9/30/2008

College Kids and Credit Cards

Did you fall prey? Did they get you already? Was the lure of the 2-liter of Coke / Frisbee / T-shirt / hat too much? Did you sign up for a credit card on campus? These vultures are impossible to miss on college campuses today. Tents up and down the main thoroughfares, tables lining the busiest walkways - all hoping that their combination of peer pressure, free stuff, school pride, and constant bombardment will get you to do something that you would not have normally done. Oh yeah, it's warfare out there. Psychological warfare - And it works.

The university gets a big payday out of it, the credit card company gets the fees out of your transactions, the slouch signing you up gets a kickback per app, and you get the promise of all the magic and wonders that come with carrying their card. For college freshman, it is particularly troublesome - new place, new people, new experiences, new, new, new, and no parents.

Did you get one? Did they sign you up so that you can "get a house one day and take care of your family"? Or was it the line about "how great they are for emergencies"?


If the answer is yes, then here is some advice:

Cut that sucka up.


Now why would I say that? Let's take some of the justifications head on:

They can get an early start on "building their credit". By the way, that's a game that you do not have to play. This game of basing all of my life's decisions on how it will affect my credit score - totally unnecessary. Much like that group of guys in the clearing by the Quad, the ones playing Ultimate Frisbee. Sure, you can play, but why? Stay out of debt, pay cash for a car, you can even get equally good terms on a mortgage by using manual underwriting - all without the goofball credit score game.

If they pay it off one time, and never spend more than they have... Yeah, stop right there. we don't even need to finish a sentence that was started with an IF that big. Recent studies reveal the reality of what happens on campus. 1 in 4 students leaves college with more than $5,000 in credit card debt. 1 in 10 top the $10,000 mark. This is big time debt for kids with likely little more than a part-time job. The Zogby study also goes on to say that 52% left college with any amount of credit card debt. Odds don't look great, but say hello to your three new roommates - Stress, Shame, and Guilt.

But what about emergencies?! They'll need a credit card to rent a car, or .... Yes, that's what we want to do in an emergency - create debt. Or, maybe not. Debit cards will handle payments in a pinch, even renting a car, and shopping online. Your risk for high dollar emergencies is much lower while in college than later in life, so stop sweatin'.

It's a great way to teach responsibility... Sure, sure it is. They'll learn that the hard way for sure - see previously noted Zogby study. Why am I so sure that they are set up for failure? How on Earth is this a recipe for success?! An unsupervised kid with questionable at-best personal finance savvy and experience, in the land of impulse, surrounded who knows who's kids. This kid needs a credit card like he needs to be hanging out with that kid down that hall who's drinking his way out. I'm all for learning by doing, but you can learn the same lesson without creating debt.

...Besides, they are legal adults and can make decisions for themselves. Of course they can make decisions for themselves. I'm not disputing that. But let's try and make the right ones. And technically, you are over the age of 18. You kids felt that magical transformation that took place on your eighteenth birthday - that sudden surge of maturity, that rush of knowledge and sophistication, that instant ability to budget and handle money like none other. No? Really? Huh... that's strange.

So now that we've shot that credit card full of holes, then what exactly is the plan?

Simple. Get your student body over to the local credit union and open up a checking account that includes a debit card. Then, go get you this thing called a job. There are tons of them on and around campus - you likely won't have to go far. You now have a means for income and outgo. Now you just need a way to manage it. That would be a budget. A simple one in excel will do fine. Lets review your homework quick:
  1. checking account / debit card
  2. part-time job
  3. budget
1 and 2 you may already have done. Number 3 I doubt, but maybe you'll surprise me. If you are having trouble managing your money using plastic, then we'll add a part B to number 3: a cash envelope system. You can't run up a big bar tab when you take a finite amount of cash. That whole "don't spend money that you don't have" philosophy that the credit card mongers brow-beat you with is great in theory. Problem is, their chosen means of payment will let you do just that: spend what you do not have. You can't spend cash that you don't have in hand.

Think I'm nuts? Try it. Seriously.

Give this plan the old college try. Give the budget a few months to work, and give yourself a few months to get a clue. It's ok if you screw up and you will screw up. But you have to keep going. It's not ok to screw up and give up. You have to acknowledge your mistake and make adjustments going forward. That's called learning, and I'm pretty sure that's what you are there to do. Besides, you can get a credit card anytime. Seriously - they hand them out like candy. Many times along with candy! Or Soda. Or...


--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/28/2008

Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on three carnivals and festivals. If you enjoy our posts, then share them! In addition to the old links on each post, we've added an AddThis button that includes many of the popular link sharing sites. Give it a try. Thanks!

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!

On with the round up...


Make It From Scratch! Carnival: Chez Artz hosts our group of experimenters, cooks, and crafters this week and included our ReUse It post on babylegs (these are really cool, especially if you cloth diaper). Here is another post that I enjoyed:
  • I'm picky about my salsa, but Out of Debt Again's method sure comes out looking right and reminds me of how we used to do it.


Carnival of Personal Finance: SundMoneyMatters is our host this week and celebrates the change of seasons the Fall Edition of the carnival. Also quite timely is our post that asks and attempts to answer the question on everybody's minds - Wo killed the economy? Some other posts of interest:


Festival of Frugality: My Two Dollars has a Hastily put together "The Host Bailed Out" Edition. Be sure to check it out - it includes our Kennedy-esque post on our economy.


Carnival of Money Stories: Was hosted by.... no one! It was postponed. This weeks is hosted by Funny About Money. Be sure to check it out.


Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/26/2008

Cloth Diapering Update

Back in July, we celebrated our independence (from disposable diapers) by making our cloth diapering spreadsheet available for free. During that time, 38 of you downloaded our Cloth Diapering Lledger. Yeah for you! For those of you using it, we are eager to hear your feedback. For those of you who didn't download it - sorry, but that offer is over.

[cue sad music]

Fear not, fellow cloth diaperers, all is not lost. In fact, you have something to gain...


Here is what the few people who payed for the file found out:

Huh? How's that?! That little green button on the right, that's how. Open an RME account (Paypal competitor, and our preferred method of payment) and they'll drop $25 into your account. Netting you a cool $24.01. Not bad, eh?

(note: It seems RME's $25 sign-up offer has ended as well. Go ahead and cue up that sad music for reals)

Happy diapering!


--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/25/2008

All We Need is a Little More Debt

My fellow Americans, I come to you today with a heavy heart. I was told that George would be coming on TV last night to make the case to America for his bailout plan. Well, he was on alright. Apparently, the White House felt there were some misconceptions about this plan, and sent W out to clear the air.

Well I watched it, and here is what I heard:


Debt. Debt. Debt.

