Tag Archives: personal finance

April is Financial Literacy Month

budgeting“National Financial Literacy Month is recognized in the United States in April in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.”  Wikipedia

For many of us (me, most definitely) financial literacy was achieved at the Financial College of Hard Knocks. You finally learn how to conduct your finances properly after YEARS of doing it improperly and almost driving off the financial cliff. It’s like we spend our 20s making the mess, and our 30s digging out of it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had just started off on the right foot? Or, now that it’s too late for us, that our KIDS get a good start? That’s the goal of Financial Literacy Month.

We will provide some helpful links in a bit. First, what are some of the basics of Financial Literacy? Here are some lessons you can impart to your kids, as provided by Huffington Post:

  • Use Cash– perfect way to illustrate that when the money is gone, it’s GONE.
  • Bank/ATM Visits– illustrates that money is a real thing. It changes hands, it gets stored away, it grows, it shrinks, it disappears!
  • Grocery Shopping– have the kids count out your $84.16 and hand it to the lady!
  • Brand Names/Store Brands – comparison shopping
  • Wants vs. Needs – This is really the core, isn’t it?
  • Build a Budget – If you buy all your wants, you don’t have much left for your needs, right?
  • Pay Utility Bills Together – see, light and heat don’t just happen!
  • Create a Wish List – Once you get the Needs taken care of, and there is some left over, make a plan for getting those Want items.
  • Clear Jar System – A piggy bank where you can see the money.
  • Sharing is Caring – Making giving a part of your plan
  • Open a Small Business for kids
  • Allowance – make it chore-based. And when the money’s gone… well, you know.
  • Games and Activities – “Monopoly” and “Life” aren’t just boring – they contain valuable financial literacy lessons!

Some links:

And there you go. I wouldn’t want any young person to go through the anxiety, the sleepless nights and the marital money fights I went through in my 20s. How about you? Share your thoughts at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Avoiding Money Mistakes

dueling piggiesIt’s a common theme that you hear repeated by the personal finance gurus – and the anxious folks who call them up on their radio shows: Why don’t they teach this stuff?

I think that life gets complicated, and the simplest lessons, such as “Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford,” get lost in the hustle.

So it’s helpful when somebody – MoneyTalksNews, in this case – types up a list of common money mistakes. We have all made a few of these. For instance, I waited YEARS to take advantage of my employers 401K matching, and I am still catching up! Others, I finally caught on; I haven’t bought a new car in years, and I try to pay off my credit cards every month. But, your mileage will vary, as they say.

So what are some common money mistakes? Here are a few:

  • Keeping up with friends
  • Letting indulgences become habits
  • Signing up and spacing out (Your first month is free. After that…)
  • Buying a new car
  • Buying almost anything else new
  • Paying interest on credit cards
  • Ignoring your employer’s 401(k) match
  • Borrowing to buy stuff that loses value
  • Chasing credit card rewards
  • Living with no emergency fund
  • Letting bank fees drain your accounts
  • Raiding your retirement savings

Fortunately, this article not only identifies the traps, it also offers some useful how-to for making smart money moves instead. But again, it’s not always quick and easy. It takes time and discipline. Anyway, check it out!

So, I told you a few of the money mistakes I made – mostly when I was younger. How about you? Did you make a few? How did you climb out of it? What did you learn? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

A Fast 50 Bucks?

job adsHappy Friday MindField-ers! How are your new year’s finances? What does this next year look like for your pocketbook? About this time of year, I start adding up all the potential projects that are rumored to be coming my way. I have come to realize that if my year EVER matched my rosy January predictions, I could have retired years ago.

So, in the meantime, you look for ways to make more money. Maybe a big new job. Maybe a part-time thing to help pay the bills. Maybe it is a lot of little things, which is today’s topic.

