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Why You Should “Use It Up”

26abef0a80384a7c9d3f482698b2a014 (1)I used to have a friend who had dozens of little bottles of lotion all over her dresser, all different scents.  All of them three quarters gone.  I never asked her about them but I’m just sure that she didn’t use them up because she didn’t want that bottle of lotion to then be gone.  Like one day she might really want to wear that particular scent.

My son used to have “bath crayons” that he used to draw on the tub and shower walls when he was in the bath.  He would also never use all of a color until we bought a new pack, so that he was never out of a color.  You never know when you might have to color the bathtub blue, you wouldn’t want to be out of your blue bath crayon.

I know I’ve been guilty of this habit too.  Leaving little bits of make up left in the containers in case I need it someday.  Like someday I’m going to have some very important event where I just have to have that particular shade of eyeshadow.

What is the real result of this habit?  You actually get less joy out of your stuff.  My friend saved these lotions because she liked them so much.  She didn’t want to not have cucumber melon lotion in case on day she really got a hankering for it.   But the true result was that she never really got the full joy and value out of it.  She didn’t consciously think “Oh man, I love this lotion so much that I’m only going to use three fourths of it and then leave the bottle on my dresser  until it goes bad.”   While that wasn’t her plan it was the result.

My son, who has long outgrown his nightly baths, probably still has those bath crayons.  Unused and dried out.  His desire to save them for the perfect moment meant that he never used them at all.

I’ve thrown out so much make up because I never used the last little bit, then one day I find it shoved in the back of a drawer all gross and old.  Make up I didn’t use because I liked it too much!  Go figure that one out.

Is there something you are not using because you like it too much?  Go use it!  And when it’s gone, if you want to use it some more… go buy another one!

Get the joy of your stuff!  Don’t wait for the perfect moment to use it up.  Use it up right now.  And if that perfect moment comes along later you can always get more.  I’m obviously a big fan of not buying things you don’t need or don’t love.  But when you have spent the money on something you love… please, use it.  Use it all!  Use every last drop and then go get another one.

Don’t save your joy for later.  Do it now!

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How We Broke the Cycle of Car Payments

cde57ed83d82418dafaea4cb1e2516f2In the late summer of 2010 we paid off my minivan.  The payment was $460 per month.  Instead of just absorbing that money into our monthly budget we opened a separate savings account and continued to make that payment to ourselves.

In Feb of 2012 we had enough in that savings account to pay off my husband’s car.  This made us debt free!  At this point we started saving all of our previous car payments into our “car fund”.  $667 per month goes into that account.  It’s taken some small hits along the way with unexpected car repairs and such but for the most part we been saving, saving, saving.

If you do the math we are saving just over $8,000 per year in that account.  HOLY MOLY!

Here’s what’s weird.  When I tell you that we had $667 in car payments each month I assume you think “Ok, yeah, two cars… that seems about right.”  Yet when I tell you that we save that same amount I feel like you are thinking “oh boy, I could never do that!  They must make a lot of money!”  Yet is the same money!  The only thing we did was not buy a new car when we paid off our current ones.  We just kept driving the same cars and paying the same money.

Anyways, moving on…

So now that’s it been a few years we have quite a bit saved!  Enough  to start thinking about replacing one of our cars… with cash.  Our cars are getting older.  My car has 80,000 miles and my husband’s has about 90,000.  Since I work from home I don’t drive much.  However, my husband works over an hour away.  So he is thinking he will get a new car in the next year or so.  If he waits one year from today, and we continue to save without any bumps in the road we will have about $23,000 saved.  Plus whatever we can get out of selling his car.

That’s a good amount!  I wouldn’t spend it all though.  So say we spend $15,000 out of the savings account, leaving $8,000.

I can probably get an additional two years out of my van (three years from now).  Maybe even more, but lets say it will last three years from today, it will be 10 years old at that point.  That will give us $24,000 in savings to spend.  Certainly can get something for $24K.

Then we are off an running.  It’s only downhill from there.  We will have many years of savings before we need new cars again.  If we keep saving those car payments we should be able to get by with never having a car payment again.  We will have broke the cycle!

What did we do differently than most people (and I include myself in that because I’ve had plenty of car payments in my life)?  Well, first we committed to paying off my van 2 years early.  Then we just held tight.  We didn’t replace our cars even though we could afford the payment.  We just kept on doing what we had always done.  Keep making the same payment, only to ourselves now, and keep driving the same cars.