Americans need easier access to credit. Debt.

We need to be able to acquire loans to buy a car. Debt.

People need to be able to secure mortgages to buy a house. Debt.

Easy access to credit is needed to carry out day to day operations. Debt.

Thanks, but no thanks. You see Mr. President, we quit borrowing money. We paid off our debt and fund our day to day operations with cash money. We make our budget and stick to it. It seems to me that easy access to credit is what got us into this mess. We can't borrow our way out of it. It doesn't work for the same reason that debt consolidation loans don't work - because you haven't addressed the real problem. The problem isn't the debt, the foreclosures and the bankruptcies. Though those do suck. The real problem is the behaviors that led up to it. I don't see that being addressed here.

The job of the government is not to step in when things get bad and attempt to force the economy to return to the 'good ole days' when anyone could get a mortgage and drive a $40,000 car. It's not the details of your plan that confuses us, George, it's the principles behind it.

We don't need more debt.

Home prices aren't going back to 2005 numbers, because those weren't real. Maybe we'll hit those in 2016, or 2020. But not 2009. Wall Street is just going to have to come down off of it's 'free credit for all' high the old fashioned way - cold turkey. Debt is what got us here, it won't get us out.

What Washington doesn't understand is that some of us are doing just fine. Some of us have been wholly unaffected by all of this turmoil. Those are the people who are out of debt and have their finances in order. We aren't rich - we're not the jet set. Maybe that's more what we should be striving for. Maybe we shouldn't be coddling Wall Street and ignoring Main Street. Maybe we could get Dave Ramsey to go on TV and explain this to Washington. Wait! He has a TV show! Tomorrow should be good!

Contact your congressperson. Tell them how you feel about this plan. Demand an alternative that actually benefits Americans. Consider taking out Patriot Pact. It's coming soon.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/24/2008

Worlds Largest Debt Consolidation Loan

My fellow Americans. I come to you tonight just a few minutes before W is set to come on the air to make the case to America for his unprecedented bailout of the financial sector. His request for 700 billion dollars to buy up bad mortgage debt nation-wide has been the hot topic all week. Rightfully so. Americans are furious at the thought of our nation going much more deeply into debt to bail out the sector that keeps so many of them in debt. Rightfully so.

The original plan, a paltry 3 pages long, has been met with much criticism for the sweeping power that it gives to Paulson and Bernake, and for the complete lack of oversight. The banks put Joe Bag-O'doughnuts through the ringer and sign a ream of paper to get one of their sub-prime loans. And we tax payers are supposed to just hand over the money to bail them out?!

Like I said, this plan has drawn much criticism. Oversight, transparency, restrictions on CEO pay.... blah, blah, blah. Here is what they all have missed (Congress, I hope you are reading this):


Why should our government pass this plan? Why spend so much on a plan that bails out banks - not homeowners? That right. Americans will still lose their homes. Foreclosures will continue. This plan effectively places all of the onus on Barb and Bobby Sodapop and lets the mortgage holders off of the hook. Couldn't this money just as easily pay off the loans and benefit both parties?

No no. We're just going to skip over Tom and Suzie BigMac and give this money to Wall Street. Wait. There is the other problem! Why on Earth would we just GIVE it to them? Give?! Give? No! They should pay. The tables are finally turned - the banks are the ones over a barrel. Why wouldn't we LOAN them the money? Why not give them a taste of their own medicine?

As the Mrs. and I discussed this over dinner tonight, with the NBC Nightly News on in the background, we realized what this really is.

It's the worlds largest debt consolidation loan. Only no-one is talking about making them pay it back.

No, no - those fat profits couldn't come back to the ones who bailed them out. Why would we ask for that?!

The Mrs. also had a great point - since the banks are such a credit risk (obviously have not been handling money well), they'd be looking at quite the hefty interest rate. Obviously that risk model they've been using works so well on us. Seems it should apply to the banks as well. If they are getting my tax dollars, then I expect it to be returned and to collect interest.

25%? 29.99%? 36% fixed*? What interest rate do you think we should charge the banks?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

Our Frugal Wedding: Only 8 Months 'Til Wedding Season!


Whaa...?

Wedding season is in May and June, dork! Right, but what good are all those money saving tips when you locked in all of the plans months ago and the big day is fast approaching? They'll come in handy for the next one! Just kidding... Besides, wedding season is when you decide it is. Planning a wedding? Read on.


1> Church Decorations. We had a Christmas wedding. It was a decision we had made, without considering some of the side-effects. With the ceremony set for the Saturday prior to Christmas, the church was already tastefully decorated. Not only did this save us money, but a lot of time as well. Remember: Wedding season is when you decide it is. Make the most of it!

2> Reception Decorations. We started planning this wedding about a 18 months prior. Knowing the date, we were planning on a Christmas theme. So what happens, after Christmas? After Christmas sales. The year before our wedding, we went shopping for decorations - taking tally of how many of each item we would need and noting which stores had what. The day after Christmas, we were there. We bought over 250 red, gold or silver ornaments (these were table decorations as well as the take-home gift), about a dozen strands of pearl or globe Christmas lights (used throughout the reception hall), and various other odds and ends. All at 50-75% off, depending on the store and the item. Which would then become our personal Christmas decorations after we were married. It pays to plan ahead.

3> Reception Location. Free of charge. My wife's family were members of the church we were getting married in. Thus, the attached reception hall, brand new at the time, was available to use at no charge. You don't really want to drive between locations anyways - hoping Uncle Ed could find the place, waiting and waiting for the bride and groom to arrive. Consider a church with adequate facilities on-site.

4> The First (and only) Round Is On Us. Open bars, and even cash bars can be quite costly to have set up. We didn't want a dry wedding reception, but we also didn't want a bunch of drunks driving away at the end of the night. Solution: a case of champagne and a couple cases of wine distributed amongst the tables. Everyone had a good time, yet the alcohol was finite so no-one got totally trashed. Plus, buying the wine in bulk garnered a good discount.

Unless you were in on the planning, you would have had no idea that you were at a cheap wedding.

How did you keep your wedding budget low? What do you wish you would have done to keep it low?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/23/2008

The Need Meter


Wants. | Needs.

There's a line between them (literally and figuratively). Sometimes, that line can get blurred or glossed over altogether. How do you decide where that line is? How do you decide what is a need and what is a want? When does a need become an emergency? Better yet, how do you effectively communicate that to your spouse and others?

We have something that might just help with that... The Need Meter©.

Through years of research, experiments, and testing, Not the Jet Set Labs has developed this handy, pocket-sized device for determining and communicating a need from a want from an emergency. It's lightweight, drool-proof, impact and tantrum resistant.

