Breaking the shackles of debt

rhetoric on money, debt and life

Sorry I have not posted

Posted by oxymoron33 on March 5, 2008

My brother had a major crisis last Monday. That is why I have not written anything new in awhile. I give props to all that look at my meager little blog, and I will be back in full force soon.  My thoughts have been overwhelmed with my big bro is going through. It is not a good time in Akron for my brother and his family. If you have an extra prayer spot, please lend it to my big brother Larry.

I promise you, good updates to come. Blessed be, and peace be with you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Cable Bill

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 13, 2008

WOW, I just had an awesome savings. I opened my cable/internet bill. It is $132.90 for cable, HDTV, modem lease at what not. Dang the what not! Why is there .15 for taxes for goodness sake. But anyhoo, in the bill was a flier advertising a bundled package of phone, internet and cable for $89.99 for twelve months.
I checked out my bill, my basic, without the HDTV and others fees is $100.50. I thought heck, I do not have a land line now, butif I can save $10.51 per month a get one, why not. I called the toll free number and talked to a GREAT associate based in Alabama. Nice to not dial #1 for English for a change.

He told me that I would lose internet speed, and it would cost me more for the HDTV package if I were to switch. Bummer. No harm in trying I thought. Then my SEC football loving customer service person told me: “You have been a loyal customer for over two years and have never had a late payment, so for the next twelve months, we will deduct $10 off your bill.”

WOW! How cool was that? That’s an extra twelve Hamilton’s I have to throw at some credit card debts.

The call took about three minutes to connect, three minutes to talk about the plan, and ten minutes to talk about football and the weather. It saved us $120 for twenty-three minutes of really fun and pleasant conversation.

I am interested in hearing if someone else has had success with this. If you have not tried it, do it, you just might like it.

Have a dazzling day!

Posted in credit cards, debt, finance, money, personal finance, savings | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Paul Navone

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 8, 2008

This is a very impressive and eccentric man.

Paul has some sound advice on investing in the stock market. His charitable contributions are to be commended.

He says he has lived his life since without watching television since July 20, 1969. That is absolutely amazing. Could you do it?

I plan on doing a bit more “googling” on this man and learn some more about his life.

As a side note, when you watch that video and see the product labeled KURT. I sold one of those yesterday. Expensive, but no profit margin.

Have a spectacular day!

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Frugal at the workplace?

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 7, 2008

Something came up yesterday at the office that was absolutely stunning to me. We hired a new employee. That brings us up to three in the office. Small business, yes indeedy. My boss, the owner, said “I think we should get rid of your computer monitor and replace it with a flat screen”. The new employee who now shares this computer recommended this “update”.

I was asked my opinion. I responded with; “I can see everything clearly on the screen. What is the problem?” My boss said “It is outdated and a flat panel would look nicer.” We are not in an industry where a customer would walk in and see our “antiquated” fifteen inch monitor and decide not to do business with us. This new, and young, employee wanted a “fresh looking” monitor. Heck, no customers see what is on this desk.

I heard both the owners side: “We have the money available for it” and the new guys side: “Why wouldn’t you want a flat panel monitor?” Then it was time for my side.

1) If it is not broken, do not fix it.

2) Put that money into new products that I can/will sell.

3) How does replacing something that does not need replacing profit the company?

It made me reflect on how frugal I am in the workplace, even more so than I am at home. Mind you, I have never worked for Fortune 500/multinational companies. It has almost always been family owned businesses. I have always believe that if the company profits so shall I. For the most part that has worked for me.

Some frugal workplace things that I do:

1) If I err and misprint something and it does not take up too much space on a page, I put that page in the fax machine. It saves on paper.

2) I monitor the temperature in our building like it is my own.

3) I use the backside of inbound spam faxes to jot down notes and such.

4) I use open source software.

5) I wash plastic utensils.

6) I repair our printers and fax machines. I am a bit of a geek and find this easy. I do not recommend this to everyone but it is a cost savings.

I spent time with a customer yesterday looking through his disheveled inventory to help him find a part that I would have and could have supplied to him. But I knew he had it already. He said to me “I would not have spent that time like you did, I would have just ordered it from you.” I lost a sale, but earned trust. There is NO price on trust, and to me that is the better sale.

WHY do we not look at our employer’s money as our own? Because it is! If you can save money at the workplace and it is noticed, eventually it will come back to you.

