Archive for March, 2009

#035 — Links O’ The Week

March 29th, 2009

It has been another busy week for me, but I’ve managed to find time to read a few other blogs here and there.  Linked below are some articles I found interesting.

This week I’m planning on posting an interview with the creators of MoneyStrands, which is a spending & financial tracking program, similar to Mint or Wesabe.  I’m also anticipating talking about wills & estate planning.  I may even have a guest post from another blogger, and of course, life happens so we’ll check in with current events if need be.

Have a great week and stay tuned for updates.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, enter your e-mail address in the box to the right and you’ll get updates in your e-mail automatically.

Links O’ The Week

How many times have you heard that it is “normal” to have credit cards, car payments, and student loans — to the point where you’re ridiculed if you don’t have this bondage in your life?  Frugal Dad discusses this in what he calls The “But Everyone Has A…” Mentality.

Do you want to learn about economics, finances, investing and day trading?  Best Forex Brokers lists 50 Free Open Courseware Classes for Investors and Day Traders.

Christian Personal Finance talks about Major Money Mistakes: Paying Too Much For A Car.

The Wisdom Journal gives us a few links to educate us on economics.

No Debt Plan gives us advice on how to Cut Monthly Costs by Asking for a Discount.

Weakonomics gives us The Pros and Cons of the Income Tax, with a great link to a graph of the world’s income tax rates.

Stretchy Dollar says It Doesn’t Matter How Much You Make, but what you do with what you have.  Judging by his examples of the numerous pro athletes and lottery winners that are again broke after their big paydays, I’d say he has a point!

Fiscal Fizzle gives us 10 Reasons Why Budgets Fail.


Links O' The Week

#034 — Links O’ The (Mid-)Week, Part 2

March 26th, 2009

Subscribe to Blog Feeds

Read Blog Feeds at Google Reader

How many blogs do you keep track of?  Currently I have 78 blog feeds that I read.  If you are new to the blog reading thing, I suggest using Google Reader or a similar program.  These allow you to combine all your blog subscriptions into one program.  This consolidation allows you to relax and read, rather than try to remember each individual blog’s website address and check them daily.  It’s like creating your own personalized magazine or newspaper!

RSS Feed

Any where you see “RSS” or its usually-orange logo (see above), you can add that feed to your Reader.  My RSS feed is available on the site’s right margin; or, you can subscribe via e-mail.

Links O’ The (Mid-)Week

Here’s some more articles I found interesting enough to pass along to you:

Blog Talk Radio

If you’re into podcasts, some fellow Personal Finance bloggers host their own internet radio show:

  • Get Rich Slowly & Bargaineering co-host Personal Finance Hour.  Their inaugural show was this week – go check it out!
  • Frugal Upstate & Being Frugal co-host Frugal Coast 2 Coast.  Jenn & Lynnae put on a great show.


Simple Marriage gives us 20 Must-Read Blogs for Married People.

Cash Money Life provides a guest post by Neal of Wealth Pilgrim on Creating a Financial Continuation Plan for Your Family.

Money Mate Kate talks Unmarried Couples: Borrowing/Lending.

Fiscal Fizzle recommends Using A Monthly Report To Discuss Money With Your Spouse.  I’m looking forward to seeing a template of his report.


The Simple Dollar gives us 10 iPhone & iTouch Applications For Personal Finance Success.

Christian PF proclaims The 23 Best Freeware Programs For Windows.


Everything Finance gives us the 10 Investing Habits of Rich People.

Prime Time Money shows us 5 Reasons NOT To Borrow From Your 401k.


Links O' The Week

#033 — Recession Buster: Increase Cash Flow With High Interest Checking

March 25th, 2009

Once Upon A Time

Our Free Checking Account

We’ve been in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for nearly five years now.  After we ditched Washington Mutual, we moved our accounts to a local bank, and went with their free checking option.