Dishwasher-safe, the Need Meter goes anywhere! Car dealerships, electronics stores, even the cereal isle at the grocery store! Let's say you're online, looking at a sweet digital camera. Yours is ka-put, but since a friend lent you their old one, you are not without. What to do? Simply look at your Need Meter©, and think, "Do I really need this, or do I just want it really bad?"

1-7 is the 'Want' range, 8-10 are 'Needs', and 11 (yes, it goes to 11) that is what you call an 'Emergency'.


It slices and dices your whining, even makes Julienne fries! Sometimes it is a need. Many times it's just a want. Either is ok. Really. We just need to be honest about it - to ourselves and our spouses. Take that camera for example. Maybe you really want it, but you know it's a 'want' - that's maybe a 5 for you. Your wife looks at it and says, "But we have that one, it will get us by for now". It's more of a 2 to her. There may be something else that is far more important to her, say replacing a leaky faucet. That's an 8 to her. It will be tough to splurge on a digital camera when there is something like that showing up on her Need Meter©.

But wait! There's more! Reply now, and you'll not get just one Need Meter© - but 6 Need Meters©! Keep one in the car, one in the boat, one in the airplane, and one in your purse. Give one to the kid heading off to college, one to someone just learning to handle money, also makes a great wedding gift!

The Need Meter©.
Get yours today!

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/22/2008

Picked a Peck of Peppers


Actually, we didn't pick them, and we had a whole bushel (4 pecks, I think). But it's a fun title. Despite all the hand labor, we're in good spirits at the NtJS house. This weekend we picked up a bushel of bell peppers from a local organic farmer.

So what is all the excitement about?


If you haven't noticed (and really, how could you miss it), bell peppers were a major victim of the grocery price hikes over the past year or so. Locally, they have been $3-4 per POUND. And that's not even for organic ones. a couple of years ago, I can recall buying them for closer to $1 per pound. We've been so put off by the price hikes, that we've been speaking with our wallet and not buying them. We stand by the decision, but oh how we've missed bell peppers!

Italian, Tex-Mex, and stir-fry - all staples at our house - have been bell pepper-less for far too long. We tried growing them in the garden, but several growers lost their crops this spring, and the ones that we did plant were eaten by deer while we were on vacation. Ug. There seemed to be no hope.

In a moment of weakness, the Mrs. picked up a bag of three bell peppers a couple of weeks ago, from the grocery store.
Later we looked at the sticker only to find that they were a product of Holland! The county!
We quickly used them before we had time to think about all the things they had to do to these things to get them to make the journey across the Atlantic and come out picture-perfect. Then, things started to turn around for us.

A friend was talking about buying organic tomatoes in bulk from an organic farmer that frequents the weekly farmer's market. Would she do the same for bell peppers? It took some time to get an answer - what with having to have enough to sell otherwise. But eventually, she came back with an affirmative answer and a price per bushel. $23 - same as what she sells them to restaurants, maybe a bit less than that even. With 35 peppers in a bushel, these big beautiful organic peppers come out to 65 cents each - some of which may have weighed a pound each. Best of all, they traveled 20 miles to get to our table (or freezer), not 2000.

Now, with about an hour or so of hand labor and some time with the Food Saver, we have plenty to ensure our meals will not be pepper-less for quite some time, and we didn't have to give in to those terrible grocery store prices. We also ended up with some very nice compost fuel!

It was a big win for us, but maybe we like bell peppers more than you. Another great deal, simply because we ASKED!



--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/21/2008

Add a Little Booze to Your Budget

We got all serious this week and when on a bit of a tare. At some point, PF bloggers have to stop squabbling about credit cards or rambling about saving money at CVS, and talk about the big picture. If you haven't already, take a look at these posts, and consider taking our Patriot Pact.

Now, here's a slightly more light hearted post. Enjoy!

With the exception of a couple months, the Mrs. has been either pregnant or nursing since we moved here 18 months ago. As most of you know, booze and babies don't mix. And as you married men know, if Mommy can't drink, then Daddy can't drink. Well, in the past couple months, baby has gotten to the point where her feedings are spaced far enough out to allow the Mrs. a drink from time to time. There's also been about a dozen time when I thought, "Wow, a beer would go great right about now."

But alas, we had none.


Until this month. I had thought about it a lot. The Mrs. is a budgeting ninja - it's really more of a finely tuned art for her. Everything is right where it needs to be. So with food prices constantly hitting new levels of crazy, my slipping a 6-pack into the grocery cart would likely not go over well. After discussing it, we found a different place to pull the money from and even gave it it's own little category: Booze.

So whether it's day trips, movies, concerts, or delicious alcohol, consider adding some fun into your budget. It doesn't have to cost a lot to improve your quality of life. Really, it's ok. Buy it when it's on sale if it makes you feel better. Just let your frugal down for a bit and have some fun.

What 'fun' do you have in your budget, or would like to add?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/20/2008

Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on eight carnivals and festivals - two were Editor's Picks! We've also broken the 100 mark on subscribers, and despite Feedburner's waffling, we're very thrilled! Thanks for reading and tell your friends!

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!

On with the round up...

Rich Life Carnival: Installment #9 is up at Your Finish Rich Plan. As they get back to basics, so do we with our extravagantly frugal post on cutting the cable. Here is another post that I enjoyed:

Carnival of Personal Finance: Can be found at The Personal Financier, in the Famous Last Sentences edition. Maybe we can add, "All those Dave Ramsey listeners are bad at math." to the list. Some other notable articles:


Festival of Frugality: Living Almost large has the festival ready for it's close-up with the Celebrity edition. Our Friends in High Places post falls under the Jay Leno - Savings/Coupon heading. After getting over the initial disappointment (fervently a Letterman fan), I learn that Jay is incredibly frugal for a celeb. We'll take it! Some other tabloid worthy posts:
  • Single Guy Money kills two birds with one stone with a garage sale.
  • Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity shares a great way to get rid of ants. We do this too, and it works great!


Carnival of Money Stories: Is hosted by My Daily Dollars and adorned in American 'Classics'. Included as an Editor's Pick is our post on something dumb I did with money - who knew? Here is another great story:

Carnival of Debt Reduction: The Mighty Bargain Hunter hosts this week with 'no fancy themes'. Just a focus on reducing debt. Amen to that. Reducing debt typically means changing behaviors and reducing spending. Brown baggin' it vs. eating out is a great place to start. Also give these guys a look:

Carnival of Financial Learning: Financial Learn brings us the carnival this week with the Hurricane Ike edition. Horrible what happened there. Eager to see what is left of Galveston Island - afraid our favorite sea food restaurant may be one of those piles of rubble they keep showing. Check out our post on eating out, as well as these other financial lessons:

Make It From Scratch! Carnival: Funny about Money takes on hosting duties this week and has our ReUse It! Rice Packs post as an Editor's Pick! Definitely a series to keep up with.

