Friday, November 21, 2008

My new series 6 ways to save money Part 1

Ok all your frugal fans, I know you have been waiting on pins and needles for the latest installment of the witty and masterfully written frugal blog. Today I would like to focus on ways to save money. During these tough economic times we all need to save money and pray that the end of this mess is near. So without further ado here are 3 suggestions in no certain order on ways to save money.

1. Home Energy Savings

There are so many ways you can save money around your house. Here is a list of some of the things I have had done around my home. For starters my Dad went around to every electrical sockets in my house and installed a foam insulation gasket. They are cheap pieces of foam that fit around your electrical sockets and they block air from getting into your house. You can find them at your local neighborhood hardware store or Lowes, Home Depot, etc. Another great idea is to install an insulation blanket around your water heater. This not only saves you energy, but also gives you more hot water, something we all crave especially in the cold winter months ahead. The US Dept of Energy’s, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy division says: “Unless your water heater's storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24), adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45%. This will save you around 4%–9% in water heating costs.” So you can see that just a few upgrades around the house can save you much needed money during these tough economic times.

2. Your Car

Paying off your car and keeping it for an additional 3-5 years is the next big savings tip. I have read that most of the self made millionaires in the world live by this example. Most of them never buy a new car; they buy something used and drive it till the wheels fall off as the saying goes. Yours truly, believes this, and will do this with his SUV.

Take me for example; I am no where near a millionaire, YET. But I am working on it; I bought my vehicle in 2000 and still have it today. I keep the oil changed and try and do regular maintenance on it. As a result I will keep it for another couple of years and save thousands of dollars that would have gone to another car purchase. I know that I use Dave Ramsey examples a lot in my posts but he has a bunch of useful information on these topics. He said in his book “The Total Money Makeover” that the average American will have a $378/month car payment for their entire lives. The average American only keeps their vehicle for 5 years. But, if you kept the car for an additional 3 years, you could save roughly $13,608! Just think what you could do with that extra money.

3. Digital Cable and Satellite TV

I can hear the grumbles now, why drop cable, what’s next my internet? NO I would never advise you to lose the internet, I mean how else could you read my awesome Blog if you dropped your internet. Ok back to the expensive cable. Who really needs the expensive cable or satellite package anyways? You have hundreds of channels of nothing with a few good channels sprinkled in between. The top tier cable and satellite packages cost well over $120 a month. Just think of the savings you can get from going down to a cheaper package. There are some cable packages that start around $45 a month and satellite packages that are even cheaper they start around $30. Of course with these cheaper lineups you don’t get 1000 channels like you would with the top tier packages. But, who really needs 50 Home Shopping channels anyways! I guess I’m really just saying shop around and look for the best package for your needs.

For me the cheaper cable TV package is great, I also have a TiVo DVR, so I can record all my favorite shows, and it’s also on a home network which means I can download movies from Amazon on Demand and coming soon even Netflix will team up with TiVo to offer even more movie rentals. Now I am not suggesting you buy the lower tier cable TV package and then rent $100 worth of movies a month. That is not frugal at all, what I mean, is you can buy the lower tier cable or satellite TV package and rent a movie or 2 a month, nothing drastic. That would only set you back about $10.

As you can see there are many ways to save money around your house. All it takes is a little time and creativity, we all have this, well… most of us do. And there are plenty more ways you can save around the house, just get on the internet and research them. Another great option is HGTV; they always have great tips on how to save.

At first this was going to be one post on 5 ways to save you money. But, as you can see I tend to write a lot. If I wrote on all 5 ideas, it would take me hours and I might lose a few of my precious readers. So I am going to break this down into a 2 part series with 6 ways to save money. I can hear your cheers now! Part 2 of this riveting series will come out next Friday. Till then keep on reading my posts and all comments are welcome!

Comments, criticism, useful knowledge?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiday Giving!

Today I decided to write about Holiday giving. I believe Albert Einstein said it best "The value of man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving." With the economy getting worse and worse this year, giving to the less fortunate or our heroes needs to be increased. Otherwise, some will go without this year. There are many charities that need money this holiday season, from your traditional Salvation Army to my favorite the Fisher House a charity for wounded Veterans. There are plenty of ways to give, from your hard earned money to giving time. Everyone has something to give, we just have to try. Below I have 4 charities listed and a little background on each. They are all deserving of your monetary donations.

