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Balancing Your Budget with Online Tools

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The internet gives us so many awesome things, including these amazing tools to help you balance your budget and stay on track financially. Take a look at these excellent resources, I am so glad to have found them and put my pennies right back in the bank!

The following is a guest post by Kevin Fleming. Kevin runs CreditShout, a personal finance blog dedicated to educating people on how to manage their finances and reviewing cash back credit cards. Tracking finances, budgeting funds, and paying bills is one of the most important jobs you have. With one lost bill or skipped payment, your credit rating can suffer inordinately, so properly budgeting your finances is absolutely essential. Many people shrink away from financial planning because it seems difficult—and face it, no one really likes the idea of spending hours working out a budget in a ledger book, surrounded by receipts from transactions you can’t even remember. The solution to the issue may be a free online program, which allows you to monitor your debt, manage your credit cards, and track your spending habits over time. Here are some of the best budgeting tools you’ll find on the internet and how they can help you take care of your finances week by week. Mvelopes – Mvelopes is an intuitive and award-winning online money managing envelope, and it comes with a free trial. While some online solutions are difficult to use and understand, Mvelopes uses the old-fashioned “envelope” method of … Read more

A Closer Look at Social Security

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As I’ve commented elsewhere, I do not include social security in our retirement plan in case it won’t be around for us in 40 years. That is not to say that I’m okay with being robbed my whole life, but I like to plan conservatively. Keeping that in mind, I was intrigued when one of my regular readers, MikeS (thanks again), sent me a blog suggestion to look into social security – specifically the survivor benefits and disability. I never really thought of those aspects, so here we go… From what I found at the Social Security site, if you have worked and contributed to Social Security for at least 10 years, the following people may be eligible to receive your survivor benefits: A widow or widower — full benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60 A disabled widow or widower — as early as age 50 A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under … Read more

Fit in a Fun Friday – State Parks

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State parks can be cheap fun!  All state parks have something that makes them special. The one near me, Brazos Bend, has alligators and the very cool George Observatory. Brazos Bend consists of 5000 acres of swamp and forest.  Trails take advantage of the many different lakes spread throughout.  This was definitely not my first visit during the day, but I still got excited when I saw an alligator, a rabbit, a few deer, and a billion birds. I didn’t know that I would enjoy star-gazing until last weekend, but my friends took me to the George Observatory and we had a blast!  I actually got to see Saturn, which was very cool.  I also saw the Greater Orion Nebula, cluster M79, and took a closer look at Mars.  I liked seeing Saturn and the gas clouds the best. I visited with two of my adult friends, but there were a ton of kids having a great time too.  I loved hearing everybody’s reaction to the wildlife during the day and the sky at night! The entrance fee to the park was $5 for an adult and the fee to use the smaller observatories was $2.  The large observatory was sold out but would have only cost … Read more

Charity Work – Does it Count?

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I’ve read a bunch of blogs that bring up tithing. I’ve read others that simply put a strong emphasis on monetary donations. I’ve even been judged since we donate so little actual money every year. That is true. We don’t tithe and we don’t donate much money (<$200 a year in cash), but we do contribute to society through charity work. My husband and I are foster parents for Pughearts: Houston Pug Rescue (although we have taken a break while he completes graduate school). I volunteer regularly at the Houston SPCA. Hubby will occasionally officiate basketball games for free if there is a school in need. In short, we donate time. This allows us to help without slowing down our progress towards our personal financial goals like early retirement. Plus, it is way more fun to me than writing a check! What do you think? Is donating money better than donating time? Do you like one over the other? What charities are you involved in either way?

Fit in a Fun Friday – Potlucks

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Potlucks are my favorite group activity – they’re fun and CHEAP! Hubby and I got involved with a board gaming group that meets up once a month at different homes for board gaming and FOOD. We hosted a few and I’ve fell in love with the whole thing. Here’s how we break it down: The host provides the main dish and sends E-vites to all the members of the group with the info and main dish idea. All the members that plan to come RSVP and post their idea for a side dish that they’ll bring unless they have no idea. This usually eliminates duplicate dishes. When the day of the party arrives, all the host has to do is make gaming room in their house and clear a space for everybody’s food. Easy, fun, and so yummy! Here’s a quick example from a potluck we hosted a couple of months ago. We provided chili, rice, and iced tea. Our friends brought the rest of the fixings (shredded cheese, fritos, cups, ice, dessert, and random appetizers). Everybody had a great time and we gamed until 2am. It cost us about $15 and our guests spent anywhere from $3 to $10 … Read more

What Would We Do If We Lose a Job?

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I responded to a very interesting post at Darwin’s Finance last month. Darwin was thinking about which expenses were unnecessary and could easily be cut in an emergency. I quickly listed off what my husband and I talked about, but I’ve changed my mind a little over the last few weeks. Here was my original list but I’ve crossed out the two things that would only be cut if we were in dire need: Gas $40 – No more driving to work. Mortgage Overpayment $160 – We would only pay the $740 due instead of the $900 we’ve been paying. Massage Envy Membership $49 – My husband loves it but agrees it would go first. Vacation Account $250 – That’s how much we put in a month to take a couple of annual vacations. Eating out $100 – We’ve only eat out a couple of times a week now and would cut that out. Last year it was 4-6 times a week, but we started cooking mainly at home in 2010. Entertainment Expenses $50 – We don’t go to the movies or participate in many paid activities, so that’s as much as we could cut. We’d still hang with friends, have potlucks, … Read more

What are we Saving For?

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Hubby and I have one life goal – to be happy. That led us to our main financial goal – early retirement. We are not those people who define themselves through their career. We don’t think retirement would be boring. We have no problem thinking of ways to fill in our spare time. A happy retirement to us is when we can do what we want with our day without worrying if we can afford it. Luckily, the things we want are cheap, so this is attainable. Hubby wants to watch tv, board game, video game, participate in Curling, continue being a sports official, vacation, and play Magic: The Gathering till the wee hours of the morning. I want to hang out with friends even more, have more potlucks, have more movie nights, take a few vacations a year, volunteer even more with dogs, deliver food for Meals on Wheels, and get involved in a couple of hiking groups. And these are just the ideas we can spout off in a few minutes…talk with us for an hour or two and you’d be amazed what we could come up with to fill those “lonely” days…ahhhh… To get back to it, … Read more