Posts available at our new domain

May 8, 2008

Perfectly Imperfect Family and Finances

We Have Moved

May 6, 2008

Hey everyone! We have moved to our new domain,PerfectlyImperfectFamilyandFinances, and will resume posting in the next couple of days. Stop by, shoot us an email and tell us what you think. Have a great day!

Frugal Fun With a Child

March 11, 2008

Tent 1

This was our frugal fun adventure for last weekend. We took a sheet, desk, and the existing balcony railing and made a tent. This was one of the ideas we had discussed in this article. The entire area took a whole ten minutes to set up, and provided countless hours of enjoyment. It was slept in every night, and was not took down till Monday.

Camp fire In this picture you see the “fire” that kept us warm throughout the weekend and provided the source of flame to roast our marshmallows and hot dogs! This was a great chance for our child to express creativity without any adult intervention. Everything was her creation.

Tent 2 Lastly, this is the area that was slept in.  It was simply a comforter folded in half and placed on top of the carpet.  Not the most comfortable set up, but when roughing it, sacrifices have to be made!

It is such a simple thing to do.  Mostly all that is required is time and a little creativity.  It gives the adults a chance to revisit their childhood as well.  I know from personal experience, it only takes a short while before the tent becomes something totally different.

It will be a castle under siege by the evil Lord Greedball;  it will be a submarine folding under the pressure of the tentacles of a giant squid;   a spaceship trying to plot a course that avoids destruction before hastily jumping to light speed;  a police car in pursuit of the bank robbers, and the possibilities are endless.  The thing we enjoy is encouraging imagination, actually leaning with each “turn” or collapsing with each wreck.

Have a great camping trip!

How Do You Define Success?

March 10, 2008

One of the things that became immediately obvious while trying to set our goals, was that we did not have a clear definition of what success meant to us.  Which is probably another reason we ended up in our financial fallout.  We had the usual culprits of fame and fortune raise their heads briefly, but was that really the way we wanted to define whether we are living a successful life?  Here are a few of the things to consider when creating your own definition of success.

What is the main objective to your life.  If it could be said that you accomplished one thing in your life, what would you have it be?  Personally, we do not think that “they made a lot of money” should be the main topic at our funerals.  If you did not have any bills, and loads of money, what would you wish to achieve in this life?

Money alone is not a worthy goal.  Most people who say they want a million dollars (or some other figure) in the bank before they can consider their life a success.  I have never heard of a case where money was the only destination.  More often than not, the desired result is something the person believes the money can provide.  Security, freedom,  conveniences, are usually the end result that is sought.

Be careful not to tie your success to a finite object or amount of money.  If you define your success as getting the newest Lamborghini  Diablo, one of two things could happen: (a)If you do not purchase the object or achieve the large bankroll in your lifetime, you may consider yourself a failure, or (b) Once you have the object, you will become complacent and think that you have “arrived.”

It is of some debate now, but this quote was at one time attributed to Emerson.  Regardless, the meaning is an awesome statement and a great way to define success:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

This is by far one of the best definitions of success I have ever heard.  Another great way to live a successful life: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your might.  To love your neighbor as you love yourself.  If we all lived that way, this would be a better world.

Finally, make sure that it is YOUR definition.  We are so bombarded by television and the media about how we should define success.  I look at these people (movie stars, singers, and so forth) and I feel sorry for them.  They have no privacy.  Many end up on drugs and alcohol.  Even though they “have it all,” many are never satisfied.  Be sure that you define what your life should be about.  Take the time to consider this carefully.  By defining what is truly wanted out of life, you may find that the eighty hours a week or more that you are working are doing nothing to get you closer to your idea of success.

Take a few minutes to think about your definition of success.  Are you currently getting closer?  Farther away?  What can you change to make your life a success as you define it? 

How Will You Offset the Rising Price of Flour?

February 27, 2008
Wheat
It has been in the news since December. Now it seems that it is going to trickle down to all of us. Estimates are that a price increase of up to thirty percent can be expected. Here is an excerpt from a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor:
“Why the increase? The prime ingredient in flour is wheat, which these days is acting more like oil – rising sharply on commodities exchanges. On Monday, the price of March spring wheat on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange shot up to $24 a bushel, the highest price ever. Within the past month, the price of some types of wheat has risen over 90 percent. Already, agricultural experts say, it’s getting hard to find the type of wheat used to make pasta, noodles, pizza, and bagels.”Supplies of some types of wheat will be extremely tight,” says economist William Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. “I don’t think we’ll see physical bread lines, but supplies will be just tight.””This leads to the question of how are we going to compensate for the extra price of these wheat based goods. One thing we are going to do is buy a 25lb. bag of flour now, before the price goes up again. This will usually last us around a couple of months for us (we bake a considerable amount of pizza and breakfast goods) if we pace ourselves.Another way to help with this increase in price is to look for ways to decrease your expenses in other grocery categories. One thing that we do is use a price list. Granted, doing this will take a little time and effort, but it will pay off. A fabulous resource that we have used extensively is a program on saving at the grocery store. I cannot begin to explain all the wonderful information we gleaned from this product. Nothing is left out, and the whole process of lowering your grocery expense is laid out step by step.

