Thursday, May 11, 2006

7 Things Moms Should Carry At All Times

from 2.1.06 issue of Woman's Day magazine

Here's everything you need:

Remember MacGyver, the '80s TV action-adventure hero who saved the day with ordinary household objects? Adopt his strategies and become a Save-the-Day Mom. Here's everything you need:

1. Vaseline (1.75-oz tub)
It's an instant lipgloss and moisturizer, and it also soothes sunburn or diaper rash, shines shoes, removes adhesive bandages painlessly and helps stuck zippers glide smoothly.

2. Aerosol hairspray
Ozone hazard or not, it'll halt a run in pantyhose, remove ink stains, laminate kids' artwork, double as craft glue and exterminate the bumblebee that refuses to fly out of your minivan.

3. Duct tape (Duck Tape's three-yard flat pack)
You're at a friend's house and there's not a childproof lock in sight. Whip out a roll and in no time you'll be relaxing over coffee. Long wait at the pediatrician's office? Grab a Sharpie, mark a dotted line down the center and stick it to the floor: instant Matchbox car highway.

4. WD-40 (trial size)
Squeaky stroller wheel driving you nuts? Stuck with a shopping cart that has a bum wheel? One squirt and you're set for the Tour de France. It also removes chewing gum from hair, crayon marks from walls and stickers from just about any surface.

5. Balloons
Bump, bruise or broken bone? Fill one with cold water for an instant cold pack. Bored kids? You have what you need for an impromptu soccer or volleyball game—or a science lesson on static electricity.

6. Cordless curling iron
Give your hair a quick curl in the parking lot, or crank up the car radio and use as a makeshift microphone to belt out the latest Sheryl Crow tune. Just turn it off first so you don't burn your lip.

7. A great book
It'll make the countless hours you spend waiting for baseball, gymnastics and band practice to end fly by. Bonus points if it makes you laugh (burns calories) or cry (relieves stress). Points deducted if the book has pictures or is on the children's bestseller list.

by Deborah Carpenter, a MacGyver Mom with a 2- and a 4-year-old

Monday, March 13, 2006

eBay auctions are over

I netted a little over $50 for 9 items. Not bad for an hour's worth of work. Several of the items I sold were either gifts or found items that I did not spend anything on. So everything I made from selling them is pure profit. Regardless, that is $50 more to send to the MasterCard.

I have not had any more success with the books on so I am taking Boston Gal's advice and I am going to put them into lots and list them on eBay. Now that we are facing another move, I plan to attack the office this week and weed through my books once again.

I also have some items that I had bought in quantity to use as Christmas gifts but did not so those will be listed as well.

Another resource that my family is fond of is Craigslist. There are things that it is easier to sell on Craigslist than eBay. Things like clothing. Seems like, no matter how often I go through my kids' closets, there are always clothes they are growing out of. Rather than try to list each item individually on eBay, I plan to group them in like-sizes and list the lots on Craigslist. I also have a lot of Peek-A-Blocks that would cost a fortune to ship so it makes more sense to list them on Craigslist.

Like I said, we are still facing this move. And it is going to set us back a bit, financially. We have to have the carpets in our current house professionally steam-cleaned. And we will be moving ourselves (hopefully with the help of friends) which means renting at least a trailer, if not a truck. And, because we are doing this ourselves, I think we're going to have to overlap in terms of rent - pay for rent here AND at the new house - to allow enough time to get everything moved and meet the landlord's expecations for move-out (and get our security deposit back!). I am still seriously irked by all of this. But being mad isn't going to do me any good so I guess I should let it go.

Time to go scout out the office and see if I can come up with anything else to eBay!

Every little bit helps!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

eBay is my friend!

I finally got around to listing all of the auctions I've been meaning to list for the past month or so. Twelve in all. In addition to the books I have up on I've already sold 2 books - one was the most expensive book I had listed and that went for over $50. Woohoo!

We have had a kink thrown in our plans. Right now I'm not sure how it is all going to shake out. The owner of the house we are currently renting has decided to move back in. So we are now on the hunt for a new house, preferably in the same area (don't want to have to have the kids switch schools). This could be a blessing in disguise - I have a line on a house that is just a few blocks from here and is the same size if not bigger than our current house. BUT it's currently being rented for significantly LESS than what we are paying right now. It will be available in early summer and if the rent stays low, that will enable us to put even MORE money toward paying off our debts!

If that house doesn't work out, our budget can handle paying up to $400 more than what are paying right now for rent but I would really hate to do that as it would definitely put a dent in our debt-erasing abilities. We'll see!

Every little bit counts!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

We read a lot. A LOT. I've become pretty good about using the library more than Barnes and Noble to get books to read but we still have quite the plethora of books around here. So today, I rounded up boxfulls of them and started listing them on I have 20 books listed as of now and if they all sell, that will be about $200 in my pocket.

Works for me.

I haven't started to list all of the kids' books that I've weeded out. That's a whole 'nother box.

I also have more stuff to put up on eBay - mostly toys but also some jewelry and household items that need to go. This wasn't a good month in terms of sticking to the plan of not spending and throwing every last cent at the credit cards. But we're working on it.

Every little bit counts.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What's in YOUR Wallet?

Several other financial blogs have participated in the "meme" going around that asks what is in your wallet. I have nothing better to do at the moment so I'll jump in as well.