Carnival of Money Hacks: Fall is in the air and On a Quest to be Debt Free.... is hosting the Money Hackers this week. Included is our post about eating lunch: in or out. Don't miss this one either:


Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/19/2008

ReUse It! Babyleg Style


As many of you know we use cloth diapers. I did a lot of research before using them and one of the other things I learned about while doing the research was babylegs. For those of you who don't know what they are they are leg warmers for your baby that go the full length of the their legs. They can also be used on older kid's arms (or adults as they fit on my arms).


The only problem with them is that in my opinion they are expensive. After some research I found a rockin' tutorial on Flickr by Baby Hopes. She has you use woman's knee hi socks to create a homemade version of babylegs. In stead of trying to recreate the wheel (or in this case a babylegs tutorial), I'm going to refer to her info for the step by step directions.

Cost: Free! If you are doing this with a used pair of socks, otherwise it could be between $1-5.00 depending on the socks you pick.

Time: 20 minutes the first time for me but I've got it down to about 10 minutes now.

Skill Level: Intermediate

Materials needed:

  • Knee hi socks
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Pins

Instructions:

Follow this link for the full directions along with great photos! Then only thing I do different is Step 3. Fold the opposite direction as she does in the photo. Fold it the same way she does in Step 4 (as per photo). Folding it this way gives the cuff more give allowing it to fit better. Other then that I do it the same way.



Overall Project Grade: A-

Project Notes: I will admit that not that many of use have used knee hi socks to use in this project, so for most it's not a "reuse". But it's a fun project that can be used from birth through adulthood. My baby wore them on her legs as a newborn and my older daughter still wears them on her arms so that she can wear her favorite t-shirts in the winter.



Once you get past the first one or two it becomes a fast and fun project. The best part is to see how the kids love wearing them. Along with how it saves you money from having to buy long sleeve shirts!

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/18/2008

What Have YOU Done For Your Country Lately?


As Mr. NtJS stated we were up late pondering the country's latest economic issues. What brought us to this point, is this the bottom, etc. I could not fall asleep after that, since my brain was now awake. I started wondering how do we get out of this mess? Maybe I'm just over simplifying things, but I DO like simplicity. Here are my ideas to help get our county back on the right track.


"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. " JFK 1961

I love this speech! I read the full version today and it was so powerful. I can only imagine the power of the message for those who where there to hear it back in 1961. This powerful speech made me realize that we, the U.S. citizens, can have a powerful impact on the economy. We live in a free (sort of) market society. We helped to create this mess and we can help fix it.

So you want to know how? Here you go!

Step 1. Assessment- Set aside an evening to evaluate your own personal financial situation. Making sure that you have a large Emergency Fund. Don't panic, but make sure you are in good shape to weather the storm.

Step 2. Use Less- Now that you are scratching your head... I mean use less foreign products. Less Middle Eastern oil, less Chinese products... The less gas we use the better we all are because it will help to drive down the price of fuel. It will also help to push for new renewable energy growth here in the U.S. Which will save us money while giving American's jobs and keeping the money we do spend here in the U.S.

Step 3. Spend Wisely- This step will have the biggest impact on the national economy. I'm not asking you to go out and buy all the new stuff you can to max out a credit card. I'm asking you to buy used when possible and when you do have to buy something new, buy American. If we buy American made products, made by American companies the money all stays here, in the U.S. If we choice to buy foreign products made by foreign companies, all but a small sliver of that money will go overseas. That type of spending does not help our economy. At the worst if you can not by American made at least buy from an American company.

I know what you are thinking right now... But nothing is made in America! That is NOT true. At first you might have to change your shopping habits and do a little research to find out where to shop. No, you can not shop at Wal-Mart and buy cheap plastic crap that is not made in America. That cheap plastic widget is made in communist China by people in horrible unsafe sweatshops making pennies a day sleeping in dorms at the factory. Oh yeah, and did you hear that they put plastic powder in their baby formula? If we buy from them we support them and all of their short cuts!

It truly can be as simple as supporting American jobs. We hold the purse strings - literally! We have the ability to speak with our wallets in support of American companies and products. If we are employed and making money, we can then afford to pay our mortgage, buy food, etc. If we are doing those things then the housing market, banks, and other industries will not fall. If we act like we are intelligent caring Americans we CAN change the economy. I do understand that government and industries have a role to play but we have the biggest role to play.

No Stimulus Package can fix this country's problems.

We have to change our behaviors - permanently. I'd like to challenge ALL of you who are reading this to try these baby steps. Support American families by giving them jobs. This is what will fix our economy. We just have to put a plug in the drain before all our hard earned money goes down the drain to foreign countries. If you accept this challenge please say so in the comments section! We can be your support team. We will offer check ups along the way and let you know some of the things we use that are American made.

Take our Patriot Pact, and help get America back on track.


--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/17/2008

Who Killed the Economy? Government, Corporate or Consumers?

AIG, which is the largest insurers in the US, failed this week. Requiring an $85 billion buyout from the government. We were both awestruck by that one just before bed. This prompted a very interesting conversation that had us both up very late.

First, when do we hit bottom? We've watched as so many companies have failed, so many jobs have been lost or shipped elsewhere.

How long before this gets better?


Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that. The Mrs. kept wondering what we will see fail next. Is it retail? How many are holding on, hoping one good holiday season will keep them afloat another year? Is one of the Big Three next? When do we hit rock bottom? How bad will that be? There is really no way to tell.

The good news is that many companies have made or are making major changes in an attempt to weather this storm. The bad news, is that it takes time. Changes don't produce results overnight, and reputations do not heal instantly.

The next point of discussion, and this is a big one, is: Who is to blame? What is the reason for these economic woes? The Mrs. contends that it all boils down to personal responsibility. People have got to stop doing dumb with money and take responsibility for the consequences. They made the decision to take out the loans that they could not afford. They took out and ran up the credit cards. Consumers have made this mess.

I agree - in part. I can't argue that personal responsibility isn't severely absent in today's culture. But is that it?

I brought up the fast food / McDonald's culture we saw recently in Super Size Me (we're late to the party, I know). Is it the same thing? Is McD's to blame, or the people buying their crap food. They were free to make their choices. they could have brown bagged it. McD's is just selling a product, it's up to the consumer to say, "no thanks". McDonald's could sell healthier food, and encourage healthy living. But they don't. Consumers need to say no. Same with this mortgage mess, right?

