Saturday, January 30, 2010

Free Stuff

Has anyone else come across the Money Crashers Site lately?


They are currently hosting one of the largest giveaways I have ever seen on a blog. A few of the prizes listed on their website include $9,200 worth of cash, gift cards, and prizes like an Amazon Kindle, an 8GB Ipod Touch, a consultation with a CFP, and a virtual truckload of personal finance books and magazines.

There are almost as many ways to enter as there are prizes. A few of the easier ways to enter are signing up for their mailing list (1 entry) or their RSS feed (15 entries) and writing a blog post about the contest (30 entries, 2 blog post limit). For the more creative entrant, write a personal finance haiku on Twitter (10 entries, with the top 5 haikus earning 15 additional entries).  

Money Crashers will perform a random drawing on February 3, 2010 so if you want a fighting chance, head on over quickly and enter as many ways as you can. Good luck if you decide to enter, and hopefully I'll have an exciting reason to post on Wednesday.  ;-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Financial Lesson from Glee...

...or at least from talking about Glee

Cousin DFx40 and I watch Glee together every week.  I told him that I would love to have the soundrackthat was out. He informed me that the show had a second volume out too. He went on to tell me that soundtracks of any kind are his weakness. He knows as soon as almost any soundtrack comes out, and he has to give himself a limit of 2 weeks to buy them. By the time the 2 weeks are over, the newness has worn off and he rarely ends up buying it. How awesome that he has discovered something that will help him with his finances for the rest of his life! To be successful financially (and in life) we have to realize two things. 

What works for me doesn't work for everyone. 
Mr. DFx40 prefers get up at 5am every morning and run 8 miles before the day even starts. If he waits until 5pm he is not going to run. F.I.L. DFx40 prefers to eat breakfast and be awake for an hour or two first.  If he gets up at 5am it is only because his dogs woke him up. Some of us can hang out at the mall for 4 hours on a Saturday and end up buying one $10 shirt that we have been looking at for a month. Some of us can't drive past the mall without going in and spending $100 on something we don't even want. 

I have to work on what doesn't come naturally. 
Brother DFx40 was born with a very active metabolism, and has to work very hard to gain weight.  Aunt DFx40 was born with a very inactive metabolism has to work very hard to not gain weight. Brother DFx40 can't lift weights once a week and expect to gain a lot of muscle any more than Aunt DFx40 can eat a salad once a week and expect to lose weight. Some of us find it easy to cook meals at home, but can't bear the thought of giving up cable. Some of us haven't had cable in years, but can't imagine making a grilled cheese sandwich.

These two things are not reasons for us to make excuses. We just need to realize that we all have strengths and weakness, and we have to work with what we've been given. I don't have a problem with tracking my spending (I love Excel), giving freely to others, or saving money. I do have to be careful in stores that sell yarn, in any store if I'm upset, or driving by a restaurant on my way home from work. 

What about you...what have you discovered that works for you? What things do you have to work on?

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Happiness Project

A few things have me thinking about happiness lately.

The first is the weather we’ve been having. We’ve had quite a few days of snow (at least for Texas), and many more days of overcast dreary weather. It always gets me in a little bit of a funk.

The second is a post from J.D. at Get Rich Slowly; It’s More Important to Be Happy than to Be Rich. J.D. makes the case that money doesn’t make our lives better, happiness does. And he makes a very compelling case.

The third is a site I stumbled on; The Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin spent an entire year applying bits of happiness advice to her life and blogging about it. She also wrote a book about what she learned from that year.

On her blog, Gretchen encourages everyone to start their own Happiness Project. She outlines areas to focus on each month, and even posts weekly goals for each area.

January – Energy
February – Love
March – Work
April – Money
May – Mindfulness
June – Order
July – Spirit
August – Fun
September – Family
October – Friends
November – Attitude
December – Boot Camp Perfect

I know there are plenty of things I can focus on in each of her proposed areas. Since it looks like the sun isn’t going to be breaking through the clouds anytime soon, I should probably be a little proactive in increasing my happiness.

The first month, January, focuses on Energy. That happens to align with a few of my Firm Determinations for 2010, namely the ones related to my health. Running, riding my bike, stretching and exercising my back, and eating better are all likely to boost my energy. If I am going to keep up with all of that exercising, I’m going to need to make sure I get a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. And since I get up at 5am to run with Mr. DFx40, it looks like I need to get off the computer and head to bed!

What about you…how can you increase your happines by focusing on Energy?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Firm Determinations

I use to make New Year’s Resolutions every year. I’ll run every day, read my bible more, get more sleep, lose weight, etc. Let me be honest. I never made it past January. I think the reason why I failed year after year is that resolutions were either impossible, or too vague.

One of the areas that I have experienced crazy results in the last two years is my finances. Looking back, I am confident that the reason for this success was setting goals. Mr. DFx40 and I sat down when he decided to go back to school. We made some very specific goals for the short term and long term (the ultimate goal of course is to be debt free by 40). I don’t like to be like everyone else so instead of making New Year’s Resolutions I’m going to make Firm Determinations. Here are my 2010 Firm Determinations broken into 4 categories:

Since this blog is largely to hold me accountable, I should probably start with my financial goals. These goals are really just for half the year because Mr. DFx40 will graduate in May. Yay!

Save $5000 towards student loan repayment by May
Increase Emergency Fund by one month’s living expenses by May
Open a Roth IRA with retirement money in Money Market Account
Reevaluate goals in May 2010

When I take care of myself my expenses are actually lower. Some of my friends argue that when they exercise they eat more. This may be true for them, but not for me. When I exercise regularly I pay closer attention to the food I eat, I plan out my meals, and actually spend less money on groceries. I also feel better and have more energy, which means I’m not sitting on the couch watching TV and snacking.

Run/log 600 miles
Ride my new bike to work 24 times
Do back exercises/stretches 3 times a week
Try one new meatless meal a month

I talked previously about why I want to be debt free by forty. I believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and I desire to live as he taught. However, I still get distracted with work and other things of this world. After being inspired by Matt at Becoming Last, I am determined to live missionally today instead of waiting until my financial goals are met.

Volunteer to lead college small group once a month
Spend time with children from bus ministry once a month 
Spend 3 hours a week reading and studying my bible

I am still new to the blogging world, and I know there are many ways I need to improve. I have a few things I would like to accomplish with and through this blog.
Post a new article once a week
Track all of my input/output and share it once a month
  • Income/Expenses
  • Food/Exercise
  • Spiritual Growth/Live Missionally
I am very optimistic about my Firm Determinations because they are all SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed). I am starting a few days behind on my resolutions, but I still hope to have a favorable report by the end of this month.

What about you…what Firm Determinations have you made for the new year?