The trick is to just pretend that you do have a car payment even when you don’t.  Pay the money and forget about it.  Save the money and don’t touch it.

How about you?  Have you ever paid cash for a car?  Do you make payments to yourself? Do you think this is just a crazy scheme that will never work for you?

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How to Pick the Perfect Trading Platform

This is a featured post from a reader.

How to Pick the Perfect Trading Platform

Electronic trading is a relatively new phenomenon, but here in the second decade of the twenty first century, it’s extremely rare to find any trader who doesn’t rely on a web platform to make their trades. Whether you’re a new trader or a seasoned pro who’s been placing investments for years, making the right decision regarding your trading platform is always challenging.

The problem, you see, isn’t that there aren’t enough platforms to choose from, it’s the reverse: that there are actually too many trading platforms, and too little information to make an informed decision about which is right for you. With that in mind then, here’s a comprehensive guide to picking the right trading platform for you.

Social or Individual

 An important question to ask yourself when you’re looking for a trading platform is whether you consider yourself a social or individual kind of person. If you’re better working alone, then it’s a good idea to find a platform that features a lot of supportive educational materials so that you can learn how to trade at your own pace and at the level you find comfortable. Similarly, if you’re more of a social person, a platform with social features like Trader Connect on the ecn account, with online trading company Alpari, will suite you perfectly. With the ability to discuss your strategies with other more experienced traders, screen capture charts and help others, you’ll be able to learn how to trade in a social environment. As you can see, how sociable you are is a determining factor for which trading platform you should use.

 The Right Amount of Information

 Trading is not easy, so if you’re determined to become a savvy investor you’ll need to get a lot of experience. As with any new skill, training is essential with investing. Just as when you’re learning to swim, you don’t sit on the side of the pool and read about how to swim, when you’re learning to trade, you don’t just read ‘trading101’ guides. Instead, you should get hands-on experience with your trading platform and get information as and when you need it. Some trading platforms don’t offer a particularly broad range of informational materials; so if you’re looking to be supported, find a platform that has integrated information and learning materials.

The Appropriate Charting Tools

There are two ways to analyze the market to judge whether you should invest in a given asset: the first is to look at fundamental factors such as the socioeconomic and geopolitical news to assess which assets look like they’re going to increase in value (i.e. war could increase the scarcity – and thus price – of oil per barrel. The second method is more analytic – to use data-driven charts to look at the history of a given asset in a particular situation, to see how it will hold up in its current situation. Some trading platforms don’t offer particularly comprehensive charting features, so if you consider yourself quite the analyst, ensure you’re making the most of your talents by choosing a trading platform that offers the best tools possible.

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The Desire Map Chapter One Review

A member of my Goals Group started a book club surrounding the book The Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte.  We are meeting once a week and going over one chapter at a time.

Chapter One was mostly about desire in general and the purpose of it in our lives.  I actually made a video about it so I’ll let you watch that.

 

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2eee8375110848e58c01aa54819def7eCat over at Frugal Rules recently wrote about how much financial help a parent should give their adult child.  That is an excellent question.  I left a long comment over there but the more I thought about it the more I had to say.

What are my plans to help out my adult children?  First and foremost I want them to become responsible, productive adults.  Whatever help I give or withhold will be in order to meet that goal.

I foresee allowing them to live in my house, for free, until they are out of school.  Then I guess I would give them a set amount of time (say, 6 months) to get on their feet and either start paying rent or move out.  Of course, that’s easier said than done.  I can see a lot of circumstances that would cause that plan to change.

Speaking of college, a big question for parents is how much help to provide in paying for college.  Unless things change dramatically between now and the college years I don’t see us having a big savings account for college.  My kids are 12 and 8 so we don’t have a ton of time left here.  I’ve already told my kids they are welcome to live here while they go to college.  I know I would also help with costs as much as possible from our monthly budget.

I don’t feel a great need to pay for my kid’s college educations 100%.  I think a place to live and food on the table is already a great help.  I also think they should pay for some of it themselves.  I don’t feel that getting a free ride to college is necessarily a good thing.  (Maybe I just think that because I haven’t saved anything! haha)

Once they are out of school I do expect them to be moving towards being financially independent.  Like I said above, I would hope for them to move out within about 6 months or so.  However, if they wanted to stay for a responsible reason, like saving up for a down payment on a house, or starting a business I could see allowing them to stay.  But going back to my main point, I want them to be responsible, productive adults.  So they could stay only if they were proving themselves to be responsible and productive.