For four years, our account sat there making no interest.  Now that we use our prior month’s income for our current month’s budget, we typically have at least up to a month’s worth of cash in the account.

Recession Buster

Finally, about two months ago, I chatted online with a bank representative about a high-interest checking account.  The move was simple and done right online.  We immediately went from zero interest to making 4.0% on our checking account balance!


Find a High Interest Checking Account

I was happy with a 4.0% interest rate that came without the hassle of changing banks, but interest rates over 5% are available through other banks – local or otherwise!  Here’s a few links I found:

  • High Yield Checking Deals is a blog that lists, by state, the highest-paying high-yield checking bank accounts.  There are dozens in the 5-6% range!  This site also gives statistics of the average yield & balance cap for the combined accounts.
  • CheckingFinder is recommended by (and advertises on) the Dave Ramsey Show, and lists banks by zip code or by interest rate.


On each of these accounts, you typically must meet certain requirements each month to qualify for the high interest rate.  Qualifications typically include the following limitations:

  • Direct deposit of at least one paycheck per month, or auto-draft pay of at least one bill per month.
  • A certain amount of debit-card transactions per month (usually 10-15 transactions).
  • Most accounts I’ve seen apply the high interest rate up to the first $25,000.  Any money above that amount each month will earn at a lower rate (typically 0.5% or other nominal amount).

I find that after 8 trips to the gas station & 4 trips to the grocery store, it’s pretty easy to attain the necessary 10-15 transactions required to qualify.  Of course, take a look at each individual bank’s requirements.

Just Do It

The interest gained may not seem like much, but another $10, $25, $50 a month quickly turns into hundreds of dollars per year.  Bust out of this recession with a high-interest checking account!

Do you use a high-interest checking account?


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#032 — Links O’ The (Mid-)Week

March 24th, 2009

Hi Everyone,

I have so many selections to my recommended reading list, I’m supplementing my traditional Saturday postings of “Links O’ The Week.  Without further adieu…

197th Carnival of Personal Finance — Editor’s Pick!

My article that asks Should I Buy Pet Insurance? was an Editor’s Pick in the 197th Carnival of Personal Finance!  Thanks to Four Pillars for hosting and selecting my post as a top pick!

I’d like to thank God, my agent, my wife, and of course Odie, who without him this Editor’s Pick would not have been possible… **cue music / cuts off acceptance speech**

Okay seriously, not THAT big of a deal but glad someone enjoyed the post!

Links O’ The (Mid-)Week

Here’s a few articles I found interesting:

My Journey To Millions gave us the Top 10 Reasons You Need To Get A Will ASAP.

Frugal Dad posted on Personal Financial Software.  Read the comments for great suggestions too!

Lose your job recently?  Fiscal Fizzle gives you timely advice with a Layoff Checklist.  I believe he’s newer to the blog scene just like I am, but he’s got some great content.  Take time to check out his site!

Here’s a recommended triple-play of posts written by Gather Little By Little:

My Two Dollars says Look At Me And My Designer Clothes!

Don’t Mess With Taxes gives us 13 Often Overlooked Tax Breaks.


photo by Jeff Belmonte

Links O' The Week ,

#031 — Identify Your Underwater Financial Volcanoes

March 23rd, 2009

7.9 Earthquake Near Tonga Sparks Eruption

Last week, a volcanic eruption close to the South Pacific nation of Tonga has destroyed rich birdlife and vegetation, leaving a wasteland of black ash and tree stumps, witnesses said Friday.  The volcano, on the small, uninhabited islet of Hunga Ha’apai 63 kilometres (39 miles) northwest of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa, began erupting Monday.  It continued to spew Friday even as a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 rocked Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu.

Tonga’s chief geologist Kelepi Mafi, who inspected the area Thursday, said the volcano has two vents, one on Hunga Ha’apai and another around 100 metres offshore.

The volume of the rock and ash coming from the vents has completely filled the gap between the offshore vent and Hunga Ha’apai, increasing the island’s land mass by hundreds of square metres.