MoneyTalksNews.com has compiled a list of “50 Ways to Make a Fast Fifty Bucks.” You will find a lot of the usual things (have a garage sale!) but there are some unusual ideas, as well – many of which relate to opportunities you can find on the web. Here are some highlights…

  • Performing tasks: Lists about ten websites you can visit to pick up odd jobs
  • Sitting: House, pet, baby, etc. Includes links
  • Selling: Garage sales, Craigslist and more. Lots of links.
  • Renting: Airbnb, etc.
  • Crafts: From swap meets to Etsy.com, sell your crafts! Links aplenty!
  • Claim lost money: I have done this. It can be a hassle but, if the money’s big enough, it’s worth it!
  • Medical Research: Like those two dum dums on the old Drew Carey show!
  • Manual Labor
  • Using your talents: Be a math tutor, teach piano, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I have stumbled onto this article at just the right time. I will be looking into this for sure. Here’s that link again. How about you? Could you use a few extra bucks to help pay off those holiday bills? Have you tried any of these ways? How did it work out? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

New Year$ Re$olution$

newyearrezFor many of us, our New Year’s Financial Resolutions begin and end with “win that record-breaking $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot.”

New Year’s Day arrives, and we all make Resolutions. Some are serious, some are frivolous, most are in-between, and many are forgotten. I think many get swept under the rug because we don’t know what an achievable goal looks like, and we don’t know where to start. Fortunately, everybody and their brother with a consumer or personal finance blog is here to help! Here are some common New Year’s Financial Resolutions!

  • Spend less
  • Save more
  • Invest more
  • Pay down debt
  • Set aside money for an emergency
  • Have a budget and stick to it
  • Save more for retirement
  • Buy a home
  • Save for your kid’s college
  • Learn more about finances

I’ll add one more: Take advantage of unexpected windfalls. Last year, I got a notice about a pension payout (one that I didn’t know existed) from a job I quit 15 years ago. I could have done a LOT of cool things with this chunk of change, but I did the responsible thing and actually put it toward retirement! BORING!

Anyway, do you have New Year’s Financial Resolutions for 2016? Have you already started? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page! Here are some links!

Top 20 Spending Regrets

Spending Regret #21: Investing in flying money
Spending Regret #21: Investing in flying money

Have you ever made a purchase that seemed SO logical at the time? You really had yourself convinced that it was a good investment. Heck, at these prices, you can’t afford NOT to buy! And then, it just sits there on the shelf unused…mocking you. Personally, I have one right now: a certain very famous foreign language program that set me back $600.

If it’s any comfort, we all do this, so much so that AARP has written not once but twice on the topic and compiled a Top 20 of spending regrets. Here are some highlights…

  • First-Generation Technology: It’s just not worth it to be the first one on the block.
  • ‘As Seen on TV’ Products: Anything where they automatically send you two for the price of one, I’d watch out.
  • Elaborate Weddings: Average cost of a wedding is $26,000. Think of the head start you could give yourself with even HALF of that money.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Schemes: If it sounds too good to be true…
  • Prepaid Funeral Plans: I worked in this industry. Yes, put aside money for your funeral. Discuss your wishes with your spouse. But a “plan”? I don’t know.
  • Used Books: Guilty. I have the most impressive bookshelves, and I have read fully one-third of them!
  • Home Party’ Products: One for the ladies. As far as I can tell, simply attending one of these requires you to buy something. That’s a built-in regret!
  • Season Event Tickets: Also guilty. By the time you miss two of the 6 or 7 events, it’s not a value anymore.
  • Things to Get You Organized: Ask my wife; it’s not enough to put all your junk up on the shelf – all the containers have to match! A classic battle of slob-meets-OCD!
  • Specialized Kitchen Appliances: Bread maker, pasta maker, $300 smoothie machine… more like specialized space-taker-uppers!
  • Loans to Family, Friends: This one could have been #1 thru 20 on this list!

