in your life shaped your current beliefs about personal finances?
ReggieMama: The families we grow up in play a part in shaping our beliefs about money, and I saw a lot of goofy things growing up that helped me recognize what’s important and what isn’t.

Taking care of others has always been important to me and that is only possible if we are taking responsibility for ourselves first.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

171st Carnival of Personal Finance

Yesterday ushered in fall and with it came the 171st Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Sound Money Matters. My blog highlighting blogging tips from Martha Stewart’s show was featured!

My other favorite blogs that were highlighted include:

Retiring at 29 by My Dollar Plan Not likely to happen to me, but still inspirational in an extremely jealous sort of way.

Love the simplicity on Free From Broke

Reitred at 47 has in interesting way of looking at products through price ratios

Cash on the barrelhead is another Mint lover like me!

Distilled Rose has dove into a place I’d like to once I get a job- being a lender at Prosper

Since I don’t have an investment advisor I saw Funny About Money’s post about emails with their adviser as oddly interesting.

JoshuaBest also praises ING in his Ladder approach to emergency accounts

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nip, Tuck, and Free Money

As we say here in SoCal- I’ve had some work done.

No, no knife work needed- all the work done was on this blog. Just a little refreshing lift- nothing major. I think it still has the same feel as the old blog, just a little spiffier!

The most noticeable change would be that I’ve gone to a three column format. This has allowed me to feature some links to ING Direct! I've been a customer of ING Direct for years, and I love sharing a good banking experience with my friends. Now, after I've told the world about my bad banking experience, I want to tell them about my favorite bank- ING Direct!

If you’ve been looking for a high yield savings account from an FDIC backed bank- my preferred bank is ING Direct. They make it incredibly easy to open and manage your accounts. Check out GetRichSlowly’s blog on the same topic . They have a high yield savings account (currently at 3%) called an Orange Savings account.

ING Direct is an especially good option if you currently have more than the FDIC limits ($100K in a personal account) in your bank and you're looking for a place to move your money in order to keep it safe from bankruptcy and takeovers. If you would like to join, simply follow the links below to open your account and get a little freebie for doing so!

Here’s the deal: If you’re a new customer and you open an account with at least $250, ING will deposit a $25 bonus in your new account and a $10 thank-you-bonus in my Orange Savings Account. Just click a link below to get started! (These links are only valid through 10/21/2008.)

Orange Savings Accounts:

Link 1

Link 2

*If these links don’t work- someone else got to them before you did! Just email me ( and I’ll send you a fresh link.

A quick background on the ING Orange Savings accounts:
Great rate - no minimum balance required.
No fees - all your money goes to work for you.
No changing banks - the Orange Savings Account is linked to your checking account.
24-hour access to your account - you're always ready for opportunities.
FDIC-insured - your money is safe and secure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hey... this seems familiar....

I was reading a great blog by GetRichSlowly yesterday which talked about how we are influenced by a large inescapable amount of advertising. When I taught a class in critical thinking, I spent a good deal of time on advertising.

Studies show that one exposure to a brand name product isn’t likely to produce a change in shopping behavior; repeated exposure makes us consumers more likely to recognize a product. Guess what happens when we see that product in a store? We tend to like it because we think it feels familiar and then we normally buy it.

While reading GetRichSlowly’s blog I was wondering how much marketing serum I’m drinking a day. I know TV is the biggest producer of advertising, but what I’m interested in is magazines. While I only subscribe to a few magazines, I had the insane curiosity to find out how much of what I’m subscribing to is ads.

So I went through a stack of recent magazines and I cut out the articles I was interested in. While I realize that this is only something a semi-crazy person would do, what I was left with was the amount of ads compared to the amount of articles. As the photo above shows, I’ve been reading probably 40% content and 60% ads! This is something that I pay to have come to my door every month!

What was funny was that my Money magazine had almost as many ads as my women's lifestyle magazines. Let me repeat that: my financial magazine had almost as many ads as the magazines I get that are explicitly devoted to shopping for clothes and home décor!


I agree with GetRichSlowly. It’s impossible to cut out all advertising- heck, I’ve come to realize that I enjoy getting these stacks of advertisements in the mail every month! While all of his tips for resisting advertising on his blog are good (resist the urge and take back your brain), I’d like to add my own: When you are shopping think critically about what you are buying.

Being a critical thinker while shopping means that you truthfully ask yourself: What are my underlying reasons for wanting to buy this item? If you make shopping a mindless activity that you participate in, you’ll end up buying items that you don’t need. While you may not be able or willing to reduce your exposure to marketing; if you get into the habit of being an alert, savvy shopper it will save you money for years to come.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Martha + technology = a good thing!

Normally I read books to find information that I post on my blog, however lately I’ve been finding blogging fodder in the most unexpected places. First the Today Show and now Martha!

Martha Stewart’s daily show, Martha, ran a whole hour devoted to blogs! While the whole show was phenomenal, the part that I think even non-domestic types will find interesting was the segment with Perez Hilton’s top three blogging tips:

1. Find a Niche
Basically there are many personal finance blogs out there. If you’re thinking of starting your own PF blog try and make it different than everything else that is out there. I choose to focus on my educational pursuits and my local. Other people may focus on a different layout, reducing their debts, or saving for a big ticket item. Whatever it is be passionate about it and you’ll get fulfillment from it.

2. Be Prepared To Put In Long Hours
Research, editing, and publishing these are the least amount of work you will do. Most top bloggers spend even more time making connections and working on ads. Your blog is only whatever you are disciplined enough to put into it.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Network
Ask people for help or exposure (Honestly, I’ve been way to afraid to try this!). Make sure that you’re accessible to your readers and that you stay up on what is going on in the PF blogosphere.

