Feedback Friday: Taxes

Tax season is upon us. How quickly it sneaks in when the holidays are over. This year we are going to do our own taxes online using TurboTax. However, we have use about every way to complete your taxes except for doing them by hand.

So our question to you is:
How are going to fill out your tax papers? Online, CPA, H & R Block type firm, or by hand?

You can answer via comments or vote in the poll on the right side bar.

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De-Junking War - Day 3

Kid's Bedroom~

The girls' bedroom always looks like it has been ransacked by vandals. Today was no exception. The thought of tackling their room was scary and if it was not for making a commitment to doing it in the last post in this series I would have put it off a little longer. But alas, I will keep my word and not let the junk win this battle!

It was hard to prepare mentally for this room. There was just to much stuff everywhere and it was all a moving target with the one year old moving everything around constantly. I did decide that the best way to tackle it would be to start by the door and work my way around the room counter clockwise. This would give me a feel of accomplishment and hopefully help keep the youngest from destroying to much in my wake.

I have spent a full day in this room and could easily spend more time working in it if I had the time. So far I have pulled out 4 really large paper sacks full of toys to sell and/or give away. I've also pulled clothes out that doesn't fit the girls any more. Our oldest daughter had several outfits that will be going into storage containers for when the little one grows into them. Then there was about 10 outfits that the youngest has outgrown that were still hanging in the closet. I'm going to sell them mainly online. What I can't sell online I'll hold back for the garage sale. There was also a huge bag of trash that came out of the room.

I personally find it extremely hard to keep the girls' room clean. They are 5 and 1 years old. They have lots of friends who are always coming over to play which seems to make it even harder to keep clean even when they clean up before they leave.

How is your kid's bedroom shaping up? Was it a huge disaster like my girls' room? Was there any good money maker items you are going to sell?

The next room to tackle is the kitchen next Thursday. Between now and next Thursday I'm going to try to get things sold and start to down size my sell pile in the office. We are also waiting for some new pull out baskets for the kitchen cabinets to come in. They should be here on Wednesday.

Check back on Thursday to see if the junk or I win the next round of battles!

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Changing Your Habits

Breaking news....
People are not spending as much money as they did a year ago. Even Walmart is feeling the effects. They have reported that their customers are buying just the essentials.

When I heard this earth shattering news I had to wonder three things. One, is it really news worthy to say that people are not buying stuff they don't need? And secondly, why is it so terrible that people now want to live within their means?

To our family this is not a new way of living. This has been our way of living for over 4 years now. Now that we are out of debt and have a fully funded emergency fund, we do buy more then the essentials. The few extra splurges we do buy however, must fit within our budget. For us it just feels good to live within our means no matter how big or small our income is, we don't have the added stress that those extras bring.

Did you think that I forgot my third question? NO! I was just saving the best for last. When did you stop over spending? Was it 5 months ago, 1 year or 5 years? Feel free answer in the poll on the right side bar.

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This Downtrodden Economy - The Best Thing to Happen in America Since....

This post marks our One Year Blogiversary. If you missed our '08 round-up, then you can catch it here. Rather than a lot of celebrating and hollerin', we offer the following missive. A rant, if you will. And if you want some celebratin', then check out our new favicon (that green thing next to our web address). Woo-hoo! Look at us!!

I can recall our corporation's President saying, "The best thing about 2007, is that it's over." This, after reporting out the financials from the year prior at the beginning of 2008. I'm expecting similar comments at this year's report. It's no secret, this has been a very difficult two years on American's and American companies. Many companies have collapsed. Some flirted with disaster, and are still hanging on. Others have held on, but made significant cuts. Millions of jobs have been lost, and for those folks, it's difficult to explain how these economic troubles have been a good thing.

Through all the struggles of the past two years, few compare to the magnitude of the mortgage meltdown and the subsequent freezing of our credit markets. With lines of credit unavailable and open lines tightening, spending came not quite to a halt, but it's definitely driving in the slow lane. The journey began years ago.