First off is the Fisher House, as I said before this is one of my favorite charities. They provide housing to injured veterans at VA medical centers around the country. Just think of the Ronald McDonald house, well the Fisher House is similar to this, except it’s for Veterans. Annually they serve over 10,000 Veterans and their families, and there is no charge for family members who stay in a Fisher house operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Next another military organization, this is not really a charity as much as it’s a way to say thanks to the Veterans of World War II, personally they are some of my heroes. They saved the world! Honor Flight is an organization that provides World War II veterans a flight free of charge too and from the National World War II memorial in Washington DC. They also, provide a charted bus and hotel accommodations free of charge to these heroes. This is another organization that is very important to me. These men and women deserve the best treatment they can possibly get, without their sacrifice none of us would be here or live in this great country. For me personally I lost both of my hero grandfathers before they could see their memorial. Please if you have a grandfather or grandmother or someone who served in WWII please let them see this memorial, it will change yours and their lives alike.

A story last night on ABC Nightly News caught my eye. This next “charity” if you will, is a real special place. Bennett Chapel Baptist Church in Possum Trot, TX, yes the name is odd but what they have done over the years is more than I could even try to put into words. If you missed the story last night, here is a little taste of what you missed. The pastor of this church and his wife, wanted to do something about the foster care system in America. They preached to their congregation about adopting mistreated and abused children. Well, since the program began in 1997, this tiny working class church in rural Possum Trot, TX, has adopted 72 children. These children, some of which would have never gotten this chance are now graduating high school and going off to college. Things they never would have had a chance at without the help and support from this amazing church.

Last we have the ASPCA better known as The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This is another great charity; they do amazing work as do all the organizations I have highlighted today. I’m sure you have seen the commercials that run every so often during the day. If you actually pay attention to them, they can bring a tear to your eye, they are very good at what they do and the message they put out. There are many ways to give, just check out their website sometime. If you have a pet of your own, you can even create a web page dedicated to saving another pets life. “What if your pet could volunteer to save the lives of homeless animals?” a quote from the ASPCA website says it all. Even our furry little friends can get involved. Injured and abandoned pets need our love too this holiday season; please donate to help save a pets life.

I have tried to highlight some lesser known, but still very deserving charities. Some are near and dear to my heart, all are worthy of donation. Please give what you can, whether its money or time. Each and every one of these great organizations deserves the very best support they can get. Just think of it this way, you are saving someone’s life and putting a smile on another’s face!

Comments, criticism, useful knowledge?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Debt Snowball

The Debt Snowball method as described by Wikipedia “is a form of debt management that is most often applied to repaying revolving credit — such as credit cards.” I myself am using it to pay off my Discover card. By most standards I did not have a lot of credit card debt, compared to what I have read online and in Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. The way I see it though any debt besides your house is bad debt. It can block your path to financial freedom. As for me I want to pay this off debt as aggressively as possible and put my money to work in other ways, such as buying land or investing in the stock market, once it recovers.

How does it work?

Let’s take a look at what makes the debt snowball method work. First off with the Dave Ramsey method, you list all of your debts in order from smallest to largest (excluding your house). And you pay off each debt in order; once one debt is paid you apply that money to the next debt and so on, until they are all paid off. It’s a really simple plan if you think about it, but no one does. If we did then there would be much less debt in the world and we might not be in some of the mess we are in today with our Financial System collapse.

Another way to look at the debt snowball is to read what Dave Ramsey, the Godfather of the debt snowball method, as I like to call him, says about the plan. “The principle is to stop everything except minimum payments and focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise, nothing gets accomplished because all your effort is diluted.” This is a fact, for years I tried to pay off debt by putting a little here and a little there with not much to show for it. Debt is a huge problem to overcome unless you have the right tools and the desire too pay it off. A person must have the will power to pay off the debt or it will never happen. It took me a few years of reading and listening to my frugal parents to understand this.

