Wide Open Wallet

An honest look at family finances

The End

I’ve come to the heartbreaking decision that I’m not going to blog anymore.  Not here anyways.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.  At first I thought I was just overwhelmed with school and the kids and the business… and I was.  But now that school is out I see that my heart just isn’t in it anymore.  Not like it used to be, and I don’t want to write a half hearted blog.

I can honestly say that I’m leaving to “pursue other activities”.  Like creative writing, reading for fun, losing weight, household projects, ect.  I know that according to a schedule written on paper I can probably do all those things and still write here.  But in reality I can’t.  I only have so much brain power.

Since I made the final decision to quit I have felt a feeling of relief, which tells me I’m doing the right thing.  I have been feeling guilty that my site has been slipping.  If I do get a great post idea I’m sure I can write it as a guest post for a friend, so you might still see me around.  I plan on keeping current on all my favorite blogs.

Before I go, I want to say a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone who stopped by, commented on, subscribed, or linked to my humble little blog. If I had to sum up everything I know about personal finance it would be to live within your means.  The rest is details.  It’s either about how to live within your means (debt reduction, frugal living, income growth, budgeting) or what to do with the extra (saving, investing, giving).  Its amazing how much can be written on such a simple idea.

If anyone wants to keep in contact with me please shoot me an email.  The thing I’m going to miss the most is keeping up with all the friends I have made here.  I have a small personal blog that I am going to continue, if you are interested in that I can send you the link.

See you later...

Ashley

pic by: Ryan McD

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I have a guest post today from Trisha Wagner.  She is a freelance writer for DepositAccounts.com, where you can compare rates of checking accounts from dozens of banks in one place. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of personal finance and savings accounts.

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Summer is right around the corner which normally signals the beginning of vacation season for many families. Due to the state of the economy, most households have cut costs and eliminated unnecessary spending which leaves many people thinking twice about getting away this season. If you are on the fence about traveling this summer, consider the following tips before you postpone or cancel your vacation.

· Downsize your vacation- If you traditionally plan one or two “big” vacations per year, consider making concessions to accommodate a less expensive version of your regular vacation. It may take a bit of planning and adjustments for expenses but the point of getting away is to actually get away. If you have to decide between no vacation or one that is on a smaller scale than you are used to, downsizing becomes more appealing. Consider changing your destination or taking a shorter vacation that will still provide your family a much needed break without busting the budget.

· Break away from the pack- When everyone else is heading for the beach, consider taking your family to a less popular destination. Avoiding “tourist” destinations will not only cost less money, but you will also avoid the hustle and bustle that most people are trying to escape by going on vacation. Ditch the crowds and inflated prices and strike out on your own this summer.

· Do your research- Prices vary based on demand. For example some hotels offer reduced rates on the weekend, while others have lower prices throughout the week. Do your research before confirming travel plans to ensure you get the best rates available. Be on the lookout for special events which may drive prices upward and reduce your chances or getting the best rate.

· Share the cost of expenses- You are probably familiar with the phrase, the more the merrier. When it comes to vacationing on a budget, being part of a group can definitely make traveling more fun and affordable. Friends or family members can save money by renting a vacation house or carpooling to reduce costs. Most vacation rentals have fully stocked kitchens and often offer laundry facilities which can really help stretch your budget by allowing you to prepare meals or do laundry without paying for the service.

· Entertain each other- Finding ways to entertain your family while on vacation can be one of the biggest expenses. Consider activities you can participate in as a family that will cost less money and encourage family members to reconnect. In the fast paced world we live in, it is possible to live in the same home without really spending quality time together, which makes finding ways to entertain each other even more valuable.

· Don’t go overboard- For many people who practice responsible money management throughout the year, vacations signal a time to let loose and indulge in activities they would not normally participate in at home. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a nice dinner or spa treatment as long as you don’t go overboard. Consider creating a vacation budget which will help you determine how much you can splurge and where to cut back on frivolous spending. To avoid going in debt to fund your trip, open a savings account that is for vacation savings only.

Summer vacations are often the only time of year when families can get together and take a break from the fast paced society in which we live. If you can find a way to fit a vacation into your budget and schedule this summer, take advantage of the opportunity to escape for a few days and enjoy your time together.

pic by: phineas H

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New car shopping?

The frugal living blog author in me wants to encourage you to buy a used car, rather than new.  But some people buy new cars.  I have and will again.  So if you are in the market for a new car… today’s post is for you!