With the optimism of the economic recovery post-2001, America became drunk on debt - and everybody was an enabler.

The real debt dependence began decades prior, but from 2002 to 2006, our country went on an All. Out. Binge. Housing markets exploded and developers couldn't build subdivisions fast enough. During which, lenders used every method imaginable to get YOU into a house. Demand rose, prices skyrocketed, and we saw the advent of the 50-year mortgage. How else could you afford that $850,000 3/2 in Compton? Fed rates repeatedly fell and ultra-low rate ARMs teased more and more folks in to believing that they really could afford the house of their dreams on their modest income. House flipping became the hot action and the subject of numerous TV shows. Most of which showed just how clueless many of the folks were who were doing it - but undaunted, none the less.

Also in this time, it seemed that not only was every retail outlet accepting credit, but offering it as well. At some point in 2004, I can recall financing a Big Mac and fries on a 90-day ARM @ 2.3%. During that 90 days, I lent that $5.95 to a farmer in Kenya on a 75-day note @ 6.4%. It's mostly a blur now, but I can tell you that I totally killed on that deal.

Then, like a wall of empty beer cans, it all came crashing down.

Things fell apart, slowly at first. Mortgages, then car loans, followed by credit card defaults. Then the tidal wave hit as spending slowed and corporations felt the same sting as individuals. Jobs were cut, businesses shuttered, and banks stopped lending. That's when people really freaked out. This was our wake-up call - this was our intervention.

Suddenly, thrift is the hot action. Oprah, known more for her extravagance, is talking frugal (Custom-made blue jeans breath...). Then nightly news is promoting financial responsibility. And personal finance blogs (like ours) sprung up out of the woodwork. People changed - habits, outlook, values - despite the government telling us that what we really needed was more debt. Some of that change was forced by the crazy oil and food prices we saw this year. But that shouldn't diminish the strides that some made to financial responsibility. Good things happened, many just didn't realize it.

Will 2009 be the year? Is this the year that our country climbs out of this mess? Is this the year that you climb out of your mess? Maybe you've already started. Will you go back to your old ways? Will you go back into debt as soon as you can wrap your hands around it again?

If these last few years have taught us anything, it's that this dependence on debt is not sustainable. It's not a long-term plan and certainly not a substitute for real financial responsibility. This financial implosion is the best thing to happen to America since.... I don't know what. We likely have not fully realized it yet.

The real key to it all is that we go through the full rehab - we make the changes in our behavior necessary to succeed, and never go back to the habits that brought us here. Never again can we let mortgage brokers tell us what we can afford. Never again can we let the offer of credit nor the potential reward for it's use drive how we shop or what we buy. Never again can we shop first and ask questions later.

The party is over.

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Feedback Friday: New Comment's Section

We want to hear from you! Today we are kicking off a new weekly series that will help us get to know you and your thoughts.

Our first question for you is:

What do you think of our new comment's section?

Was it easier to use? Harder? Does it make you want to leave a comment or avoid it? We would love to here from YOU!

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De-Junking War- Day 2

The Master Bedroom~

Our master bedroom is second most neglected room in our house just behind the office/sewing room. Why? We only use it to sleep and change clothes. It's very tiny and there is no tv in the room. We also never allow enough time to get ready for bed or to get ready in the mornings. We crash at night and race out the door in the mornings. This bad combination creates a breeding ground for clutter and dust.

While preparing mentally I did come up with some things to sell and give away. The main items being my nursing tops that I don't use any more. I think that I could manage to give away a few pairs of shoes that I have not worn in awhile. The main things I noticed was a lot of dust on surfaces and clutter on top of dressers.