No so much. It's no big secret that everything under the golden arches is over the top on salt, calories, and fat. Do people walk in expecting to find some thing healthy? The salads might still have a few fooled (the dressing kills that one). I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone walking in there knows what they are getting.

Consumers: With the mortgage mess, this is not the case. A small percentage of folks were truly swindled. But that does not account for the majority of these foreclosures and lender failures. So what about the rest? Some knew they were doing something dumb or at least questionable. Personal responsibility, right? Some knew enough to know that they were taking on increased risk, and thought that... well... who knows what they were thinking. Maybe they weren't thinking at all. That's one piece of the pie.

Corporate: Another piece is the banks and lenders. What? They shouldn't sell their products? Going back to the McDonald's reference - Do they get harmed when you get fat? Do they suffer because of your diabetes? Does the adversity that their product causes have any affect on them? No. Little to none. When you default on your mortgage, that's a problem for the bank. They are going to lose money. They are going to end up owning a piece of property that they do not want. They are going to blow through big bucks in legal fees, lose out on interest, as well as principle. When you lose, they lose. Still they took on the increased risk. They chose to do business based on your FICO score and the max amount that you could "afford"(how's that workin' out for you, btw?).

On top of that, there are no myths about McDonald's food - at least not favorable ones. Your Uncle doesn't talk about good grease vs. bad grease. There aren't blog posts talking about all the medium Coke's you have to drink to qualify for a Big Mac. The lending industry is full of this crap. On top of that, your have realtors pushing clients into nothing down, ARM financing. Likely due to the kickback from the bank that they work with. It also helps them sell you more house, since you can "afford" more (you can't), thus boosting their commission check. Is that

Government: The last piece of this crap sandwich, is the government. They have turned a blind eye to an out-of-control industry and and storm that has been building for years. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and all around smart guy, warned of this impending doom years ago. Congress's action? Well, we're still waiting for it. Alan has since left the Fed and his replacement, Ben Bernake, has only succeeded in throwing money at the problem. Then again, encouraging stimulus checks and corporate buyouts is about all he can do. In the end, our do-nothing, wait-and-see government has allowed this stupidity to continue.

Who is to blame? Government, Corporations, or Consumers? I think the answer is, "yes".


Your thoughts?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/16/2008

Investing Sense for Lehman and Merrill


For many of us, the past weeks and months have shown us instability and uncertainty at level not seen before. Fannie May and Freddie Mac teetered on the brink of collapse before an inevitable government take over. The Countrywide collapse and the end of Bear Sterns.

The latest casualties of the big credit crunch / mortgage meltdown hit the news this week: Lehman Brothers (passed on by BoA) filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and Bank of America bought out Merrill Lynch.

Not the Jet Set is hardly an epicenter for investing advice - and thats not what we are here to do. But what does all this mean to you and your investments? The Dave Ramsey Show was flooded with questions about this yesterday and here is some of what Dave had to say:


On Merrill Lynch:
Should I pull my money, close my account, move my 401k, .....? No. Not so long as you are happy with the service you are receiving. Very little is really changing here. Will BoA change ML? Who knows. Time will tell. As Dave put it, "let's say I have 6 rental houses and I have a management company managing them for me. If the management company goes under or gets bought out, then I don't lose my properties." You assets are not at risk.

Lehman Brothers:
My mother has money invested in Lehman Brothers bonds, will she get her money? Maybe. This is a bit more dire situation than Merrill. Bonds, considered a liability or debt, will be paid off before the shareholders. She may get some, likely not all.

He had lots more to say and all of it was excellent and level headed. Certainly not fear driven like some loonies are spouting. I haven't had time to pull the podcast, but I highly recommend it. the above quotes are from memory, so some of it may be paraphrased. Still, the gist is: don't freak out

One last bit for good measure:
Peter Schiff is telling people to sell all their US stocks and buy gold and foreign stocks, what do you think? No. Peter is a fruit loop. Do you think the foreign markets are any better? As a coworker noted today, the some of the foreign markets are off by 5%. BTW - Irwin Schiff, Peter's father, went to prison for refusing to pay his income taxes, something he claimed that the government could not enforce. Just to give you an idea of who we're talking about here.

Stay calm. This too shall pass.


--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/14/2008

A Want Becoming a Need

You may have noticed some posting irregularity lately. We've been struggling a bit during the past few weeks here at the NtJS house. Everything seemed fine, then whammo! We were hit. It had happened before and supposedly would not happen again, but it did. I was really bummed. Thankfully, my folks bailed us out temporarily. We took it reluctantly, thinking it would get us by and help us weather this storm.

It didn't. We thought we had a plan, but now we are looking at each other thinking, "What do we do?!"

Here is how it all went down:


So the other day, our camera died. Wait, what? Oh.... no, no, no. You thought I was talking about our finances? No. Technology has been giving us fits lately - specifically our camera.

Our camera is great. Correction: was great. Took great photos, ultra compact size, trouble-free internally articulating lens. But it has software problems. It started freezing up on the splash screen a few weeks ago. What really burned me was that this had happened before, and we had payed to have it fixed. My suspicions that they didn't totally grasp the problem held true when we started having the exact same problems. It progressed to the point where it was unusable.

Knowing this, my folks brought us their old camera during a recent visit. It wasn't the best but it worked. We hesitated for two reasons:

  1. I hate borrowing other people's stuff
  2. We used to have this same camera and got rid of it because of it's poor performance as well as it's own eventual failure.
Still we knew we needed a camera, and took it. We used it a handful of times, only to find out that the battery would last only about 30 minutes. Then, in the irony of all ironies - it broke! The same way that our's had broke a few years ago! Lens was irreversibly jammed.

We've tried the quick fixes to no avail. Fail. We were back to no camera.

This may not seem like a big deal, but you know that saying, "don't know what you've got 'til it's gone"? Yeah, it's like that. The kids are constantly doing things that we'd love to capture and send to the family. Plus we have this blog thing and like to use our own photography when possible. Actually, it has made the Mrs's ReUse It! series a tad difficult. Fortunately, we were able to borrow the neighbor's camera to get the Rice Pack post up this week. Trust me - we used it very gingerly.

The point is that initially we just wanted a new camera. We didn't need one - we had my mother's old one. There were a number of other capital expenditures that were quickly taking priority over the camera. But now, with the second-stringer on the stretcher, we are left like a coach on the sidelines looking at what is left on the bench.

Our video camera takes still images, but they are just as crummy as you could imagine - 1MP and no flash, no white balance.... Pictures, unless taken in daylight, come out a little creepy. Beyond that, they are still pretty low-res.

Now we are thinking.... "Do we need a camera?"

What to do?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/13/2008

Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on four carnivals and festivals. Be sure to check out the carnivals as there are usually more articles worth reading than what I can feature here.

