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Website Issues

June 7th, 2015 at 06:07 pm

We are aware of the forum issues and are working to get them resolved. We are in the process of increasing security on our server and it's causing random issues around the site. Please be patient and let us know if any that you come across so we can fix them asap

A Little Something for the SA Member Bloggers

September 8th, 2012 at 04:25 pm

A little bit of news to pass along to all of the SA bloggers that I hope you'll like and will give you an opportunity to possibly

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snowflake some extra income each year.

If you have a Google Adsense account, you can now place your code in so all the advertising on your blog will now be yours. This includes all the old posts that you have written in the past.

To do this, go to "Control Panel" and then click the "Change my Blog Settings" link. About 3/4 of the way down the page you will see and "Ads" section where you can input your Google Adsense ID. Once placed in, any ad revenue that you earn will go to you.

If you don't have an Adsense account, but want to get one, you can learn more at the
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Google Adsense page. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or in the
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Forum Posting Issues - Access Denied

September 2nd, 2009 at 12:22 am

We are having issues with the forums and many of you are getting messages that you can't post or reply because you don't have the access to do so. Nate is working on this and hopefully we'll have the issue resolved soon. Apologies for the inconvenience

Jeffrey and Nate

Use Forum Points to Earn Prizes

May 10th, 2008 at 12:40 pm

We have decided to stop the point auctions and will now sell various financial books and money prizes for points:

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Forum Points

I have more prizes to list which I should be doing this week and hopefully we can fins something that you feel is worthwhile to use your points on as a thank you for helping out those looking for financial help in the forums.

Free$100 Gift Card and $10 ING Conversion End Tonight (3/20)

March 20th, 2008 at 07:20 am

There are two point auctions in the forums ending tonight - one for $100 bank gift card and one for $10 ING conversion:

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$100 Bank Gift Card

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$10 ING Conversion

We've been giving away quite a bit of
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free money - hope to see you bid.

$10 and Book Point Auctions Ending Tonight (3/15)

March 15th, 2008 at 04:34 pm

We have two point auctions ending tonight. One is a quick, one day $10 ING point conversion auction:

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$10 ING Conversion

and one for a personal finance book:

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Financial Bliss

Hope to see all of you participating in the bidding.

Free $100 Gift Card - Point Auction

March 13th, 2008 at 07:25 pm

We have started "point auctions" in the forums. This is where you can use the points that you have accumulated from posting in the forums to bid on prizes that we will give away. We currently have 3 point auction live:

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ING Invite Conversion $10 Point Auction (ends 3/14)

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Financial Bliss (ends 3/15)

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$100 Bank Gift Card (ends 3/20)

I hope to see you all participate Smile

Free $10 - ends tonight

March 11th, 2008 at 04:15 pm

We have started "point auctions" in the forums. This is where you can use the points that you have accumulated from posting in the forums to bid on prizes that we will give away. The first point auction ended at midnight and I've posted a new one that is worth $10 which will end tonight at 11:59 pm:

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ING Invite Conversion $10 Point Auction

We also have another point auction up for the finance book

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Financial Bliss

I hope to see you all participate Smile

Free $10 Point Auction

March 9th, 2008 at 09:55 am

We are starting "point auctions" in the forums. This is where you can use the points that you have accumulated from posting in the forums to bid on prizes that we will give away. The first point auction will end on Monday is is worth $10

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ING Invite Conversion $10 Point Auction

We also have another point auction up for the finance book

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Financial Bliss

I hope to see you all participate Smile

Blog Contest 6/6 - 6/12 "Debt"

June 6th, 2007 at 04:25 am

Don't forget to vote for the entries in the last 2 blogging contests:

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Final Vote: "The Secrets Of..." Blog Contest

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Final Vote: "Top Ten..."Blog Contest

This week's contest theme will be "Debt". Blog about your thoughts, helpful hints, your experience...anything that deals with debt. Be creative and have fun. Simply place the word "Debt" somewhere in the title of your post and it will be entered (note, if you don't see it listed
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here before you add another post to your blog, please leave a message in the thread or as a comment so I don't accidentally miss it).

The prizes will be:

First: $10
Second: $10
Third: $5

Have fun, be creative and if you have any questions, let me know.

Blogging Contest: 5/30 - 6/5 "Secrets of "

May 31st, 2007 at 01:41 am

This week's contest will be "The secret of ______". Be creative and have fun. Simply begin your post "The secret of" and it will be entered (note, if you don't see it listed

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here before you add another post to your blog, please leave a message in that thread so I don't accidentally miss it).

The prizes will be:

First: $10
Second: $10
Third: $5

Have fun, be creative and if you have any questions, let me know.

