Savings


Last year we bought a riding mower and I have written before how the benefits of this purchase were getting a tan and escaping my children.

There may be one more benefit coming our way.

A class action lawsuit may put $75 bucks back in our pockets:

The lawsuit claims that the Defendants sold certain gasoline-powered lawn mowers and lawn mower engines with false and misleading horsepower ratings. The Defendants deny these claims and deny that they did anything wrong. The lawsuit does not concern the safety of these lawn mowers. The parties have agreed to resolve this case by settlement. (via lawnmowerclass.com)

If you bought a lawnmower (Ride-on $75 OR Walk-Behind $75) between January 1, 1994 and April 12th, 2009 you may be eligible.  So if you bought your lawn mower 16 years ago you can still file!  You just need the engine brand and ID Number (located on the engine itself).

You can file a claim online here.

Your lawnmower is included if your engine was manufactured by:
Briggs & Stratton
Honda
Kawasaki
Kohler
Tecumseh
Toro
Or, your lawnmower is included if your lawnmower was manufactured by:
Deere
EHP
Honda
Husqvarna
MTD
Sears
Toro
Brands manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to:
Yard-Man, Cub Cadet, Honda, Bolens, Exmark, Deere, Sabre, Scotts, Toro, Yard Machines, Craftsman, Troy Bilt, Husqvarna, Poulan, Poulan PRO, Lawn-Boy, Weed Eater, White Outdoor, Snapper, Simplicity, Brute, Murray, and other brands.
These lawsuits tend to go on forever but I filed a claim anyway.  If someday down the road we get a check for $75 in the mail – BONUS!
Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

Would you ever gamble with your personal finances?

Is there room for informed risk with your family finances if you feel the cards are stacked in your favor?

I expect to get completely slammed for this but:

I’m thinking about gambling a little with our financial future…

While in debt do we need/should we have a LARGE emergency fund?

There is a delicate balance between saving money for emergencies and getting out debt.  It’s a race against the unknown.  You try pay off high interest debt as quickly as possible, all the while saving money for the inevitable little emergencies that are certain to pop up along the way.  Therein lies the catch-22.  The more debt you have, the more emergency savings you’ll need to keep up with your debt payments if a BIG emergency such a a job loss loss occurs.

Next month, barring any major/minor catastrophes, we will have $1500 in the emergency fund.  At that point, I’m not sure whether I want to keep adding to the fund our use the monthly amount I would put towards the emergency Fund and instead put it towards paying off high interest debt.

Is a $1500 emergency fund enough?

Why in our case I think may be:

My husband’s job will end at some point (the company has been ‘in liquidation’ for over 9 years) but senior management has assured him his position secure for at least another year, probably 2, maybe even 3.   They need him to keep working at his job TO MAKE his job obsolete – how’s that for another catch-22? When the company does finally close, he will receive an extremely generous severance package (including paid medical coverage).   Companies with similar dire financial  positions have implied they would love to have him when his company finally does go kaput.   (It seems he may never work for an actual viable company but someone has to clean up the mess of the imploded businesses these days.)

The experts recommend 3-6 months living expenses.  But saving this amount would prolong the debt and greatly increase the interest amounts we pay.  It would split our focus, and I feel the severance package and the $1500 in the bank is enough for the one year it will take to pay off the credit cards.

Is this plan too risky?

Possible Outcomes of my Gamble – Would you put your money on RED or BLACK?

GAMBLE ON RED:   $1500 Emergency Fund – earmarked emergency money now goes towards Debt

Worst Possible Outcome of betting on RED:

Over the course of the next year every appliance breaks down, someone gets so sick where we must meet the $500 deductible, a tree falls on the house.  We have used up the $1500 emergency fund.  If another emergency occurs we must resort to using a credit cards  because the emergency expenses have outweighed the fund balance.  This possibility exists , although I believe small, and we are right back where we started.

Probable Outcome of Betting on RED:

Next month the emergency fund has $1500.   We roll the money we are currently adding to the emergency fund amount  towards the high interest credit card debt.  Throughout the year, the house needs $500 in repairs.  An appliance kicks the bucket – $500.  One or two ER visits @ $75 each.  All covered by “$1500 emergency fund.”   In March 2011, the credit cards are paid off. At this point we have freed up a tremendous amount of discretionary income, and are no longer beholden to outrageous interest rates and can reassess “the plan”.

GAMBLE ON BLACK – keep adding towards emergency fund/diverting money from debt until at least 3 months income is saved.

This really isn’t a gamble.   It’s the safest possible choice.  I would assume most people would recommend this plan.  But it is also the most costly – both in money and time to be debt free.  (It would take us close to 10 months to save up 3 months income.)