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!

On with the round up...

Carnival of Personal Finance: Banker Girl makes her triumphant return to the PF blogosphere by hosting this week. First on her list of Editor's Picks is our Garth Brooks / network of friends tribute - Friends in High Places. After you get done reading that one and get that song out of your head, take a look at these as well:

Make It From Scratch! Carnival: Satisfying our DIY cravings this week is GreenStyleMom with the MIFS! Carnival. Here, the Mrs. satisfies our daughter's need for a lunch box, frugal style. We also enjoyed this post:


Festival of Frugality: Fellow cloth diaper-er, The Frugal Babe is hosting this week and includes our post on lunch: to be or not to be frugal. Here is some more frugal goodness:


Carnival of Money Stories: Fresh off of the Copyeditor's Desk comes this week's carnival. Though it won't find it's way to the bestseller list any time soon, we think you'll enjoy our story on weather or not we should be eating lunch out. Some other fine tales of finance:


Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/12/2008

ReUse It! Rice Packs


Two things are always true in our house. Missing socks happen EVERY week on laundry day and boo-boos happen on a weekly basis as well. My daughter doesn't like have a stiff ice pack on her bumps so what's a mom to do? After some thinking and research I came up with this solution that marries the two truths together.

Why not fill an odd sock with rice? So while I was in one of those experimental modes I tried it out. If you don't have a sewing machine don't be discouraged! You could just as easily hand sew it.

Cost: $2.00 or less (if you have rice in your house already)

Time: 5 minutes or less

Skill Level: Beginner

Materials needed:

  • Sock (men's works the best but any will do)
  • Rice
  • 1 piece of scrap paper ( or funnel)
  • Needle and thread (if you don't have a sewing machine)

Instructions:

1. Fill- Using your scrap paper as a funnel fill your sock (right side out) with the rice. Fill the sock 3/4 of the way full. Pin or hold opening closed.


2. Sew- While keeping the end closed and even, stitch apx. 1/2 inch from the opening the full length of the opening.


3. Completed- Done! Yes, already done. Now go put it in the freezer and stop questioning me.



Overall Project Grade: A+

Project Notes: Super fast, super easy, super cheap, and super useful. What more could you want?

I love this project so much that I have made lots of them to keep on hand. They can also be warmed in the microwave to use as a heating pad. Just make sure to keep it dry.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/11/2008

Teaching Kids to Live Green

Are your green living habits rubbing off on your kids? Will the next generation care about the environment as much as we do? Less? More? The answer is up to us. The “us” is the parents of those cute little preschoolers.

I strive to live an environmentally friendly life but I can not assume that my kids will be the same way. The best way to insure that your child will follow in your green footprint is by teaching them. Here are some fun and easy ways to teach your little ones to love the earth.

• Read Green. There are lots of great books and magazines for little ones on green topics. My preschooler’s last one was called “Why Should I Recycle?” by Jen Green. She loves the book and has decided (much to her father’s dismay) that she wants to be a trash man when she grows up so she can recycle all day long. NWF’s kid’s magazines are also a great way to introduce nature to little ones.

• Green Chores. Even at the rip old age of three, little ones can start helping out around the house. If you mark your recycle bins with either pictures or different colors little ones can then help you sort your recyclables. So when you hand your child that empty mac n’ cheese box to recycle for you, you can explain what will happen to it. That box will have a new life.

• Take a Hike. Taking your kids for a walk in a natural setting is a great way to experience the world around us first hand. Make it a very slow walk with lots of stops along the way. During these stops explain how things work. Talk about the trees, birds, deer, flowers, bees, soil, etc.

• Talk Green. There are lots of things you do around the house and yard that are green and your child just thinks that is way things are. They don’t know any different. For instance, we use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. For my daughter’s birthday party I bought some themed paper napkins. She loved them! Not because of the theme but because they were paper. I explained to her why we use cloth. Since then she prefers to use cloth.

My preschooler is already aware of the environment and the world around her. She knows why we take reusable bags to the store. She cries when she sees someone cutting down a tree (or even a branch). She works hard after it rains to save the worms from dying on our driveway. With kids like her my answer would be a “yes!” The next generation will care even more then us.

What are you doing to help you kids learn green living habits? What has worked for your family? Please share with us so that we can all make the world a little greener.





--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/10/2008

What Is: The Dumbest Thing You’ve Ever Spent Money On?


Fellow PF blogger, Gather Little by Little, has started a running series called, "Share Your Story". Inspired by, of all things, radio talk shows where they post some crazy question and all the nuts come out of the woodwork to chime in.

The first in this series asks, "What is the dumbest thing you've ever spent money on?"

Here comes one nut out of the woodwork...


This is a really tough one for me, because it's typically pretty tough to separate me from my money. I'll go along with a lot, but when the wallet needs to come out, well, that's where the rubber meets the road.

Still a few things do come to mind: a Dave Matthews concert (I have no idea what people see in his live show - not much different than listening to his album with a bunch of frat boys), a bathroom remodel gone awry (tile showers and I do not get along), a $50 home warranty plumber who came out, spent five minutes looking at the problem and said, "Nope, not covered". Those things sure have a way of making you feel dumb.

This one takes the cake though. I knew before hand that it was probably dumb, but youth has a certain optimism about it, doesn't it? I was probably 17 at the time. Summer was approaching and I needed a summer job. I was trying to make a clean break from the low paying jobs of summers' past. I could drive now, was (at least somewhat) intelligent - Why was I doing these grunt jobs? I wanted more. What I lacked in good sense, I made up for with spirit. I was ready to do something.

One day something presented itself to me in the want ads: Work from home, be your own boss, no experience needed - or something like that. Maybe you've seen this before? You likely skipped over it like I did many times. But with so much nothing in the rest of the ads, I decided to try something. I called.

The lady I spoke to could barely be bothered to tell me exactly what it was as she was so busy trying to get my payment information. She was good. Being 17, I had no plastic of any kind. Just a checking account. Good news! They can take a check over the phone. It was $117 or $137 some-odd dollars. I had the money, but for a kid, that was a lot. I gave her the info and she sent the kit out.

A week later, it arrived. To my horror, the 'kit' was little more than a database of local businesses along with the type of work they could outsource to you, along with some info telling you how to start a business (filing a DBA, blah, blah, blah). It was total crap. But I had done it.

