Archive for February, 2009

#020 — Give Up Something Financial for Lent

February 25th, 2009

It’s Mardi Gras time.  Fat Tuesday was yesterday, and in most Western Christian traditions, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day long liturgical season of fasting and praying leading up to Easter.

Here’s Lent in a nutshell according to Spirit Home:

The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.

Give UP for Lent

Most common vices people give up are alcohol, or sweets, like chocolate.  But I challenge you to sacrifice some of your normal spending.  It can be both a religious & financial reward!

Here’s a few things you could give up for Lent that are financially rewarding:

  1. Eating out at sit-down restaurants
  2. Eating out altogether
  3. Going to sporting events
  4. Going to concerts
  5. Getting a manicure/pedicure
  6. Buying more clothes
  7. Give up smoking or caffeine
  8. ??? (add something in the comments below!)

Add something for Lent

What can you add that could be spiritually and financially rewarding?

  1. A monthly household budget
  2. Join a website that uses personal finance software to categorize & track  your expenses)
  3. Read a financial related book (The Total Money Makeover or Automatic Millionaire)
  4. Take a financial course (Financial Peace University or Crown Financial Ministries)
  5. Read the book of Proverbs
  6. ??? (add something in the comments below!)

Give TO something for Lent

This is a no-brainer.  We should give to those less fortunate or to the organizations that help them.  But I also challenge you to give your time — it often costs us more, and certainly provides us more benefit and personal reward of being intricately involved in a cause.

What will you be doing for Lent?? What would you add to the above lists??

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#019 — Would You Upgrade to 1st Class?

February 23rd, 2009

This Wednesday, I’m headed to Southern California to be in my college friend’s wedding.  I got an amazing deal on the flight — $220 including fees & taxes, round-trip from DFW!

I don’t know about you, but all I usually hope to do is avoid any disasterous experiences when I’m flying.  Except the last time I flew to California.  That was the time I upgraded to 1st class.

I know, I know.  I didn’t need to fly 1st class, but I’ll give you my excuses justifications *ahem* reasons why I did it anyway.

My Excuses / Justifications / Reasons for Upgrading to 1st Class

I went out to California to visit family for Christmas.  My wife was already out there on business, so we met up out west and spent time with family.  We ended up booking the same flight home to Texas, except her company booked her a first class ticket, and I was back in coach with all the other riff-raff :)   Being the good husband that I am, I agreed to check into upgrading so we could sit together on the flight back home.  Turns out the upgrade was ‘only’ $100.

Could I have taken that $100 and paid down a student loan?  Sure.  But sometimes it’s fun to enjoy luxuries.  We’re very careful to pick and choose ours, and always make sure they fall somewhere within our budget.  It also fell within our allotted “Christmas Trip” budget-line, so we were okay with it.

The 1st Class Experience

I loved it.  By the time everyone else was boarding the plane, you were already stretched out and a chapter into your book.  Plenty of leg room for my 6′3″ frame, hot towels, a meal on an otherwise meal-free flight, and of course, free alcoholic beverages!  And no, I didn’t try to drink $100 worth of mixed drinks to make up for the price of the upgrade! ;)

The closest experience I can relate it to is going to a professional basketball game, and sitting court-side vs. the nosebleed seats.  You just never want to go back to the cheap seats after the experience!

Taste the Snowball

Our debt snowball will be rolling for quite some time.  A quick victory of knocking out a small debt can keep you motivated to continue snowballing the larger debts.  Every so often in little ways, I like to be able to have a taste of the good life; or “taste the snow” in my snowball.  It keeps me motivated to continue my debt snowball by reminding me that today’s sacrifices will pay off with future reward and security.

Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.

What about you?

Well I’m back to flying coach this week with a smile on my face and even more determination to knock out our debt. 

Any comments on my choice to upgrade to 1st class? 

Have you lost some financial battles to win the war??

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photo by Richard Moross

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#018 — Links O’ The Week

February 21st, 2009

Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!  Here’s my favorite articles I read this week.

Carnival of Personal Finance

My article on What We Learn from Tragedy was selected for the 192nd Carnival of Personal Finance.
Thanks to Canadian Personal Finance Blog for the selection!

Links O’ The Week

PT from Prime Time Money
gives us 15 Things You Should Never Pay For.  Well, actually 14, but who’s counting?