What Are Your Financial Underwater Volcanoes?

When life brings a little trembling, there are many financial issues that lie just beneath the surface that can erupt at a moment’s notice.  There is no doubt that life comes at us fast, and it seems as if we’re always playing catch-up in some regard.  If tragedy or just plain life happens unexpectedly, what areas of your financial life would you not be prepared?

Today I offer a pretty simple challenge.  Identify those Financial Underwater Volcanoes in your life today.

For me, I’d have to say first & foremost is estate planning (a will).  This seems to get pushed to the backburner — and I’m an attorney who can write up my own will for free!  Perhaps it is because I know I can write a decent will that I’m waiting for the time to construct a will that is taylor-made for my family.  When in reality, I should get a basic will in place and fine-tune the details later.

Another area of potential Underwater Financial Volcano eruption would be our emergency fund.  But we are working on this one — we just paid off our car and are now building up our baby emergency fund to at least 3 months’ expenses.

As you can see, I’m not perfect either.  But once we can identify these “hot-spots” (yes, pun intended), we can go about rectifying the situation.  I’d hate to see your island be destroyed when you could have minimized the damage.

What are YOUR Financial “Underwater Volcanoes”??


photo by The Sunday Times

MyMoneyMinute — Identify Your Financial Underwater Volcanoes

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#030 — Links O’ The Week

March 21st, 2009

Carnival of Personal Finance

Hey everyone, I wanted to let you know that a recent post of mine, Beyond the Resume:  How Your Digital Impring Affects Employment, was featured in the 196th Carnival of Personal Finance:  Music Edition.  There are many wonderful articles included, so take a look.

Thanks to Green Panda Treehouse for the inclusion!

Links O’ The Week

I’ve been trying to catch up on my blog reading.  To avoid falling too far behind and posting a ton of suggested reading all at once, here’s a few that caught my eye.  I’ll pass along a few more mid-week and during our normal “Links O’ The Week” segment:


Green Panda Treehouse talks Ways to Save on Pet Care.

On AIG Executive Bonuses

Suburban Dollar gives his reasons Why He Thinks AIG Should Get to Keep Their Bonuses.  Very gutsy article!

Conversely, The Coin Jar gives take on Scaring Wall Street Straight.  My question is, who is going to scare Obama & Congress straight?  I think they need to add more personal finance blogs to their Google readers!

Bailouts & Financial Crisis

Four Pillars gives us The Curse of Pretend Money, a guest post by Rob Bennett of A Rich Life, explaining how financial crises happen.

Art of the Coupon talks Personal Bankruptcies and the Recession.  Good call to think outside the box on how to stimulate the economy.  While you’re contemplating, check out the two-part MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan.

Spending & Frugality

Not the Jet Set asks What Area of Your Life is Super Sized? Excellent question!  You can be doing so well in so many areas of your budget, then blow it by super-sizing one or two areas.

Get Rich Slowly posts along similar lines, with his entry: What Do You Do When Frugality Gets You Nowhere?

Emergency Funds

No Credit Needed discusses Debt Reduction And The Emergency Fund.  Just how big of an emergency fund should you have?


The Simple Dollar has a great idea to use The Giving Pocket.  What a great idea!

Home Computer

Frugal Dad gives us Free Software To Soup Up The Home Computer.

More to come this week — have a great weekend!


Photo by visulogik

Links O' The Week ,

#029 — Should I Buy Pet Insurance?

March 20th, 2009

I never really considered pet insurance until my dog Odie swallowed a sock, and we had to spend $1,000 to save his life.  I just assumed insurance for my dogs was a high cost, low benefit type of investment.  But now that we had a canine emergency threatening to derail our financial plans, I thought I’d give it a second look.  So I grabbed a few brochures from the vet’s office to compare rates and coverage.

