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Workin’ On It

So.  The blog, with my assistance, has spontaneously combusted.  Stop worrying.  It will be back and better than ever in a couple of days.  Good things come out of combustion; even better things when it’s spontaneous.

Article publié pour la première fois le 04/01/2011


The GREAT Coupon Experiment aims to solve a mystery as old as the Sunday insert itself: Is coupon cutting really a feasible way for people with lives and dogs and families to save money?  My mother would say, “yes”; I would say, “I don’t know, that’s why I’m doing this experiment.” 


My results from weeks 3 & 4 are, well, different.  Starting in week 3 I began to supplement my newspaper clipping with some printable coupons from couponmom.com (you have to sign up, but it’s free, including junk mail, so be careful).  Coupon Mom told me I could cut my grocery bill in half!  But I didn’t.  Yet.

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Article publié pour la première fois le 22/06/2010


The other day in Reader’s Digest – which I read mostly for the reader-written humorous anecdotes and silly cartoons – I came across a quote from Peter Buffett.

It is an act of love to say, “I believe in you as my child, and you don’t need my help.”

On his billionaire father Warren’s refusal to help during financial hardship.

Isn’t it wonderful?

Do me a favor.  Put it in your card printing software now, print out 10 cards and tape them to your cubicle wall, refrigerator, mirror, windshield, toilet lid, children, forehead, lunch, television and bank statement.  


Pride is a major motivator for why we handle our money the way we do. 

It can be positive: saving enough to make sure we never burden our children when we retire.

It can also be negative: purchasing more stuff than we can truly afford in order to give the appearance of financial prosperity. 

Pride is what tells us to hide our mistakes and to be ashamed when our financial efforts fall short or when we fail to make an effort at all.  Pride can make us hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold everyone else.  Pride can be a humongous downer, demotivator and can even make the situation worse.

Nobody’s perfect.  I’m surprised your mother hasn’t already told you this. 

This thought brings me to the heart of this post: successful people, who you are undoubtedly measuring your own success against, made/make/will make mistakes too. 

When I started writing this, oh, about thirty minutes ago, I had Sam Walton in mind (you know, the founder of Wal-Mart?).  Did you know that Sammy filed for bankruptcy? Him and quite a few others:

  • Macy’s
  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Hilton Hotels
  • Hershey’s Chocolates
  • Heinz Ketchup
  • Donald Trump
  • Lady Gaga

You did know that?

Well did you know that Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, was actually fired from Apple?

In his 2005 Commencement Address to Stanford (WATCH IT), he names this so-called failure, “the best thing that ever happened to me.”  It was during that time in his life that the college dropout invented NeXT, founded Pixar and met his wife.

Talk about making lemonade.


Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick.  Don’t lose faith. 

Steve Jobs

A brick to the head won’t necessarily kill you, but it will probably concus you.  Maybe you should invest in a helmet.

And don’t let your pride and your past mistakes discourage you from achieving your goals from this point on.

Article publié pour la première fois le 09/11/2010


Jim Leyland is an amazing manager.

If you don’t know who Jim Leyland is, let me tell you. He’s the current manager of the Detroit Tigers (who were eliminated from the baseball playoffs over the weekend), and has previously managed the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Florida Marlins. Why is this significant? It’s significant because all three of those teams were terrible before Jim Leyland was brought in to manage. He has taken 3 of the worst teams in baseball (no concurrently, consecutively) and made them legitimate playoff contenders. That’s a pretty amazing feat.

This is not to say that he’s perfect. Looking at his managerial record, he does have losing seasons and his lifetime record is 1588-1585; not exactly a stellar overall career. His one year stint with the Colorado Rockies was less than spectacular. He has a history of taking a team to the playoffs and then managing them into a losing season the following year. He has never played in the Major Leagues, yet he remains a great manager.

So what does this have to do with personal finance? Well, a lot actually. Looking at Jim Leyland’s career as a manager and minor league player, there are a lot of lessons we can apply to our finances:

Focus on your strengths. Leyland spent 7 years as a minor league player and never made it to the Majors. In 1970, he started coaching and since then, has found success. He has proven that it is important to recognize your strengths and put your energy into that. By putting your energy into something that you’re good at, and you’re passionate about, you will be successful. If you’re in debt, find one part of managing your money that you’re good at and work on improving that. Use those strengths to help you find a way to get out of debt. Improve upon those strengths and become an expert and use that expertise to effectively manage your money.

Acknowledge your failures. Leyland walked away from his contract with the Florida Marlins because he wasn’t performing as well as he expected himself to. He did the same thing after his first year with the Rockies ended in a losing record. This was a pretty bold move. Getting out of debt requires an equally bold move. It’s important to acknowledge that something is not right with your finances and having the courage to do something about it. We often don’t want to admit that we can’t handle our finances or our debt but it’s not until we admit that we can’t do it that we can begin to do something about it.

