Million Dollar Club

Million Dollar Club

Keeping Up With Car Maintenance; Field Trip to Goodyear

 

Saturday I spent 2 hours of my day waiting on my car to get its checkup which included an oil change and tire rotation. I went in early (7:30 a.m.!!!!!) and as I was sitting in the lobby I began to mentally add up whatever car expense I could think of for just this year. New set of tires, maintenance on my transmission (you know that cost me a pretty penny!), registration, regular oil changes, even car washes-the list really goes on….

I don’t have an exact amount on what I invested in my car and I’m sure if I did, I might be tempted to weep! On the bright side, I just hit the 100k mark and my small fortune has kept my car in great shape! I’ve become slightly obsessed with bringing my car in for the slightest problem because being stranded on the road dealing with a preventative car repair issue really doesn’t appease to me! Like, I can’t imagine how people feel when they run out of gas on the highway. I would kick myself for not taking care of something as simple as keeping gas in the tank!

Thank goodness my total only came to $40 for the rotation and high mileage oil change. I had a $10 off coupon which made me happy (hey, it’s the small things in life!) J. As you know, car maintenance folks love to give you the additional problems they “found” while doing the simple oil change job and urge you to fix immediately. Surprisingly everything was found in satisfactory condition…no dire emergencies that needed to be fixed this trip. I was, however, reminded of my upcoming 105K preventative maintenance checkup which would include more than just the basic oil change and tire rotation. I guess keeping up with these little expenses helps me steer clear from the big expenses. For that, I am very grateful!

 

 

 

Weekly Shout-outs: Top Blog Posts I Read this Week

It’s Friday, it’s Friday, it’s the end of the week, it’s the WEEKEND!! Happy Friday everyone!!!!! Today is a day off from the job-o so I’m relaxing, enjoying the beginning of a 3 day weekend- woo-hoo!!!

Throughout the week I ventured to the sites of fellow bloggers and found some awesome material! With all the great information out there, I found 4 posts that really stuck out for me and I wanted to give those 4 bloggers a quick shout-out to show my thumbs up for a job well done :) .

  • Libby at Go Be Rich wrote a great article entitled “Keeping Up With My Classmates”. She describes a handful of her highschool classmates and how successful they were, and still are. For me, it’s difficult NOT to compare my skills and accomplishments to my peers. When I think I’m doing good, but see a peer doing slightly better, I push myself to raise the bar. Call it having a competitve nature, I don’t know. As I get older (or should I say, wiser!?), I’m getting a little better at not comparing my accomplishments with others. It ain’t always easy, though!!!
  • I was able to relate with Grayson at Debt Round Up who wrote “My Personal Debt Beginning” because his story is very similar to mine when it came to credit card debt! Grayson shares how he dug himself out of credit card debt by making a plan that worked for him! He advises something super simple and that’s to stop spending more than you earn (such a simple concept many just don’t get….makes you want to say “duh!”). I didn’t understand that concept myself until later on in my late 20′s (when I should’ve known better..grrr….). This was the first time I’ve read anything from Grayson and I plan to read much more!!
  • Budgets Are Sexy had a guest post from Brad entitled “Does Your Credit Score Matter If You Dont Do Debt?”. I loved this topic because it sparked some serious debate on whether a credit score is even needed! Brad did a great job giving us options on living without a credit score. I thnk he has the right idea on living with cash only where a score isn’t part of the equation. I’m not in the financial position yet to completely do away with the score…but I’m getting there!!!!!
  • Last but not least, Lance at Money Life and More wrote “Interview with Myself: Retirement Is Possible”. I liked the fact that he put a positive spin to his outlook on his retirement plan. The media loves to take a negative spin to things and tells us the average American is not even close to being prepared to retire. Lance says he’s not part of the average club and will be ready to retire when it comes time. His saving technique is awesome… I suggest you check him out!

Thatttt’s All Folks! A huge shout out to my top 4 picks for doing a “bomb-dot-com” job on great posts. I’m always looking for great articles so if you see something you find beneficial, share the wealth and let me know!