Also, don't forget to vote for your favorites from last week"s "top 10" contest:

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Group 1
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Group 2

Blog Contest 5/23 - 5/29 "Top 10"

May 24th, 2007 at 12:10 am

This week's contest will be "Top 10" (actually, you can use any number you want - top 3, top 5, top 25 - whatever) about anything. Be creative and have fun. Simply begin your post "Top ??" and it will be entered (note, if you don't see it listed

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on this page before you add another post to your blog, please leave a message in that thread so I don't accidentally miss it).

The prizes will be the same as last week:

First: $10
Second: $10
Third: $5

Have fun, be creative and if you have any questions, let me know.

Also, don't forget to
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vote for your favorite in last week's competition.

Confessions of a Dumpster Driver

May 4th, 2007 at 01:48 pm

The following was sent in by Dave, a savingadvice member that doesn't have a blog and didn't want to start one for just one post, but wanted to enter the contest.:

If you have never dumpster dived, then you probably have an image that isn't too positive about this activity. I know, because I once had the same image. I thought that it was for young people with no money and people who couldn't afford to purchase merchandise from a regular retail outlet. Had I known back when I was younger what I know today, I would have started this years ago.

Over the years I have come to realize that there are a large number of positive aspects to dumpster diving that the average person is simply unaware exist. I believe even those than may at first turn their nose up at the thought of dumpster diving should give it a try at least once.

One of the greatest joys I get from dumpster diving is that not only do I find stuff for myself, I can also help out charities at the same time. If I come across something in good condition, but I really don't need it (this happens a lot), I still take it with me. I'll then donate it to my local Goodwill or Salvation Army store.

I would donate the stuff I don't need to charity even if it didn't help me, but one of the the great benefits of donating these finds to charity is the tax deductions I receive for doing so. That means that in addition to helping out charities, I get some tax write-offs on my federal taxes.

Another option that you will realize quite quickly is that many of the things that your find when dumpster diving have value beyond giving to charity. The items with a higher value I sell and make some money. With the Internet and sites like eBay and Craigslist, it makes it quite easy to sell many of the items reclaimed from the dumpster. While I only make a bit this way, I know quite a few people who make a reasonable second income through dumpster diving.

A surprising benefit of dumpster diving is it's a great way to get extra exercise and stay healthy. First and foremost, it gets me up from the couch in front of the TV and out of the house. I get exercise not only picking up the objects that I find, but also climbing in and out of dumpsters. While it's nothing like running a marathon, I think most people would be surprised at the amount of physical stamina it takes and my health has improved from this activity.

One of the more controversial areas of dumpster diving are those who dumpster dive for food. I'll admit this was an area that I was sort of disgusted by when I first heard about it. The fact is that there is a lot of food that is thrown out that is still quality. Grocery stores must throw out food when it reaches its expiration date, but that expiration date assumes that a person purchasing it will keep it in their house for a specific amount of time after that date. That means that if you pick up food from a grocery store that has been thrown out, it's still very likely to be good. I found that once I got over the initial impression of dumpster diving for food, much of the food that is thrown out is prepackaged and individually wrapped so that even though it is found in a trash bin, it is still in perfect shape and perfectly edible. In the end this is something that you have to decide for yourself, but if you do decide that this is an acceptable find, you will get a lot of free food.

One of best parts of dumpster diving is the opportunity to find prizes. That is, a lot of stores give away game pieces to their customers and the game piece may win the customer a prize. The fact is that many people never look at the game pieces and simply throw them away. For example, when McDonald's has the their Monopoly type game where you need to find several pieces to win a prize, there are always an abundant amount of those game pieces to be found in the trash. In addition there are instant win prizes that can be found.

While this may be a surprise to most people, it is also possible to win money from lottery tickets found in a trash. I have no idea why, but people end up throwing away a winning lottery tickets from time to time. While I don't find winning lottery tickets very often, I have found a number of them over the years. These are usually in small amounts with the biggest winning ticket I have found to date being worth $20. Still, it adds some excitement when you are dumpster diving and find a ticket that is worth some money.

One of the things that I really enjoy about dumpster diving is that it is environmentally friendly. All the things that you reclaim from the dumpsters were headed to landfills. By taking them out of the dumpster, you give the items a new life and avoid adding more to landfills.

Another aspect of dumpster diving that surprises most people who first begin is the wide variety of people that you meet while doing this activity. The vast majority of the people you will meet when dumpster diving will be quite friendly and dumpster diving will give you an opportunity to make a lot of new and unique friends.

Dumpster diving will also save you money. Since I find so many different things when dumpster diving, I don't need to purchase any of the items I'm able to find. I figure that I save a couple hundred dollars each month on things I would have had to buy, but I end up finding for free while dumpster diving.

While all the above reason contribute to why I enjoy dumpster diving, the number most enjoyable aspect of dumpster diving for me are the adventures I have and the stories that come from doing this activity. From the people I meet to the different items that I find, there's an adventurous tale to tell almost every time I go out and dumpster diving. These tales make for great conversation and have enticed many others to give dumpster diving a try.