I recently came across a website that allows you to see what other people have paid for their new car.  It’s called truecar.com.  I’m not promoting this site, I just came across it in my travels and thought it was cool.  You choose the make and model, along with options, and then the site gives you a realistic price range based on what others have reported they paid.

If you are in the market for a new car this is really neat info to have.  Not only does it help you narrow down your choices with informed information, it’s a good tool to have when you are negotiating your price.

One thing that surprised me is how close the price range really is.  I played around with several different cars and most of them had high and low prices within a couple of hundred dollars.  The biggest range I saw was $2,000.  Now, I didn’t go nuts… I looked at 4 or 5 different cars so maybe it was just coincidence, but still.  I was surprised all the prices were pretty much in line with one another.  What really seems to cause price variances are the options.  If you know someone who paid $5,000 more than someone else for the same car, chances are it’s because of their options, not their negotiating skills.

Keep this tip in mind when you go to buy your new car.  Watch those options!  Better to wait a few weeks for your made to order car to be delivered, then to pay for options you don’t need.  Do you really want to pay for that roof rack, the mesh pockets in the trunk, or upgraded floor mats?  It pays to be nit picky about these things.

The site also gives you the price the dealership pays.  This was another surprise for me.  Maybe this is common knowledge to some… but I was surprised how high their prices are.  Often times their price is only two thousand less than sticker.  That doesn’t leave much room for negotiations, or profits.  It explains why the prices paid by consumers are so similar.  There is only so much the dealership can do.

pic by: box of lettuce

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I had the honor to post a guest post over at Ultimate Money Blog today.  It’s actually a post I wrote about a year ago about how to say no to your kids at the store.  I think it’s even more timely now than it was when I originally wrote it.  Impulse buying for you kids can be a big drain on your money.

So take a few minutes and go check out my post.

Have a great day!

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There is a class action lawsuit against KB Homes for artificially inflating home prices.  The allegations state that since 2006 KB Homes along with Countrywide and LandSafe have been giving false appraisals in order to increase the apparent value of the home.  They say this happened in Arizona and Nevada and home values were inflated by as much as $82,000 per home.

I bought an Arizona KB house in 2004 and Countrywide and LandSafe were the companies that KB Homes referred us to.  We got our mortgage through the builder, the builder uses Countrywide.  I didn’t think anything about it.  Countrywide sent out an appraiser.  Again, didn’t think anything about it.  According to this article this started after the market downturn, so this didn’t happen to us, but it sure could have.  Timing is the only thing that saved us.

When I first heard about the lawsuit I didn’t understand how this could even happen.  I mean, don’t people shop around?  I know when we bought our house we knew what houses in our price range were like.  I had an idea of the size of the home and neighborhood to expect.  But I can see that in 2006, when house prices were falling faster than anyone could keep up, it would be harder to say exactly what any given house was worth.  You would be more reliant on the appraiser to assess the value.

The lawsuit alleges that KB Homes would refer buyers to Countrywide for their mortgage and in turn, Countrywide would refer them to one particular person and LandSafe.  This person would assess the house and whatever value KB Homes and Countrywide would request.

The victims of this fraud don’t end at the people who bought the inflated homes.  One of the main sources of information an appraiser uses is comparable home sales.  If one house sells at an inflated value, then the houses around it will also have an inflated value.  So people who bought houses in and around KB communities may also have paid higher prices due to this scheme.  Unfortunately, there isn’t any recourse for those buyers.

If you bought a KB Home in Arizona or Nevada since 2006 you can sign up for the class action lawsuit by visiting www.hbsslaw.com/kbhomes, e-mailing kbhomes@hbsslaw.com or calling (206) 623-7292.

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I apologize if you get a pop up/ floating ad.  I believe they are coming from my BlogHer ad.  I have specifically opted out of these types of ads so I’m not sure why I’m getting them now.  I’ve sent an email and am waiting to hear back.  Please don’t hold it against me.  I’m working on getting them removed.

Thanks for your patience.

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We don’t spend our money on that

In the corner of our local pizza place they have a candy machine.  It’s the kind that has a crane arm that you can control and it goes down and grabs a few pieces of candy and drops them in the hole.  For 25 cents your kids gets to move the crane around and eat a tootsie roll and a piece of laffy taffy.   Hardly a bargain, but never the less most parents fork over the quarter after a few pleads.

