The Envelope System Experiment: Balancing Our Budget

I'm moving towards budgeting with cash, known as the "envelope system." I've never used cash to pay for fluctuating expenses before, and I'm not used to having it around on a daily basis. I have used Mint.com in the past to track how much of our budget is still available for certain items throughout the month. Balance the Budget Duh! A no-brainer, I know. But you can't have a deficit budget when you're using cash. Aside from our fixed expenses, like our mortgage, student loan payments, mobile phones, Read more [...]
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Three Steps to Get Rid of A Huge Credit Card Balance

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I have written and re-written this article a handful of times, vacillating between admitting the problem and trying to hide it; making excuses and beating myself up. We use our credit cards a lot, which is fine — as long as we pay off the entire balance each month. Two months ago, we kept a $2,000 balance on one card. Last month, the balance bloomed to $10,000 and we only paid down about $1,500. As you can see, that balance has exploded to $17,000. $17,000 in three months. No need to beat Read more […]

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Free {or really cheap} Fathers’ Day Gifts from the Heart

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  Whenever someone asks my father what he wants for Christmas, he says “world peace.” Gee, thanks dad, for being so helpful. Do you have someone in your life like that? It’s hard to find the perfect gift because he or she wants nothing, has everything, or is very particular. One of these days, I’m going to get my dad whirled peas and see if that will suffice. In the meantime, What can I get a guy who wants nothing? When I am faced with this dilemma, I think of the spirit of the Read more […]

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4 Free Ways to Keep Cool This Summer

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  I lived in a desert when I was in the Peace Corps. A legitimate desert. With camels. A landscape in every shade of dust — as far as the eye could see. There were times during the summer when I would walk out of the house and see the air shimmer with the mid-day heat. But it was a dry heat. There wasn’t much of the latest technology in this desert. For a party, my host family would sometimes borrow a neighbor’s VCR so we could watch their sole video, Titanic. Dubbed. Even if Read more […]

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7 Tips for Getting the Best Price on Shades

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We have no shades on our windows. No curtains, either. I have been getting dressed in the hallway, where there are no windows, to protect the neighbors, and save a little dignity. We have some curtains, but I have been holding out for buying some nice cellular shades, which will save us some money on energy costs. I didn’t realize what a pain it would be to order shades. But here I am, two months after moving in, getting dressed in the hallway. Don’t take forever to learn how to get a great price, Read more […]

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6 Tools for Your Financial Safety Net

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After tumbling down the stairs with my infant in my arms, I was grateful for the financial safety nets we have installed in our lives — even if we didn’t have to use all of them. I feel pretty stupid for falling down the stairs, but as my dad always says, “that’s why they call it an accident.” I didn’t intend for it to happen, and I couldn’t have predicted or preventing it from happening. That is exactly why we should all have safety nets in place. As we take on more responsibilities in life, Read more […]

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May Financial Update: Feeling the Pinch of Home Ownership

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This past month has been wonderful emotionally and a bit stressful financially. When I walk out my door in the morning, I am assaulted by a cacophony of birds and the smell of a pine forest. It feels like I am on a camping trip and just got out of my tent in the morning. I think to myself, “time to build a camp fire.” I love our new house. I love our land. I love our community. I am very, very happy. I have a different feeling when I sit down to puzzle through our family ledger. There Read more […]

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The Cost of Outsourcing

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  We’re all busy, and I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning. I also am not a huge fan of raking and mowing the lawn. Come to think of it, I’d prefer to hire a plumber to fix our toilet and a handy person to help install a sump pump. Yet, I resist. Although I tell myself that it’s not a lot of money, and that I could be earning money during the time that I’m not cleaning the house, I still resist the temptation. But I have never actually crunched the numbers. How much does it Read more […]

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Our New Debt Profile: What Loan Should We Pay Off First?

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As you know, we started off our professional lives with over $200,000 in student loan debt. After almost 8 years of paying those down — sometimes with minimum payments and sometimes aggressively — we are down to about $177,000. Last month, we added a $517,500 mortgage to our debt profile. Because we borrowed just under 88% of the value of our house, we have to pay PMI. PMI, or mortgage insurance, is tacked on to mortgages for more than 80% of the appraised value of the house. Once the mortgage Read more […]

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What Would You Do With a Bonus?

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Commuting home the other night, the radio gave away $1,000 to the 25th caller. When I heard the announcement, I regretted that I was driving, because there was no way I could dial and drive at the same time. I really didn’t think my chances were very high anyway, so I wasn’t about to pull over to make the call. I got home and put dinner on the table, then waited for my boys to get home. They were late. When they arrived, Mr. Stapler told me that they stopped at Five Guys for a burger Read more […]