June 2011


June’s book recommendation is Wealth Watchers by Alice Wood. Wood created a financial education program called Wealth Watchers after suffering from a brain injury that left her unable to handle her finances. The basic idea is inspired by Weight Watchers, a daily accounting of everything you spend to see if you gained (spent more that you should) or lost (spent less than you should).

 

Anyone who has done Weight Watchers knows the concept. It’s not about denying yourself what you enjoy eating, it’s about making every day choices that allows you to still enjoy what you want and lose weight and get healthy in the process. You keep a daily journal of everything you eat which is allotted a Point value based on its nutritional value. If you know you are going to have something “bad,” you compensate on a different day by being extra “good,” and at the end of the week you can see if you went over or were under your Points allowed. While you aren’t suppose to deny yourself anything you really want, you also need to keep track of your eating habits so that you don’t go overboard. If you write down and see what you’re eating every day, you may think twice before eating something.

 

The Wealth Watchers program functions very similarly. After deciding how much “Daily Disposable Income” you have to work with, you track all your daily spending in a journal. At the end of the week, you see how your spending adds up against what was allotted. The idea is that if you are tracking all the money you spend, you are less likely to go overboard because you know just how much there is to spend. Also, if you have to write down everything you buy, you may think twice about spending money.

 

Wealth Watchers isn’t a complex financial tool, and it certainly doesn’t get into much detail about bad financial situations. It’s an easy read, and could be very useful to someone who is looking for an accountability tool to help them keep track of their spending.

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Here is our second review of the past month’s blog posts. We have a couple more to choose from this time!

 

Get Rich SlowlyRisks That Can Derail Your Retirement – Planning ahead for a potential problem in your life can help you to lessen the financial burden.

 

Good Financial CentsBad Financial Habits That Suck The Financial Life Out of You – Everyone has bad financial habits.

 

The Simple Dollar15 Shopping Rules of Thumb – Before making a purchase, think about what is really important.

 

The Simple Dollar Some Thoughts on the Long Term – Why should you sacrifice now for years down the road?

 

American Debt Counseling Ten Ways to Save on Filling Your Tank – Who doesn’t want to save money on gasoline?

 

Let us know if you have a favorite financial blog that you think we should be reading.

We’ve talked before about setting your financial goals. In order to do so, we feel like you really need to think about your values and decide what is important to you. This may or may not be an easy task. Some people know exactly what they value, and can easily set their goals accordingly. Others may feel so far out of control financially they have no idea what they value most. They are too stressed out or too consumed with thoughts of their finances that they can’t see beyond it.

 

A post this weekend over at The Simple Dollar, Living What You Believe” reminded us of this topic. Trent Hamm talks about how knowing what you believe in, what you value, can help you see that you may in fact be spending money in contradiction with what you believe. If you “live what you believe” and take the time to consider what you may be spending money on, you’ll be happier for it to because you’ll be less likely to feel buyer’s remorse for spending money on something that may go against your values.

 

Take some time to think about what your values are. There are no right or wrong answers, and your values can change over time. What you thought most important to you five years ago may mean nothing to you now, and that’s fine. Deciding on what your values are at this exact point in your life can help you decide what it is you want most for your financial future.

 

If you are in a situation where you can’t see past your problems to decide on your values, take this to mean that you must take action to correct the problem before you can fully move forward. If you have too much debt, and you can’t see past that, make debt reduction your only goal, and that will become what you value. There is nothing wrong with making your problem your goal, in fact, it’s a great idea. You’ll find that as times goes on and your debt shrinks, you will be able to see more and more beyond it and begin setting some new financial goals for yourself based on what will become important to you.

Last week over at The Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm posted “Good Hours, Not More Hours.” The post discusses that everyone has peak productive hours during the day where the most “to do” items will get done. They key isn’t to spend more time on those tasks, it’s to use your productive hours as best you can to work on these items and don’t waste that time on the “busy” work (like filing, filling out paperwork, etc). You’ll be more productive this way, and during your off hours when you’re likely worn out and not at your best, spend the time on the menial tasks that everyone has but don’t always get around to.

 

We think this is a great post! You know what your peak productive hours are. Dawn’s are in the afternoon and Keith’s are in the morning. If you’re able to block out all the “busy” work during that time (which usually also means no phone calls or emails), you can accomplish so much more than if you let yourself get distracted. On the flip side, your off hours are often wasted when you try to focus on the big projects that require too much “work.” You’ll likely have only half your brain working on the task and you won’t get much done.

 

We realize that this is not always possible, usually when you have a deadline coming up and you feel you need to work nonstop to get your project done. However, if you use your most productive hours as effectively as you can leading up to a deadline while still giving yourself and your brain a break during your off hours, you may find that you’ve accomplished more leading up to your deadline than you thought you would.

 

From The Simple Dollar:

 

First, if you feel yourself “grinding” against a problem at work, you’re not being very productive with it and would probably be more productive doing something else. If you possibly can, put the problem down for a while, shut off that part of your brain, and do something productive that doesn’t require you to think too much. That way, you’ll get the “boring” stuff out of the way during the hours where your mind isn’t working at top speed.

Second, and this is why I’m mentioning it on The Simple Dollar, the more productive you are at work, the better your job stability, chances of promotion, and potential for recruitment are. This stabilizes and improves your personal income, making your financial life that much easier.

This morning there was a great post over at Get Rich Slowly, “Discounted Gift Cards: The New Coupon” about sites that sell unused gift cards at a discount.

 

While we’ve heard about these sites before, we’ve never had the occasion to use them ourselves. But the post gives some good suggestions that we wouldn’t have considered, so we thought we share it with you.

 

According the post, you can buy gifts cards from all over the place for 3%- 30% cheaper than the face value of the card. Then, you can turn around and use the full face value of that card at the store it’s for. Or, if you receive a gift card you will never use, you can list it on this site and sell it to someone who will for up to 92% face value. We think that is a much better alternative to throwing it away!

 

From the post:

“Six uses for a discounted gift card

  1. End run around the wedding gift registry. If your BFF is registered at Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy’s, buy a discounted card and use it to pay for your present.
  2. Pump up PTA attendance. Offer a gift-card door prize at the next meeting. If you don’t see more parents there I’ll reimburse you for the cost of the card. (Just kidding!)
  3. Black Friday boost. Poised to grab $2 DVDs and $10 smartphones? They’ll be even cheaper if you pay with cut-rate cards.
  4. A gift in and of itself. If your brother loves a particular store, give him a card and let him buy whatever he wants. Buy it well in advance, though, because there’s a chance you’ll receive a seasonal or special-occasion card, e.g., a card decorated with holly or a wedding cake. (If so, take it to the store and buy a new card with it. If you don’t allow enough time to do that you’re going to look like either a re-gifter or the kind of cheap bastard who buys discounted gift cards. Neither epithet would bother me much, but you might have thinner skin.)
  5. Something for your kid’s teacher. Trust me: Ms. Smith absolutely, positively does not need another “No. 1 Teacher” mug. However, she might want something to put in the mugs she already has. I just saw Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cards and Caribou Coffee cards for 10% and 12% off, respectively.
  6. Giveaway on your website. Nothing gets virtual butts in virtual seats like a giveaway. Put a gift card up for grabs and promote the heck out of your contest. No one has to know you didn’t pay full price. Unless, of course, your card has hearts and Cupids on it.”

Additionally, if there is a particular store that you frequent, shop around for discounted gift cards to that store. You can save yourself some money up front, and then go shopping for deals at the store and save some more money. This is a great idea that we will definitely look into using in the future.