Blog Contest 5/1 - 5/15: Confessions

May 2nd, 2007 at 02:42 am


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first blogging contest is over and we had 19 entries. You can vote for your favorites. The entries have been divided into 4 groups and voting will last 1 week. The top 2 from each group will be in the finals for the prizes. You can vote here:

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Group 1
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Group 2
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Group 3
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Group 4

The next blogging contest theme is "Confessions of a" - simply begin the title of your post with this phrase to enter the contest.

These don't necessarily need to be your personal confessions, but can be confessions of something you do with the point being trying to help others learn about some money matter from your confession(s).

For example, Confessions of a retail clerk may say something like "if you are nice to me, I have the authority to give you up to a 10% discount on the items you buy"

Confessions of a gym manager could be "the price of a gym membership is always flexible and not necessarily what is printed on the signs in the gym"

Prizes for the top 3 will once again be $25, $15 and $10. Have fun and if you have any questions, let me know.

Blogging Contest 4-18 - 4-30

April 18th, 2007 at 10:25 pm

This is going to be a test to see how much interest there is in something like this for those of you writing blogs. We are going to have a little blogging contest with small prizes: $25, $15 and $10

The theme is: "How to...."

You can write a post on anything with a How To theme. You are free to write more than one if you'd like. Nate and I will pick the best submissions to be in the finals where all forum members can vote.

We know that everyone has different experiences and we hope that by getting all the interested bloggers to write about experiences that they have had and learned from, the information will help others as well.

To have your post entered in the contest, all you have to do is title it beginning with "How to"The contest will run from today until April 30. If you have any questions, please leave a comment

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in the forums (or here) and we hope that there is enough interest that we can have these on a regular basis.

Jeffrey and Nate

Money Links

April 1st, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Free Gmail Paper: This is a great idea from Google. Can't wait to try it out:

Yes. The cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica. No pop-ups, no flashy animations—these are physically impossible in the paper medium.

Free Broadband Wireless: I already have my set up kit and can't wait to install it.

Blogging Help: Need help with your blogging? Here is a great new system to help you come up with ideas:

Let's say you have a blog about Google, you wake up in the morning and wonder what to write. Now you can go to Google Writer, create a new project, enter some keywords and a small description and choose the default output (Blogger). Now when you create a new article inside this project, Google Writer gives you suggestions about the hot topics of the day, insightful articles about Google, news and popular queries that include "Google".

After choosing the topic, Google Writer suggests a title, some key quotes from other blogs and some interesting sites, images, and videos about the topic to facilitate your research. You can choose those that interests you and let Google Writer to create some context around the quotes. Google Writer has a big database of n-grams from web pages and it's able to create grammatically-correct sentences. It also learns your writing style from the previous articles, it knows your favorite authors, sites and your interests.

Now that you have the basis of the article, Google Writer suggests some concepts or portions of the text you should write about or expand. Google Writer has a smart autocomplete that learns from the web and is adapted to your style. It's also able to summarize text, to show interesting content from the web related to a text fragment and previous articles on the same topic.

Why don't they come out with stuff like this everyday?

Idea From The Coupon Lady

February 7th, 2007 at 03:54 am

When I was back in the US, I was at the grocery store one day when I saw this lady walking up and down the aisles filling her cart off here list, but also sticking pieces of paper on products on the selves from time to time. When I went buy, I noticed that she was taping coupons to the appropriate products.

I had to know what was going on, so I interrupted her to ask. She had a very simple answer"

It just seems a waste to throw away the coupons just because I don't use the product. Someone is going to purchase the product, so they might as well get use of the coupon. I'm already in the store doing my shopping and it takes a second or two to scotch tape the coupon onto the package. It just seems like the right thing to do.

I totally agree. Not only is it an easy way to help someone else save money, I'm sure that those people that reach for the item they were going to buy to find a discount coupon attached will feel like a bit of luck shined on them that day. I bet that simple action brings about a bunch of smiles each day she does it.

Since seeing that, I have started the same habit. It doesn't work so well in Japan where coupons are much rarer than in the US, but I was having a great time leaving coupons for people that could use them while still in the US. In fact, I moved beyond grocery coupons and started to print out multiple coupons when going to a restaurant that had online coupons. Then I simply handed them out or left them where anyone could grab one if they wanted.

I realize that not all of them will be used, but many more do than would if they had ended up in my waste basket. And it is surprising how a simple gesture like this can make somebody's day. If you use coupons and find yourself throwing some away from time to time, I encourage you to join me in following the example of the coupon lady.