When I started cleaning today I was dreading this room just because I've neglected it for so long. However, once I got started I really got into it! It felt good to clean my own room for a change. This is the only real space the Mr. and I have that is kid free (except for what they drag in). I was also surprised just how fast it went! It did not take long at all to finish the whole room. I did end up with a large stack of clothes. I'll be listing most of the nursing tops on diaper swappers and the rest I'm adding to the sack of baby toys to give away. I'll keep you posted on how much I make off of what I sell. In the end I also had a grocery sack full of shoes to freecycle.

The one thing I was not expecting when I cleaned the bedroom was the mattress cover. When I went to wash the sheets I found that some how since the last time I washed sheets the mattress cover was ripped and destroyed. I'm not sure how that one happened! So I did end up running to target today to buy a new one. I'll have to subtract it from my money make during the cleaning process.

How is your master bedroom shaping up? Was it hard to get rid of something? Was there any good money maker items you are going to sell?

The next room to tackle is the girl's bedroom next Thursday. I was not planning on having a week break between rooms, but God had different plans for our family. My grandfather passed away yesterday so we will be leaving to go back home for the funeral.

Check back on Thursday to see if the junk or I win the next round of battles!

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De-Junking War - Day 1

The Living Room~

Today I'm going through living room and cleaning it from top to bottom while de-junking. I have two paper sacks and a laundry basket with me. One bag is for trash, one is for good items to be given away or sold on a garage sale, and the laundry basket is for item that actually belong in a different room. If I run across something that I want to sell online it is taken to the office/ sewing room and sat on my ironing board for now. When I was preparing mentally for this room I didn't see anything in it that would be sold online.

I just finished the room and I 1have two large sacks full of toys to sell, a somewhat full bag of trash to dump out, and nothing on the ironing board to sell online. Most of the toys in the sacks are either baby toys that my girls don't use any more and the plastic play food from their kitchen. I'm happy to get rid of it since I worry about the plastic. One of the grandmas bought some new wooden ones made in Germany for our daughter's first birthday. They will be a nice addition to daughters' green toys. They baby toys I'm going to give to a brand new mom who has very little money to spend on her little one. I'm not sure if I will sell the play food at the next garage sale or if I should just freecycle them.

Lastly I dusted and vacuumed since I stirred up the dust today! I think that I will be moving the air purifier into the room later today to help with the dust in the air. Sometimes if I stirred up a lot of dust I'll re-dust in one to two days after it settles a little more.

I'm happy with what I accomplished with this room. I think that we might actually have some room for some of the new toys the girls got for Christmas and the little one's birthday. However, I know that we are going to be selling our tv center soon since it's to big for the room. When we do that we have to come up with new storage for all the movies and games. It will be like starting all over again, but that's okay. I've already weeded out a couple bags of movies and games from there too!

How is your living room shaping up? Was it hard to get rid of something? Was there any good money maker items you are going to sell?

The next room to tackle is the Master bedroom. Check back on Thursday to see if the junk or I win the next round of battles!

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De-Junking Our Trunk

After reading the "Too Much Junk in the Trunk?" post you might be wondering about all that junk in the trunk (now the house). I promised you more info on our junk removal process. So here it is! The first post in a new series all about the Frugal and Green benefits simple house. The Mr.'s favorite saying is "Less is More". We try our hardest to live that motto but in our materialistic world is a never ending battle.

But no worries, I have never enter battle without a good strategy. Here is an outline of our basic battle plans for de-junking our house.

