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Monday, February 9, 2015

10 Things You Don't Need To Waste Your Money On

What is this called: A $1 candy bar bought 5 times a week for a year equals $260.

That's easy! It's simple math.

No, actually it's called "perspective."

Want some more?

The average cost for a single trip to a nationally recognized coffeehouse is $3.25, according to CBS News. Bought five days a week is $16.25. That's about $65 a month and $845 a year. Even if you don't buy it every day, or maybe buy cheaper coffee, you're still spending the equivalent of a car payment.

Point being, it's something you don't need, especially if you're in debt. Every day Americans are wasting tens of thousands of dollars on stuff they don't need.

Here are 10 things that most people could probably do without. In fact, I'm more than sure that anybody could do without.

1. Up-Sizing Your Order

All you want is lunch, but the teenager on the other end of the speaker has been trained to rope you into purchasing more with a plethora of options. "You want a cookie with that? How about a super-sized drink? Apple pie? Extra fries?" Whatever the options, a lot of people are saying "Yes!" because, hey, it's only an extra buck, maybe even 50 cents. ... Who cares?! You're not 15 anymore. Stop giving in to the peer pressure and just say no!

2. Purebred Dogs

My wife has fallen in love with a new kind of dog breed, a cross between a Husky and a Pomeranian, called a Pomsky. I'll admit, they're deliciously adorable. They're also about $4,000. Let the pompous wealthy develop their expensive dog breeds for the sake of having something expensive. Meanwhile there are plenty of loving dogs (and kitty cats) that make up in loyalty what they lack in pedigree. Save a dog. Save some cash. Gain a friend. Sounds good to me!

3. Private Education

What do Starbucks' founder Howard Schultz, fashion entrepreneur Ralph Lauren, Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs, and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino have in common—aside from the fact that they're all millionaires? They all went to cheap, lowbrow high schools and colleges. Not to mention John D. Rockefeller, John Glenn, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and Albert Einstein, among many, many others.

Listen up America! An alma mater isn’t going to guarantee your sweetie a six-figure income—only hard work and determination can do that. I spent seven years working for a wealthy couple whose two children graduated ivy league colleges and struggled for years afterward trying to find jobs, and even though they're both employed now mommy and daddy are still paying some of their bills. So before you pay for another tuition hike, make sure you’re actually getting a better, safer or more faith-centered education for your money. And absolutely do not go into debt for it.

4. Lottery Tickets

For every 259 million people that play the Mega Millions lottery, only one will strike it rich. That's right. One.

Gosh'um golly gee whiz, I love perspective!

Want some better odds? Did you know that if you invested $100 a month in a good retirement plan for 40 years, you’ll almost always retire a millionaire? The math is simple. Lottery tickets = money leaving your pocket. Planning and budgeting = a little thing called prosperity.

5. Brand-Name Medicine

I was a seasonal allergy sufferer for almost twenty years. As a little kid I remember just laying on the couch and sneezing again and again and again and again all afternoon. Over the years I've tried countless brand name drugs to battle my allergies. Some worked well enough to clear me up for a spell, others didn't work at all. Then one day my wife and I saw a huge bin at Walmart filled with cheap allergy medication—$1 a box for 12 pills. I figured, why not? And you know what? It was the BEST allergy medicine I've ever used. Brand-name drugs usually have the same exact ingredients as their generic counterparts. So read the labels and buy your meds based on what’s in them, not based on who’s advertising them.

6. At-Home Parties

You’ve been invited to yet another jewelry party. Last month it was tote bags, and before that it was essential oils. But your best friend is hosting this one, and she’s asked you to come along as a favor. So you RSVP—even though you never make good decisions in a room full of women eating, drinking and writing checks for fun. Next time, if you can’t afford it, say no. Blame the budget if you have to. A true friend will understand.

7. The Newest Gadgets

Zombies are all the rage on TV and in the movies these days, but the there's a genuine zombie apocalypse happening in our streets every time a big gadget company releases a new version of the latest thingy. People swarm to the nearest store in droves to buy a thing with more storage space or a bigger screen or more megapixels or faster processor or whatever. Look, does your phone still make calls? Does your computer still turn on—maybe it doesn't boot up like a shiny new Mac, but it still works doesn't it? Relax, people. Whatever it is, chances are, you don't really need it.

