cindys on April 6th, 2012

Have you ever tried to devise a budget?  I have found that the hardest part of budgeting is getting the rest of the family onboard.  It seems that people try to budget the first time for a couple of reasons.  They have either totally lost control of their finances and are struggling to catch up or they are trying to save for a big purchase such as a house or vacation.  It’s generally much easier to get your family to participate if it’s the second reason.

If you have lost control of your finances, the family is probably trying to hang on to their habits while the bill payer is struggling to find a way to pay for them.  It’s difficult for the family to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are imposing limits on their day to day routines.  While you may not see the benefit in some of their expenses, they obviously do and they will hang on to them at the expense of your budget.

So how do you get your spouse, partner or children to climb onto the budget bandwagon?

5 Tips to Having a Successful Budget Discussion with your Family

  1. Determine What Your Family Wants – There has to be a benefit to everyone involved so get your family to help you set goals that they would like to see happen.  If your spouse would like to go on vacation, make that a goal with specific budget requirements, ie, if we can get this bill paid off, we can afford to go on vacation.  For your children, you first have to determine what it is that they want. For the billpayer/budgeter the goals are simple, less stress and fewer bills but your family may not share in those desires.
  2. Set Small Goals –  Set small, easily accomplished short term goals and small rewards.  For example, if we can reduce our miscellaneous expenditures by 50% then we can go to see that movie at the end of the month or at the end of the week.   Let the family experience success.
  3. Get Them Involved –  Face the fact early, you can’t do this alone so you need their help.  Get them involved in the planning.  Ask for ideas about how they can save money or earn more money.  Get them to implement their ideas and set their own goals.  While you might need for the change to happen NOW, you will have more success if your family does this step by step.
  4. Keep Their Interest –  Get your family to make a visual reminder of the rewards of budgeting.  Whether your son wants a new pair of shoes or your daughter wants the keys to the family car, get them to visualize the end result by pictures.  The budgeter’s dream board should also include a way to keep track of your progress.
  5. Rewards –  Rewards don’t have to be large or expensive but they should be fairly frequent to start out.  You may need to set weekly or even daily rewards to keep your family motivated.  Small children will enjoy a trip to the park as much as that latest toy and the park only costs you time.

Any budget that is not supported by your family is doomed to fail.  Enlist their support and it will help you in the long run.  Budgeting shouldn’t be drudgery and keeping the family on it can’t be a dictatorship.

Have you had the budget discussion with your family?  How did it go?

cindys on September 13th, 2011

Can debt management plan helps to reestablish your credit report?

The consumers should work on reestablishing and retaining their credit report in order to get favorable deal from the lenders. If you are struggling to come out of debt then debt management plan can help you pay off the debts and your credit report will be reestablished eventually. Therefore, if you are a smart consumer then you can easily maintain your credit score efficiently. Here are a few steps to maintain your credit score and guide you to build your credit report.

1. When you plan to take out a loan make sure that you borrow within your means. This will help you pay off the owed amount immediately without defaulting on your payment. When you start paying off your debts then you can reestablish your credit score. Therefore, if you calculate your monthly income and take out the loan then you can pay off the outstanding balance without much effort.

2. Avoid applying for a credit card if you have a tendency to spend recklessly. Plastic money can tempt you to spend more than you can afford and you can end up incurring insurmountable amount of debt. The interest on the credit card is usually high so when you default on your payment it will make the outstanding balance unaffordable to pay off. Your delinquent accounts can adversely affect your credit report so try to pay off your debts.

3. Plan a monthly budget so that you can allot a stipulated amount that you can put towards paying off your debts. Prepare a list of your daily expenses then it will be easier to curb your expenses. Try to curtail your flamboyant lifestyle so that you can save money and use it for paying off your debts.

4. Try to get a copy of your credit report from the credit report agencies like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Review your credit report thoroughly and try to locate erroneous entries. You can request the credit bureau to remove the wrong entries if you find any discrepancies in it. Once you remove the incorrect entries then you can rebuild credit report.

Sidney Terrell is a contributor associated with Oak View Law Group and has written several articles on debt consolidation, debt settlement, bill consolidation and get out of debt for various financial websites.

cindys on August 17th, 2011

Is your health suffering because of your budget?  Most of you know that we live on extremely low income and so budgeting food is always a challenge.  We garden and have a small farm.  We have added chickens to the farm and hope to be getting fresh eggs soon. However, we still buy staples like bread and milk.

Let Them Eat Cake

I slipped into Walmart the other day to buy a loaf of sandwich bread.  We generally stick to whole wheat bread as it the much healthier choice than white, bleached bread.  I guess the price difference hit me because I was just getting bread and not other groceries.  The generic Walmart brand of white bread was just under $1 a loaf and one of the longer loaves. There was no Walmart brand wheat bread and the least expensive loaf of Whole grain bread was $2.98.  Wow… I was a bit shocked.  Prices for whole wheat bread had been running about double the cost of white bread but this is triple the cost.  It reminded me of Marie Antoinette’s instruction when the peasants couldn’t afford bread, “Let them eat cake!”    And by the way, you can buy a small cake for less than a loaf of  healthy bread.