  • Time- I only start this project when I have a lot of time to work on it. Otherwise it doesn't get finished and is de-motivating.
  • Prepare- I spend the week before hand mentally going though each room and changing things while I live my normal life. This seems to help make the work go faster because I've already started a short list of what items need to stay and what can go.
  • Focus- When it's time to start working it's easy to get distracted. I try to stay focused by giving everyone a job, no TV, only music that gets you moving, and no checking email.
  • One- I only tackle one room at a time. This relates to the above in that it keeps me focused. If I leave the room I start cleaning a different room and never can get one done completely. I also limit myself to one room a day if possible.
  • Supplies- Make sure to have everything you need with you when you go into the room. Here is the general list of items I take with me to insure I don't leave the room and get distracted.
  1. Two paper sacks (trash and stuff to sell)
  2. Laundry basket (for items that don't below in that room)
  3. Vacuum or broom
  4. Surface and window cleaner w/ rag
  5. Phone (so I don't leave the room!)
  • Finish- It's important to finish the job. That means take the trash out, sort out the sack of stuff to get rid of and either post it on freecycle, craigslist, ebay or put it with your growing garage sale stash. Take the laundry basket full of stuff and put it away correctly. If you do this after each room it will make each room a little easier.
You might be thinking right now that I get distracted easily. Well, I think that when it comes to cleaning and de-cluttering most of us do! It's not in our nature to get rid of things so we tend to avoid it. I really do not want the process to take FOREVER so if I stay focused it will be done faster.

Are you ready to start de-junking your house? I am! You can follow along as I try to tackle my house room by room following the basic battle plan laid out above. The first battle will take place in our living room. It's time to make some room for the incoming toys!

What is your de-junking battle plan like? Do you have any strategies to share with us? Join me along the way and add a link to your progress posts!

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Bert Whitehead - Is This Guy Serious?!

Some time ago, the Mrs. and I squeezed some entertainment funds out of the budget - a whopping 6 bucks for a Netflix subscription. $6 affords us their cheapest plan of 2 movies per month, which is about all we can manage to get through anyways. This has allowed us to catch up on the movies that we aren't seeing in theaters, as well as discover some interesting stuff - especially in the documentary genre. Some of the more notables:

Then we saw this DVD by Bert Whitehead called Why Smart People Do Stupid Things With Money. Why not give it a watch? It sounded good and it was release in 2007, so the content should be fairly relevant. We added it to the queue, despite knowing nothing about ol' Bert.

We watched it over the holidays - or at least we attempted to. We tried to look past the over-the-top 80's contemporary set. We tried to look past the well-to-do looking audience who seemed to act like they really didn't need to hear this stuff. We even tried to look past that goofy hat (seriously, Bert?). It was hard to watch.

The delivery didn't help either. It just wasn't compelling. We he did have something interesting to say, he seemed to brush it aside to move on to something else - "advanced concepts", like converting wealth to capital. Other points drug on and on and on - such as his explanation of what appreciation is. There were some decent bits of info in there, but the organization is horrendous.

Then he hit us with what would cause us to shut it off - about 18 minutes in.

Bert had decided it was time to talk about some of the stupid things people do with money. Ok, lets get to the meat of it.
  • Don't save for college - Bert feels that there are better places to put long term investments
  • Don't pay off your house - With a low interest rate on your mortgage, Bert says you can easily out earn that in the stock market.

Is this guy for real? Oh yeah, in fact, argument #1 is positive leverage. That's right, Bert thinks you should cash out your home's equity to invest. Yeah, sure - That'll never backfire! The only two dangers to pulling the equity out of your home, according to Bert, is if you just blow all of the money on clothes and junk, or if you buy an annuity. That's it. Nothing else. No danger of your house de-valuing and owing more than it's worth. No chance of the stock market taking a dive.

Argument #2 never seemed to come (again, the information is not well organized, and that's likely a good thing)

Argument #3 is that having a mortgage is a hedge against crazy inflation. According to Bert, if inflation goes crazy (which it has before) and you owe the bank $200k @ 6% interest, with money markets paying 9% - you win! Sorry, Bert. If I owe the bank zero dollars, with money markets paying 9%, then I win.

To recap: Reasons not to pay off your mortgage - #1 and #3 are leverage to invest, #2 - who knows, though he did tell folks not to make bi-weekly house payments. True that you don't have to pay for the privilege to do extra payments, but he doesn't want you to pay extra, period. Every wanna-be pundit in 2002 was telling folks to leverage their house to invest. And folks may have actually made money with it back then. This came out in 2007! Housing prices were heading south then and we all know where they are now.