8. Car Payments and Leases

Given the choice, would you rather pay someone else $500 a month, or pay yourself $500 a month? Thought so. Instead of buying a car on payments, hunt for a vehicle you can actually afford right now—even if it’s just a $2,000 get-you-to-work-and-back beater. And in just three short years, you’ll have enough money saved for an $18,000 look-at-you-now beauty. Then you can take that $500 car payment and put it in the bank every month for 40 years. That's $240,000, not including interest!


9. Singing Birthday Cards

That hilarious singing birthday card may be cute, but it’s not seven dollars cute! Plus, your brother-in-law is just going to throw it away in a week’s time. So save some cash by grabbing a generic card for a buck or two and writing a meaningful message inside. What you say will mean so much more than the paper you say it on.

10. Bottled Water

There’s really no excuse to buy something that’s practically free. And yet, in 2012, Americans spent more than $11.8 billion on disposable water bottles. Come on, folks. This one is really dumb, especially considering a group of German researches discovered in 2011 more than 24,000 chemicals on bottled water. Furthermore, a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council has shown that the quality of tap water is held to a much higher standard than that of bottled water. So if you're an avid drinker of bottled water, here's a money-saving that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year: buy a 32oz Camelback water bottle and fill it up with water every day. Drink at least one every day. You'll be richer and healthier!

In Closing

It's not fair to dog those of us who can afford private tuition or a nice new car, so, if you can and you want to, by all means, go for it. But if you're still paying down debt, catching up on bills, or stockpiling your emergency fund, these expensive life add-ons need to wait.

What about you? What things are you throwing your money at that you could probably live without, or at least long enough to gain some financial traction?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why You're Still In Debt

Why you're still in debt
I call it a 3 a.m. moment. It's the instant you realize that you need to do something about your debt. Maybe it doesn't happen at 3 a.m. necessarily. Maybe it happens when you look at the next credit card bill, or when you go to write that massive check for an unexpected car repair. It's like waking up in the middle of the night with the horrible realization that you forgot to do that very important thing.

So you decide to make a change. You even get a little angry about it. That "3 a.m." moment made you determined to get out of debt for good!

Buuuuut it didn't take. After a while, your conviction waned and now, sadly, you're still in debt.

What keeps people from getting out of debt? Why would someone want to stay in chains instead of living in freedom? Sadly, there are all sorts of reasons people choose MasterCard over being free from debt, but here are a few:

1. They want to keep up appearances.

This is what realty TV has got us trained to do—keeping up with the Joneses, or, to many, the Kardashians. But most people who appear to have it all really have a steep mortgage on that million dollar home, and a lease on that expensive car, and a Visa card that's maxed out. These are some of the most broke people in your neighborhood! Trying to keep up appearances with anyone is nothing but your ego taking a stroll on the uneasy side and it will lead to bankruptcy if you're not careful.

2. They are unwilling to sacrifice.

When Danielle and I got married, I couldn't fathom not going out to eat at least once a week. But it was a sacrifice I eventually made. Now we go out to eat once every few months. If that. And you know what? It's not as dreadful as I imagined it would be. We have since come to sacrifice many other things in order to get ahead—cable TV, high-speed internet, Netflix, vacations. This doesn't mean we have to do without these things forever, but the savings we've accumulated over the last two years is precisely why we are currently debt free! It’s about priorities. Here’s the question: What are you willing to sacrifice?

3. They’re addicted to stuff.

During my time as a UPS driver I had two stops on my route to women who were full-blown shopaholics. It was a rare day that I didn't stop at their houses with multiple packages from A love of stuff isn't that hard to understand, really. I mean, who doesn't like stuff? Heck, I LOVE stuff! And learning not to impulsively purchase everything we want isn't easy, because, for some reason, the more we have, the more confident and powerful we feel. But it's all a fraud! Eventually, stuff just weighs us down.