They could not live at home if they wanted to avoid life.  Either by not getting a job or not wanting to take on adult responsibilities.  I don’t know really know what I would do if one of my kids just plainly refused to join the real world.  It’s easy to sit here and say that I would kick them out… but when the time comes, that’s pretty tough to do.

I think the best plan now is to prepare them for what to expect when they become an adult.  Let them know that this is not a free place to live for adults.  Grownups have to support themselves.  Maybe if I make that very clear now, I will have less trouble later.

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The Desire Map Book Club

desire mapA woman in my goals group decided to start a book club to discuss The Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte.

It’s a book about setting “goals with a soul” as she puts it.   Which means creating goals that will give you the feelings you want to have.  Normally when you set goals you do so based on what you want. Makes sense right?  Let’s say my goal is to earn $100,000.  I might set that goal because deep down I think that earning $100,000 would mean that I’m successful.  Really what I want isn’t necessarily to earn 6 figures but to feel successful.

So if instead of deciding the end result I decide the feeling I want to have, in this example success, and then create goals around that.  I can ask myself, what will make me feel successful?  Maybe the answer is to earn a lot of money.  But maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s to start a charity to support a cause that’s close to my heart.  Maybe it’s to send my kids to a certain school.  Maybe it’s live by the ocean.

Ok, so I haven’t actually read the book yet.  That’s just my interpretation thus far.

This is an open call to join in on my book club.  If you have read, or would like to read the book please join in on the conversation.  My book club is reading one chapter per week.  So I’ll be doing weekly reviews of the book as we go along. I’m looking forward to having conversations with you about this book.

You can also join me over on You Tube if you want to join the discussion over there.

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My Office Makeover

A few weeks back I decided to finally take action and clean up my office.  It was a mess!  First and foremost I had a never-used-elliptical machine in here.  I had let this machine sit in my office for way too long.  The reason I couldn’t move it out was because I didn’t want to admit it was a mistake to buy it in the first place.  I spent way too much money and didn’t get the use out of it I promised myself that I would.  (Common story!)

Rather than just admit I made a mistake and move on with my life I let it fester.  I ignored it and made excuses.  I even attached roller shades to the ceiling to block it from view! Recently though I decided to face it and finally clean up my mess.

Here is a before pic… so cluttery!

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I called Play It Again Sports and they came right over to pick up the elliptical machine.  I had a choice between $100 cash or $200 store credit.  I chose the store credit since I have two kids and I’m very confident that we can spend$200 there fairly quickly.  The store credit is good forever though, just in case.   I actually also had the option to consign it, rather than sell it outright.  Which may have resulted in more money but I really just wanted to be done with it.

Once it was gone I felt so good.  The Play It Again Sports guys took away both my workout equipment and my guilt!  Here is a video I made about the whole elliptical machine thing if you are so inclined to watch.   I also have a video tour if you would rather do that instead of reading.

Well, once it was gone I was extremely motivated to get to work on my office.  The junk had been piling up!

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So here is the cost break down and a little tour…

pic with commentary

So I moved the desk down which made the entryway into the room much better.  No more tight space there.  I also hung the white board and peg board up in places that make sense for me.  I took the shelf that had been holding a TV in front of the elliptical machine and put it within reach when I’m sitting at the desk.  For my pens and envelopes and whatnots.

I obviously painted the wall ($13) and added the swirly/ flowery sticker for fun ($35).  I love the new color! Since I only did one wall I didn’t have to buy a whole can of paint which kept costs down but also made it quick and easy to paint.

pinter with commentary

The new printer was my big splurge ($125).  I had the little table from before but it wasn’t painted.  I painted that with some white paint I already had.  I jazzed it up by painting the inside of the drawer a cute pink color.  The table didn’t have any hardware so I got a new drawer pull.  The one that is on it it actually only $7 but I bought the wrong size first ($6) and couldn’t return it.  So $13 total on hardware.

filing cabinet with commentary

The filing cabinet I had but I spray painted it white ($6) and put contact paper on the front of the drawers ($9).  I really like how it came out and it’s so much cuter than just a plain beige filing cabinet.

tetons commentary

I brought in two pictures of the Teton mountains.  The Tetons are in Jackson Wy which is where my dad lived.  He passed away last year and I now work full time for his company.  I like having things in my office that remind me of him.   I also moved the second desk so that the chairs are no longer back to back.

doggie area with commentary

Moved an old toy box under the window so my dog can look out the window.  He didn’t like the slippery top so I knitted a cover for it ($10 for yarn) and got a no-slip mat for rugs ($5) and put it under the knitted cover so it won’t slide around.