A few weeks ago a little girl asked her dad if she could get some candy.  His response is the reason for this post.  He said “No, we can’t aff…  We don’t spend our money on that.”

Ha! I love it.

He started to say “We can’t afford it.” but stopped himself.  He stopped himself because it’s simply not true.  He could afford to spend a quarter if he really wanted to.  I mean, if they had diamond rings in the machine, I’m sure he could put together $.25.  “We don’t spend our money on that” is a better response for several reasons.  For one, it’s more accurate.  It also teaches the daughter a little something in the process.  It shows her that her parents make conscious choices with their money.  They don’t blindly spend until their last dollar is spent.

The “We can’t afford it” answer comes from a place of weakness. It leaves a “poor me” taste in your mouth.  Especially when you are a little kid.  His daughter watched several other kids slide their quarters into the machine and get a nickel’s worth of candy.  They could afford it, but she can’t. She might wonder what else other people can afford that she can’t.   She certainly doesn’t know that it’s just a quick answer to a complicated situation.

The “We don’t spend our money that” answer comes from a place of strength.  It simply comes down to choices.  We choose this, they choose that.  It doesn’t make you feel like a victim.  It lets you feel like a regular member of society.  Just like everyone else.

pic by: yomi995

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Do you plan your meals?

I had finals last night.  Wohoo!  I’m done with this semester.  I knew it was going to be rough going in, but man, that was a terrible semester.  I am so so happy to be done with it.  I’m pretty sure I got an A in Accounting but Calculus is a different story.  If I got at least a 70% on the final then I got an A, but it was wicked hard and I can’t predict how I did.  I’ll be pretty frustrated if I didn’t get at least a 70% though.

I also have a little confession.  I went grocery shopping on Sunday for the first time in months.  Shh.  I’ve been so busy with everything that I haven’t been meal planning or shopping properly, which I know is costing me money.  I haven’t been shopping sales, and I’ve been making several small trips to the store a week.  It not only makes groceries more expensive… it takes longer!  All because I wasn’t taking the half hour a week to actually plan a few dinners.

The excuse that I’m too busy to go grocery shopping isn’t an excuse at all.  Because in the end I spent more time trying to throw something together at the last second or making a quick run to the store than if I had just taken the time to plan.  It’s terrible and I’m glad to be back on board with proper meals.  We had been eating a lot of hamburgers on the grill and pancakes for dinner.  We usually have everything we need on hand for those, so they are easy last minute meals.

So on Sunday I sat down and made a list of every dish I cook regularly.  Then I planned our dinners for the rest of May.  The plans are flexible, but at least I have something written down that I can shop from.  We went to Costco yesterday (the new coupon book started!) and spent a small fortune.  But now we are stocked up and ready to go again.  It feels good… and I’m excited to get back into the kitchen.  Tonight we are having Turkey Burgers.

Do you meal plan?  What’s your strategy? This is the first time I’ve planned more than one week in advance.  Where do you write your plan?

pic by: riot jane

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They can’t even give ‘em away!

I know the market sucks right now… but jeeze!  It’s getting ridiculous!!

I was driving around the other day and spotted this sign.   I thought it was funny.  The prices start at FREE!  haha.  Happy Friday!!

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Ethical Question

The semester is coming to a close and that is always a stressful time for students.  I usually walk to my Calculus class with a friend, we happen to share two classes in a row.  Anyways, he is struggling in the class and since the semester is ending, deadlines are approaching and all the work is really starting to pile up.

I’ve been trying to help him as much as I can, not that I’m a math wiz or anything, but I can usually point him in the right direction.  During the class we had 3 projects.  I’ve gotten A’s on mine.  Yesterday on the way to class he offered to pay me to do the final project for him.  UG!

I’ve already finished mine, and it’s math so not like there is a lot of essay along with it.  It would be almost no extra work to do a second one.  I have to admit… I was tempted.  I know this kind of thing happens all the time.  And really, it’s money well spent for him since if he fails the class he will have to take it again.  So a few dollars for a quick A is worth it.  But in the end I declined.  He paid for an education, and if I had agreed to his proposal I would then be allowing him to pay to avoid the education.  We had a half hour before class, so I offered to sit with him and help in the places he was stuck.  We went over it and he knows what he needs to do, it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing it.  He deserves the knowledge for which he paid.

So what would you have done?  Would you have taken the money?

pic by: wellohorid

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