Enjoy your success. Leyland has won numerous awards including Manager of the Year and is the seventh manager to win a pennant in both leagues. This is a huge accomplishment and while I’ve never spoken to Mr. Leyland about it, I’m assuming he’s proud of himself. The same applies to getting out of debt. Paying off debt, no matter how big or small, is hard work. It takes effort, concentration, self-control and discipline. Even paying off a $300 balance is an accomplishment, so make sure that you do something to acknowledge your hard work. Whether it’s crossing the debt off of your list, telling a friend or putting a gold star on a caledar, be proud of your success.

Stay true to who you are. Despite managerial and scouting jobs with a number of teams, Leyland has kept his family rooted in Pittsburgh. He remains a smoker (and apparently smokes during games) despite the ban on smoking in most major league stadiums. While ignoring a smoking ban probably isn’t the classiest move, he makes a point that he’s not going to let anything stop him from something that he needs to do. This principle can be applied to paying off debt. When you’re paying down debt, you are inevitably going to encounter friends or family members who try to derail your plans. They entice you with shopping, restaurants, vacations and gadgets. While it’s OK to indulge once and awhile, you need to remain true to your effort.

Though I draw on inspiration from Jim Leyland, I must confess that as a New York Mets fan, I do root against him (unless the Tigers are playing the Yankees. Then I’m a Tigers fan all the way). However, the lessons learned from his managerial style transcend team loyalties and cross over from the diamond to the wallet.

Are there any unusual places you find inspiration for your finances?

Article publié pour la première fois le 17/10/2011


Our Mortgage Crisis

The following is a guest post by my sister Kirsten.  She and her husband have been dealing with a unique aspect of the housing market crash from an Air Force family perspective. 

Crisis? I’m not quite sure that’s the right word; maybe catastrophe is more like it. 


My husband and I think that we have taken good care of our finances and have a very good long-term plan. We have no credit card debt, no college loans, and have just recently paid off our second car. We put away money monthly for our retirements and our three, soon to be four, children’s college funds. We even have a sizable emergency fund in case of the unthinkable happening.

In May of 2007 we were moved to the very shiny, VERY hot city of Las  Vegas, NV on military orders.  We thought about taking out a loan with Omni Financial to help us pay for moving expenses. Upon our move there we purchased a home in the growing northern part of the city. Military orders as a general rule will keep you in a certain area for an average of 3 years, so buying a home is not uncommon for the military family, as transient as we might be. We purchased our home there for a modest $259,000. Believe me when I say modest, 1869 sq. ft., decent-size backyard and nice neighborhood within 10 minutes from Nellis AFB. Many of our friends purchased or rented homes that you’d think you’d see on MTV Cribs, but we try our best to live within our means.

In early 2008 the unthinkable happened, well, two things actually. There is something called BRAC – Base Realignment and Closure. For the layperson, ‘realignment’ can mean several things, (For further info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_Realignment_and_Closure) for us it meant that after only a year of living in Las Vegas we had to move to Cannon AFB, NM.  Oh, crap (in much more kid-friendly terms than we used at the time).  We were excited about the move to a much greener place, but were concerned about meeting our obligations on the mortgage in Vegas as the market had already been headed downward. A year or so later, the market crashed completely.  We were able to get renters in the house in fall of 2008. A complete blessing, but the rent we were able to ask and the mortgage had a difference of $500 per month.  Boo.

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Article publié pour la première fois le 10/06/2010

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Businesses Should Accept All Payment Types

As a customer, I’m a firm believer that businesses should accept every payment type available.  It can be very frustrating going into a shop, or being on a website, and being limited to what payment types are accepted.  In fact, I completely avoid a local coffee shop simply because it only accepts cash.  I’m sorry, but I’m one of those people who never pays with cash.

Second, as a small business owner, I want to get paid any way possible.  I am happy to accept payment from my customers in whatever form is convenient for them, since I don’t want to miss out on business because of this.  With more and more people going away from cash, I want to be open to accepting their payments.

The Basics – Credit Cards 

Every company should accept all major credit cards.  Stores and online shops need to stop excluding certain cards, like Discover or American Express.  It is a big hassle for customers, and I’m sure stores lose business because of it.

A common excuse as to why certain cards are excluded is cost.  However, there are a lot of merchant processing solutions that offer low cost credit card processing for all major credit cards, so I just don’t buy this excuse.  To me, as a customer, it is sheer laziness to look at your customer’s needs.  As a merchant, I know firsthand that the cost of processing other cards, such as American Express, are no more than processing certain types of Visa and Mastercards credit cards.

More Advanced – Mobile & Online Payments 

I do understand that not all merchants are going to be able to accept mobile and online payments immediately, but I think that most places should start researching it.  With the surge in smartphone sales, and new services like Google Wallet, more consumers will be looking to these types of payment systems.

One example is Home Depot.  I was recently in Home Depot and was able to use my PayPal account at checkout.  I found it to be very convenient, and I’m sure it doesn’t cost Home Depot anything more to offer this service.

Article publié pour la première fois le 06/04/2012