I have read about another Debt Snowball program the Motley Fool suggests. It’s basically the same type program, except you list all your debts in order by highest interests rates and the ones with the highest interests rates you payoff first and just go down the list. I see the idea behind this program, you save money on interest to which it can be applied to the next debt. But for me I will stick with the Dave Ramsey method. His book has already taught me a lot about repaying debt and the road to financial freedom; it can be a little bumpy and tough. But, as long as you stick too it and work hard you can achieve the financial freedom we all desire.

Comments, criticism, useful knowledge?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Digital TV Transition

Courtesy of CNET

“At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting”, says the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

How does this affect me you might ask? Well most frugal people use the free television channels, which are basically your local affiliate stations, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS. By Feb 17, 2009 they have to buy a digital converter box from your local Best Buy, Wal*Mart or your local electronic store as well as on the internet or all you will see is “snow” on your screen. What should I do? In order to get your “free” channels you must purchase a digital converter box, this will set you back around $40 for the lower end models and as much as $80 or more for the higher end models. Also you can go to and get a coupon to help cut the cost of buying the box. A great website to research which box is right for you is they have an extensive review of which box is right for your needs.

For those of us with cable or satellite this does not affect you This is only for the television users that use rabbit ears or an antenna to receive their local television signal.

I'm excited!

As for me I am excited to see what the new digital TV will bring. From what I have read, we will get better sound and picture quality along with more channels, as if we really need more channels to flip through. This will also free up the airwaves, known as spectrum, for use by our First Responders.

Below is a list of a few good websites with all the information you might need to make your digital conversion run as smooth as possible.

Comments, criticisms, useful knowledge?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Semi Frugal Guy the Working Years, part 2

As was mentioned in my previous post, my frugal years started after getting laid off from the best job I ever had. I had to learn how to live off of much less than what I was accustomed to. And it all started with my apartment, I had a really nice place to live in Cordova, TN, on the outskirts of Memphis. I had all the toys a guy could want, from the expensive cable TV package with HBO, Cinemax and all the other movie channels, a really nice TV, my apartment was a luxury apartment or vacation style living as it was called. It was an 1100 square foot apartment on the top floor of the complex. I moved out of it a few months after the lay off, and wanted to start over again. So I made a move to Fayetteville, AR, home of the Arkansas Razorbacks, and yes I am a huge HOGS fan! I started my life out there far far away from family and friends; it was a different life for me. I rented an economy apartment and started another contracting position, this time with Wal-Mart, once again in the IT field. It was a great job, but it was another contract position and they come and go, and yes they can cancel them just as fast they began too.

The life of a Nomad!

During this phase of my life I moved and lived in various places in and around Arkansas. I felt like a nomad for a few years. But it really taught me a lot on how to be frugal. I cut back on the cable TV package, stopped eating out 3-4 times a week, spending less on groceries, and various other cost cutting measures. The one that really saved me was eating out less, you never really think of you much money you are spending eating out all the time until you sit down and add it all up.

Lunch Time

Lets take for example a normal week of eating out, if a person eats out all 5 days spending on average $10 a meal, that’s $50 a week or $200 a month on food or $2400 a year on eating out. Just think what you could do with an extra $2400. It really adds up if you think about it, and this doesn’t even mention the latte you have on your way to work. OK I know I am getting off topic here, but you can see how this adds up if you look at the numbers.

Home sweet home…..

After moving around for a few years taking odd jobs here and there, I landed in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It’s the 2nd largest city in Arkansas with around 80,000 people, a border town city on the Arkansas, Oklahoma border . I love it here, the cost of living is very cheap compared to living in and around Memphis, TN, and the town is just the right size for me, they have many activities to do in and outdoors. The outdoor activities alone are endless, we have the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains less than 30 minutes drive from my house, along with various rivers and nature trails this is an outdoor lovers dream! And yes my Razorbacks are just an hour north of here.

Once again I have a consulting job, with the chance of getting hired on full time after 18 months. With one major exception, I really love my current position. I work for Xerox Corporation, they really know how to treat there employees right, even their contract employees are treated like the full timers. But, as for right now as long as I can keep my job I will be a happy person. With all the layoffs I read about everyday, it really scares me, I’m sure there are millions of others out there with the same thoughts and worries.

One last thing, I am a single man. So any single women out there, who read this, please feel free to contact me! I hope you have learned a little more about my life and where I come from on my frugal journey through life!

Comments, criticism, useful knowledge?