I hate casinos, the few times I’ve been in one, I put a $20 bill in the nickel slots.  Cash it out and physically place a single nickel in an old-school one-armed bandit.  I milk that single $20 for as long as possible.    So it’s not like I’m some adrenalin freak who can’t function without taking risks.  But I’m leaning toward betting on RED. The risk feels calculated.   The odds seem to be in our favor…

Would you take this gamble?

Suburban Dollar was kind enough to host “The Carnival of Money Stories” this week.  Check out his “Final Four Edition” with some great reads, including one from me.

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

While in college I took mathematics courses like  – “MATH 101 – Math for Life” and “STAT 200 – Statistics for Liberal Arts Majors”. My husband on the other hand, graduated from a top 5 business school with BS in Actuarial Science. I never even had heard of that major before we met.  Even today when people ask me what my husband does I say, “Don’t ask me. I’m just a girl [tee-hee tee-hee]!”

Of course I’m trying to be a funny guy, but much like that ill-fated barbie doll, math really isn’t my strong suit.  I always assumed because I had trouble with Chi-Square tests I was doomed when it came to investing, finances and budgeting.

But Personal Finance really isn’t about math. Because even with a math-nerd husband we still found ourselves not doing the right things when it came to money.

Personal Finance, at least in its beginner stages, is about commitment, sacrifice and self-control.

When we decided we didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck any longer and wanted to get control (FULL control) of our finances.  I researched all kinds of Personal Finance advice, read the blogs, learned all the lingo. Worked out the budget, planned for our irregular expenses. Basically, I prepared for almost a full year for the commitment we were going to make to be debt free.

It had been working out great.  We’ve been sticking to “THE PLAN”.  We no longer use credit cards.  I actually cook almost all our meals.  We have a small but growing emergency fund that we continually add to.   We gave up the Y membership, soda, name-brand coffee…

I have been waiting on the inevitable though.

And so we come to our first true test in our quest to be debt free:

The family TV broke this week.  It’s dead and it’s un-fixable.

I applaud and am in awe of those families with kids who limit TV watching to 30 minutes a day or the like.  We are not that family.   While I don’t worry for a minute that the kids watch “too much TV”  – they don’t.   I do use the TV as a crutch when I need to get something important done and having an almost 2, 3 and 4 year old under my feet is too much.  After the kids go to bed, my husband and I are *gasp* also TV junkies.  I admit it.  We don’t spend our evenings reading each other Shakespeare, we often sit slack-jawed, immersed in our favorite mindless entertainment.

In much the same way the TV was is a “crutch” so were the credit cards.   In the past we would have run out and bought a new TV AND put it on our credit card.   We had a very serious conversation (I’m not joking) discussing what to do with this dilemma.   Things like, “Will we survive without  TV?” and “After investing 5 frustrating years, will we never find out what’s really going on on LOST?!”, were said.

In the end we decided to do the grown-up responsible thing, not raid the emergency fund, and save up to buy a new TV with CASH.

In the meantime, my husband has agreed to don a smoking jacket and get a pipe.  Me and the little children will gather at his feet nightly by the fireplace, our chins resting on his knee, looking up at him with our angelic faces while he reads Dickens (my favorite!) to us…

(Full Disclosure – We do have a dinky old 19″ TV we can drag out if the above fantasy doesn’t work out.)

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

IRS – I take back all the nice things I recently said about you…YOU STINK!

Or it’s probably congress who stinks, I’m not sure who, but basically whoever is responsible for IRS Publication 15 (Circular E – Supplemental Wages) THEY stink.  This rule is going to cost us over $300 of our own hard-earned money.

The rule is regarding the tax treatment of bonus checks.  My husband receives a once a year bonus check in March.  According to the above rule,  this check is taxed at a mandatory 25%.

As I’ve stated before our effective tax rate is a ridiculous 1.26%.  I know, I don’t have a lot of room to complain with a tax rate like that, but we have deductible mortgage interest and property taxes, deductible student loan interest, crazy “city wage tax” and state taxes, three kids and are squarely middle class so it’s not like we are doing any creative accounting. ( I don’t even bother with our meager charity deductions because I feel I little guilty about this.)

I changed the w4 withholdings to 15 exemptions this year to no avail!  The paychecks don’t have a penny of Federal Taxes withheld and we will still get close to $3000 refunded.  The IRS will hold 23.74% of that bonus check in their coffers from March 2010 until we get it back in the form of a tax refund in MARCH of 2011.