Bargaineering posted an article on the Basics of Retirement Planning.

Then again, Crackerjack Greenback’s 100th blog post has him Rethinking Retirement.

Learn Financial Planning says Your Car is Not an Investment.


My Dollar Plan provides us The Ultimate Tax Resource.

Get Rich Slowly tells us of Bankrate’s 2009 Tax Guide.


We’re all beginning to save because we have too much consumer debt, but the government wants us to spend & borrow to keep the economy going?  Consumerism Commentary discusses The Paradox of the Thrift.

The Digerati Life asks for discussion on Obama’s Foreclosure Bailout Plan.  I happily obliged and participated in the comments!

Children & Family

Need to explain the bad economy to your children?  My Two Dollars gives us a post called Money Management Advice from My 9 Year Old.

Frugal Dad talks real life issues regarding More Adult Children Moving Back Home.

The Simple Dollar writes that he is still struggling with choosing a guardian for his children.

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photo by visulogik

Links O' The Week

#017 — 80% Off at

February 20th, 2009

Here’s a quick hit for you this morning — is having an 80% off sale on its gift certificates.  This means a $25 gift certificate to your local restaurant can be purchased for $2.  TWO DOLLARS!

Promotional Code is valid through February 28th, 2009.

7 Easy Steps to 80% off at

  1. Log on to
  2. Search for restaurants in your area
  3. Click “Add to Cart” to choose a gift certificate to purchase
  4. Enter discount code: DINE
  5. Click “Proceed to Checkout”
  6. Follow directions for payment processing
  7. Print out your gift certificate!

Restrictions may apply.  Usually you are required to spend a certain dollar amount at the restaurant to qualify your $25 gift card.  For example, we went to a local sushi restaurant once that participated in the deals.  It was required to spend $50.  So basically, we got $55 worth of sushi for about $30.  All told, it was a great time and nice to not totally break the bank to enjoy some sushi! There are plenty of other types of participating restaurants.

Sushi, anyone?

Sushi, anyone?

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#016 — The MyMoneyMinute Stimulus Plan (Part 2)

February 18th, 2009

The M$M Economic Stimulus Plan

This is Part 2 of 2 in this series.  Click on this sentence to read Part 1, which covers what fundamental principles should be a part of any government stimulus plan.

Yesterday, President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus into law.  I think it misses the mark and violates in many respects the fundamentals of spending taxpayer money to stimulate the economy.  My alternative proposals are below; all proposals must satisfy Fundamental #1 by being targeted, specific action to seek a particular goal.

1. Incentives

Following the guidelines of Fundamental #3, it must be government economic policy must encourage good personal financial behavior.  Therefore, instead of direct stimulus checks, I propose stimulus matching funds be used on home down payments, pre-paid tuition, and health savings account deductibles (HSAs).

The best type of government stimulant is one that provides it’s citizens incentive to save up and pay for their shelter, education, and health care.

Real Estate. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll propose that for every dollar you save for a down payment up to 10% of purchase price, the government will match your down payment.  This could also be a graduated, tiered incentive (save 10%/match 5%, save 20%/match 10%, etc.).  It can also be capped at a specific dollar amount (match up to $25,000), or the cap can vary by market depending on cost of living.  Other stipulations:

  • No credit cards, cash advances, or 401(k)/403(b) withdrawals will receive matching funds — it MUST be cash earned & saved. You will not be able to rob Peter to pay Paul and expect government to support your behavior.  Do it on your own dime.
  • No 80/20s, ARMs, interest-only, or HELOCs allowed.  If you want the matching funds, it must be a 30-year or less mortgage with a fixed interest rate.

Point is, you stimulate the downtrodden real estate market, and most importantly, the benefits go to those that have been fiscally sound and did not overbuy during this last real estate bubble.

  • They were the victors because they DID pay their bills and WERE responsible with their finances, while most of us were not.
  • Allow the victors in our economic crisis be the ones to bring us out of the recession.
  • Reward their good behavior & provide incentives to the rest of us to copy it so we don’t end up down this path again.

Education. If there’s one area that’s exploded over the last decade, it’s college tuition.  The burden of student loans has grown exponentially since the early 1990s.  The education cartel increases in power with each new academic year.  If anyone knows the burden and risk it is yours truly.  Unfortunately, I have more student loan debt than anyone I know, but I also have a plan to get rid of it faster than anyone I know!