We didn't even finish the feature, let alone get to the "Donor-Advised Funds' or 'Road to Retirement' sections of the disc. Maybe he knows more about that stuff, but I'm not betting on it.

Bert gets an F on this one. There was little redeeming value to the disc. PBS gets an F- for spending money from 'viewers like you' on this garbage.

Anyone else seen this one or know more about him?

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Emergencies and Expenditures: Q1 09

No sooner do we close the books on '08 and all of the unexpected expenditures that we faced, do we find ourselves faced with our first of '09. We're starting 2009 off with a bang - or rather a crash. Last week, while traveling to visit family, we were in a car accident.

Everyone is ok, and we know that is the most important thing. Our truck, on the other hand, bore the burden of the blow. The damage was far less than any of us expected, and yet word from the body shop is that insurance may total it out!

The crazy thing is - it's drivable! After the accident, we drove it quite a ways with no issue. Inspections have yielded no mechanical problems. So with what seems like superficial problems, the question is, will they salvage the title?

We're waiting to hear back from the insurance company, but our options appear to be:

  1. Fix it. If they give us the nod, then we certainly won't complain. We're not expecting this one to pan out.
  2. Kinda fix it. We may have to settle for only having certain parts fixed, leaving others as is.
  3. Transplant. If the body shop hasn't already accounted for it, we may need to authorize the use of used parts to keep the total cost of repairs below the ins. company's threshold.
  4. Total it. If nothing else works, we may have to allow them to total the vehicle. If that is the case, then we'll then have to negotiate the pay out and then attempt to purchase another at that price or less.
We should be hearing back today or tomorrow. I guess the Mrs. was right, when she said that we need to 'aggressively start saving to replace a vehicle'. We're really hoping that it is not totaled

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One Year of ...

Today I'm excited to be celebrating our youngest daughter's 1st birthday. What a year it has been! She has brought us unbelievable joy and heart ache in a years time. I'm happy to say though that she healthy and able to enjoy her birthday like a normal one year old which brings tears of joy to my eyes just thinking about it. But that is really not what this post is about.

I'm also excited to be celebrating my one year anniversary of cloth diapering, babywearing and breastfeeding my youngest daughter.

For the past year my daughter has spend everyday but 7 (vacation) in cloth diapers. I have loved it more then one could imagine. Oh yes, you did hear me right. I hated used disposable diapers with my older daughter. I could not wait for the day she was potty trained. Now that I found love for cloth I don't mind the diapers at all. Not only is it easier for me to use it has helped my daughter from having diaper rashes and other skin problems caused the harsh chemicals in disposables. I use our cloth diapering spreadsheet to keep track of what diapers I buy and sell as well as our environmental impact. According to our spreadsheet we have saved $690 vs using disposables AND kept 3087+ diapers out of landfills! Who knew a baby's butt could be green in so many ways?

I'm extremely proud to have breastfeed my daughter for a full year as well. I would be a liar if I told you it was easy. But nothing worthwhile in life is easy. I've had mastitis twice this year and have had sever cracks that have taken several weeks to heal. In fact, I currently have one! Why would I continue to nurse my daughter having so many issues with nursing? There is nothing like the bond you have with your baby when you are holding them close to your chest, knowing that she is sometimes only comforted by nursing, and that she healthy because of the perfect nutrients only you can give her. God knew what he was doing when he created women to be able to nurse their babies.

I started wearing my daughter as soon as she came home. I use two different slings and a Mei Tai carrier. When she is having a rough day I just slide her in and off we go. I am able to get stuff done around the house while is she being comforted by the closeness to me. When we travel I feel safer having her strapped to me in a busy airport. She feels more confidant at the same time in her familiar place. It also helps me to nurse a little more discretely in public.

