MM’s Money

September 13, 2008

Generic Vs. Name-Brand?

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Saving — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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I’m not the only one in the world who struggles with the choice between buying the generic and the store brand! I know there are also many others who never even make it a choice – “Coke, It’s the Real Thing” is firmly engrained in their consciousness. So I feel a little virtuous when I buy generic – although that should be the rule, not the exception. And it is the rule EXCEPT for the following:

  • Peanut Butter: have you tasted Jif? Is it not like heaven? How can you even compare store brand?
  • Charmin: my body is kinda sacred to me, and seriously – that store brand will not touch me. I mean it.
  • Light Bulbs: every store-brand CFC that I have bought has lasted less than 2 months. What is up with that? They are supposed to last a year! So we went back to GE/Westinghouse/Sylvania when it came time to replace these duds.
  • Charcoal: not that we buy a lot of it (well, compared to some, we do), but store brand is just harder to light & manage the fire
  • Shampoo: both DH and I have difficult to manage unruly wave & curl. So we buy the salon stuff and don’t struggle to manage. But I do wait for the buy-one-get-one, which halves our expenditure
  • Beer: I haven’t bought Beer Beer (remember the white cans with the UPI scan logo?) in years. We are a make-our-own or buy microbrew family
  • Toothpaste: I was a Crest Kid and am now a Crest Adult.
  • Gasoline: I will not purchase from no-name-brands or CITGO. Citgo for political reasons, no-names for watered down gas that caused an engine failure when I was in college
  • (confession. and I know you’ll be upset) Cigarettes: I know! I know! I’ll quit! I swear! Another post will detail how stupid and reckless this habit is, but I do and now you know and now you think I’m an idiot, and now I know that you know and that I know that you’re right! *ducking*. Again with the minor virtuousness, mine are a major retailed brand that often has the ‘keep them smoking’ buy-one-get-one promotions or major coupons, while DH smokes an ORGANIC brand that is like $2 more per pack and NEVER gets couponed or on sale or promotionally buy-one-get-one

But that’s about it. I might have left something off, but pretty much everything else is store-brand or not-major branded.

How about you?

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September 11, 2008

Conflicting Goals, Maybe?

Filed under: Debt,Planning,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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So part of my family financial makeover is to start saving. Family Financial Makeover has a nice ring to it…Googling…No, it doesn’t appear that I am using someone else’s trademark/copyright (I get those confused). OK. It’s MINE. My Catch Phrase. Hands Off! Now how do I trademark/copyright it? Can I get people to pay me for usage?

 Ok- back to topic: Yes, I am trying to build the buffer between me & disaster (that YNAB Rule#1 one-month’s expenses discussed in the previous post – listed as Goal 1 below), but at the same time, I have equally important and compelling goals:

  1. Goal: Generate Buffer. Execution – slash & burn expenses and allocate avoided dollars to buffer.
  2. Goal: Pay down debt. Execution – begin snowballing personal loan (at the YIKES! interest rate of  18.6% !) to free up cashflow in the budget ($201.50 per month). Current Snowball Amount: $100/month
  3. Goal: Start saving for Major Emergency Fund/Baby College/Car Fund. Execution: start slowly at $10 per payperiod in 3 accounts (total per month: roughly $60).

Now why would I try to accomplish all three goals at once? Am I setting myself up for failure?

First, for psychological reasons. I have been so beaten down by financial trauma, stress and discontent that I need to start on that debt ASAP. And I feel that with the help of YNAB, I can get to my one-month’s goal within the same timeframe as paying of that personal loan. And I do buy into the Dave Ramsey small-victories build momentum approach…I need to change my behaviors and I need to get positive reinforcement through accomplishing a goal. I should note I have not read any of Dave Ramsey’s books – I’ve heard his radio show two or three times, but I have read A LOT of blog posts and comments-debates on his theory and alternative approaches! I guess I am luck that my smallest debt and the highest interest rate are the same debt so I don’t have to be “stupid” according to varying groups of blog-commenters (and I’m pretty sure they are roughly divided in half in each of these camps).