  • I propose matching funds for pre-paid tuition to any accredited institution of higher education.
  • Reward parents with 529s, and reward students that are working while putting themselves through school.
  • Again, no credit cards, cash advancements, or 401(k)/403(b) withdrawals will be matched.

Health Care. Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, and a drain on our economy.  Health Savings Accounts are becoming vastly popular, because it can be obtained outside the employment environment at a decent cost.  I propose matching funds for deductibles on HSAs.

  • Provides incentives to save money for when emergencies happen.
  • Reduces the amount of bankruptcies caused by medical bills.
  • Provides incentives toward the HSA and away from COBRA & the employment-based health care model.

2. Direct Investment

In compliance with Fundamental #2, direct government investment should have long-term benefits.  My answer is to (a) build and improve infrastructure & (b) invest in our children’s future.

Infrastructure. If we’re going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a stimulus, do it with specifically-targeted projects that will provide long-term benefits, that get people working immediately.

  • Fix bridges, overpasses, and roads.
  • Build & expand light rail systems. I know here in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, our light rail network could be extended into the suburbs to ease traffic congestion.  This would be money well-spent, because it is near-term jobs with long-term benefits.

Children’s Future. Each child that is born in the U.S. receives a one-time $2,500 investment into a personal retirement account at birth.

  • 4 million children are born in the United States annually = $10 billion investment/year.
  • Unlike 401(k)/403(b), no withdrawal allowed for any reason until person reaches retirement age (65).
  • An 8% annual growth rate = $445,000 retirement account for each citizen at age 65.
  • Parents allowed to match initial $2,500 investment + $1,000/year into each individual account until age 25.

This promotes both parents & children to save for retirement, and shifts our paradigm to thinking about the future.

3. Tax Cuts

We also need to provide incentives to our businesses and those with entrepreneurial spirit.  Ideas & small business are the true backbone of the American economy.



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photo by Elsie esq.

The My Money Minute Stimulus Plan (Part One)

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#015 — The MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan (Part 1)

February 17th, 2009

Congress has passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill, much to the disapproval of many Republican leaders.

In my humble opinion, this stimulus package, due to be signed by President Obama today, misses the mark.  Lots of money is being spent on projects that either (a) provide only temporary jobs or (b) provide no employment whatsoever.

“So what would you do, Jason?”  Well, glad you asked..

Part One:  Fundamentals

Before any specific proposals are given, a stimulus plan should first begin with basic, fundamental philosophies.

Fundamental #1

This is the taxpayer’s money.  Be efficient, not frivolous.

If it’s one thing we can learn from government spending, throwing money at a problem without a clear objective will not solve the problem.  For a Republican “I told you so”, bring up our education bureaucracy.  For a Democratic “I told you so”, point out no-bid contracts in our War on Terror.  Money is needed for both education & defense, but the point remains we are often inefficient with how we spend it.

Fundamental #2

Short-term cash injections must have long-term benefits.

I understand that unemployment is rising and near-term jobs would help significantly.  Even if the jobs do not last forever, the money should be invested in projects that help our nation & economy long-term.

Fundamental #3

Economic stimulus funds must reinforce & encourage good financial behavior.

In other words, no more blanket stimulus checks where we send $600 to every taxpayer.  You know what I did with my stimulus check?  Paid off debt.  So did many others.  Those that did spend their stimulus check only contributed to a temporary fix to a long-term problem.  Now the money’s spent and our economy is still sluggish.  Worst of all, the government reinforced bad financial behavior by giving people money and telling them to spend it instead of taking care of their household first.  Encouraging the citizenry to buy a flatscreen instead of paying down a credit card is not sound financial policy.

Come by tomorrow and see specific proposals in Part 2 of The MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan!

Tim Duncan

The Big Fundamental

Are there other fundamentals you would add to a government stimulus plan?

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The My Money Minute Stimulus Plan (Part Two)

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#014 — Links O’ The Week

February 14th, 2009

Well I finally caught up with all my blog reading since being gone on vacation!  That means I have a pretty hefty Links O’ The Week this time around.  Without further adieu, here is our Valentine’s Day edition of Links O’ The Week!