Is one year enough? Am I going to keep on cloth diapering, babywear and nursing? I'm very proud to be have gone this far and strive to continue both. I'm planning on cloth diapering until my daughter if potty trained. I will nurse my daughter until she decides she no longer needs it or I have to quite for a medical reason. I will continue to wear my child until she is to big.

How long did you nurse, babywear, and/or cloth diaper? Did you quite to early? Go to long?

Happy Birthday baby girl!

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Oprah's Best Life w/ Suze Orman

Did you watch Suze Orman on Oprah? I did! She did have a few good ideas but most of the advice was not worth the time.

Here is my 2 cents:

Paying for college- There was a couple who lost half their kid's college savings in the stock market. Suze's advice was to roll the funds that are left to the older child and then have their younger son take out a subsized loan in his name for them to pay back. That was her goal to keep their kids from getting college debt. Hum... Sounds like she pretty effectively put the younger one deeply in debt. Batting .500, Suze.

Pay minimum or not on cards- Well, I'm not sure what she wanted you to do because at first she said to only pay the minumim while you snow ball on the largest interest rate card. Then she said to help your FICO score to pay MORE then the min. on all your cards. Which one is it?

FICO Score- Can you say, worship FICO? What more can I say? But what else would you expect from a personal finance advisor who's in-bed with FICO and busy peddling her 'fix yer FICO' kit. Maybe She's a tad confused about what is really important.

Credit Cards- She told a lady with issues with over spending to NOT close any of her 21 credit cards because it will effect her FICO score negatively. I just wonder what would be worse, her maxing them out again, someone stealing her inactive card numbers, or a few less opened unused credit lines? Nothing says 'out of touch' like enabling an adict, Suze.

5 Step Financial Action Plan- How many steps? The five steps where five different action plans. I personally was confused by all the different disjointed plans she talked about. That is scary since I'm one of the few people who actually has their financial act together.

I always try to listen with an open mind. Not all of Suze Orman's advise was bad. She did have a few good tidbits.
Here they are:

  • Pay off credit cards

  • Emergancy savings of 8 monthes

  • Don't hide money or debt from spouse and make the plan together

  • Suze's 2009 Action Plan Pledge -Don't spend money for one day, don't use your credit card for one week, and don't eat at a restaurant for one month

  • Don't panic when the market goes down

  • Keep investing in your 401k and IRAs

  • Don't use the stock market for your short term investments (5 yrs or less)

Overview: The bad advise was very damaging and the good advise is just common sense that people like Dave Ramsey has been teaching for years. In good times and bad. I think that the important thing to always remember is that sound advise is valid in both good times and bad. If someone changes their advise it might be time to look for other opinions.
What did you think of Suze's advice?

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Save small businesses from CPSIA – Call to Action‏

If you read my recent article about toys and cloth diapers disappearing from the U.S. then you might have already received the email below. Please, take the time to read the email and take action! Our kids deserve a greener future!

What: We need your vote again at Change.org!

How: Vote here


When: Now!

Thank you so much for your support of the Handmade Toy Alliance. Our membership numbers continue to grow and we have been receiving many positive press responses. We have issued letters to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, responding to the agencies requests for comments on the CPSIA. Many of us have contacted our Congress People, hoping for their support in changing the law.

Currently, we are in the running to have our issue presented to President-elect Obama, but we need your help to make this happen. Please vote to save small businesses from the CPSIA at www.change.org/ideas/view/save_handmade_toys_from_the_cpsia.

The Handmade Toy Alliance remains grateful to all of you, your trust in our products and your ability to work with us to make a positive change in this legislation.


Thanks for reading!

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The New Age of Negotiation

Maybe you've heard, the economy is suffering a bit. Actually, it's quite bad out there, and the retail sector is taking quite the beating. In fact, with consumer confidence dwindling, even gift card sales were off this year as many feared that certain retailers may not survive, leaving them high and dry. Not that any of the big guys have folded.