Posted in finance, frugal, money, personal finance | 4 Comments »

Planning an emergency fund

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 6, 2008

There are great sites out there that talk about putting money away in an emergency fund. I am a strong believer that this is very important. What I have not seen mentioned is, are we really prepared for an emergency?

Here’s a few tips that I feel may ease some of the worries if an emergency does (and someday it will) happen:

FOR THE VEHICLE

1) Keep a twenty dollar bill in the glove box. Lock it if it is so equipped. If you break down and need to get gas, call your service person, whoever it may be. You will have a little security blanket in case you are in a situation where ATM’s are not accessible or plastic is not accepted for a purchase under $10.

2) If you have a cell phone, make sure you have a car charger. If you neglected to charge your phone at home, you have a way to make that emergency call.

3) For those that live where it gets cold, keep a blanket in the back seat or in the trunk. If you live in the Mojave desert, bring an air conditioner (kidding, bring water). There should always be a gallon of good old H2O in the car – for your radiator or for you.

4) Jumper cables: they are all the rage these days. Keep a set and know how to use them. Also it would help to know where the battery is in your vehicle.

5) Spare tires come either as a dough nut spare to get you down the road to have your normal tire fixed or as a regular sized wheel and tire. What ever you have, read your manual. Learn where it is and learn how to change a tire before you are subject to Murphy’s Law.

6) Flashlight and charged batteries. This is self explanatory, I hope.

A few more thoughts on vehicle emergencies. If you know your vehicle leaks oil, always carry a quart or two in the trunk. If you make longer trips, have flares and road flags. If you drive through bad areas make sure your taser is charged. That’s a joke. Please take it as such. Read your owners manual and be prepared.

A funny thought. I remember when I fixed a broken fan belt on a 1976 Mustang with a pair of pantyhose. Those days are over, but you can still stop a leak in the radiator with an egg. Google it.

FOR THE HOME

1) Flashlight and fresh batteries.

2) Backup fuses if your electrical box has them. Either way, know where the electrical box is and how to “flip the switch” or replace a burnt out fuse.

3) A truly disgusting weapon to use – the plunger. When you have the need, not the want, to bring out that tool, you know chaos will ensue. Know where it is and how to use it, otherwise pay a plumber. Or call me and I’ll do it for half price.

4) Duct tape (or Power Tape to those Down Under). It is not just for men anymore. This stuff is so strong and reliable that I have seen it keep bad marriages together. Again, just a joke. No way is this blog subsidized by Duct tape. You can wrap it on busted pipes, (after you turn off the water), patch a screen or window, or use it as a tourniquet or a band aid. It is just a roll that you should never be without.

5) A fire extinguisher is one of those things that “I wish I would have had one of those when……”. Spend the $20 now or pay hundreds, thousands or more if that emergency happens.

6) A fireproof box. Keep your important documents or copies in it. Store your banking, investment and other financial website logins and passwords there. Keep credit cards that you do not use in it. They will be locked down and safe in case a disaster hits.

We could get into a lot more here with generators, food, a bunker, band aids, syrup of Ipecac, sand bags or plumbers putty, but I am trying to look at things we might overlook that will cost a few dollars but will pay dividends.

I am looking forward to hearing about any ideas I may have missed in this post.

Posted in frugal, money, personal finance, savings, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

February Credit Card Update

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 5, 2008

CREDIT CARD BALANCE % Paid down  

01/01/08 02/01/08 RATE
 
WaMu $0.00 $0.00 27.74% 0  
Well’s Fargo $0.00 $0.00 23.50% 0  
Express Store Card $0.00 $0.00 22.80% 0  
Lowe’s $0.00 $0.00 21.99% 0  
Home Depot $602.52 $498.00 16.24% $104.52  
Orchard Bank $72.96 $5.00 15.90% $67.96  
Capital One $2917.10 $989.95 14.90% $1927.15  
Hanson’s Windows $2476.34 $2,359.47 14.49% $116.87  
Bank of America $2881.58 $4333.98 13.99% -$1452.40  
First Consumer’s $5283.21 $0 13.95% $5283.21  
Bank of America 2 $0.00 $3601.68 13.45% -$3601.68  
           
  Total Total   PAID DOWN  
  $14,333.71 $11,788.08   $2545.63  

We had some good results in debt reduction this month. We opened up a Bank of America line of credit. Maybe not so good for the credit report, but in time it will pay off. We payed off the First Consumer’s loan that we had for the windows installed in 2006. By utilizing the line of credit we accomplished two major things; saving over $1600 on the loan amount and removing the lien on our house.