Happy Friday!

 

 

Starbucks Gift Card Made of Steel: Limited Collection


Word on the street (and in the news) is Starbucks is rolling out a bonafide steel gift card for a whopping $450 (Check out the article from USA Today HERE)! There’s $400 on the card and the other $50 comes from making this card of steel. If you have the urge to get this once in a lifetime gift card, you better hurry up because Starbucks is only making 5,000 worldwide! To top it off, you can’t even buy the card on the Starbucks website. No, no, no…there’s a special website that the company deemed appropriate enough to sell these special cards (gilt.com).

I’ll be the first one to admit; when I FIRST heard about the special card, I really wanted it! I’m a HUGE Starbucks fan and initially thought this would give me some sort of exclusivity with great benefits and special treats. After reading more about the card and its benefits, I realized it’s more for show and less for the benefits. The perks that they offer are also offered through their basic membership (which is free!).

The thrill quickly wore off. I totally get the need to have something most others don’t (hey, everyone has their thing!). It feeds the ego on so many levels. But when it comes to coffee, I’m just trying to get a good deal. I wouldn’t think anyone in a Starbucks line would care about my form of payment. They’re probably not even fully awake which is why they’re at Starbucks!!

This card sounds pretty exciting and Starbucks is doing a decent job at keeping it to the exclusive few. As much as I like Starbucks, I don’t see myself investing $450 in it. When you think about it, $400 worth of coffee is a lot of money (and a lot of coffee!!). There’s certainly better ways for me to spend my money, like putting it towards my tuition!!

So what do you think about the limited edition of the Starbucks gift card? Would you buy it or do you know someone who would?

Photo By: Cherrysweetdeal

 

Christmas Spending and My Budget

Tis the season to be jolly and to spend LOTS of money! This is the time of the year where it’s easy to put that budget on the back burner because hey, it’s the holidays! After all, budgets and careful spending can wait until the New Year, right? According to the gallup polls, this year people intend to spend an average of $770 on Christmas gifts! We are certainly seeing an upswing in our spending habits, especially since in 2009 the average spending on Christmas gifts was only $616!

No doubt I know there are some out there who are great planners and have saved for the extra spending for the Christmas season. I also know there are some out there who will spend money they may regret when they get that credit card bill in January. Hey, no judgment over here!!

As I mentioned in “My December Budget”, this month I added the extra expense for Christmas in my budget. I’ve calculated $125 cash and $50 in gift certificates (1 from Macy’s and 1 from American Express). That’s $175 total for 4 people (2 kids and 2 adults). My budget isn’t extremely tight BUT there’s something special I want to do for 1 of the adults that may take a bulk of my budget (it’s for the bf!).

Once I got my budget in place, I began to think about what exactly I was going to give as gifts. The kids are pretty easy- they’re boys so action figures are definitely on the list (and clothes). The one adult is pretty easy as well…I may re-gift the American Express card. For the bf I’m trying to come up with something special and creativity but budget friendly. I have 1 idea, but I’m searching for others just in case there’s something better.

There you have it, my Christmas budget. Today Macy’s is having one of their many One Day sales (get $10 off a $30 purchase coupon. Click HERE!) I may take advantage of to knock out the clothing part of my gift giving.

How are you managing your Christmas spending? How much do you intend to spend?

Photo By: Free Digital Photos

Becoming a Certified Financial Planner: I Found My New Program!

It’s taken me some time but I’ve finally found the program I will go through to become a CFP. One of the requirements to sit for the exam is to go through 7 courses that cover important topics (like insurance and estate planning). I attempted to take these courses online thinking it would be the most convenient option with my work schedule. Doing that made me realize I’m a hands-on person and need the atmosphere of a classroom and others around me to learn best.

So after doing my research, I decided to go through the University of Georgia CFP program. The decision makers for me were the class schedule and the length of the program. Instead of meeting every week for 3 hours like most of the programs, UGA meets every other week. Also, the program runs for 12 months as opposed to 18 as I saw with the others.