I've read in the past year, many folks bemoaning that 'negotiation is dead' and that this is 'the age of no negotiation'. Well, it was. I'd even experienced this at Sears, where they flat out told me that store policy was to not to do so.

Hit the link to see why I think that negotiation is making a comeback.

On a recent trip to one of the big boxes, we were shopping for some products for our bathroom remodel (remuddle, as a friend puts it). We had found some tile we liked at a different store, and wanted to see what they had. The team leader in flooring was helping us out, but not finding what we were looking for. Still she was being a bit odd about it. As if not wanting to tell us that they could not help us.

After a few minutes, she finally came clean. Here's the jist of what she had to say:

  • Crummy economy hurting retail
  • New store policy to not turn customers away
  • They'll price match anybody plus 10%
  • If budget is an issue, say what we need is $1500, but we're working with $700, they could come down (her example).
Yeah, it was all we could do to keep our jaws off the floor. We were still awe struck by this exchange hours later. Would they really come down that much?? But I think I've figured out why this is happening - supply and demand.

Stay with me here - I'm no economist, but I think I've got something here. In the first half of this decade, retailers saw a huge boon. They saw growth on top of enormous growth, and acted like it would never end. Demand was huge and thus the retailer was king. Consumer friendly policies - like negotiation, easy returns and exchanges - died off. They didn't need your business, Miss Thrifty Pants, because the drunk on debt idiot behing you will gladly pay full price since it's just going on the credit card anyways.

But those days are done. The bubble has soundly burst. Now it's the retailers who can't seem to catch a break. The charts have swung in our favor and now demand is dying. For you real estate folks, this is what you'd call a 'buyer's market'.

I'm calling it now: Negotiation is back - power to the people.

Go give it a try. Do some shopping at the big boxes and make it no secret that you've been shopping around. See if they don't work a little harder for your business.

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NtJS Household Budget - Jan '09

Most people dread January since it is the month all the large Christmas bills come due. There is nothing quite like the buzz kill of maxed out credit cards, blizzards and the lack of sunlight that is January for most families.

However, we are no orderinary family December was wonderful and so will January. No credit card hangovers for us this year! Here is the recap of December and our lovely plans for January.

December's Budget Recap:

  • We had a perfect month! I'm sure it will never happen again in my life, but I can actually say that we kicked butt in Dec. 2008.
  • Our Anniversary vacation funds were more then adequate for the trip. The extra was pooled with the Christmas money we received from family and re-budgeted that way.
  • It was hard to not blow the budget on Christmas gifts for the kids, but work really hard to not do it. In the end I was glad I didn't spend the money since everyone else broke the bank on our kids.
  • Paid our property tax bill with the money we sit aside every month for it.
January Budget:
  • With the fall of gas prices I have a ton of extra gas cards left from previous months. We are actually budgeting $0 for gas this month! The money that would have been in this line item was transfer to the car replacement fund line item.
  • Last month I sent in the paperwork to start the monthly withdrawal of funds for our kids' college savings accounts. That should kick in this month and was added to the budget. We had stopped this temporary to pay for our baby's medical bills.
  • We also budgeted for a date night that includes funds for dinner out, a movie and a babysitter! I know, we are sooo extravigant!
2009 Financial Goals:
  • Save for new roof (100% of funds by late spring)
  • Start putting money in Roth again (starting in late spring after roof)
  • Continue to save for kids' college in 529s
  • Continue to do company matching 401k
  • Fully fund Roth and 529s by late summer
  • Start agressively saving for a new car

Did you go over budget in December? Are you dreading the January credit card buzz kill? Or are you still riding high like us?

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"Cash or Credit, Sir?"

I don't go shopping very often. When I do, it's typically in our po-dunk area. So our big city shopping trip / anniversary vacation was a bit of a shock to the system. Especially so when, on more than one occasion, a cashier asked me the simple question of, "Cash or credit, Sir?

