Jul 26, 2011

Getting Your Children to go to College (Carole)

William Elliott III, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Kansas recently published findings that "kids with a savings account in their own name are six times more likely to attend college than those without an account."

Dr. Elliott continued, "It's helping them to be thinking of college, to have it on their mind in a more concrete way than simply saying, 'I expect to go to college.  They've taken some actions, they've got a savings account, they're saving some money.  Positive expectations aren't quite enough."

Would these conclusions have been true for you or your children??

Jul 11, 2011

Free Slurpee Day today

Today is 7 - 11, so all 7 - Elevens are giving away free slurpees!  A nice summer treat.  Enjoy.

Jul 7, 2011

Dave Ramsey video about buying cars (Carole)

So, after a long winter's nap, here I am with a great video from Dave Ramsey on buying cars.  Hope you enjoy it and get a little bit of inspiration!

May 18, 2011

CSA (Janssen)

I've mentioned on my personal blog that I've signed up for a CSA this year (if you're not familiar with the CSA format, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and you pay an upfront cost to get a box of fresh (possibly organic, depending on the CSA) locally grown vegetables every week).

We subscribe to Johnson's Backyard Garden (which is an organic farm) and it costs $300 for ten weeks. We have some friends that we split it with (which also means we can split up the weekly pick-up), so it's $15 a week. It's a LOT of produce - we really have to work to get through it all.

Do I think it's worth it?

Depends on what your goal is. If it's to spend the least amount on food you possibly can, it's probably not worth it.

On the other hand, if you're trying to increase the amount of vegetables you eat, want to support local industry, and don't want to pay the really high sticker price for organic produce at the grocery store, this is a great way to go. For me, I've decided that it's worth a slightly higher price to eat better and put a fairly large percentage of my grocery budget into my local economy.

I feel like I've been able to keep our grocery bill fairly stable even with this addition, because I now plan my meals around our vegetables, rather than meat. Instead of vegetables being a side dish, they are part of practically everything we eat.

Plus, we've now eaten a ton of things I'd never tried before and very likely would never have purchased on my own (bok choy, rainbow chard, kale, escarole, fennel, etc). 

Anyone else do a CSA?

Apr 26, 2011

Are You Wealthy Yet? (Carole)

Recently I ran into an old friend.  I don't see her very often, but I hear about her through the grapevine from time to time.  She is a lovely person with a great family and many talents.  She and her husband are also quite wealthy.  They own at least two multi-million dollar homes (I think there's also a large cabin out there somewhere), they travel the world on a pretty regular basis and drive very nice cars.  But if you just met her at the grocery store, you would really never know they were loaded.  They don't talk about their possessions or travel and don't dress in an expensive way either.  They are just good people -- even their children are delightful, which I think is a quite an accomplishment when you have lots of money.

A few years ago, a mutual friend mentioned that this family earns about $3,000,000 per year.  I did the math and that works out to $250,000/month!  Of course, they lose probably half of that to the IRS, but still.  That's a lot of moo-la.   I find it interesting to see what people spend their money on.

If you had millions to spend, what would you do with it?  Would you be quietly generous?  Would you flash it around in certain ways?  Would you just buy stuff just because you could?  I hope I would be frugal still and be a good steward with what I had.  I know I would travel.  And I'd probably still watch for cheap fares and good deals at hotels.  In that vein, here is a interesting blog,  Help Me Travel Cheap, that I recently found that helps those of us who are still working for a living, travel the world without breaking the bank.  Being able to travel and experience new places, makes me feel like my life is wealthy.  Maybe you feel that way too.

Apr 20, 2011

Frugal versus Cheap (Janssen)

In my mind, the difference between frugal and cheap is this:

Frugal is saving money by limiting spending on yourself; cheap is saving money by limiting spending at the expense of someone else.

For instance, when my husband and I go out to dinner, we don't spend a lot of money. We usually get one entree and perhaps an appetizer to share. We are water drinkers and dessert is usually something I prefer to have at home (because my list of desserts to make is so long that if we have dessert when we go out to eat, I'll never ever make a dent in this list). So, generally our bill is fairly small. I would call this frugal.

But the tip? We always leave a good tip. My husband's standard is to leave (he claims that if the service is really bad, he'll do 15% or if it is truly terrible, 10%, but I have never once seen him do this). And if our meal was so inexpensive that even a 20% tip would be less than five dollars, we generally round up to at least that. Trying to save money on eating out by shortchanging the waiter seems cheap to me.

Plus, I like the idea that the waiter might assume it'll be a pathetic 7% tip or something because we obviously aren't big spenders and then opening up the bill to see that we did right by him.

I think of cheap as trying to get other people to pay for things that you should be responsible for or trying and save money at the expense of someone else.

I always want to live frugally, but I try hard not to be cheap.

Apr 8, 2011

Money and Marriage, Part 3 (Guest Post by Alisha)

Welcome back! This is my last post about how my husband, Neill, and I handle finances. I've already dished on the money situation when we dated and then when we moved in together and in this post I want to share with you how we are handling things now that we are married.

For Neill and I, being open and honest with each other about our finances and our financial goals is very important. So, we've been having lots of frank conversations about spending, saving, and goal setting. We try to be 100% transparent with one another and we've decided to take a big step that will help us with
this.

In my last post, I mentioned that we opened up a joint saving account a while ago that we've used in addition to each of our personal saving accounts. Now, however, having our individual accounts just doesn't seem to feel right anymore. Even though both of us have said that whatever we save individually is really for us, we want to make that thought a reality. So, we decided to totally revamp our organization.

With this new set-up neither one of us will keep a personal savings account. We'll only put money into our joint savings. This certainly wasn't something I would have wanted to do originally, but right now it makes the most sense for us.

We decided to keep a total of two joint savings accounts so that we can save money for different purposes. One is a Save for a Rainy Day Account. This is our six-month emergency fund that is not to be touched unless we have . . . an emergency. The second is a Save to Spend Account. This is where we can save for vacations or a new piece of furniture (like maybe that couch I mentioned in my last post!). The only catch? Our numbers aren't quite where we would like them to be. So, we've started a friendly-competition to get into savings gear. We each have a savings goal (different, to accommodate our salary difference) and the first person to reach their goal wins $500 dollars out of the Save to Spend account.

A bonus of merging our savings is that it motivated us to finally set up an emergency fund. Since Neill is still the primary wage earner in the family it is really important to me that we have an emergency fund set aside. We've always known where we might pull money from if we found ourselves in a dire situation, but this is the first time actually pulling the money, setting it aside all in one place, and taking a hard look at whether or not we have enough. I'm really excited about our new plan because I feel like we are a bajiliion steps closer to following through on our new years resolution to be financially secure.

As you’ve probably already gathered, I don't have any secrets to successfully negotiating finances in a relationship. But for us, communicating and being flexible seem to really help. Since we both keep an eye on our finances and discuss them pretty regularly we are able to realize when something isn't working. And, we aren't afraid to switch things up a bit. Who knows? Maybe in another year we'll decide to merge Finances can be a touchy subject to talk about and I think the uneasiness surrounding money-talk makes it extra difficult for couples. So, I thought I'd quiet that little voice in my head that says discussing money isn't appropriate and lay it all out there for everyone. I’d be lying if I said that it was easy! But, I had a good time writing these posts and I hope you've enjoyed reading them! Please do come over to Married in Chicago and say hello from time to time. I’d love to hear from you!

What are your thoughts on merging finances completely? Do you keep a private saving account? What
motivates you to save money?

Alisha is a 20-something newlywed pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology and blogs at Married in Chicago.