The price and quality of the staff seemed to be about the same among the programs I was looking at. UGA has an early bird special to pay the tuition in full by the beginning of February. In total the cost of the program normally is $4,950 which doesn’t include books. The early bird special drops the price to $4,350. There’s also a pay as you go program where you pay $925/class. $925/class for 7 classes is $6,475- over $2K more than if I did the early bird special! Not a good option.

For the next 3 months I’m going to save a bit more so I can take advantage of the early bird special. With my additional savings and my current stash, I should be good to go.

I pretty excited about getting into the program and taking my financial knowledge to the next level. Have you thought about going back to school? What would you study?

My December Budget

Wow! Where is the time going?? Another month gone…only 1 more left for the year 2012! Tomorrow is the 1st of the month so that means it’s time to put together the monthly budget. There are a few changes I had to make to include Christmas expenses. This month I’m going to start saving a little more for my financial planning courses that start March 5th. Also, my take home pay is decreasing a little because my job is going to start taking out my insurance premiums. I started a new job and I’ve just hit the 90 day mark.

I’ve been thinking about my budget for this upcoming month for the past few days because of the additional Christmas expense and saving to pay for classes. My biggest challenge was balancing everything! It was tough but I finally ironed out my financial plan for the month.

  • 72%- household expenses
  • 10%- paying for financial planning courses
  • 5%- giving
  • 13%- Christmas/additional spending

If you compare my November budget and this month’s you’ll see I took out retirement (5%) and debt payoff (5%). I decided to put a hold on both categories for the next 3 months so that I can pay for the courses in cash. I hate not contributing to my IRA, but for 3 months I guess it’ll be fine.

One of my goals for November was to find ways to decrease my household expenses by 4%. I honestly didn’t think it would be that difficult to find areas I could reduce or eliminate, but I was wrong! I did manage to decrease my car insurance by roughly $30/month. I also shaved off some excess spending in fuel cost and groceries. In the end I was able to decrease my household expenses by 2% this month. I didn’t hit my goal, but I’m happy I decreased and didn’t increase!

My additional spending went up 2% over last month to take care of my Christmas expenses. This year I really want a tree, so that’s something I kept in mind.

For December I would like to see if I can decrease my household expenses by at least 1%. Last month I was pretty ambitious with my goal. I’m hoping with such a low goal number I can be a bit more successful at achieving it.

It’s Christmas time! I know there are some people who budget for Christmas throughout the year (smart!). How do you budget for Christmas?

 

How Tracking Devices Are Helping Car Insurance Holders Reduce Premiums

Guest Post By: Susan Wells

 

Lowering premiums is often a top priority for policy holders looking to save money while still having the benefits of insurance. Some car insurance companies are trying to help customers achieve just that with some innovative new technology meant to help people maintain their vehicle according to their policy’s stipulations.

But there’s a catch: this technology promoted by some car insurance companies is tantamount to a spy movie-like monitoring device installed in a customer’s vehicle. The question is whether or not customers will allow themselves to be tracked in exchange for lower premiums.

A recent article from USA Today detailed this new movement by car insurance companies to incorporate tracking software into a lower-premium plan. According to the article, it seems like the primary usage for such technology is parents who want to keep tabs on unruly teenagers who are just starting to drive on their own. Everyone knows that insurance companies have higher rates for teens who drive simply because they tend to be riskier behind the wheel than veteran drivers. It appears that this tracking technology is one way that car insurance companies are trying to cut families a break.

One of the pioneering companies for this technology is Traveler’s. They offer a feature called IntelliDrive that essentially works as a tracking system for a customer’s vehicle. The device collects data about where the vehicle has been driven, at what times it’s been driven, and even the speed at which it’s been driven. The data is readily viewable for drivers, and it also helps car insurance companies make sure that people meet the mileage standards of their policies.

The feature also doubles as a helpful device for parents who want to keep tabs on their kids. Parents can view the GPS data from these devices to make sure that teens behind the wheel were responsible while driving. Parents can view their kids’ speeding patterns, itinerary, and other helpful data through IntelliDrive. And what’s more, they can significantly reduce their kids’ driving insurance premiums for doing so.