Once you have found ways to decrease the expense in other categories, that will obviously allow for an increase in your flour and wheat based products. If the price were to increase too drastically though, we will have no choice but to consider a change in diet. There are many programs (Adkins, South Beach, etc.) that sing the praises of a carbohydrate free meal, just are there are those that warn against high intakes of protein. Personally, I love my pastas and bread.

To read the rest of the article mentioned above, please click here.

How do you plan to deal with the increase in the price of wheat? Do you have bread with every meal?

Saving Money While doing Your Household Shopping

February 22, 2008
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One of the ways to save money while doing your shopping is to maintain a price list. This is something we learned about while looking for ways to save money after our fallout. It is simple to do, yet the savings can profoundly affect your budget. There are a couple different ways to go about the process, as always pick what you can use and leave the rest.

Take a notebook with you while shopping. This recommendation is that you jot down items that you normally buy along with their price as you do your shopping. We have also seen the suggestion that you shop at a different store each week for three weeks to compare your prices. If you live in a city where competition is level, this would be fine. However, where we live there can be a two dollar difference in a gallon of milk. It would not be feasible for us to shop there and blow our monthly budget in one trip.

Save your shopping receipts and make the list once you get home. It is alright to do this if you wish to do this every week for a while and shop at your three different stores. The only problem is that you are only going to have the items listed that you are using for your current menu.

Make a list of the items you need most, then go compare. This is the method we use. We sat down and made a list of the 56 items that we use most on a monthly basis, and then we went shopping. In our area we have a Kroger, Save-A-Lot, Wal-Mart, and an Aldi. We made our list before we left, looked for sale items that we could purchase from each place, and away we went. We were able to write down all our prices and do business with each store.

Our findings were different than we thought they would be. We were able to take around $70 off our monthly budget just by doing this to compare prices. Even though we are now shopping at three different stores, our trip only takes about an hour and a half every two weeks.

The same principle also works for household goods as well (toilet paper, shampoo, soap, carpet cleaner, etc.) Just make your list and compare.

By doing this you will have a good idea on what you are paying for items at several places, thus it will allow you to take advantage of sales more effectively. Have you ever bought something on “sale” only to find it cheaper at regular price elsewhere? We sure have. By knowing your average prices, when you see items that you use regularly you can stock up on them and help your budget even more.

How do you try to find the best deals? Do you keep a price list? What about coupons? Are they worth the trouble?

Selling on Ebay: One Way to Make Extra Money

February 22, 2008

Most, if not all of you, are familiar with Ebay. We have used Ebay several times to earn some extra money on items that were just laying around. Granted, we have not looked at it as full fledge business opportunity as some have (and done quite well), but we have made a few extra hundred dollars a year. Here are some of the tips and tricks we have came across and used.

  1. Do your market research. This is the most important step when considering to sell an item on Ebay. If you have a one of a kind thingamajig that was worth $75 the last time you had it appraised, and no one is looking to buy it, it will not do any good.
  2. Set an appropriate start price. Do not set a low price to encourage bids or have a lower insertion fee. If you have done your research, you will know how much your item has sold for in past auctions. By setting to low, you can risk losing money by the time you pay for packing material and all the fees associated with selling an item on Ebay.
  3. Take great photographs of your item. Create a picture gallery that belongs in the Louvre. To do this it is imperative that you have a good, solid background, and light from every angle. Even if you are selling an item that a stock photo is offered for, I would still recommend taking your own pictures. This way people actually see what they are getting.
  4. Choose your listings title carefully. Avoid things like “L@@K at this GR8T” deal (these actually exist). Keep your title accurate and to the point. Ask yourself how you would search for this item if you were looking for it. Again, your market research will show you how others have listed similar items.
  5. Try to end your auction on Sunday. Where people are usually home on the weekends, items that end on Sunday are more likely to sell, and sell at a higher premium.
  6. Be as descriptive as possible in your listing. Describe all your items features in as much detail as possible.