The silver lining to the story is that over the next several months, I watched my account very carefully. I was very responsible with my accounts back then - balancing the old check book every single month, saving a large part of the money I made in a separate savings account. The check never cleared - they never charged my account. I'm guessing that they must have gone out of business as I never heard a peep out of them. Still, to me the money was gone - that is until I closed that account a year later. :)

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/09/2008

Proud Mom Moment

Yesterday my daughter got an early birthday present from my MIL. It is a cute medium sized sketch pad. She of course loved it since she is our budding artist. That night she said she wanted to draw a picture of the earth. So she took her pencil and drew a big circle.

Then to my surprise she asked me how you spell 'Reuse'. I helped her spell it as she wrote it at the top of the big circle. I asked her why she had put it in the earth?


She explained to me that she is an "Earth Helper" and she reuses to help the earth. As I was trying to keep from being to emotional she asked me how to spell Recycle, then Reduce. She was starting to catch on to the RE theme and wanted me to tell her other RE Earth Helper words. I gave her Renew and Reinvent. I was struggling to come up with some but that was enough to fill her earth.



After she finished writing we sat down together and talked about each word and what SHE does personally to help the earth using those big words (big for a 4 yr old). I just loved watching her write the words and truly understand what she does and why she does it. I also found the "Earth Helper" title she gave herself to be extremely cute!

It's great to see those glimpses of your child that tell you who they really are becoming.


I'm proud that my daughter sees herself as a superhero Earth Helper.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/08/2008

Forget Dave, Are YOU Bad at Math?


We've stated our position on Dave Ramsey on this blog and in the comments of many others (some of which make for great debates). We've already addressed the fools who somehow think that not only is Dave bad at math, but that they've been able to correctly run the numbers that Dave has failed to over the course of nearly 2 decades of financial counciling - Give me a break. So nothing new there.

What I've been seeing a lot of, not just now, but for quite some time, is this assumption that the people on Dave's plan are also bad - even terrible - at math.

Are you bad at math?

I think I know the answer, and I'm pretty sure I can prove it after the jump.


First, let's frame up the discussion with a couple of recent quotes (note that I've heard this sentiment a lot from bloggers and commenters alike):

Kevin, from No Debt Plan:
I don’t buy the psychological argument. Again, I’m not saying his system hasn’t worked — not at all. I’m saying it could be better. And if he wants take the psychological argument then he should also accept that if his audience can’t handle credit…
LivingAlmostLarge goes a step further in saying
Second, debt payoff sure if it works for you great. Problem Kevin is these people are seriously bad with math. They have no idea how to balance a check book, etc. They are probably dealing with late fees, overdraft, etc. They need to keep it simple stupid or KISS. So it works.
What is fun to note right off the bat, is that neither of these two critics of the system can deny that it works. At least we can agree on something! It would be tough to deny how incredibly successful Dave's system has been over the past 15+ years. What's fun is that so much has happened in those 15 years, and yet his advice is pretty much the same as it was then. Still works today.

But are the people on Dave's plan, or even just folks who have debt / credit card debt, really bad (or "seriously bad") at math? Do they really lack the basic math skills to balance a checkbook. I'm going to say no.

What is involved here math-wise? Adding. Subtracting. Not even long-division.

The math couldn't be more basic. Sure, there's more to it - reconciling the register for outstanding withdrawals or deposits, including electronic transfers along with the analog ones... - but that's really all that there is to the math. Are the folks in question incapable of totaling the +'s and -'s, subtracting one from the other, and comparing it to the number from the bank? I really doubt it. Did they not know to carry the tens column ("carry the 'one' ") over when adding? Likely not. Especially since any normal human would do so with the aid of a calculator.

Is it even a problem with math that has these folks in debt in general? Again, I'm going to say no.
If you listen to The Dave Ramsey Show, or watch it I guess - we don't have cable - how many times do callers deeply in debt struggle to understand Dave when he talks about not spending more than you make? I don't listen all the time, but I've never heard it come up. how about understanding that net worth equals what you own minus what you owe? No, people pretty much get that one too. The fact is, most Americans have the math skills to be successful at personal finance. Adding, subtracting, percentages - what is that? 4th, 5th grade level math?

Now, are the people in question actually doing this? Are they tracking their finances and balancing their checkbooks each month? Many are not. So what is the problem then? If not math, then what is the stumbling block?

"Personal Finance is 80% behavior, and 20% head knowledge." - Dave Ramsey

This is when you find out what that statement really means.

What is happening is that those not balancing their checkbooks are skipping it because they are in the habit of not doing it. I would bet that they did it a handful of times at first, found no errors and thought, "this is pointless". They got too busy, forgot about it, thought their spouse was doing it... whatever. It's not the math, it is their behavior that is the problem. It's putting the NFL / NBA / NHL / MLB seasons ahead of their finances (or American Idol / Survivor / Big Brother / America's Got Talent / The Biggest Loser). It's putting the bank statement on the stack of mail and thinking, "oh, yeah, I'll do that later. After I..." It's becoming so overwhelmed with chauffeuring the kids around town, caring for an ailing family member, going here, doing that, groceries, cleaning, diaper changing, and when am I supposed to have time to do this???! I'm not condoning any of those, but they happen - life happens.

Thus, if you take Dave's FPU course, or read his Total Money Makeover book, or attend one of his Live! events, or listen / watch his show - Dave isn't running people through multiplication tables, story problems, or basic math drills to get them up to speed on their math skills. People can do the math. Dave spends a lot of time working on behaviors and sorting through the psychology of the situation. That's where the real problems lye. He's getting their priorities straight. He's getting spouses on the same page and talking about money. And on and on and on.

How can I be so sure? I know I'm right, because as stated before, people possess the basic math skills to be successful at personal finance. Dave focuses on the other 80% of what is going on. By doing so, Dave's system, as we first stated and agreed upon, works. It flat out works. It works every time you do what is taught - bear market, bull market, recession, "recession", disaster ridden, war-time or peace.

People go in with the same math skills that they started with, what has changed is their behaviors.

Note: I'm not mad at Kevin or LAL. It's ok to have a difference of opinion and Kevin and I have been engaged in friendly debate on this topic. They just happened to state their opinions at a time when I felt that this needed to be said. No had feelings guys!

To the folks that have been through Dave's program: Were you bad at math? Or bad about sitting down and doing the math?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/06/2008

Carnivals / Festivals

This week we were included on three carnivals and festivals. Things have been nutty around here, especially at work for me. Starting to get a handle on things again, and hopefully be back to our normal posting schedule.

We are pleased to welcome all new readers, as well as new carnivals to Not the Jet Set. To find out more about us, click here. We are a personal finance blog focused on frugality, stewardship, and current events, while also telling our story as a family and the personal finance decisions we have made. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out our NtJS Cafepress shop!

On with the round up...

Carnival of Financial Goals: Rocket Finance is apparently enamored with Sarah Palin after watching her speech during the RNC - What? No pics? No quotes? She's a fiesty one. At least you find financial goals - lots of them - including the one we just reached.


