Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Money Dare - Use Coupons

Today is March 1st, 2009.

A few weeks ago my wife Mickey and I watched the movie "Fireproof". My first impression of the movie was that it seemed a half step off. A little like those after school specials I remember as a kid...thrown together quickly, cheaply produced, poorly acted, melodramatic and a little too preachy. I remember feeling very cynical after watching the movie especially when I saw an advertisement just before the credits rolled for book called "The Love Dare". As I saw it then the main objective of the movie was to sell a book; if a few marriages get saved or a couple more people show up in church next Sunday....well that's a bonus. Since then we have had several conversations about the movie and she has pretty much "dared" me to buy the book. I consider myself a very considerate person but I do agree that I tend to fall into a rut like a lot of people and sometimes take things for granted.

The first nice thing I remember Kirk Cameron trying to do for his wife was to make her coffee one morning. (I make our coffee most mornings so I figure I already have a head start on most people). Anyway, this morning as I was pouring the water an idea came to me....since money is at the root of so many marital problems and financial hardship is at the forefront of every ones mind right now why not start the "The Money Dare".

So here we go, for the next forty days I will post something new about our financial situation as well as a new money saving tip to try for yourself. First a little background...

I will be 38 years old on Wednesday and my wife Mickey is 39. We both work, Mickey as a full time Skill Builder for a local non-profit and part time as a hair dresser out of our home. I work for a small payroll company and wear many hats (programmer, sales, customer support) and work about 45 hours a week and occasionally on Saturday's. She has two daughters (17 and 21) from previous relationships one of whom lives with us. I have no children of my own. We both would like more children and since it is too late to try for a pregnancy we are looking into foster care and/or adoption.

We have known each other for about two and half years and got married in July of last year. Before meeting Mickey I was working over 60 hours per week but still struggling to keep my head above water financially. A couple of years ago I cashed out about $12,000 of my employer sponsored IRA in order to pay off my credit cards. At the time it was the best thing I could have ever done but I still owe roughly $6,000 in unsecured debt. Mickey was recently divorced when I met her. She was working two jobs, trying to go back to college and raise her 15 year old daughter at the same time. She was struggling, but making ends meet.

Presently our household gross income is well above the local average. However, I am embarrassed to tell you that as of today we only have about $200 between the two of us in our checking accounts. For the past two years it seems as though we will never get "caught up" on our bills. Now I am not crying poverty but it would be nice to not have to worry about paying overdraft fees before next weeks paychecks come in.

Today we need to get groceries. So my first "Money Dare" challenge is to use coupons. Before we go to the grocery store today I will get the local Sunday paper and cut out coupons for items we will need and use in the coming week. Tomorrow I will let you know how much I spent and saved. Until then it's time to join Mickey for a nap.

The Money Dare

One of the biggest challenges facing married couples is Money. So in the spirit of "The Love Dare" book I have launched a new website called The Money Dare

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Buy a Wii

So you want to know where to buy a Wii?

My wife and I had been looking to for a Nintendo Wii to buy for our daughter (and ok myself) for Christmas. In early November we kept looking at our local K-mart and Walmart and neither of them would had any in stock, until Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

We saw the K-mart ad Wednesday night and decided to go to K-Mart on Thanksgiving morning because they were going to have Wii's on sale for $249. We got there about 5:00 am were the first in line, bought our Wii and went home to take a nap.

Buy Personal Budget Software

How can your money work for you? -- You Need A Budget.

Given the recent downturn in the economy everyone needs to reevaluate their spending habits. The New Year is coming soon and there is no better time to put your family on a budget.

I have used several personal budget software packages over the years (MS Money, Quicken, GNU Cash) all of them are pretty good at keeping track of your checking account and telling you where your money went, but none of them really help you plan your family budget or help you try to save money.

So for this years resolution I am making another attempt budgeting and this time I decided to try a different personal budget software package called You Need A Budget. It it based on four rules.

1. Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck.
2. Give Every Dollar a Job.
3. Prepare For Rain.
4. Roll With The Punches.

They have plenty of testimonials from people that have claimed to have turned their lives around with the help of this software. Understanding how to plan and implement your family budget doesn't have to take a lot of time or effort. Mostly it takes discipline. Hopefully this software is just what we need because if anyone needs a budget...we need a budget.

How can your money work for you? -- You Need A Budget.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Get Rural Internet High Speed Broadband Access

I work for a small payroll service bureau. Our office located in the rural part of Western New York up on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Even though most of the local towns do have broadband internet access using cable and DSL services we do not because we are located 10 miles from the nearest town. Getting rural broadband internet access is very difficult in our area.

Over the years we have tried many different ways of connecting to the internet. First we had Compuserve, then dial up using a local ISP, next we tried satellite services from Hughes and Wildblue. Obviously the dial up connections were pretty bad even by dial up standards. Our phone lines are not the greatest so the best we were ever able to connect was between 28k and 56k.

Until recently we've been using DirecPc from Hughes which works ok for downloads but the latency of a satellite connection makes browsing and things like FTP and Telnet painfully slow. A couple of years ago we bought an air card from Verizon Wireless to use on my laptop when I travelled. This worked great even when I was on the road in my car.

Finally Verizon upgraded their wireless broadband internet service in our area. The cell signal near our office is excellent, so I decided to try to install the air card on our network. So I bought a Linksys Wireless-G Router For Mobile Broadband.

I had to upgrade to a new aircard from Verizon because our old one was not compatible with the router. I also had to upgrade the firmware on the router. After these two upgrades the connection works better then I thought it would.

If you are one of the millions of rural americans that are still using dial up or satellite services for your internet service, but have good cell signal. You really need to check out your cell provider. The linksys mobile broadband router is available for Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. The router cost only about $130 and the wireless broadband service is $59.99 for 5 gig per month of bandwidth through Verizon. Our office of 15 employees does not even come close to using 5 gig per month (I thinks we use less than 500 meg per month).

Finally we have high speed broadband access for our office and I have plans to do the same for our home connection (which is still Wildblue).