Total spent on the office makeover was $185.   Since I got $200 for my used elliptical machine I feel pretty good about the whole thing!  I’m much happier now that I have let go of my past mistakes.  My office is much easier to use and nicer to be in.  I’m ready to move forward!

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ParadoxicalI was cleaning out our old filing cabinet as part of my new office makeover I’m doing.  Boy oh boy did I find some interesting stuff.  I found the contract from when my husband bought his first house in 2000.  That was interesting.  I found owners manuals for things we haven’t owned in years.  I found credit our reports from 2006.  But the best thing I found was a paper for financing that my husband got when he bought his first VCR in 1985!  Awesome!

The price of the VCR was $731.25! Granted this was top of the line tech back then.  He got financing for 2 years and his interest rate was 35.5%!  Thirty Five Percent!  Holy cow.  That’s $300.48 in interest over 2 years.  Gulp!  His payments were $43 per month for two years.

But the craziness doesn’t stop there.  Oh no.

They wanted him to have a co-signer but he didn’t have one.  So they made him take out a life insurance policy… to buy a VCR.  The real kicker is that the life insurance policy was for $30,000.  The payments on the life insurance were $48.81 for two years.  Total cost of the life insurance was $1,159.44.

What on earth?!

The total cost of this $731.25 VCR was $2,191.36!

I don’t know if it’s legal today to make someone take out a life insurance policy for a loan.  I certainly haven’t ever heard of that before.  And the 35.5% interest rate is insanity too compared to today’s rates.  However, you do need to remember this was 1985 so interest rates were higher but still!  I think even today a rate of 35.5% would be illegal.

I’m just glad he married a financially savvy wife.  :)

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dc55a9305f6f41a2b3dc18b9c2738bd2I was thinking about success other day.  Specifically I was thinking about why people have different levels of success.  This is what I came up with.

Theory #1: Everyone has the same ability, but they put in different amounts of effort.

In this theory everyone has the ability to be successful.  People achieve different levels of success because they put in different amounts of effort.

The path to success is not blocked by anything but ourselves.  You can have anything you want if you are willing to work hard enough.  It removes the victim.  Everyone is even.  You can’t be jealous or feel entitled with this belief.  If you hold this theory you, and you alone, are responsible for your own success or failure.

Theory #2: Everyone puts in the same effort, but they have different abilities.

In this theory everyone works as hard as they can.  People have different levels of success because some have greater abilities than others.

The path to success is blocked.  Either you have the ability to be successful or you don’t.  That’s not something you have any control over.  The successful people were just born with abilities the unsuccessful don’t have.  No matter how hard you work you will never be more successful than you are now.   This creates a victim mentality.  The only way to increase your success is if someone helps you.  The unsuccessful become jealous of the those lucky enough to be born with these abilities.  It also creates entitlement because the unsuccessful work just as hard as the successful so they deserve to be successful too.

So what is the reality?

I think the reality is somewhere in between.  Although I do think it skews more towards theory #1.  I would say it’s somewhere like 75% theory #1 and 25% theory#2.  Of course natural ability plays a part.  I think part of being successful is figuring out where your natural abilities lie and focusing your hard work there.  I believe that will bring you the greatest success.

For example, I don’t think I could ever be a successful actor.  No matter how hard I worked at being a good actor I don’t think I would ever “make it”.  My abilities do not lend themselves to that.  However, I would certainly be a better actor if I worked hard at it then I would be if I didn’t.  Not working hard surely isn’t going to make me successful at anything.

The take away

The moral of the story here is this: Find something you are naturally good at work at it.  Work as hard as you can for a very long time and with a little bit of luck, eventually you will have success.

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A Day In My Life – Video

This video was inspired by Crystal over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  You can check her’s out here… after watching mine of course!!

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