In the upcoming months we can look at refinancing or mortgage. With the property values being sacked like Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, it was unfeasible to look at a refinance. The lien surely did NOT help. Now that it is eliminated, time to beat that ARM. Bad, bad ARM. I generally like most body parts, but this is one that must be severed.

We also moved some of the Capital One debt at 14.90 % to Bank of America at 13.99% Not a percentage savings, but every little bit helps.

We also started automatically sending an extra $20 – $30 weekly to Capital One. If you have some extra funds, send it to the credit cards. Pay down that debt! The daily balance will drop – that helps with the finance charge, and you probably will not even notice it missing from your account. But you will see it on your credit card statement. What a smile it brings to our faces.

I was able to contribute 5% this month to our IRA, and 3% to the emergency funds. Small numbers, but those too will grow as debt decreases.

Posted in budget, credit cards, debt, finance, frugal, money, personal finance, savings | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Waking up

Posted by oxymoron33 on February 2, 2008

Most mornings I wake up to either a word or a song running through my thoughts. Sometimes the words are ones that I do not know. So I look them up and surprisingly, I hear them said by someone, either talk radio, customer, supplier or friend within twenty four hours. This may seem a bit odd or mad, but this is a regular occurrence in my life.

Everyday I wake up with a song or a bit of lyric in head. I can not control it, nor would I ever want to. It fascinates me. The other morning I woke up and the line, “Hello darkness my old friend” was on a loop. I could not get it out of my head. I made some coffee, grabbed a smoke whilst I was waking up and had a revelation. What if I rewrote that great song with lyrics that mattered to PF bloggers?

To those who do not know the song it is “The Sounds of Silence” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

I decided to rename this song “The Sounds Of Compound Interest”. My wife hates it and does not think it flows. Let me know what you think.

 

In debt reduction I walked alone

Credit card companies giving me the bone.

Neath the halo of my desk lamp,

I wrote out a check and stuck on the stamp.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of

A PF blog,

that cleared the fog.

And touched the sound of compound interest.

And in the monitor light I saw

A thousand bloggers, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening.

People writing goals they publicly share,

It takes a lot of dare.

To disturb the sound of compound interest.

Fools said “aye”, you don’t know

Compound interest really grows.

Read the blogs that might teach you,

Take advice that will help you.

Minimum payments like silent raindrops fell,

and echoed.

In the wells of compound interest.

And the people bragged and praised,

To the debt reduction plan they made.

And the people typed out a warning,

In the blogs that were forming.

And the posts said, the words of the profits,

Are made inside homeowner walls,

Because of snowballs.

And whispered in the sound of compound interest.

Posted in debt, finance, money, personal finance, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Computer Organization

Posted by oxymoron33 on January 31, 2008

I found this post today. Organizing our computer folders is as important as organizing our physical documents. If you are not in control of either one, you will waste time. Additionally, I perform these tasks regularly: I clean up my temp, temp internet and prefetch folders. These actions will help keep your computer optimized for peak performance.

If time is money then good organization is a way to save time, money and stress. I am a very organized person. Ha! Hardly. I take up “horizontal spaces”. I have a pile for bills to pay, a pile for receipts to put into Quicken, a pile to shred, a pile to file (nice rhyme) and a pile to “look at later to decide what pile it goes to”.

I find electronic data easier to manage. I must be a child of the digital world. My drives* are labeled accordingly. I have a my boot drive..all things sacred to making my ‘puter run, a music drive, a data drive, a homework drive (for wifey), and a program drive where our games and non-essentials programs are stored.

*By drives I mean that they are either separate drives or partitioned drives.

I like to have my emails automatically drop in to folders. That way I can respond to them at my leisure.

My Thunderbird
Being able to shave a few minutes off our day to day routine may not seem like something a personal finance blog should discuss. If those few minutes make us more productive and that productivity enables profitability, then it is relevant.

Why? The reciprocal of “Time is money” is “Money is time”. Get control of your time to control your money. Enable yourself to spend more time with family, friends or your blog. Whatever it is you cherish, time management is the key to success.

I find Lifehacker to be a good site to find some great tips for software and what not.

Posted in debt, frugal, money, personal finance, time | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

It is what it is

Posted by oxymoron33 on January 24, 2008

As Charles Dickens said in 1859 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us”

How timeless are those words? One hundred and forty nine years later they still ring true. Life is cyclical. Since the dawn of man until now, everything changes but everything remains the same.