When you have a significant other, you are always learning about them, and about how relationships work.  So it is with personal finance.  We must constantly be learning to grow.

No Credit Needed challenges us to Dedicate 7 Hours for Healthier Finances.  This is a 7-post series, so I linked to the final one.  Review it and let me (and NCN) know what you think.

Money Grubbing Lawyer helps you to Plan for your Digital Death.

Christian Personal Finance gives us 10 Tips for Surviving a Layoff.

The Wisdom Journal came up using the TRACK Method to Achieve Your Goals.  Take a look!


Michael James on Money posts on Teenage Jobs that Pay Well.  I put this here because it reminds me of some of the things I did for money when I was a teen!  Seriously though, lots of good ideas in this post.


When life happens, we need a team of experts to help.  Scordo is right on the ball when he recommends 6 people you should build relationships with.  I added one in the comment section — Spiritual Counsel.

Ashley & her husband from Wide Open Wallet started a business.  Congratulations on taking the plunge into self-employment!

My Journey To Millions noticed a higher percentage of audits on estate tax filings in his post on Audit Worries.

So You Think You Can Write? The Wisdom Journal found some links to help you get paid for writing.

Money Grubbing Lawyer asks the tough question:  Would you rather talk about Money or Sex?

Frugal Dad challenges us to Start A Sunny Day Fund.

Frugal Dad goes back-to-back here, with a post asking Is Frugality The Anti-Stimulus Plan?

Being Frugal gives A Full Cup ReviewA Full Cup is a website about learning and locating coupons.

Mrs. Micah evaluates Online Money Management Tools, including Mint & Geezeo.

No Debt Plan talks Can Not, Will Not, and Why Not? What are your excuses for not getting out of debt and in control of your finances?


Stuff Christians Like asks, “Are you offering things that don’t cost anything?” in his post on Giving people the easy stuff.

Christian Personal Finance reminds us that God’s Economy is strong.

As teammates in a relationship, one may do most of the money management.  Mrs. Micah provides advice on How Much Should We Ask Our Spouse To Do?

Happy Valentine’s Day and have a great weekend!

photo by Jan Tik

Links O' The Week

#013 — Lincoln, Darwin, Superstition & Romance

February 13th, 2009

This is quite a Thursday-Friday-Saturday combination of events.  Thursday was the 200th birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.  Today is Friday the 13th.  Saturday is Valentine’s Day.  Let’s get a personal finance quick-hit on each!

Abraham Lincoln:  Preserve the Union

Lincoln knew that ultimately for the nation to succeed, the Union and it’s ideals needed to be preserved at all costs.  In his judgment, both the Civil War and Reconstruction of the South were necessary to move forward.  Nearly 150 years later, our Union remains solid.

In our own lives, we have many trials.  Money mistakes, family break-ups, fights, competition, recessions — they all take their toll.  Take Lincoln’s advice and preserve your ideals.  What fundamentals are  you willing to fight for to preservation of your financial Union? Is it preserving your marriage by communicating on money issues with your spouse?  Paying down debt to enable you to weather the storms that lay-offs and recessions bring?  The tenants of your faith which prompt you to help those in need?  Teaching your children financial responsibility so the fundamentals of your Union are passed on to the next generation?

Charles Darwin:  Survival of the Fittest

Darwin was instrumental in documenting the theory of natural selection.   Favorable traits are passed on as a need for survival, while unfavorable traits die off as they can’t compete.  We don’t need to have a debate on the theory of evolution to take away one huge concept:  the world is vastly changing, and we need to adapt or we’ll be left behind.

So what are ways you are adapting to survive in these tough economic times? In our household, I do contract work, so I’m working as many hours as I can to bank up money.  These project-based jobs do not last forever, and who knows when another will come up?  With the sacrifice of longer hours comes extra income, which we can use to pay off debts, build an emergency fund, and overall reduce risk to our household should our household income take a hit.

Americans are saving more.  It seems that with this credit crunch crisis, we’re getting back to the basics of getting rich slow, building wealth moderately, and saving money.  Get prepared — put aside those unfavorable traits and survive!

Friday the 13th — my 13th Post!