Of course not everyone will be willing to submit so much information to insurance companies (or to monitor their kids so closely) in exchange for lower rates. Some may say that this tracking technology is a step too far in monitoring a person’s driving history. The idea of recording every single mile driven might turn away teens who would otherwise want to drive, or it might turn off adults who want lower premiums but not at the loss of their privacy.

In any case, Traveler’s program is still its infancy—and it’s only available in a handful of states. It remains to be seen if customers will increasingly support tracking technology in their cars in exchange for better prices on their policies.

What’s your take on this tracking technology? Would you let insurance companies know your driving habits if it cost less money to have a policy? I’d love to hear from readers about this!

Message from Victoria: I’m all about saving money but I don’t know about having my insurance company track my driving habits. Thanks Susan for the great information…defiintely something to think about and consider!

Susan Wells is a former insurance agent turned blogger trying to help consumers get the best deals on their home, auto, and health insurance policies. Feel free to send any comments her way!

 

 

My “Bad” Spending Habits

 

The other day I was talking with a coworker about his Black Friday shopping. He told me he stood in line early in the morning for a pair of new Jordans (sneakers!). I joked around with him about his must haves in life, including standing in line, in the cold, early in the morning for a pair of sneakers. I couldn’t laugh too much or too hard at him without laughing at myself as well. As much as I love saving more and spending less, there are some “bad” spending habits I haven’t broken…and have no plan on ever doing so!

My coworkers “vice” is clearly sneakers and gadgets. I know there are people who are Team Apple and will buy only Apple products. Most people have a “thing” they love and will spend a considerable amount of money for. Even the frugal folks have something they would spend a little more than normal because it’s their “thing”.

It really didn’t take me long to make a list of my vices. I would say the #1 item on my list is my hair expense. Call it a bad spending habit; I’ve had it for over 4 years. I may not have many personal expenses, but hair is definitely always a part of the budget!

Another thing I would say is a “vice” but not as frequent as the hair, is my shoe shopping fettish. I’m a girl and love cute shoes! Color and heel is always best! I know my love for shoes can get out of hand so I’ve put a pretty good limit on myself for shoe buying. I go shopping with a plan and with cash! Otherwise I’ll walk out with 3 new pairs of shoes paid with money I really don’t have.

The last things I would list as my “thing” are sunglasses. I’m a bit particular when it comes to buying sunglasses. I think most of why I’m so particular stems from me being an assistant manager of a Sunglass Hut while I was in college. I learned a lot about sunglasses including lens quality, frames, and brand. This is another category I don’t divulge in on a regular basis, but when I do, I do it all the way. The great thing is I really have no need to always buy a pair of sunglasses because I hold onto the ones I already have. Great brands with great quality bring longevity.

About 3 years ago I forgot I had a pair of Ray Bans in my pocket and ended up washing the glasses in the washer. I didn’t realize what happened until I took out my clothes and saw my glasses in there with the lenses out. I popped the lenses back in, and was good to go. I smelled like Gain laundry detergent for about 2 weeks but to this day I still have those Ray Bans. I guess you get what you pay for, right?

So, what are your “bad” spending habits or your vice? Do you have just one thing or do you have multiple “things”?

Black Friday sale Results are in!

 

The Black Friday sale results ARE IN! Wall Street Journal gave us the good news in today’s paper stating sales increased over last year’s sales. With that being said, WSJ also stated though sales increased over last year; the percentage was not as high as it was last year from the previous year. Stores are reporting a high increase in online shopping- and for the first time it looks like more people are actually choosing to shop online than go to the stores!

This year I didn’t participate in the Black Friday shopping craze as much as I thought I would. I went into one store to pick up a few products and the only reason why I went there that day was because I had a coupon. I could tell something was different this year because I was able to get a pretty good parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. Usually that is unheard of! At first I thought sales would take a nosedive for retailers, but after reading the WSJ article, I guess people are just shopping online.