Superbowl Sunday: Productivity Opportunity

January 30th, 2007 at 02:20 am

When I was living in the US, I loved Superbowl Sunday, but probably not for the reasons you're thinking. I didn't actually watch the Superbowl. Instead, it was by far the best skiing day of the year. There wasn't another Sunday during the year when you could ski up to a lift without having to wait for anyone in line. Superbowl Sunday was the best ski value day of the year.

While millions are glued to their TV sets watching the commercials (and occasionally the game), you can have one of the most productive days all year doing whatever activity you love to do. That is because while most places will still be open, there will hardly be a soul out in the streets. If there is some activity that you love to do that always seems crowded, this is the day to do it. Whatever the activity is, there will be a fraction of the people there doing it on Superbowl Sunday.

If you don't have a particular activity that is calling, you still have a perfect opportunity to be massively productive. If you have a list of errands that have been piling up, Superbowl Sunday is the day to do them. You will be able to accomplish what normally would take several days due to the light traffic, lines in stores and all around lack of crowds everywhere. Even the busiest of malls will look sparse come Sunday afternoon.

In the end, you won't be missing anything. All the highlights will be available in the news or on youtube. All the commercials will be available on the Internet so you can discuss them with others around the water cooler Monday morning. Nobody will even know that you didn't watch and in the process, you will have a squeaky clean to-do list.

And if you happen to be skiing, I'm jealous...

Money Superstition

January 21st, 2007 at 03:35 pm

There are a lot of money superstitions out there, but I learned a new one when I went to the God of Wealth shrine the other day.

As we were taking a short rest and drinking sweet rice wine called amazake. I noticed there were a couple of money notes on the wall hanging upside down.

When I asked why this was, I received the following answer:

You should always place a bill with a person’s face on it with the person’s face facing down. If you leave the bills facing up in your wallet, they will want to peak out and leave while if they are facing down, the will want to stay buried inside your wallet. Placing all your bills face down helps you keep your money.

All the bills in my wallet are now facing downward - we'll see if this helps keep them in there Wink

God Of Wealth Shrine

January 20th, 2007 at 01:53 pm

My wife and I went on our annual trip to the God of Wealth (Ebisuten) shrine in Osaka to make our personal finance prayers for the year and to buy good luck charms for Nate and I for our business. here are a few photos from the trip:

My wife washing her hands before entering the shrine:

My wife making her money prayers:

The good luck charms for Nate and I

The Cutest Tax Deduction

January 3rd, 2007 at 07:09 am

Ah, if taxes could only make us smile like this all the time...

Courtesy of blakefacey

I Love Nude Yoga!

December 28th, 2006 at 01:59 am

I, apparently, am fond of nude yoga. I found this out today when a reader sent me the following Amazon reviews that "Jeffrey Strain" wrote (he wanted to know if I had written them). I also apparently find Nude Personal Training "An Inspirational Exercise Tape" and was disappointed with Nude Cardiovascular Workout/College Co-eds Uncovered because it was shot "hot in a small room, with bad lighting, and ill-considered camera angles."

While there are a great many things you can control with what you do on the Internet, one thing that you have little control of on the Internet is what people with the same name as you do. While something like this may seem humorous at first glance, it could have significant financial repercussions depending on your employment situation.

More and more companies are doing searches on the candidates that are applying for jobs. If one of them searched "Jeffrey Strain" they would see that Amazon entry appear on the front page and if they assumed that it was I who wrote it, it could have consequences on whether or not I would receive the job.

If you are in a position where people will be looking up information about you, having people with the same name doing inappropriate things under your name could come back to haunt you in a number of ways that you might not even be aware that are happening (if a company decides not to give a sale to you because of something they disagree with that was written by someone with your name, they are not likely to tell you).

If you are looking to change jobs or in a position where you believe others will be searching your name, it's worthwhile to know what is going to turn up if someone happens to Google your name. If there is something that is present which is embarrassing that may be attributed to you, then you can explain away the situation before it even becomes an issue.

This is yet another reason why I feel that getting your name's domain name is one of the best investments you can make. No matter how much writing I do about personal finance, if some other Jeffrey Strain had the domain and decided to use it to share his various nude exercise video reviews, it is quite likely that his material would be at the top of any search engine search for the name Jeffrey Strain. By claiming your name you ensure that you have control of what gets associated with it which can save you a ton of grief depending on how stupid other people in the world that happen to have your name are.

While this particular instance has little effect on me (and no, I did not write those reviews), I'm sure that there are more than a few people on the Internet who have people with their same name that they would give practically anything to make them disappear. While there is little that you can do in most situations, taking as much control as you possibly can over your own name is an important first step to limit the damage.

Worthless or Not?

December 9th, 2006 at 12:08 am

I was sent quite an email in regard to the post I made about the secret of becoming rich:

If we already know everything and you can't teach us anything new, then you're worthless. Why should we waste out time reading your drivel? You should be ashamed at making your living doing something that isn't worthwhile to anyone...