This was an easy one, as we were spending all cash on the trip.

--What!? In the big city? With muggers, and pick-pockets?! What if you got robbed? What if they broke into your hotel?! What..... --- I know, I know, I know, calm down and b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

After responding that I would be paying cash, it was the reply that really surprised me.

"Oh, you'll have to use that register for cash" - indicating that the other cashier would have to help me. Now I tend to err on the smart-ass side, so my initial thought is to ask if he/she can't count. The look on their faces did not indicate that they were in the mood to put up with any crap, so I went on about my business.

Now this did not necessarily mean that I had to wait longer or that my transaction would take longer than the card wielding shopper behind me. What it did mean was that a consumer has a cashier telling them that they cannot help them. Which is annoying for any reason.

The Mrs. being the smart person she is, had a couple hypotheses:
  1. That the store had one cash register per area, and if they opened a second due to higher demand, then it was plastic-only.
  2. With less registers stocked with cash, it's easier to open and close registers.
  3. With less registers stocked with cash, it reduces their liability for theft.
Any retail personnel out there willing to shine some light on this?

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Too Much Junk In The Trunk?

Did you have to much junk in the trunk after the family Christmas (you didn't really think I would be talking about my behind did you?)? We sure did. In fact, we could not fit it all in the car. Half of our two daughter's gifts had to stay at the grandparents. We will get them in two weeks when we go back home for our youngest daughter's first birthday party. Let's just hope that the left over gifts from Christmas and her birthday presents all fit in the car this trip!

Every year we ask the family to only give the girls a few really nice toys. Every year they ignore the girl's wish lists for the most part and buy LOTS of cheap stuff instead. Every year we then have to find room for 30+ new toys.

We are NOT the Jet Set so we don't have a huge mansion with a playroom for each child. In fact, we live in an extremely modest house in which the girls share a bedroom (yes, I do hear the audible gasp from mainstream America) and no playroom. The toys are either in their room or in only living room/family room which is not huge either. So what do we do with all the toys and other Christmas gifts?

Well, If I had my way only about 10 would find their way to our house the rest would be donated to some needy kids or returned for (we would trade the store credit dollar amount for the same amount put into their savings account). What I want to do doesn't really matter. There is no way that we could do that. The kids would die if we took away their presents.

What we do instead is make room in our house. Oh yes, the dreaded de-cluttering, purging and cleaning. This is one of the few traditions we have in our family that I dread. However, it works. Out with the old, in with the new! By the end I have three large piles one to save, one to sell, and one to give away. More to come on our de-cluttering process.

What do you do to make room for the Junk in YOUR Trunk?

photo by: justbeingjenn

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New Years Resolutions Anyone?

As I've been surfing the blogsphere today I've seen lots of great posts on everyone's personal resolutions for the new year. I have to admit I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions. Not sure why, but that is just me.

This year I do have a few small resolutions I'm hoping I can carry through the year and beyond.

  1. Go to bed by 10pm. I know, I'm getting a little crazy here! At our house the kids are well rested and the adults are extremely sleep deprived. My dream is that if I got an extra two hours of sleep (making for an 8 hour night) I would be happier and more productive during the day making it worth losing 2 hours of work time at night.
  2. Give more time. Since we moved across county this last time I have dragged my feet when it came to getting involved with Church and other non-profit organizations. Now that things are as calm as they will ever be in our home it's time to reach out the larger community and give back.
  3. Get my house in order. The baby will be turning 1 yrs old next month and the large house projects are starting to wind down. My excuses for an unclean house are also coming to an end. The cleaning fairy is not going to magically appear. Nor a housekeeper for that matter. It's time I just give a little more time to cleaning. No more excuses.

So that is my list of the 3G's for New Year! On the surface they seem do able, but we will see how long they last. What are your resolutions? Feel free to leave a link to your 2009 list of resolutions if you posted them on your blog.

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