Festival of Frugality: This week we get a french lesson along with our frugality at Almost Frugal. Here we learn the word avare - french for miser - and share a miserly post on spicing up your outlet covers. Some other misers:


Carnival of Money Stories: Funny About Money hosted the Labor Day edition of the CoMS. Included is our post on making a high style lunch bag for our daughter. Another story to peruse:
  • The Happy Rock canceled their Netflix account. Noooooooooooooooo! Sounds like this was a tough call, but needed to go.



Thanks for reading and thanks to all the hosts. Don't forget to tell your friends and subscribe to get updates via email or RSS.

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/05/2008

Lunch Out vs. The Brown Bag


A friend just stopped by my desk to ask if I would be interested in joining his group of regulars for lunch out once or twice a week. It was a kind gesture from a group of people that I certainly wouldn't mind hanging out with a bit more. He also assured me that they try to do it on the cheap, around $6 or less. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What was funny was the way he started the conversation:


"Hey, I notice that you bring your lunch a lot"

I wasn't sure where that was going to lead, but I smiled and responded affirmatively. He works in a different department, and doesn't realize that 'a lot' means nearly every freakin' day! Now I'm not complaining. We eat well at home, which many times translates into some pretty tasty leftovers. The Mrs. takes great pleasure in keeping us flush with fresh fruits and veggies. Who can argue with the occasional fresh peaches, apples, plums, or grapes?... except to ask for more.

In fact, I've become quite well known in my department for my peanut butter and jelly. Folks aren't sure what to think when they see me eating something else. Making and packing a lunch every morning may seem like a hassle - and it is. That's why I don't do it. I'm not a morning person, and am far more likely to forget my lunch than to pack one. I keep it all at work. Bread, peanut butter, jelly. Napkins and knives come from the cafeteria. A glass of ice water, or if I'm lucky, a Coke to drink. I'll also keep pretzels or chips handy to round out the meal. Supplement that with what I bring from home and I do pretty well.

Now I do eat out occasionally - sometimes more often than budgeted, much to Mrs. NtJS's dismay. We budget $10 per month for me to eat lunch out. Now that could be one really nice lunch at Chotchkie's, or 1 fast food lunch and a couple salads from the cafeteria, or whatever. Some guys from the group I work with have grown accustom to me not joining them for lunch, but I made the decision very early to tell them why. I'd like to, but we just don't budget much for eating out. They've all been quite understanding and usually have trouble justifying the expense themselves. What's best is that they aren't looking down on me or feeling slighted for my saying no. There's just better ways to use our money right now.

So I listened to my friend's offer, and explained that yes, I do bring my lunch quite often. And that I usually eat out only once or twice a month. "I appreciate being invited, but expect to be turned down a lot." He made a comment about how it would be just like going to the bar....

After he left, I thought about his comment of spending about $6 on lunch. What if I did want to do that. What would that cost to do, say..... everyday?

$6 X 5 days/week X 4 weeks/month = $120 per month

We could do that. We aren't poor. With a few key strokes, we could adjust the budget, and I'd be eating high on the hog. Then again, $120 per month will send our baby to college one day. Hrrrmmmm.... eat lunch out, or send the kid to college..... No, it wouldn't have to come out of the college fund, but where would it come from? We would have to make a choice to not do something with that $120 so that I could in turn eat it over the course of a month. What if I did their plan of twice per week. More reasonable, right?

$6 X 2 days/week X 4 weeks/month = $48 per month

Yes, more reasonable, but still, if I'm going to take $50 per month out selfishly, I'm getting satellite TV. It's still a lot of money for ME to use to eat out without my family. Real nice for them, eh? For now, we'll stick with the $10 per month. When I get a raise, I'll lobby for more.

How much do you budget for eating lunch out? Do you feel pressured to join your friends at the expense of your budget?

--- Continue Reading This Post ---

9/04/2008

Saving Money in the Kitchen


I’m sure we are not the only family out there that is feeling the sting of the raising food prices. When we made the decision a little over a year ago for me to become a stay at home mom we did so by looking at our expenses vs. our income. Well, sitting here at my computer a year later looking at our budget I have to say that our expenses are going up faster then our income. What is a mom to do?

Well, this mom is putting on her creative thinking cap. Here are some things that I’ve done to help us stretch our food budget.

Buy a deep freeze- So this first one might make you scratch your head. Our deep freezer has been our best investment. You can go two routes to keep the cost down. First, you could buy a used one. They usually go cheap. We just sold an old one for $50 and it was the biggest one they make. Or you can buy a new one that is small. We use a small one and it takes up very little space but holds a ton. It also costs very little to run and allows us to stock up when things are on sale.

Buy local fruits and veggies- If you are blessed with local orchards and “food” farms, then take advantage! By buying directly from the farmer you can save some on the mark-up cost. Before you go to the farm call around to all of them and find out who has the best prices. Some farms will save you a few pennies others will save you almost half the cost. While you are there ask if they sell seconds. Those who do will not advertise it but will sell them to you. Those are by far the best deals! Who cares of the apples have flawed skins if you are going to be making apple sauce out of it?

Buy bulk- Take advantage of bulk discounts. Find a true bulk food store and really compare prices closely to make sure you are saving by doing this. I actually drive a little over an hour to a bulk food store in an Amish community. There I save well more then what I spend in gas. And while I’m there in the summer I’ll swing by some of the roadside stands and pick up fresh veggies (like 50cents per pound of green beans). I only make this trip once every two months and buy enough for the two months. This does take some planning but in the end it really pays off.

Nothing goes to waste- Get creative! I had froze some peaches last fall and when I went to thaw them they were not firm. To slimy for my kids but tasted great. What to do? Make peach sherbet! I just pureed 2 thawed quart bags of peaches with 2 cups of sugar and then poured it into the ice cream maker. Just 45 minutes later we had a great dessert to share with family and friends.

Grow a garden- While the kids play outside get your hands dirty by growing a your own food. You will feel better from the exercise and sunshine and your budget stays in check.

Food preservation- Found that great deal on apples at a local orchard? Buy 5 bushels. Think I’m kidding? Oh no, I put up 5 bushels last fall and we just ran out. I make apple sauce, apple pie filling, and apple butter. We go through at least a quart a week of apple sauce so this really helped our budget.

There are lots of sites on line that talk about doing things to save money in the kitchen but I find most of them impractical with a little one at my side and another one on the hip. I hope that you have found mine to be both practical and wallet friendly.

Do you have some other practical kitchen advice? I’d love to hear it!

--- Continue Reading This Post ---
Blog Widget by LinkWithin