While the email was a bit harsh in my humble opinion (I certainly hope that my writing isn't considered "drivel" by most), it does bring up a valid point. If everyone already knows what they need to do to become wealthy, what is the role of personal finance sites and bloggers? Here is my answer to that question:

Different Perspective: I think that it is important to present information in different forms and from different angles. The way I look at money and the way that you look at money are probably not the same. If I can write about a subject from a different perspective than you thought about before, maybe that will be the seed to help you do the things that you already know you should be doing.

Motivation: Just because you know something doesn't mean that it is easy to do. Personal finance writers can help remind you about what you already know in a way that helps to motivate you to actually take the steps needed to place the financial knowledge into motion. Just like with exercise, even when you know what you should be doing, it helps when you have a trainer or a workout partner to help motivate you to keep up the training.

Support: While people know what they should be doing, they often don't begin to do so until they have spent a lot of time not doing what they should have. That means that they have money obstacles to overcome. Once someone begins taking the steps to get their finances in order, it's not always an easy road due to the past mistakes. It helps to have the support of others who are going through the same issues or who have already gone through them to keep on the correct financial path.

Detailed Knowledge: While many know what they should be doing, they may not always know how to go about doing it or that there may be a variety of ways of doing it. In the form of a blog and websites, the detailed knowledge of how to go about acting upon what you already know can be passed along.

Confirmation: While people know what they should be doing, there often isn't a place where they can confirm the information they have. Unfortunately, money is still a subject that is often a taboo subject among family and friends, so some people need to find an alternative source to confirm they are on the correct financial path.

Entertainment: While entertainment isn't usually a word associated with personal finances, I hope that the subjects I write about and discuss make you think and are enjoyable to read (at least that is what I'm striving toward). Hopefully I can pass along information while also making you think a bit and also bring a smile to your face every once in awhile.

Are personal finance writers worthless? I don't believe so (although I wouldn't mind it if there was a day when they were - I would gladly look for another job), but if you happen to be one of those that do, you are always free to not read what I write Wink

What's Your Risk Tolerance?

December 9th, 2006 at 12:06 am

The old adage that the higher returns you receive when investing, the higher the risk is one that everyone should pay close attention to, but when it comes to investing, how do you know what your risk tolerance is? Here are five quizzes to help you determine your risk tolerance:

How Much Risk Can You Handle?: This is a 20 question quiz "designed to get you thinking about your attitude toward - and capacity for - risk." From these questions they will determine your score which will reveal how much risk you can afford and how much you can tolerate. In addition their will be suggestions of typical investment portfolios based on your answers.

Investment Risk Tolerance Quiz: This is a 20 question quiz to help you get an idea of your risk tolerance. The quiz was developed by 2 Kansas State University professors and by taking the quiz, you will help contribute to a study on measuring financial risk tolerance.

Risk Tolerance Quiz: This is a 10 question quiz which bills itself as "a simple guide to help you better understand your risk tolerance level." Once you have finished, you can also take a Risk Capacity Quiz.

Do you Like Investment Risks? Dare You To Find Out: This is an 8 question quiz that will help you find out your money personality and where your tolerance ranks in the investment world.

Risk Tolerance Quiz: this is a 7 question quiz that will help determine your investment style.

Why 5 risk tolerance quizzes? You see when taking them that they approach risk from different perspectives and no one test is a perfect indicator of you risk tolerance. By taking several of them, however, you should be able to confirm a pattern to help determine your true risk tolerance. Enjoy and see if your perceptions of your risk tolerance match what the quizzes say.

Hat Tip: Enough Wealth

Holiday Traditions: Where Your Focus Should Be

December 6th, 2006 at 08:49 am

Think back to your childhood and try to remember the toys that you got every year while you were growing up. While you probably can remember one or two over the years, you probably don't remember each one in detail. Now think back to some of the holiday traditions that you and your family had over the years. I'm guessing that these left a much strong impression on you (at least they did for me).

These days it's tough to avoid the continual commercialization of the winter holidays and the expenses that go with it. Although all the toy manufacturer's will spend millions of dollars trying to convince you that their latest gizmo is what the holidays are all about, when you sit back and think critically about what you (and your family) want, your common sense should tell you that it isn't the toys. One of the cruelest advertising come-ons that gets blasted throughout December is that without this or that hot toy under the tree, your children will have a disappointing holiday.

The fact is that money has little to do with creating a meaningful and unforgettable holiday season. For children, it is not the toys under the tree near as much as the entire process that is important in the long run. While children will tend to focus on the here and now, it's the traditions that you create that are done year in and year out that will have the lasting impression. It is to your benefit not to get caught up on this particular year, but create your holiday with a long term focus.