It really made me think about the cost of eating healthy.  Prices have risen for just about everything.  Chicken prices, beef prices, fresh vegetable and fruit prices have all soared.  I know that the prices are driven by the farmer’s cost of production and then shipping all relying on gas and oil but it seems to me that the cost of producing and shipping white bread should be just as high.  I am sure that Walmart loses money on their white bread because it draws people into the store.  It was the one reason why I stopped there that day and not at our closer store.

The Solution?

The bread solution is fairly simple.  I need to start baking bread at home and my challenge is that it is difficult to slice homemade bread into sandwich sized slices.  If anyone has a foolproof way of thin slicing homemade bread, please let me know. Whole wheat flour is also a bit more expensive than white bleached flour but the cost of five pounds of flour is still less than a loaf of bread.

I am going to be checking out our local farmer’s market this week.  Hopefully, I can not only help my neighbors but I can also buy some fresh, healthy vegetables for less.  They have the added benefit of being fresher.  I can some and some go into the freezer.  If you don’t have time to can, freezing is the way to go.  Most vegetables can be frozen after washing and blanching which just kills any germs on the surface of the vegetable.  I freeze whole tomatoes and peppers out of our garden just by washing them and putting them in a bag.  The skins on the tomatoes come off easily when they thaw and I don’t have to spend hours getting all of them done at the same time.

My question to you is whether you are sacrificing health for price?  I find that there are times when I end up buying the cheaper, less healthy option instead of the fresher or healthier variety.

cindys on July 16th, 2011

Why do you find it so difficult to do your job?  You are supposed to be some of the brightest, most well educated people in the United States and instead you act like a shopaholic with a credit card and a teenager arguing with their siblings.  Why exactly do we need more debt?  Why can you not balance the budget?  Why are you selling my children’s and grandchildren’s  future?

According to this Gallup Poll raising the debt ceiling is unpopular among the majority of Americans and gaining.    President Obama says we need to eat our peas and Speaker John Boehner says that President Obama’s strategy is like jello.   Quit playing with your food, sit down and look at real improvement.    Speaking for those who depend on Social Security and Medicare to live, you can’t keep cutting the benefits and expect people to actually live.  Those who depend on it solely are already living below the poverty level.

I have heard a lot of people saying that we need to do away with entitlement programs and I believe they are speaking of Social Security Retirement, Disability and Medicare.  Let me ask you if your house burnt down, would you expect your insurance company to pay for a new one?   We have been forced to pay into Social Security for years and now it seems to be an inconvenience to pay the benefits back.

President Obama, threatening elderly and disabled people’s  main source of income is despicable especially when there is money to pay them and if you don’t know it, you should resign.  There is enough money in the ‘bank’ to pay the interest on our debts, and all of the social security, military retirements and other direct programs that you are responsible for paying.   Personally, I think that every politician should have to come live for a month on the income of their lowliest constituents.  It would be a revealation.

I am not the brightest economic mind in the world but it seems to me that the United States really needs to start focusing on Americans.   Hire Americans,  take care of Americans, buy American.  Quit worrying about the rest of the world and balance our budget.  Start paying down our debt so our government doesn’t implode and take the rest of us with it.

Frankly, I am at the point where I don’t want to vote for any incumbent whether they be Democrat or Republican.  Our country is a mess and both parties are equally responsible.   Quit pointing fingers at each other, Man Up and take care of business.  As a voter, I am telling you that you need to clean it up!    How does that commercial go?  ”I’m Mad As Hell And I Am Not Going to Take It Anymore!

cindys on June 30th, 2011

It has been a seriously long time since I posted.  Don’t you just hate it when someone you have been following just goes away?  I know of several bloggers that were posting daily and sometimes several times daily that just disappeared.  I always wondered what changed in their lives.

I have been very involved with another project and it takes most of my time and almost all of my focus.  While it hasn’t brought in thousands of dollars, it has enriched my life.  I hope that I will be posting more frequently in the upcoming weeks and months but I am not making any promises.  Like most of you, I am still struggling in this economy.  Just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does.

The presidential elections are coming up and the president is expected to fix our economy.  So I ask you,  if you were running the country, what would you do?  How would you fix it?  We are trillions of dollars in debt and it’s growing.  If I managed my household, the way Congress manages the USA, I would be bankrupt.

cindys on June 26th, 2010

Years ago I took a two week vacation in the Smokey Mountains for free.  It was awesome.  We were just a few minutes drive from the National and state parks, a half hour from Gatlinburg and forty five minutes from a major city.  The house was tucked away down a back road without a neighbor in sight.  I was house sitting for a friend and all it cost me was the gas to drive there.  I made sure that the house was safe and sound and got the mail every day.  The rest of the time was mine to do anything that I wanted to do.