And these are just half of the entries. If you don’t want to experience financial regret, check out the two lists, HERE and HERE. How about you? We all have spending regrets? What are yours? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Haggling Over Your Bills?

pay billsThe opening line of this article is a direct hit (for me, anyway.) “Does the thought of haggling over your monthly bills make you break out in a cold sweat? You’re not alone…”

Man, do I hate to haggle. I only do it once every six years or so when it’s time to replace one of the cars. At a yard sale, if they want $3, I pay it! So, the idea of calling up your cable company, the landlord or the wireless provider and negotiating monthly bills is a no-go for me.

But your mileage may vary. And that extra 10 or 15 bucks here and there can add up to real savings. So, this article in GoBankingRates.com, “6 Basic Bills You Should Always Negotiate,” may appeal to you. Here are the bullets:

  1. Medical Bills: I have heard of taking extra time to pay these, but actually cutting the price? There are online resources that tell you the average or “fair” cost of procedures, to give you a haggling starting point.
  2. Wireless Phone Service Bill: Do your research, know your provider’s competition (and their plans and prices) and you can almost always save money.
  3. Cable or Satellite TV: My mother’s favorite haggle! You got a sweet deal when you signed up. Now, it’s about to expire. Tell them you’re going to switch if they don’t play ball. They usually will.
  4. DSL Internet Service Bill: See Cable/Satellite TV
  5. Rent: Didn’t expect to see this one. If you are a long-standing tenant, solid record, good credit – and it’s a renter’s market – go for it. There’s a rule in renting: It’s easier to keep a tenant than find a new one.
  6.  School Tuition Bills: Another surprise. More than one kid attending? Ask for a group rate.

As usual, these are the highlights. You’ll find valuable online resources (and a bonus 7th tip!) at the original piece, so check it out!  How about you? Are you a haggler? Have you tried any of these? How did it work out? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

How About More Money Saving Tips?

ID-100178555Time for the ol’ Friday standby: Money saving tips! There’s a realy good piece at The Simple Dollar called “How to Save Money: 100 Great Tips to Get You Started.” Lots of common sense – and otherwise – ideas, some straight out of everyday life, some that require making some changes. Let’s take a look at some highlights.

  • 51. Don’t fear leftovers: I had an ex-brother-in-law who would dump whatever was left after the meal into the garbage – like, two more meals! Apparently this was some declaration of independence from his crappy childhood. It’s your money, man.
  • 52. Go through your clothes: You know how they say “shop from your pantry?” Avoid buying things you already have? Same thing. You probably have a new pair of pants in the closet you have never worn. (I know I do.)
  • 53. Brown bag your lunch: My wife does it every single day. It takes planning to keep from being boring, but you really save.
  • 54. Learn how to dress minimally: Mix and match to make several outfits. Or, do like me and keep shirts for 20 years!
  • 55. Ask for help and encouragement from your inner circle: I don’t know…it would have to be my SERIOUSLY inner circle. The hardest thing to admit to friends is that you may have money problems.
  • 56. Try to fix things yourself: My dad was a construction worker. I am a writer. So that’s my handicap. But I HAVE taught myself things, and I have saved over the years.
  • 57. Keep an idea notebook in your pocket: for me, it’s on the nightstand. I am forever bolting awake with some idea. If I don’t write it down, it’s gone.
  • 58. Invest in a deep freezer. BUT…only if you use it. That seems like a big IF for me.
  • 59. Look for a cheaper place to live: I knew a couple that moved to Kansas. They realized they were saving so much money that they started traveling extensively. So, I guess they didn’t actually save, but they got to do something fun that they wouldn’t otherwise.
  • 60. Check out free events in town: Excellent idea, but you have to keep up. I am always discovering that cool thing that happened yesterday!

As always, just the highlights. More ideas, and more detail, at the original piece, so check it out! How about you? See any good money savings here? Have you tried them? Do they work? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Even More Money Saving Tips

Let’s check back in (yet again) with that helpful article at The Simple Dollar entitled “How to Save Money: 100 Great Tips to Get You Started.” They’re not all gems, and not all will apply to you, but you’re sure to find a few that hit you right in the pocketbook. We have looked at the top 40, now it’s the next 10…with bonus dumb commentary!