Another thing I found this year was that sales were not as exciting as I’ve seen before. Outside of electronics, I thought retailers were skimping on discounting merchandise. I have some friends who work at Macy’s and they admitted sales were better on Macy’s One Day Sale which they have at least once a month. They told me even some of the customers made comments about the so-so discount on Friday.

With stores opening earlier (as early as 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day!), I’m wondering if stores are decreasing their discounts in order to compensate for the extra hours opened. According to WSJ, stores who opened earlier commented that they saw an overall increase in foot traffic and consumers stayed longer and bought more. This is all pretty good news…however…

…stores aren’t too optimistic about sales now through Christmas. I guess people are just getting smarter about the way they shop. Doing more research and finding where they can get the best deals. Retailers are giving out coupons and shoppers are taking more advantage of them. Tough economic times have made the consumer just a hairline wiser about the way they spend their money.

Personally I’m leaning more towards online shopping as well. Outside of clothing and shoes (I have to try things on!!) I’m all for doing all of my shopping from the World Wide Web. Less hassle, no lines, and for the most part- free shipping! Shopping without the work!

Did you go to the stores Black Friday or did you shop online? Did you get a good deal?

Photo By: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

 

Should You Rent or Buy?

Guest Post by Stevie Clapton:

Message from Victoria- I’m always interested in people’s perspective on whether to rent or buy a home. Everyone has their ideas on what makes sense financially. Stevie does a great job of  giving us the advantages and disadvantages of each. Read on and decide for yourself what’s in the best interest of you, your family, and your finances.

Deciding whether you should rent or buy is not always an easy decision. There are numerous benefits to either option, but for the majority of people, one side usually outweighs the other. Below, you will find a comprehensive analysis on both buying and renting. This should help you come to terms with the advantages of both, so that you can decide what’s best for you and your family.

Buying allows you to resell and make your investment back

The most prominent advantage to buying a home, rather than renting, is that you can sell the property one day to make your investment back. When you rent, your monthly payments are going toward paying someone else’s mortgage, not your own. Buying definitely has its advantages in terms of finances. Not to mention, rent prices are rather high because of the recent economic decline in real estate. At the moment, people are scared to buy and that means a lot of people are going back to renting. For landlords, this is good news because when demand goes up, prices do too. Buying allows you to pay your mortgage slowly but surely. When it comes time to move, you can sell and potentially even make profit. If real estate has gone up or you renovated the property to make it more desirable for a potential buyer, there’s a good chance you will actually make money off your home, rather than just breaking even.

Buying allows you to customize and renovate the home

Another advantage to buying your own home is that you can make changes to it. The property is completely yours and that means you can tear down walls to create an open floor plan, paint the house to a color you will enjoy, or install a new roof to ensure your family is well sheltered. The possibilities are endless when you own a home and it’s something that is difficult to pass up. When you’re renting, you are often restricted to what the landlord will allow. This can really hold you back and it doesn’t allow you to express your creativity. Not to mention, having the ability to renovate a property that you own means that you can increase its value and raise capital toward buying a nicer place.

Renting is hassle free and less worry

A significant advantage to renting is that its hassle free. Owning a home can be a lot of responsibility. Getting tied down to a mortgage may not be something you’re looking for. If you like the idea of renting instead of buying because it’s less worry, then you’re probably at a point in your life where renting would be the better choice. Often times, young homeowners get in over their head and commit to a mortgage that they just can’t afford. It’s important to protect your financial stability and not let this happen to you. Be sure to review your finances and be well aware of your capabilities before you sign the papers on a mortgage. Don’t be afraid to rent if you feel like it would be safer for you.

Renting allows you to leave without having to sell

A lot of renters appreciate the fact that they can leave the property without having to sell. When you own a home, you can’t relocate unless you sell your current home. Unfortunately, selling a home is not an easy thing to do, especially with the current condition of the real estate market. If you’d like to be able to pick up and leave without having to worry about selling, then renting is a much better option for you.

Author Bio: This article was written by Stevie Clapton of Obares a website that offers information about quick loans and other finance issues.