In the age of the internet many of us have friends in different states or even countries, some of whom we know fairly well.  Have you ever thought about trading houses with them?  It’s not really a novel  idea and there are companies that will match you up with someone who wants to trade houses in your area.  It works somewhat like an online dating service.  If you saw the movie, “The Holiday” you have a pretty good idea of how it works.

One of the sites, Home Exchange (the one used in the movie) has a membership fee of $9.95 per month that is billed annually.  They also have a 3 month membership for $15.95 per month.    It’s not a bad buy if you decide that you are seriously considering a trade.   Home Exchange also has some great advice on how to be successful at trading houses.   They also publish many of their success stories and I enjoyed reading a few of them.  They really make it seem possible and FUN!

If you aren’t sure that you are ready to spend money on this endeavor, another website Home Exchange Vacation has a free membership option.  Just like Match.com, you can list your house for free and search for others but you can’t contact anyone without purchasing a full membership.   Their full membership is under $30 for a 3 month membership.

Tips for making a Successful Trade

  1. Make sure that you are comfortable with the other person.  Talk in email and on the phone before you commit to a trade.  If  you aren’t comfortable with anything, pass on it.
  2. Decide in advance how you are going to handle utility bills, cars, pets, etc.
  3. Whether you go through a service or not, have a written contract that specifies responsibilities of each party and liabilities.
  4. Check with your insurance company especially if you are trading cars to make sure that your insurance covers invited guests and permitted drivers.
  5. Make lists of emergency contacts, repair people and local attractions for your guests.
  6. Just for the fun of it, leave flowers and a chilled bottle of wine.
  7. Have a neighbor or friend check in with your guests the day after their arrival to make sure they are comfortable and don’t have any questions.  It also puts a friendly face with the names on your list.

I think it could be a great way to see the country if not the world.  Home Exchange also mentions that long weekends are their fastest growing segment so you don’t have to go around the world or even for a month.  You can exchange houses with someone right down the road and just get away for a few days.

Have you tried exchanging homes?  How did it work for you?  I’d love to hear some of  your personal experiences.

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cindys on April 12th, 2010

I made homemade coleslaw yesterday and didn’t have enough mayonnaise to make the sauce.  “No problem”, I thought to myself.  I will just whip up some homemade mayo.  I’m a pretty good cook and like to make things myself.  I can control the ingredients that go into it and do away with some of the sodium, preservatives, hormones, etc.

I jumped on the internet and did a search for mayonnaise recipes.  The first one I came up with had tons of ingredients and promised a “bright tasting” version.  Bright tasting sounded about right for my slaw so I got out my trusty blender and the other ingredients and went to town.  Now it already was not the most inexpensive undertaking because I was using olive oil instead of regular vegetable oil.  I’m pretty sure you can buy a quart of mayo for less than a cup and a half of olive oil.

The resulting glop was a serious taste disaster.  It didn’t emulsify.  It was oily and olive tasting with a tang that just didn’t sit well with me.  I poured it out in the weeds.  I was two eggs, a cup and a half of olive oil and the other ingredients into this experiment and I will freely admit that it wasn’t the recipe’s fault, it was mine.

I gave up for about 5 minutes and then decided to give it another try.  I did my research and read a few more recipes.  I figured out why my recipe didn’t work.   I stumbled upon another recipe that promised to work AND taste great.  Well, what did I have to lose but another few eggs and some more olive oil.

I have to tell you that making homemade mayo is not for the faint at heart.  It is not the most frugal recipe in the world but the mayo I ended up with is much healthier than the store bought stuff.  If you decide to undertake this endeavor, I will also include these few tips.

Homemade Mayonnaise Tips

  • Start with all your ingredients at room temperature.
  • Add oil one drop at a time and mix until emulsified
  • Do not rush the process – it is better to add oil one drop at a time than to put too much too fast
  • Use a lightly flavored oil or a mix of oils – my olive oil decidedly flavored the mayo.

The real trick to this whether you use a whisk or a blender is to add the oil slowly at first.  The egg yolks act as an emulsifier but the yolk and the oil have to be totally mixed before adding another drop.  Add another drop and mix again.  Once you have a tablespoon or two mixed in then you can start drizzling it in but if you go to fast, it will separate and you will have glop.

My first and second tries at making mayonnaise took 5 eggs, 2 1/2 cups of olive oil plus all the other ingredients to yield a single cup of mayo.  It ended up tasting ok but was definitely not cheap.

cindys on January 26th, 2010

We are still struggling to overcome the depression that the court’s decision caused last week.  I believe that it comes from believing that once R was approved for disability, the court would make this right.   I still struggle to understand how this could have happened.