In the meantime we will pay interest on credit cards with rates as high as 24.5%.  In the past I didn’t care, I loved that BIG REFUND.  But now that we are serious about no debt, and have a plan in place to get rid of it all, I’m a little miffed.  Each time I make a “Debt snowball” payment (or “debt avalanche” payment to be more precise)  I choke a little when I see how much of it goes to the interest and not the principal.   That chuck of our money we have to wait a year for would really speed up the process and save us money in interest or go to beefing up the emergency fund which would earn interest for us.

Do you think I can invoice the government for all the accumulated interest we will pay over this year?  I mean I don’t expect them to pay interest on tax refunds when most people who CHOOSE to CAN avoid them –  but what if  the IRS won’t ALLOW you avoid a refund?

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

If  you saw the recent Forbes list of  the Top 25 Richest counties in America, and you don’t live in one of them, you might be tempted to assume those who do all drive Porches, eat caviar like it’s pretzels or live 10000 square foot mansions.

We live in number 24 on the list of richest counties but we are as middle class as it’s gets.   I wonder how living here, surrounded by immense amounts of highly concentrated wealthy families effects the way we approach money, at least psychologically?

Everybody has heard of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon.   Originally proposed by James Duesenberry as the, “Relative Income Hypothesis” stating that, an individual’s attitude to consumption and saving is guided more by his income in relation to others than by an abstract standard of living.

So living amongst rich people MAY provide a more powerful motivator to consume and save than our own internal reality of how we approach wealth.

I’m really not sure how much outside influences have on how my family saves and spends.  I like to think it has ZERO influence.   But c’mon, no man is an island and all that.  It has to effect us in some way.

How much does environment play into our perception of wealth and how does that effect our pursuit of wealth?

I can only speak anecdotally, but I do wince a little inside when my daughter’s new friend invites her over to play and her garage is bigger than our house.   Our kids will attend the same blue-ribbon public school so we also benefit tremendously in spite of any inferiority I may feel.

I think as long as you don’t fall prey to “conspicuous consumption” the benefits of living surrounded by wealth outweigh any downsides.    At this point of our “financial enlightenment” we don’t feel the need to buy stuff to prove anything.  And we never really did “just buy stuff”, we were sloppy with our money and let it control us instead of vise versa.  We are now  focused on our own financial house.  What may have been feelings of envy towards the 20 BMW’s in the preschool parking lot  have been replaced with motivation.   The motivation is not for us to “be rich” but for us to live for ourselves, and never mind the masses.

The wince of inferiority I feel in the face of all the wealth I see on a daily basis WILL SOON be replaced with the pride of having control of the money and the future we do have.  And all the while our family will live simply and take advantage of the amazing schools, the safety of the community and it’s beautiful parks.   Thanks richy-riches!

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

My mom’s dishwasher has been on its last legs for a while now.  It finally died this past weekend and she and my dad were hoping to take advantage of the “CASH FOR APPLIANCES” AKA the “Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program.”

But it’s “NO GO” for them.   The program is administered by each individual state and it is your home state which decides what appliances are eligible for the rebate (or not).

Turns out in PA, dishwashers are NOT eligible for the rebate.  In fact, no classic “white goods” are eligible for the rebate in Pennsylvania.  (List of what is eligible in PA. Basically only dull stuff is eligible like, “boilers” and “furnaces”.  No cool new shiny stuff with tons of buttons and options, but I digress.)

And if you live in Iowa, Minnesota or Kansas you’re out of luck too.  Their rebate program already ended.   Some states reserve rebates for low-income participants or only if you are disabled.

So if your planning on buying a new appliance and taking advantage of the rebate, make sure your purchase is eligible and you qualify. You also need to make sure that your state has remaining rebate funds because when your state’s funding is exhausted, the program is over – no more rebates…

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

“If only one spouse works do I still qualify for the full $800 “Making Work Pay Credit”?

The answer, in MY CASE is yes, because:

We are Married filing Jointly.  Single filers max out at $400.

We make less than $150,000.  Credit starts phasing out over this amount for Married Joint filers.

My husband held only one job in the 2009 tax year.   Having more than one job may result in the credit being withheld  from both paychecks.

Because this a CREDIT on the amount of tax you owe, it may even give you refund even if you do not owe federal taxes.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we qualify for the full $800.  I mean I’m not complaining, just a little shocked.  This is the first cash value I’ve ever received for being a stay at home parent.

But it doesn’t even matter if we have kids or not.  We would still qualify if we were childless and I did not work  – because we are married.

I mean highly doubt those who are legality entitled to get married would choose to do so for $400.  Especially considering there is no longer a Marriage-Tax penalty.

But I’m surprised this hasn’t opened a bigger can of worms in the endless tax fairness debate…

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Next Page »