My wallet is really a wallet/purse combo - kind of a big wallet on a string. It holds *just* enough...

- drivers license and donor card
- TRICARE and United Concordia cards for myself and both kids
- voter registration card
- USAA debit card
- USAA mastercard (though I have resolved to stop carrying it next month)
- Costco card (lowest gas prices around!)
- USAA contact card - all the phone numbers I might need including claims, roadside assistance, etc.
- CDC access cards so I can take the kids to daycare
- Hallmark club card
- Ben Franklin card
- club card for portraits for the kids
- gift cards for : Starbucks, JC Penney, Wal-Mart, and Target
- Borders card
- pictures of family and friends
- chapstick
- business cards (yay Vista Print!)
- pen and index cards for notes and such
- power of attorney (a must in military life)
- gum

That's about it. Not all that exciting. Feel free to participate by leaving a list in the comments section.

The one thing that I found interesting was the fact that several of the blogs that I saw this list on carried several credit cards. I'm a HUGE fan of Dave Ramsey and I truly believe that credit cards are EVIL so it's somewhat shocking to see those who are considered to be financial experts (or at least relatively knowledgeable) carrying them. To each, their own.

Every little bit helps.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rate yourself using debt-to-income ratio

Rate Yourself Using Debt-to-Income Ratio

Interesting article.

Typically, they like to limit your housing expenses to 28 percent of your gross income, and your total debt payments to no more than 36 percent of your income.

Ok, let's see where we sit right now.

To figure out if you're within that range, add up what you spend in a month on your mortgage, home insurance and real estate taxes, and divide that figure by your monthly gross income. Your answer should be under .28.

rent $2,000
renter's insurance $25

monthly income $6,700

$2,025/$6,200 = .3022

Hmm...I can't say there is a lot we can do here. The DoD sets BAH (housing allowance) rates and the landlords/property owners set the rents. I guess, technically, we could live in a smaller place but that is not realistic.

Go back and add in your car payment, credit card payments and other debt payments to the first total, and divide again by your monthly gross salary. The answer should be under .36.

$2,025 (from above) +
car payment $0
credit card payments (minimums) $225
student loans $350

total = $2,600

$2,600/$6,700 = .388

Not as bad as I had thought. Not great but not bad. Once we get the credit cards paid off, that will take us down to .35 which is better. Not having a car payment is a tremendous help. Cna't do too much about the rent (we could live in a smaller house but that is not worth the savings we would realize). And once the credit cards are paid off (and CUT UP), we can start attacking the student loans. I'm not in AS BIG of a hurry to pay those off but I'm still going to do it as fast as possible.

-- Savings. Farrell suggests that everyone, at every age, should save 12 percent of their income every year. In his charts and calculations, that figure doesn't change. But the amount of savings accumulated, relative to household income, does change. He expects a 30-year-old to have 10 percent of their income amassed in savings, including retirement savings and other household savings. By age 35, that should be 90 percent.

I'm assuming he's also including retirement savings (i.e. IRAs, Roth IRAs, and other retirement savings vehicles) in this. Because I worked as a teacher in California, I did not pay into social security while I worked. Instead, we paid into a PERS plan - a public employees retirement system - and once I left the state of California, that money was mine to rollover into other investment vehicles. And I have. that money was rolled over about 5 years ago and has been doing quite well. I would say that, using the author's guidelines, we are on track in that department. While we focus on knocking out our debt, we have suspended contributions to any retirement funds but will resume once we are debt free. Didn't make sense to accrue 12% interest while we were paying 10% interest on our credit cards.

I've seen these numbers before, many times. But it's a good idea to revisit this topic every once in a while to get an idea where you stand, financially.

Every little bit helps.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

10 Steps for Financial Independence

from "Financial Success Requires Saving, Spending Discipline," by Jonathan Clements, The Wall Street Journal, May 5, 1998.


1. Sign up for your employer's retirement plan. (make savings a habit)
2. Pay off your credit cards. (leave your cards at home and stick to cash)
3. Set up an automatic investment plan. (dollar cost averaging)
4. Make a ritual sacrifice.
5. Organize yourself.
6. Invest all financial windfalls.
7. Round up your mortgage check.
8. Manage your cash for maximum return. (don't leave extra cash in a savings or checking account)
9. Act your tax bracket. (or, better yet, act BELOW your tax bracket)
10. Invest for the long haul. (five years)

Hobnob Blog's tips:
Spend less than you earn. We do now.

Pay off your credit cards in full every month. Once we pay off the debt we have accumulated thus far, we will not even use credit cards unless it is a dire emergency and we have exhausted every other resource.

If you use a credit card, use it like cash and get a no-annual-fee-cash-rebate card. See above.

Save at least 20% of everything you make, starting with the first dollar you earn. This is wonderful advice and I plan to teach my children this and make this a household rule.

Buy used cars. We do.

Buy the cheapest house in the most expensive neighborhood you can afford. When the time comes, we will.

Take full advantage of your employer's retirement plan and medical-spending and dependent-care reimbursement accounts. Ah, if only the military had these...

Don't borrow against your retirement savings or withdraw from them until you retire. Never have, never will.

Invest for the long term, in index mutual funds and in companies that have a history of increasing earnings.We have some wonderful mutual funds that I rolled my PERS plans into when I quit teaching. They are well-balanced and we will resume contributions as soon as we are debt-free.

Every little bit counts.