I have been going through R’s back taxes.  In 2002, the year before he was hurt, his total income was $13000.  The farm showed a loss.  In 2003 and 2004, most of his income was from his long term disability insurance and was less than that.  The farm showed a loss in those years too.  As his neck and hips have continued to deteriorate, he has been able to do less and less on the farm and even with me helping, the income has not been over $5000 in any year.

How can a judge order someone to pay their more than they make in spousal support?  I don’t suppose I will ever understand how this could happen and I still have trouble believing that it can’t be changed.  I suppose the short answer is that he should have had an attorney for his divorce but it gets to be more complicated when the cheapest attorney he could find requires a $5000 retainer.

Now we are faced with getting another attorney.  I don’t know how we will pay for it but I have learned the hard way that to go to court without one is a losing proposition.  I may be having a retainer sale of everything left on the farm.

Today is the first day that I have felt even semi normal.  I can look at life with a little bit more of a hopeful attitude and am praying that the new attorney will be able to make some headway.   He is very well respected in the county court system.  Of course, that means he is also very expensive but since it is apparently pay now or pay more later, he will be worth it.

cindys on January 22nd, 2010

When I was younger, I would get depressed and then I would go shopping.  Shopping made me feel better.  It usually started innocently enough but would soon make a bad financial situation worse.  Oh, did I mention I was usually depressed about money.

It is a vicious cycle.  Get broke, get depressed, spend money, feel better, be broker, and then get more depressed.  It is a lot like dieting.  You eat for comfort and then you gain weight.  When you realize it, you go on a diet, lose a few pounds and then get depressed about something and the cycle starts all over again.

I suppose I am thinking about this because our experience with court has left us literally penniless.  It took every penny that I had in the house plus calling in some money owed plus borrowing about $500 to keep R from being locked up.  It feels like legal extortion.

The good news is that there is no money to spend.  No credit cards to make new debt and so I am just sitting here reflecting on the things I would like to do.  It’s less expensive than going on a shopping spree but not as comforting.

I believe that most of us need to find things to comfort us that are less destructive than incurring debt and eating ourselves into oblivion.  I am right there with the rest of the majority of Americans and these are my two worst habits.   I suppose it could be worse, I could find comfort in alcohol or drugs.  Thankfully, neither of those are my cross to bear.

One of the things that I find the most helpful at times like these is finding things in my life to be grateful. There are so many things:  my health, R, my children and small things such as watching the birds on the feeder outside my window.  It doesn’t put money in the bank but it keeps me grounded in reality.  These are things that are the most important and that make me feel better.

cindys on January 19th, 2010

Once again, one day in court has wiped out our emergency fund, the tiny baby tractor fund, money to pay the bills this month and added to our debt.  If you have read my articles on Blood From A Turnip and the Update and the Continuing Spousal Support Saga , you will know that this is the continuing saga of R’s fight to have some reasonable spousal support set.

I don’t think I have ever felt so totally hopeless and helpless in my life.  We went to court today expecting to be able to get the support amended because R has finally qualified for disability.  The Circuit Court judge told us that when he was approved the circumstances would have changed and he could apply for termination.  This would be good because it would allow us to work on some sort of repayment plan for the arrears.  Previously he was told that he had no income when the spousal support was ordered, he has no income now so nothing had changed and they couldn’t change it.

The last time we were in court, the judge ordered him to continue to pay what he could until he heard about his disability.  He has continued to pay what he could afford.  When we got to court today, the judge why he shouldn’t put him in jail and R showed him the approval letter for SSI.  He gets a whole $674 per month.  When the R asked him to terminate the spousal support based on a change of circumstances, the judge told him that he couldn’t do that today, that he would have to go through the proper procedure.  Then the judge asked what his plan was to repay the arrears and R told him that he could afford $100-150 per month and the judge says, “That isn’t going to cut it.”  He then ordered him to pay $2500 today or be taken into custody with a $2500 purge.

I left the courthouse to drain all of our bank accounts and borrow the rest of the money to get him out.  This puts us $40,000+ in debt to his ex and a total of another $9,000 in debt to some very, very good friends.  I don’t know what the judge expects him to do.  He can’t even borrow the money as long as the spousal support is continuing to accrue.  What bank would lend someone money when their debts are 125 percent of their income?

So yes, I am feeling down, depressed, hopeless and very, very disappointed with the American justice system.  I’m not even angry at the ex wife.  I can’t blame her for going after whatever she has been told that she legally can get but there certainly has to be some relief here.

R is not one of those men who quit their jobs so that he can avoid paying.  He was disabled before they were even separated.   This is pretty much legal extortion.  There is no way out and the debt just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

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