Well it’s my 13th post, and it falls on Friday the 13th!  I wish I could take credit for the stunning coincidence, but I can’t.    So is having a 13th post on Friday the 13th the digital equivalent to crossing the path of a black cat, breaking a mirror, or stepping on a crack?  Stick around and find out!

Do you have any superstitions?  Share them in the comments below!

Valentine’s Day

Yes, I made that heading red on purpose :)

With the big day of romance tomorrow, the pressure is on.  Do you have anything planned for Valentine’s Day?

Actually, the Lovely Miss H is taking a few single friends out to hang with tomorrow.  She’s a great friend, isn’t she?  Also a great wife, because I’m off the hook for coming up with plans!  We’ll have dinner out tonight and keep it low-key.  Besides, every day is Valentine’s Day with me, right H?

Any Valentine’s Day plans?  Do you feel like your significant other places unhealthy expectations on this holiday?

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#012 — The Mark Cuban Stimulus Package

February 11th, 2009

While the U.S. House and Senate near a deal on the 2009 Economic Stimulus plan, looks like the private sector is not waiting around for the government to fix all our woes.

Enter Mark Cuban, dot-com billionaire, HD television entrepreneur, and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.  He has proposed to invest his own money into private-sector ideas that need funding to get them over the hump and begin making money.

Open Source Funding

To get the economy moving, there are a few stipulations attached to submitting a proposal for funding.  Primarily, it involves an open source funding environment — you must make available your business plan details for all to see online.  Also, business ideas must break even after 60 days and become profitable in 90 days.

Here is Cuban’s “rules of the game”, if you will.  Violate these, and receive a double-technical and get ejected from the game:

1. It can be an existing business or a start up.
2. It can not be a business that generates any revenue from advertising. Why ? Because I want this to be a business where you sell something and get paid for it. Thats the only way to get and stay profitable in such a short period of time.
3. It MUST BE CASH FLOW BREAK EVEN within 60 days
4. It must be profitable within 90 days.
5. Funding will be on a monthly basis. If you dont make your numbers, the funding stops
6. You must demonstrate as part of your plan that you sell your product or service for more than what it costs you to produce, fully encumbered
7. Everyone must work. The organization is completely flat. There are no employees reporting to managers. There is the founder/owners and everyone else
8.  You must post your business plan here, or you can post it on , or google docs, all completely public for anyone to see and/or download
9. I make no promises that if your business is profitable, that I will invest more money. Once you get the initial funding you are on your own
10. I will make no promises that I will be available to offer help. If I want to , I will. If not, I wont.
11. If you do get money, it goes into a bank that I specify, and I have the ability to watch the funds flow and the opportunity to require that I cosign any outflows.
12. In your business plan , make sure to specify how much equity I will receive or how I will get a return on my money.
13. No mult-level marketing programs.

The Beauty of it all?

The beauty of it all is the private sector trying to come up with the solutions to economic problems.  Fundamentally, it just makes sense to allow the private sector to flourish before the government invests or spends taxpayer money.  Also, this is open to anyone who has an idea and a plan.

On Mark Cuban

Cuban is a very polarizing figure.  As full disclosure, I am a huge San Antonio Spurs fan.  My favorite basketball franchise has been the bane of Cuban’s existence for a decade now.  I do love his passion for the Mavs, HDNet, — he puts his heart & soul into his projects.

Love him or hate him, I can appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit.

Cuban Economic Stimulus?

So can your business plan impress Mark Cuban enough to receive investment seed money??  Let me know about it in the comments!

photo by mil8

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#011 — Links O’ The Week

February 9th, 2009

I posted an article over the weekend, so today I’ll give you a few links to check out instead of a detailed post.  Hope your Monday is off to a solid start!


My article asking How Would You Invest the Economic Stimulus Portfolio was included in the 191st Carnival of Personal Finance.  Thanks to Brooke at Dollar Frugal for the inclusion!

Bargaineering has a great article with tips on satisfying requirements for high-interest checking accounts.

Michael James Money shares what he learned about money from poker.  Read the comments too — great discussion and insight!

Scordo debates the strategy of using a HELOC as an Emergency Fund.  Personally, I think using debt to bail you out of a financial mess is not the first option I’d pursue; but read the article and contribute to the discussion — on my page or Scordo’s!

Chain Link

Hope your week is off to a great start!

Photo by lizjones112

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