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ID Theft…How Easy It Is

Take a look at this Washington Post article on ID Theft and tell me it doesn’t make you a little paranoid. I wasn’t surprised that identity theft happens to 11.1 million victims a year for a total of $54 billion. I wasn’t surprised that 55% of identity theft victims will never know how it happened. I wasn’t even that surprised that 18-24 year olds were hit the hardest since they take the longest to catch on (132 days on average) and share much more about themselves online than we old folks do. I was surprised how easy it is to find out who someone is so you can steal their identity. According to this article, most people can be tracked down by simply knowing their sex, zip code, and date of birth. That’s creepy. Especially since all of you know my sex, my general location, and my general age…hmmm. I will now be skipping any Happy Birthday posts I had in mind. 🙂 Please keep yourself safe. At the very least, take a look at your accounts and credit reports on a regular basis. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three main … Read more

Fit in a Fun Friday – Poker Night

When my husband and I were in college, we started a poker club. As the President, I found locations to play and organized tournaments. As the Treasurer (irony kicks booty), my husband used the dues to buy refreshments and supplies like decks of cards and poker chips. The tournaments were tons of fun and legal too since gift cards were used as prizes. That was a ton of fun. Then we graduated, everybody moved away, and poker night faded into the past. After a few years, we were able to revive the tradition. I called a few friends we knew who enjoyed Texas Hold ‘Em and set up our poker table in the dining room. We still had our own chips and cards from college (not the club sets), so getting ready was easy. We also supplied a few bags of chips and soda, so we were good to go. We played nickel poker with a max bet of a quarter and 3 raises, so our pots were limited and allowed for a lot of playing time in an evening. Everybody would buy-in for $5 and re-buy once or twice max. We usually started with Texas Hold ‘Em and moved on to … Read more

How We Chose to Buy a House

After coming across yet another blog about renting versus buying, I decided to explain how we chose to buy a house. First of all, I was extremely frustrated that our rent was increased by 5-10% at the end of every lease. We were clean, quiet, and paid early every month. I was always able to cut down on the increase, but I could never stop it completely. Secondly, having to ask permission to change absolutely everything meant we never changed anything at all. Our apartments didn’t feel like homes…they felt like temporary bases. We did everything that we do now in a house, but now I’m surrounded by the colors we picked out and art we made and that we finally allowed ourselves to buy since we felt stable. The Numbers Were in Our Favor to Buy A House Thirdly, the financial numbers worked in our favor in our area. No, it isn’t wise to buy a house that you cannot easily afford. That means that we would probably never allow ourselves to buy a house if we lived in the high cost areas along the coasts. Luckily, Houston has inexpensive homes in good locations. After looking around for a couple of … Read more

Balancing Your Budget with Online Tools

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

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

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?

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?