Second, it’s kinda six-of-one, 1/2 dozen of the other to me. I’ve screwed up and screwed up badly in the past and have not done the requisite learning from my mistakes (yet – I need another disaster to prove/execute on what I’ve learned). Building the buffer will implement the YNAB approach, but only if no emergencies happen in the near term (til I get that loan cleared). My credit union really takes care of its members and in conversation with my branch manager, who yes – does know me by name, she indicated that the credit union is very willing to help members get out of trouble when they proven themselves dedicated to fixing their issues which (in context that I shan’t go into) to me sounded like my clearing my loan successfully (never been late, never asked for more funds, paid extra upon occassion and more regularly lately) would be beneficial if that near-term disaster were to appear. I really think my car is going to die soon – I really do. And being eligible for a car loan from them in 6 months is more likely than my being able to save $7000 for a good used vehicle. So as awful as it sounds, I’m almost resigned to needing another loan! and need to clear the current one to ensure this future one becomes available.

Last, the savings issue – I’m oh-so optomistic here. We have to have the major emergency fund – DH’s insurance (liability) has a $10K deductible. Where we would get that money should a project he’s working on go up in flames and we’re liable…Oh I could lose sleep over that. $10 at a time sounds miserly, but babysteps, right? Next – the baby. She will get college tuition paid for and I need to let the power of compounding interest begin to work its mojo. Simple as that – it is as important as any other goal in my personal view. And last – yes that car will die sometime. Maybe its death is 6 months from now, maybe 18 months. In any case, some money will be set aside for that eventuality and to avert the total need for another loan!

So tackling them concurrently, although with differing amounts budgeted against each per month, seems like a reasonable approach to deconflict the goals. Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure we don’t screw up again and this is the plan for now. Subject to revision, subject to God’s Will!

September 10, 2008

Daycare & Working

Filed under: DH,Lil One,Planning — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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We made a hard choice last month – facing my DH’s difficult work situation, we decided we would cut back our daycare to two days per week. This saves us $100 per week and major bucks in cost avoidance. It’s a double-edged sword. Yes, we have to increase our income and figure out our path out of debt, but he’s been bidding jobs all summer and not having a lot of success. Paying for daycare while he’s at home trying to drum up business put a lot of strain on our finances and on our emotions…

Factor 1: He won’t bid jobs that require him to finance significant materials/parts/equipment. We’ve gotten into trouble with this in the past and we can’t do it. Not above a certain threshhold – which we determined together to be $500. That’s the max. So that limits the jobs he can go after. Some jobs/customers will buy the materials (to avoid the contractor’s mark-up which can be 50% plus), so he focuses on these kinds of jobs which are few and far between.

Factor 2: He won’t hire illegals as helpers. It’s not fair to some, but from a legal perspective, and from his personal liability, he can’t do it. Helpers are covered under his umbrella policy and his bonding, but only if they are registered apprentices with the state. So there you go – he can’t get help for $8/hour. He has to pay a living wage to his helpers – and that’s $13/hr and up depending on the skills of the people he needs. So that too limits the size of the jobs he can bid. If he can’t get good help for the amount the customer is willing to pay for the job, the job goes to another bidder. Again – finding the niche that will pay the labor costs for this work is difficult – so jobs are few and far between.

Factor 3: Our babysitter is awesome and flexible with us. Lil One has been with her since she was 3 mos. old and is a favorite at the sitters. So keeping her at all, even if only 2 days a week, was something the sitter was willing to do. She would have been within her rights/and I would have understood, if she needed to kick us out to get a full-time child in that spot. But she didn’t and that’s such a blessing.

So DH has 2 days in the week and the weekend to schedule jobs. Most of the time, he can do that, unless the General Contractor’s schedule requires Monday through Friday. If we run into that, our sitter will accept Lil One for the additional days – as a drop in at a slightly higher rate – but otherwise, we’re only accountable for paying her for the two scheduled days. 

DH is reconsidering his business model – and the ‘industry’ he’s in. It has been so difficult these last few years to make it at all (even without all the bad choices and financial missteps), that it’s time for a significant change for him. And hopefully, getting this figured out will be good for him and good for us, too.

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