We wake up every day, and go to work. We pay our bills and our taxes, purchase our groceries and pay our rent or mortgages. Little has changed in the history of man. Oh, there have been downtimes and despair, but when the going gets tough….(you know the cliche).

As Americans we have more opportunities to “make it” than any other “empire” ever in the history of mankind. There is no ceiling here. If you want to work hard and smart, you will succeed. The malcontents will always be around being negative. You can choose not to listen.

We all understand the importance of being debt free. We can and WILL all get there, because we are a determined lot. If we allow ourselves listen to the mass media broadcasting their gloomy cynicisms and pessimism then we will surely suffer.

My parents were both born in 1934, during The Depression. My grandparents saw hard times, heck, my parents saw hard times. Today we see a drop in the stock market by a few hundred points and get scared. It should be viewed as nothing but a wake up call to pay off all debt, have an emergency fund, and buy low! We would not have the lifestyle today if it were not for the people that emerged from those times. They knew that times were difficult but yet they succeeded.

Before it gets really difficult, have a plan. What can you do better than your fellow employee to ensure that you retain your job and/or move up the ladder? What skills will enable you to bring in income when others can not? Furthermore, what have you done to make sure you are able to survive in traumatic times?

I believe that most people who spend their time reading financial blogs or blogging already have a good foundation to build upon. Opportunities are around us every day. Just choose to open your eyes and see them. Be true to yourself and your loved ones and nothing is insurmountable.

Posted in budget, frugal, money, personal finance, savings | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Have a Nice day!

Posted by oxymoron33 on January 22, 2008

Have a nice day!

How often do we hear it? How often do we say it? What percentage of the time is it said to us with true conviction and how often do we say it with conviction?

I work in industrial sales, both inside sales and outside sales. I wake up every day with a smile on my face. Why? I shall explain.

1) I woke up and I am breathing. That right there is a bonus.

2) I get to see my wife. I was a bachelor for thirty-eight years. I fought off marriage for twenty years, and thought I was winning. Well guess what? I lost! I see this beautiful woman and I count so many blessings that I am not worthy of. That puts a smile upon my face. How could it not? She is beautiful, kind, funny, intelligent, a good cook, she edits my blog and lets me watch football, basketball and curling. Plus I get to see her every day! How do you beat that? She is my best pal!

3) I have two beautiful, awesome dogs that show me they too are happy that I woke up. Their motives may be selfish, i.e. “Let us out to go potty, then feed us”, but I still get kisses from my beloved dogs when I awaken.

4) I have shelter, food and a job. Some out there do not.

5) I love my job! I sell screws, nuts, bolts and the like. It tackles me mentally and physically every day. I get challenges to make delivery dates, to keep production lines and manufacturing running, and sometimes I assist in the design of new products.

6) My big brother is my best male friend. I love him dearly although I was born twelve years after him. (Oxy was an unplanned event). My life would surely be altered if he was not around. I talk to him several times a week. We are in different states, but not in different states of mind.

7) I have a great sister-in-law who helped me stand tough through some terrible times. She is a rock, maybe a tree.

8) I am in debt! That fuels me to work harder. I hate debt, but I like the challenge it presented to me. Can I live without #8? Yeah, I am convinced. But for now it is a real part of my life, and someday we will part ways. I will look back to all the things my friend “debt” has taught me.

Recently I proposed a plan to my wifey; to say “Have a nice day!” to at least six people she runs into during the course of the day, that do not directly interact with her during business. She works in a doctor’s office as an operations manager and deals with many patients on a daily basis. Those do not count. I requested that she say it to the gentleman or gentlewoman that held the door open for her, the clerk that scanned the groceries, the bagger that bagged the groceries for her, the gas station attendant, the person she gave her paycheck to at the bank.

We have become such a service oriented society. Somewhere we have lost some humanity in dealing with people. I have seen many people expect cashiers, tellers, or customer service people to be polite, but as a customer they feel they do not have to be polite in return. There is something inherently wrong with that thought process. We should live by the quote from Bill and Ted “Be excellent to one another!”

What did any of this information do to enlighten you on debt reduction or personal finance? Probably nothing. If asking for a lower rate from your credit card company, negotiating late fees or terms, just being sincere and honest will pay dividends not only to your bank statement but to your heart.

The inspiration for this rambling goes to Mrs. Micah and her awesome post today.

Posted in money, personal finance, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »