Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Money Moment

Okay, this a bit off the subject of writing and romances, and I'll admit I'm not near anything like a financial whiz, but I wanted to take a moment to address something that is on all of our minds -- MONEY.

I'm not sure how I feel about the bailout band aid. Too socialistic? Maybe we should all just take the bitter medicine of justice and settle in for a long recovery. Anyway, I decided among the many things I do every day that I'm going to add money tracking this month.

Some of you may already do this kind of thing and actually enjoy it, but the older I get the more I seem to shun numbers. Calorie counting is a drudge, budgets are Greek to me, balancing a checkbook is a royal headache (thank God for online account access), and I can't even remember a phone number. But for the month of October, I am going to write down EVERY dollar I spend so I know where it is all going. I don't really intend to curb my spending this month, but I know having to write it down will make me think twice about buying some things. I want to use the month's findings to curb future spending, see what I can cut out, and see where I can redirect money to things that are most important to me (tithing, paying off debt, or buying organic/small farm raised food).

I know I spend more than I need to. I'm guilty of buying a new brand of shampoo when I still have half a bottle of other shampoo at home.

So I thought some of you might like to join me in this challenge -- or in a similar money challenge of your own choosing. At the very least, we could all use more money in the savings account for those rainy days -- that seem to grow ever closer on the horizon.

I meant to include that I recently read an article in Readers Digest about a couple who committed one month to absolutely no spending beyond the regular bills. They made do with the food in their pantry, stopped driving their car, and made home repairs without hiring a plumber but instead researching a solution online. They ended up saving around $2000, but the thing is that it wasn't a lifestyle they could maintain for the long run. I'm sure it taught them a few lessons about priorities, though.

Anyone have money advice to share or just want to vent on finances?


Rosslyn Elliott said...

Money tracking is a great idea, if frightening. I think stewardship is often one of those spiritual issues that we want to push back into a box so no one will talk about it. If I track my spending down to the last dollar, I will have to admit my unhealthy or selfish habits and try to improve. It's so much easier to just make excuses to myself about why it would be impossible to track my family's spending! Thanks for the reminder that it's one of those areas in which I need to put on the belt of Truth and get to work.

Vickie McDonough said...

I don't think I could do like that couple and totally freeze my spending. After all, that would mean--gasp--no new books, and we can't have that.

We have cut down on eating out, which means more cooking for me, but we are saving quite a bit that way. We are also driving less and consolidating the trips we do take.

Susan Downs said...

My husband and I have an exclusive debit account for personal spending. (We never use CASH anymore. What's THAT?) I check the balance on that account online almost on a daily basis. This is about the only way I've found to track my spending without it being a huge chore. When the money is gone in that account, there's no more spending until the next pay day.

Anonymous said...

This is actually one of those things I LOVE to do. I think it's because as a stay-at-home mom who had spent time in the working world, I truly understand and respect my husband's duty as the breadwinner in the family. So I actively look for deals, whether if be home repairs or groceries.
And my specialty is vacations.

My best friend and I actually taught a four week class on this very subject in our churches, women's groups and through the community schools. Between us, we had a notebook full of money saving ideas that we had collected over the years. Her strengths were my weakness and my strong points were her problem areas. And at the core of our teaching was a committment to give to the Lord.

So, I'll take your challenge, Becky. I'd like to see how I could tighten up things, give more to church and maybe pay off my daughter's college bill before she graduates next May.

Patty Smith Hall

P.S. I've still got that notebook if anyone would like to consider a non-fiction book out of it. I'm teasing.

Susan Downs said...

Hey, Patty, don't be so quick to dismiss the idea of that nonfiction book on money-minding. In these times in particular, it might find an interested editor. (Sorry, I can't really help you on this one. . .unless you can turn it into a cozy mystery!)

Cathy Shouse said...


Thanks for bringing up this topic and expressing what is on all our minds. Actually, I have an article on how to escalate your savings rate coming in the Nov/Dec issue of The Saturday Evening Post. (I'm a former financial planner).

You have just implemented one of the tips! It is to associate with people who also have goals to save more and to share money-saving information to motivate one another. I'm a facilitator for a Sunday School class doing exactly that. The momentum is really building with everyone chipping in on areas they know about.

I saw that Reader's Digest article, too. It was thought-provoking. Thankfully, I haven't needed a plumber although we did forgo getting our bushes professionally clipped this time and our teenager did it. (They're not perfect but will grow back.)

Actually, I'm working on a cozy with financial themes.


Janet Spaeth said...

I'm trying something I read about--saving every five dollar bill I get and putting it in the bank, and when I've got enough, changing it into a certificate of deposit.

My friends and I are doing this, and it's amazing how fast it adds up. Let's see if I can copy this URL without it going nuts.

This is the article that got us started. So far, so good! And we're all having fun doing it.

It doesn't seem like it'd be much, but you'd be amazed at how many five dollar bills come your way. In my case, they're promptly nabbed and escape only into the bank.

I read an article that recommended saving one dollar bills but I need them for my day-to-day life (tips, drink machine at work, etc.) so I guess the key is to select what works for your life style.

Lynette Sowell said...

We do our main shopping once a week now. The more you go to the store, be it a grocery store or Wal-Mart, the more stuff hops into your cart and the more you spend. At least that's what happens with us. It happened this week. We didn't buy enough milk and ran to get some last night--$22 later, we left the store with a few other things. Little things add up fast!

kaye dacus said...

I've never been much of a money tracker myself. As long as checks weren't bouncing, I was happy. But ever since I started freelancing full-time, I've gotten to where one of the first things I do every morning (after checking e-mail, of course) is log onto my bank's website and check to make sure nothing unexpected has gone through. And since I'm not out and about as much, I've found that I am spending much less money--because as an impulse buyer, it means I'm not as tempted to drop by Target or Avenue on the way home and buy stuff I probably don't need. And since I am working from home, going out to shop would mean actually doing something with my hair (other than a ponytail) and putting on makeup (I am a southerner, after all) before leaving the house. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

I am, and suspect I will always be, a tightwad.
It's something my husband and I agree on. :)
I have saved us a fortune in hair stylist bills alone in our 32 year marriage.
I try to gather money up in a slow, organized way and, when it finally amounts to something, saving or investing it somewhere.
We don't like debt. We have credit cards but don't buy anything that can't be paid off entirely in one month (well, we own a farm, that took a little longer).
Still, I know money slips through my fingers.
I always wish I was more disciplined with money. I wish I'd started saving in an orderly way long years ago. I think often of the scripture about storing up treasures on earth and hope I'm not doing that.
But I do hope never to be a burden to my children or society in my old age. I don't think that's the same thing.

Mary Connealy said...

AND, I've got a question about this huge insane bailout bill.

does ANYONE understand it?

Does anyone know what happened, oh, so suddenly that is now 'We'll have another Great Depression if we don't spend $700b immediately.'

I mean I get that companies gave out bad mortgages to people who couldn't pay them back.

I had a daughter who worked for a bank and she bought and sold mortgages (honestly, I don't really understand what she did) and she said all banks have a ... percentage I think ... of their total worth or money or value ... that can be owed or in debt or in mortgage.
So banks sell off their mortgages all the time. My daughter's bank bought them and sold them like cars or any other solid thing of value.
So does this 'mortgage crisis' maybe mean no one will BUY the mortgages? So banks can't sell them, and get their percentage down and make new loans?

I don't understand it at all and I hear people saying 'we have to.' and being this close to an election makes me wonder if the whole thing isn't a manufactured crisis.

Cara Putman said...

The best I can figure out right now is its the mark to mark/et accounting rules that have created this. That's why some people are now saying just change that rule and the problem goes away/gets pushed off. These rules were controversial in 1999/2000 when they were proposed. Didn't get it then, now I think I do. Sigh. Have to try to understand it for a class I teach on Tuesday.

Mary Connealy said...

Cara said: its the mark to mark/et accounting rules

Mary scratches her head in an ape-like manner.
I have no idea what this means, Cara.
Could you try again in ENGLISH???

and include a banana to keep my attention.

Mary Connealy said...

I got this off wiki.

Mark-to-market is an accounting methodology of assigning a value to a position held in a financial instrument based on the current market price for the instrument or similar instruments. For example, the final value of a futures contract that expires in 9 months will not be known until it expires. If it is marked to market, for accounting purposes it is assigned the value that it would fetch in the open market currently.

There, all cleared up. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Keep re-reading that, Becky, until it makes sense. Then explain it to me.

Becky said...

LOL Reading it once just makes my eyes water with the stress. Go figure!

Lynette Sowell said...

Mary, I would need more than a banana to help with that explanation. I was an art major (scratching my head)...My brain itches now...

Debby Mayne said...

The US economy so complicated, I don't even try to understand. All I know is that I'm spending way less money than ever, and I'm just as happy as I've always been. I enjoy cooking at home more than eating out. I've been trying to use less electricity and water, which I think helps a little. I don't go many places now that I'm working at home, so a tank of gas lasts me 3-4 weeks--sometimes longer.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they just explain things in simple terms so that everybody understands what's going on?

Janet Spaeth said...

I understand the mark to marketing thing but I don't understand what that has to do with mortgages. Or banks. Or any of this.

Why would anyone want to buy a mortgage? HEY! I have a mortgage! Somebody wanna buy it?

There's got to be something I'm missing here....

CHickey said...

Here's a tip on saving at the grocery store. My stepdaughter told me about The Grocery Game. You join at It costs $12-15/month and involves stockpiling. The website pulls up the sales to the stores you pick and matches them with coupons in your weekend paper. So save your coupons! She is better at it than I am and saves %50 on her bill. I average 42%. It's nice to go to the linen closet and have a toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. especially when money is tight. You plan your weekly meals around what's on sale and you have coupons for.

Janet Spaeth said...

Becky, I just read that article in Reader's Digest that you referred to. Reading his neighbor's paper and then putting it back? Using his neighbor's wireless signal? Ick.

I did enjoy the rest of it (especially the plumbing solution) but this part left me cold.

There has to be some way to do a similar experiment and keep it, well, honest.

--Janet "Poor But Honest" Spaeth, who buys her own newspaper and her own signal