4. They don’t know how. 

A lot of people get those "3 a.m." moments and want to kick their debt to the curb, but they just don't know how to do it. Our culture, with its mentality of immediate gratification, has trained people to look at their mountain of debt and see it as something too big to bother with. Quick and easy, that's what people want. Hard work? Forget about it! But hard work and discipline is exactly what it takes to get your debt under control. That, and a plan. Thankfully there are plenty of solid, reliable budgeting programs to help you out—be it Crown Financial or Dave Ramsey, for example. You may have to plunk down some cash to get the program or take the course, but it's well worth the investment.

5. They’re lazy.

Some people know what to do. Maybe they know about the debt snowball and they sorta, kinda want to get out of debt. They know how debt can negatively affect their marriage, their stress levels, their relationships, and their future; they know that buying expensive coffees and cable TV packages and newer, more expensive cars and clothes isn't a wise move, but they just aren’t motivated to make a change. And that's... well, embarrassing. Especially if you've got kids. It's now not only your life you're ruining but theirs because they're going to learn their financial habits from you.

Every day, people are making the decision to get out of debt and change their lives. They’re ready to sacrifice and get rid of their fear of change or their addiction to stuff. If you're ready to take that leap, we can't recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University enough. It saved our finances and our marriage.

If a lazy, stuff-lovin' bum like me can make this change, then anyone can!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Taking Vacations With the Baby Steps

A Maui vacation reward
Jake and Danielle on vacation in Maui.
If you're like most people, you can only work, eat, sleep, and play through your weekly grind before the itch to "get away" starts making your insides raw.

But how do you take a vacation and have a good time when you're working your way through Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps to financial peace? I mean, the Baby Steps aren't exactly the best place to be when you want to blow $5,000 on a tropical getaway. Well, here's the good news: you're a fool if you sound like this *in a nasally tone* "We can't go on vacation. We need to save our money. Dave Ramsey says so."

Chill, bro. Or sis. Whoever you are. Vacations are not NOT possible. They CAN happen no matter what baby step you're in. But here's the tough news: you're going to have work at it.

Obviously, the decision to take a vacation is dependent on where you're at financially. If you’re on Baby Step 1 or 2, you’re either building a $1,000 emergency fund or paying off your debt with the debt snowball. In other words, your budget is probably tight—especially if you’re paying off debt aggressively, which you should be. In this case, your options might be limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, relaxing vacation. For now it might have to be a staycation, or an inexpensive camping trip, but it's not impossible. Get creative!

If you can manage—and budget for—a short weekend getaway, then go for it. Just remember, the beach and the mountains and all the fancy resorts can wait until you’re out of debt. They’ll still be there, and they will be an awesome reward for busting it and getting out of debt. The main thing is that you don't incur MORE debt by going on vacation.

If you're into Baby Step 3, you’re out of debt and starting to save your big emergency fund, which is three to six months of expenses. Now you can take a little bit of a breath. You’re still saving aggressively and putting all that money you were using to pay off debt toward the emergency fund. But you are also in a good situation where you can take a little bit of that and go on a vacation paid for with CASH. No credit cards here. Woot-woot!

It's important to not go too crazy though. Give yourself a budget, and keep yourself within that budget.

By the time you're into Baby steps 4 through 6, you're in an awesome spot! You’re out of debt, and you’ve saved up a large emergency fund. You’ve started the process of investing 15% of your household income retirement and you've begun saving for your kids' college funds. An annual summer vacation shouldn't be a problem. Just put it in the budget and set a little money aside every week. Even if it's just $100, that's $5,200! Pack up the van and take the kids to Disney!

Your income will determine what’s reasonable for you to do when it comes to vacation spending. Higher earners will obviously be able to afford pricier vacations, but the point here is to go somewhere and remain debt free. Say it with me now: No. More. Debt.

When you've made it all the way through the Baby Steps, don't forget to be generous. Take some family or friends with you on some of your vacations. Be an encourager and a motivator to people who haven’t reached this point in their journey yet. Be generous with your money and even more generous in your spirit. Everyone’s journey will be different. Some people are able to go through the Baby Steps quickly, while it takes much longer for others.

Keep that dream vacation in mind and use it to motivate you to work through the Baby Steps. Remember, getting out of debt and learning to live debt free won't take you forever. This is just a phase of life. The good times will come. You just need the dedication and a little patience to get there.

Keep pinchin :-)