41. Prepare some meals at home. We do it 5 nights a week.

42. Switch to term life insurance. I don’t know. Has anyone done this? Do you save?

43. Stick to reliable, fuel-efficient cars. Sounds like a no-brainer, but you can save thousands over the life of your car.

44. Avoid the mall. Temptation!

45. Master the 10-second rule. Consider your purchases. Is this a Need or a Want?

46. Rent out unused space in your home.

47. Create a visual reminder of your debt. Encourage yourself with a nice chart that shows how your debt keeps getting smaller.

48. Cancel magazine subscriptions. Man, I am bad at this. The magazines pile up unread. How about you?

49. Eat breakfast. Again, I’m the worst at this. Lunch rolls around, I’m starving, and that’s when you spend!

50. Swap babysitting with neighbors.

…and 50 more! Did you see any savings tips that spoke to you? Ones that you are already doing? Do they work? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!


MORE Money Saving Tips!

changeLet’s check back in with that helpful article at The Simple Dollar entitled “How to Save Money: 100 Great Tips to Get You Started.” They’re not all gems, and not all will apply to you, but you’re sure to find a few that hit you right in the pocketbook. Last time we hit the top 20, now it’s the next 20…with bonus dumb commentary!

21. Install CFLs or LEDs wherever it makes sense. Once I got over my resentment of the government cramming these down our throats, I actually saw savings!

22. Install a programmable thermostat. And make sure somebody knows how to use it. In our house, it’s my wife!

23. Buy quality appliances that will last. We bought a “floor model” washer and dryer, and saved a bunch!

24. Clean or change out your car’s air filter. That’s a thing?

25. Quit using credit cards.

26. Plan your meals around your grocery store’s flyer.

27. Do a price comparison – and find a cheaper grocery store. I won’t name names, but the cheapest store is also the one that drives me insane.

28. Make your own when you can. I’ve never made bread, but it looks like fun.

29. Avoid stress-spending. “Retail Therapy” can get out of hand!

30. Share your dreams with people you love. If you’re BOTH dreaming of that big vacation, it will be easier to achieve!

31. Do a “maintenance run” on your appliances.

32. Cancel unused club memberships.

33. Buy used when you can.

34. Keep your hands clean.

35. Remove your credit card numbers from your online accounts. “One-click” buying can get you in hot water.

36. Give the gift of labor.

37. Do holiday shopping right after the holidays. Yeah, you don’t want to come between my wife and the wrapping paper on Dec 26th!

38. Join up with a volunteer program.

39. Declutter to save your sanity and some cash.

40. Try generic brands of items you buy regularly. They’re not all created equal, but I have had great luck with generics.

…and 60 more! We might have to revisit this one at a future date.  Did you see any savings tips that spoke to you? Ones that you are already doing? Do they work? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Fixing Bad Credit

good bad creditThe old used car commercial goes…“Bad credit? Slow credit? No credit? NO PROBLEM!” But we know that’s not the case. Today, it’s YES problem, because it not only can it keep you from getting a loan, it can keep you from getting a job!

Money guy Clark Howard has some advice, in the form of “8 Ways to Rebound from a Credit Setback.” Here are the bullets…

  1. Be patient: it takes time
  2. Check your credit: you can do it for free
  3. Review and rework your budget
  4. Prioritize your payments: do the worst first
  5. Move fast if you are behind on payments
  6. Avoid the ‘quick fix’: are credit repair companies worth it?
  7. Ask for help: negotiate with your creditors
  8. Be persistent

If you’re in a bad or slow credit situation, you are not alone. It’s stressful. It’s embarrassing. But one way to get past that is to start doing the work to repair your situation! Be sure to read the whole piece, because there is much more info to get you ahead of being behind! And, have a great weekend!