When you allow this year's TV commercials to dictate what your holiday is supposed to be, you can be assured that it will mean an unfullfilling and expensive holiday season. If you take the steps to decide what you want the holidays to be and what you want your children to get from them beyond the gifts, however, then you'll find that they actually will cost very little.

Before anything else, you need to sit down and take a critical look at what you want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Up to this point, you have probably let the TV and commercials become your default image. You won't be able to head in another direction until you know what you'd like them to mean for you, your spouse and your children.

One of the easiest actions you can take to make the winter holidays more meaningful is to create traditions. All it takes is a little imagination and you can create as many traditions as you want. It's these traditions that you and your family will fondly look back upon in later years. The best part is these traditions can be incorporated into every aspect of the holiday season from preparation to packing everything away. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

Decorating Traditions: Decorating can easily be made into a family traditional event. Choose a day for the family to go on a hike in the woods. As you go on your newly created traditional walk, make it a point to gather all the wonderful natural decorations that you find: brightly colored leaves, pine cones and branches, nuts, mistletoe, holly, berries, etc. Once you return home, spend another day turning all your natural found treasures into your holiday decorations by adding sparkles, ribbons and cotton balls (snow).

Get out paper, crayons, scissors, glue and let the kids make holiday decorations. For older kids, go to the local library and check out a book on making intricate snowflake patterns or origami for them to make decorations. Let the family create the holiday decor.

Make decorating the Christmas tree a traditional family event. Start with making a tradition of getting a tree. This may be going to the mountains to cut your own or to a local lot. We started a tradition a few years ago to buy our Christmas tree at a local nursery (while it isn't a "traditional" pine each year, the tree ends up in our garden when the holiday season is over and the planting of the tree is part of the holidays) Decide as a family the type of tree you want to find and make a tradition of hunting until you find the perfect tree.

Once set up, make a tradition in decorating the tree. Whip up a big bowl of popcorn and let the kids make popcorn strings to hang over the branches (and fill their tummies). Have everyone create a new ornament for each year with each person placing their ornaments from this year and past years on the tree in turns. Turn out all the lights in the room and have a countdown before switching on the Christmas tree lights.

Cooking Traditions: There are a lot of traditions you can create with cooking that will be great memories and take some of the cooking load off of you. Make baking cookies for Santa a children's tradition without (or the appropriate amount depending on their age) adult help. Have the kids in charge of popping the popcorn for decorating the family tree. As one of the children's gifts, let them choose a special dish to eat on Christmas morning. The more you include your children in the preparation of holiday meals and snacks, the more involved they will be with the entire seasonal spirit.

Gift Traditions: While this is the area that worries parents the most due to the costs, starting gift traditions can be a low cost way to exchange memories that will last a lifetime. By doing so you can change the focus of the Christmas morning away from store bought presents to the yearly traditional gifts.

Have each person make their yearly memory album for all the other members of the family. Focus it as the crowning point of each Christmas by exchanging the albums last and discussing the memories from the past year together. Make one of your traditional gifts a letter to your children telling them how much you love them (a gift that can never be given often enough) and what you learned from them in the past year. These are gifts that they will treasured long after all the store bought toys have been broken, lost and forgotten.

Help your children create time capsules. Have them make several each year for different periods in the future for themselves and write the date on the outside of when they want to open them. Then in future years they have already made gifts that they created for themselves and will easily become the centerpiece of opening gifts. You'll be amazed at the happiness they will bring to even the moodiest teenager when they look back at what they wanted to give themselves when they were young.

Make giving away old toys part of the holiday tradition so that it isn't focused solely on receiving. Make the entire process a tradition from choosing the items, wrapping them and taking them down to give to the toy drive together. Not only will it help clear out their rooms of no longer needed items, it will teach them the joy of giving.

General Traditions: There are an abundance of general tradition you can create for this time of year. Pick a favorite holiday book. An hour before bed, turn down the lights, build a fire in the fireplace and light candles. Read a chapter of the book and watch as the kids anticipate the story each night as they become more drawn into it.

Make a tradition one evening to load everyone into the car and drive around and look at all the holiday lights on display in your town. Discuss what you like and don't like. You can even take it a step further and rate the houses. The next day, have your kids go the the house they liked best and give the owners a homemade award for being the best decorated house. Not only is it fun to discuss what each family member likes best, it also will be greatly appreciated by the people who spent a lot of time decorating their homes for the season.

Instead of defaulting to whatever is on TV, have family nights to watch holiday movies. This allows you to set up a viewing program that will teach the wonders of the holidays instead of its commercialism. Have the kids make the snacks for the movies, turn down the lights and take in the true spirit.

These are just a few ideas of possible tradition you might want to begin, but far from all the possibilities out there. The best way to get your creative juices flowing in starting these traditions is to think back to your childhood and what you remember most about the holidays. That is the perfect launching point for creating your own traditions and a good bet is that memories are not about the toys you received.

Paint On Savings

December 3rd, 2006 at 06:44 pm

Looking to spruce up your house with a little paint? Why not insulate the walls at the same time with the same brush stroke. I happened to be looking for paint and insulation for a home improvement project when I stumbled upon insulating paints. It's a less expensive alternative to placing standard insulation materials in your home walls and much easier to install since all you do is paint on the insulation. Although insulation paint has been around for years, it has been used mainly used for commercial buildings. That is beginning to change as the public sees insulating paints as a way to save energy and reduce heating / cooling costs. It is possible to add the insulating properties by simply mixing an insulating paint additive into any paint that you use.

The insulating additive is able to insulate by providing a radiant heat reflecting, insulating and thermal barrier coating when mixed with the paint. The insulating paint additive is a fine power substance made of ceramic "microspheres" that appears to be like flour or a fine talcum powder. It is non-toxic, safe to use with any paint and environmentally friendly.

As if lower energy bills aren't enough, the insulating paint additive also has some other attributes that should make any homeowner happy. The paint helps in the following ways:

Reduces Corrosion
Resists Staining
Reduces Abrasions
Resists Build Up Of Mold & Mildew
Is Easier To Clean
Is Longer Lasting Paint Durability

You can find insulation paint at most places where paint is sold and it can be purchased either premixed or separately where it can be added to the paint. The additive works for virtually any type of paint whether indoor or outdoor. So the next time that you are planning to do a bit of painting around the house, consider also insulating your home at the same time.

So You Want To Be Rich?

November 30th, 2006 at 08:57 pm

Here's the question I get asked most often when people learn that I write about personal finance: "So how can I become rich?"

Here's the answer: "Do what you already know." That's the secret. Your already know everything you need to know to be rich. The problem is, even though you know, you probably aren't going to do it.

Let's be brutally honest. Anyone who is writing about personal finance will be writing about something that you already know (but probably aren't doing) 90% of the time. There will be a small chunk of knowledge here and a new service there that you may not have heard about, but for the most part, personal finance really is straight forward and easy to understand. You don't believe me? Here is the formula to get rich:

1. Start saving early
2. Spend a minimum of 10% less than you make.
3. Invest the money you don't spend.

That's it. No secret formulas or hidden gems. If you want to be rich, it's as simple as that. Of course, there is some tweaking that you have to do. You can't invest in any old thing, but even that isn't difficult to figure out and you already know where you should invest the money (401k with matching funds, Roth IRA and stock index funds being the most obvious - see, you knew that too).

In reality, I shouldn't have a job (and I would gladly look for another one if everyone would do what they already know they should do) helping people with their finances. Somehow I don't think I'll have to worry about changing professions in the future. While it is easy to understand how you become rich and you know what you should be doing to achieve that wealth, it most certainly isn't easy for a lot of people to actually follow what they know they should be doing.

I blame it all on the lottery attitude. If you aren't rich (or aren't moving in that direction), it's simply because you have decided to ignore what you already know in favor of pursuing easy money. The problem is that even though some people do get lucky and win the lottery, the odds are better that you will die from a flesh eating bacteria than you will striking it rich that way. You have decided to go after the quick buck because you aren't willing to put in the work that you know needs to be done. You may think you have a valid reason for this, but it's nothing more than an excuse.

So there you have the secret. Once again you know exactly what you need to do to become wealthy. Odds are that you are like the majority of people, you will once again ignore the obvious and see if there is an easier way, but I'm hoping since you are visiting this site that you are one of those that proves me wrong...

5 Investments Everyone Should Make

November 29th, 2006 at 12:47 am

This will not be the typical list of investments you probably would think you'd find on a personal finance blog, but it gets really boring reading personal finance advice when it's the same everywhere that you go. That's not necessarily a bad thing. When doing research on the basics of personal finance, you want to get good, solid information that can help you and this quality information tends to be the same. That being said, sometimes it's nice to hear some financial advice that you haven't considered anyplace else. The following are non-typical investments that I think you should seriously consider for your finances that you probably haven't ever heard of from other personal finance bloggers:

Invest In "Your Name" Domain: There are other people out there with your name. All you have to do is Google "your name" with the quotations marks to see who else out there you share your name with. There are more than a handful of people with the name Jeffrey Strain and the question is, do I really want someone else owning my name? You should ask yourself the same question. Even if you have no plans to build a website or do anything else with a domain at this point, you should still claim your own name. As the Internet becomes a more prevalent place for people to contact one another and socialize, your name will have value both financially and on a personal level. You will want your own name as your space on the world wide web. The cost is only $6 a year. You will thank me 10 years from now for getting it and curse yourself for not doing it if you decide to pass.

Invest In An Exercise Program: The reason that you're working so hard today is so that when you earn enough, you can do all kinds of things that you really want to do in your retirement. The only way that you are going to be able to accomplish this is if you are still healthy and active when you retire. Invest in a basic health and fitness program that suits your style. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just as long as you commit to it so that you increase your chances that you will still be active and lively when it's time to spend all the money you have worked so hard for. it will also ensure that you have a more financially productive work life increasing your chances of retiring early.

Invest In Something You've Always Wanted To Try: If you've had an inkling to try something for years, but have never gotten around to doing it for whatever reason, commit to invest in it right now. Whether it is learning to play the saxophone or how to fly a plane, invest in it. No matter how it turns out, you won't regret doing so and you'd be surprised how often those things that you have always wanted to do can end up being a career or an additional income earner while doing something that you love.

Invest In Time To Think: With the way the world works, finding time to just sit around and think is something that a lot of people just do not do on a regular basis. Determine to invest in time to think. Having time to mull all the information before you gives you a much better chance of making the correct decisions when they need to be made. If you don't have time to think and consider, your choices won't be as reasoned or as well thought out when made. In addition, invest in some type of recording system of your thoughts and goals - it can be a blog, a journal or just scraps of paper that happen to be around when you think of something. This will keep a record that you can look back on to see how you have progressed and to help you stay on tract toward those goals that you want to achieve.

Invest In Someone Else: Take the experiences and wisdom that you have gathered over the years through your own learning and mistakes and pass those lessons onto someone else. Become a mentor to anyone that wants to learn from you and freely offer to help those seeking help. Take them under your wing and help them become a better person so that they too can mentor another person in the future.

while the above five investments aren't usually considered investments in your finances, all of them will reap a much larger financial benefit for you that any typical stock you may choose. Consider them all seriously and i encourage you to commit to each and every one of them. Your finances will thank you in the future.

Save Before You Earn

November 29th, 2006 at 12:43 am

Here is a simple question to ask yourself. If you were given the choice of earning an extra $115 a month or painlessly saving $100 a month, which would you choose? While the $115 more a month may appear to be more money, the financially savvy choice would be choosing the $100 in savings. In fact, the correct answer isn't even a close call.

Benjamin Franklin's famous saying "a penny saved is a penny earned" needs to be updated to the reality of today. The problem is that back when he made that statement, there weren't a lot of government agencies and programs claiming their share of your hard earned money. That is not the case today and why saving money is actually about twice as effective as earning money for your bottom line.

When you take into account all the costs associated with earning money, a dollar saved is actually worth $2 earned today. That means every $5 saved is $10 earned and every $100 saved is the same as $200 earned. It also means that saving any amount of money is 100% more efficient than earning that same amount.

What makes saving money so much more valuable than earning it? It comes from the fact that the money you save is from after tax dollars while the money you earn still hasn't had the taxes taken out. When you calculate the federal, state and local taxes your must pay in addition to social security and Medicare deductions, a large portion of every $1 your earn doesn't end up coming home with you. Add on the costs associated with work such as clothing and commuting and it ends up that you get to take home roughly $0.50 out of every $1.00 you earn. The money you save, however, has already had all those expenses taken out.

In addition, you need to take into account that saving money often takes much less time than earning it. Take, for example, the purchase of a new high definition TV. If you went down to your local appliance store on the day you decided to purchase a TV, it is likely that you would come home having paid full retail price. Simply spending an hour or two on the Internet or calling all the stores in your area to see if there were any sales or other discounts available to get the best price on the high definition TV would likely save you $200 or more. In this scenario, that hour on Internet or phone would be the same as earning $400 in you job...that's right, $400. If you make $10 an hour at your job, your hour on the phone was equivalent to working an extra 5 full days on an 8 hour shift. That is the power that taking the time to save can have.

Here is another perspective to consider. What would your answer be if your boss said, "I've been thinking a lot lately. You have been working really hard lately, but you come to work every day with that Starbucks coffee and it distracts everyone. So if you will simply make your own coffee and bring it to work in a thermos instead of buying it each day, I will give you a $2,400 bonus this year." Would you take the offer? You can because the amount you save would be equal to earning an extra $2,400 a year.

When you begin to view money in this light, taking a few hours to plot out ways to save money can result in a much higher return than getting a significant raise at work. If you are able to save $5 a day, you have done the equivalent of receiving a $300 a month raise or a $3,600 a year raise. Anyone can achieve $5 a day in saving with a little effort and with much less time and sweat than you would need to put in at your regular job.

Don't get me wrong. I am no way implying that you should not try to maximize your earnings. In fact, you should be attempting to do both your job and beginning a side business. But just because you're earning more doesn't mean that you should neglect any savings that you can painlessly achieve because those savings are worth twice as much as your earnings.

Static Electricity House

November 28th, 2006 at 10:50 pm

Looking for a completely new and original way to save money on your utilities? How about a static electricity house?

Courtesy of personal finance video log

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