Here are some links to help you get started if you so choose:

What to sell on Ebay.

Ebay seller tools.

Register with Ebay.

Ebay pulse lets you know what is hot right now.

As we said, we are not generating any steady income from Ebay, nor has it made us wealthy, but we have made some extra money.  That always comes in handy.  Have a great day!

A Great Resource on Kiplinger.com

February 21, 2008

Hello everyone!!

I just saw this article on Kiplinger.com about savine money on almost everything.  Some good information on various categories.  Let me know what you think!

Save Money on Practically Everything.

This will fit well in the post series on saving money on expenses!  Have a great day!

Free Software that Makes My Life Easier Part 3: Odds and Ends

February 21, 2008
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This is the last post in this series for now. These applications and add-ons are in no particular category or order. Just a few of the programs and add-ons left after the previous two post.
Book Burro. This extension will recognize that you are shopping for books and give the prices for the same book from several different sites. I have saved as much as $12 on one book. Great tool for researching college books as well.
Audacity. This is a great free application that allows you to record and edit sound. Even if you are not a sound professional, this one can be fun to just tinker with.
Avery Design Pro. A handy tool if you do a lot of your own business printing. Has template and design from scratch options for most office needs. Business cards, labels, informative brochures,etc.
VLC Media Player. A great video player that plays most all video formats.
Claimwin anitvirus. A great free, open source virus scanner for your computer. It offers free updates,and a scheduling option among other options.
Turblister. This will of course only apply if you list items on Ebay regularly. It has a very user friendly interface with loads of options for editing and keeping up with your inventory.
Firefox Companion for Ebay. This is a great tool for both sellers and buyers on Ebay. It lets you keep track of all the items you are selling and watching within your browser.
Data Crow. This an awesome database application that is freeware. It is for those of us who have an extensive book, video, and music collection. It allows you to keep track of all these items by category, genre, and several other ways. You can also keep track of whom, if anybody, you have let borrow material as well as when they got it.
Celestia. If you are not a fan of astronomy, skip this one. This is one of the best celestial viewing programs out. It does not confine you to the surface of the earth, rather you can travel out into the heavens and actually circle planets and the like. Great for children who are enthralled by the solar system.
Since writing the first two post, we have been informed of other programs that people are using to simplify their lives, so as time permits we are going to install and review these programs, and once we have enough we shall post again on this topic.
If there are any free applications or add-ons that you use, feel free to leave a comment about them!

Start Your Savings 2: Your 401k or 403b plan.

February 20, 2008

In this series we are discussing various savings accounts and how to possibly fund them. To get the rest of the series click here, or subscribe to our RSS feed. The post will be delivered as soon as they are made available!

Freefoto.com

Lets take a few minutes and talk about your 401k or 403b retirement plan. If your employer does not offer one, take heart, you may change jobs in the future and work where one is offered. If you are very influential, you may convince your employer to offer one (encourage as many coworkers as possible.)

Taxes. We just completed our taxes the other day, so this is foremost in my mind. Your contributions to your 401k come out of pre-taxable income. Depending on your income level, this could place you in a lower tax bracket if your income is right on the line.

Employer match. Most employers will match a certain amount of your contributions. The amounts vary greatly, but it is usually x% of your contributions up to y% (example-they may match you 25% on the first 4% of your contribution). Regardless of the amount, this is free money. If you contribute nothing more, at least get the maximum amount that your employer will kick in.

Tax deferred growth. Again, I am going back to taxes. The contributions, and the earned interest/dividends (compounding is your friend), grow tax deferred. The 401k’s have investment options in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., but the capital gains and dividends are not taxable until withdrawn.

It is automatic. You can set this on auto-pilot and forget it. We found that if it was gone before we seen it, we did not miss it. I would review once a quarter, and only change after careful consideration. Avoid watching CNN and other news networks at all cost. They live on promoting fear and the gloom and doom of “the coming recession.” The facts are these: recession or not, the market has cycles. It will forever go up and down. Whether it be the tech bubble bursting, or the sub-prime market falling on its face, it will always be a roller coaster ride. The Dow Jones started in 1896 with an average of 40.94. It is now over 12,000. Yes, it has seen low periods, but it continues to grow over the long run. Which brings me to my next point.

Stay in for the long haul. Unless you plan on retiring in the next 10 years or so, do not stress over the ups and downs of the market. Just keep plugging along and ride it out.

As we have stated in our about page, we are not financial advisers or professionals. Your situation is unique, and you should consult a competent professional before making any decisions. We are only sharing our thoughts and what has worked for us.

Do you contribute to your 401k? How much does your employer match?


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