While I think I’ve earned maybe a whole dollar from my website, I know that there are some PF bloggers out there that have figured out these tips in order to make it somewhat profitable for them. Whether you’re like me and just want to document an educational journey, or you want to go big-time with your blog- it never hurts to review blogging fundamentals.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I was watching the last hour of the Today Show on Tuesday which typically is not intellectually stimulating. Hoda and Kathie Lee blaze through sound bites of numerous topics without giving much detail. Which is great for topics like: which rain coat to wear this season or look at Busch Garden’s wild animals (Hoda: Look at it’s tail. Kathie Lee: Uhhh… Ewww!).

So I didn’t have much hope for the upcoming financial segment with Carmen Wong Ulrich from CNBC’s On the Money. I was pleasantly surprised as she gave quick insightful advice to the viewer’s questions about bank safety. Check out her blog on the same topic.

Here are my favorite tools that she recommended:

To see if your money will still be there after your bank has failed use the FDIC’s calculator. We were completely covered, which we thought we would be, but it’s always nice to know since I live around the corner from IndyMac.

This tool tells you if FDIC will replace your money if your bank was to go under. To see if you’re about to deal with FDIC because your bank is teetering on the brink of disaster go to Bank Rate’s Safe and Sound Rating System. Keep in mind you are hoping to see that your banking institution will have a Safe & Sound CAEL rating of 1, 2, or 3 and a Bankrate Star Rating of 3, 4, or 5 stars (could they make that anymore confusing?).

Here are a sampling of some of our banking institutions and current ratings:

Vanguard- CAEL Rating: 1, BR Stars: *****
Washington Mutual Bank FSB- CAEL Rating: 2, BR Stars: ****
ING Bank- CAEL Rating: 3, BR Stars: ***

Wow- well that explains the cheery little email that I got from ING the other day. It was trying to reassure me, but all it did was perk up my antenna. I did a little research because frankly I thought WaMu would be in worse straights than ING. It turns out that ING is highly invested in Lehman Brothers' Inc (40 million Euros). While it doesn’t look like it’s going to fail anytime soon, it explains the PR email.

Never Going to Retire

For a man who never thought about money, it was confidence that built him monetary and emotional wealth. This is just how it is for Murphy*, who works out of his home in a small-business that he owns with his wife. When he’s not in his office, you’ll likely find him on a golf course with friends or entertaining his family. For him personal finances are not something to worry about, rather money is just the means of gaining true wealth- doing the things he loves most and being with those who he loves most. To continue my series interveiwing people in (or very near) retirement and their views on money I asked the following:

SCS: When you were 26-years-old how did you view money?
Murphy: You expect me to remember what I thought of money when I was 26? I can't remember anything from when I was 26- that's 40 years ago! I am old and have learned that the older I get the less I know and the less I remember.

I think that when I was 26 I didn't know my a@@ from a hole in the ground. Money didn't mean anything to me, other than the next pizza or chocolate-chip cookies.

SCS: When you were 26-years-old how did you view wealth?
Murphy: Wealth meant nothing to me.

I figured that some day I would figure out what I would do about money, and the wealth part never entered my thinking. I wasn't much of a thinker; I certainly was not a planner. Wealth was the last thing I would be thinking about.

SCS: How do you think of money now?
Murphy: When I apply myself I can make a lot of money, but the money does not mean anything to me.

Except I do like going to the Post Office to see if a check has arrived on time, and if I see an envelope with a window on it- I know it's a check. Then off I go to the bank with my business stamp and deposit slip, and enjoy handing a big check to the teller to deposit.

I think I now know why I enjoy Wells Fargo so much (Wells Fargo has been our business bank for 30 yrs). Whenever I bring a $20-30,000 check to deposit and hand it over to a teller they have to get it approved by the manager. I watch them look me up and down in my torn 49er t-shirt, unshaved, and my dirty Maui hat. Then I nod, they nod (they know me) and they know I am a success. It gives me pleasure to do that again and again.....kind of childish behavior, but, I go with it every time.

SCS: How do you think of wealth now?
Murphy: I guess with our pension plan (for 25 years), how we have saved, our home, and other stuff, I guess it means something to me.

When we met with our new stock broker, Tim Moore, he helped me see the retirement plan as the future. Honestly it doesn't mean that much to me, ‘cause I plan to keep on working ‘till I drop. I want to be the first 100-year-old recruiter!

Work, golf, and family..........that's the wealth thing for me.

SCS: What events in your life shaped your current beliefs about personal finances?
1) I have never spent a lot of money. If I had enough for a good hunk of chocolate, that was enough.
2) My father. I guess knowing how hard my dad worked and the sacrifices he made during the depression have had some influence on my thoughts about finances.
3) My wife. My wife has hammered me into the ground with how one does business, saves, takes care of the future with savings, mutual funds, etc. We are worth a lot of money, but it doesn't mean shit to me.

As a result I work hard, golf twice a week (keep my score in the low 70's), buy some golf balls once in a while ($15), green fees ($18-40), gas for the car (Prius), I pack my own lunch, a movie once in while, restaurants when I’m too lazy to cook (my wife is not a very good chef) - and that's all.

What I am trying to say is that neither money nor wealth has been a motivating factor in any way in my life. And still, I am proud of what I have accomplished, that I enjoy my work, my family, and friends.

I say, keep your eye on the real prize.........happiness, enjoy what you do, don't worry about $$$$, be fairly honest, have good friends, stay close to relatives and friends (always call 'em), and be generous to those who do not have much or have faced tragedy.

*Murphy is not his real name.