Our dogs

We have three dogs.  Yes, more than necessary.  We’re suckers, we know.  Here’s what we’re dealing with:

Zipper – male, nearly 11 year-old long-haired black lab-mix.  Because of his age, he may not qualify but for basic care packages.

Lucia – 4.5 year old lab-mix female.

Odie – 2 year old male, sock-eating lab-mutt.

All three are fixed.  No litters of puppies for the MyMoneyMinute household!

Pet Insurance Example

Here’s a major pet insurance company whose brochure I picked up from the vet’s office.  Click on the icon to link to that company’s website:



VPI offers flexible deductible options – $100, $250, $500, or $1,000.  They also offer a 5% reduction for adding a 2nd pet.  Here’s a sample:

  • For Lucia, a “VPI Major Medical Plan (Base Plan) with a $250 deductible = $37.33/month.  When you add routine & additional care (teeth cleaning, check-ups, etc.), the costs goes up to $59.33/month.
  • For Odie, the prices drop a bit because of his age.  The Base Plan is $32.72/month, while the upgrade is $54.72/month.
  • Grumpy old Zipper is only eligible for limited coverage.  Cost is $22.10/month, including “panic-moment” (broken bone, poisoning) & routine care.

With a group rate, insurance premiums on all three dogs would be $132.43/month, or $1,529.16 for an entire year ($60 discount for payment up-front).  So, when you factor in $750 worth of deductibles, I’d have to incur nearly $2,300 in insurance-approved costs in order to break even.  Each year.  Not to mention, each year the premiums will only increase as my dogs get older.


It seems to me that we are still better off to self-insure through our pet’s medical needs.  Even with Odie’s sock incident, our vet costs this year will probably be $1,500.  We would basically need at least two dog tragedies per year to make insurance worth it.  And that’s assuming no hassles and full payment by the insurance company.

Our other option would be to buy “Base Plan” insurance for Odie only.  He seems to be the young buck without any fear.  He’s very skinny, agile, and not afraid to run, jump, or chew anything.  A sock-eating incident & a regular vet visit ends up being $1,000, we would have paid about a $375 annual premium.  Add a $250 deductible, and we’d be $625 out of pocket before insurance kicks in.  So this year insurance would have been a money-saver to the tune of $300 or so, again assuming all procedures would’ve been covered under the insurance.  Buying for Odie may be an option, at least until his rambunctious puppy phase is over and he matures into an adult dog with a little more caution.

Other Policies

Here’s two other companies whose brochures I picked up from the vet.  Take a look at their websites if interested by clicking on their logo below:



Do you have a pet medical story?  Did your pet have insurance?  What would you recommend we do?


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#028 — What To Do If Your W-2 Form is Incorrect

March 17th, 2009


Welcome to those visiting my site from Prime Time Money!  Take a look around and feel free to subscribe or add me to your feed.  The following is a companion post to my guest post on What To Do If Your 1099 Form Is Incorrect.

What to do if your W-2 form is incorrect

As with my 1099-Misc issue, I called the IRS help line at (800) 829-1040, and here’s what I learned about pending W-2 issues:

Before requesting any IRS action, you must first attempt to remedy the situation with your employer by sending a request in writing to your employer to re-send a corrected W-2 form.  Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your correspondence.

If your employer is not cooperative, and it is past February 15th, contact the IRS help line at (800) 829-1040.  The IRS will initiate a Form W-2 complaint.

Form W-2 complaint procedure

When an IRS representative initiates a Form W-2 complaint, a letter is sent to your employer giving them ten (10) days to furnish a corrected W-2, and lists the applicable punishments & fines for noncompliance.

You will be sent a letter containing instructions and Form 4852, which may be used if your employer does not provide you a corrected W-2 form in time to file your tax return.  You can also download it from the following link:

Tax season sure can be stressful, but hopefully this and other tax tips will make this year a little easier on you!


Suggested MyMoneyMinute posts:

  1. First Post: Inauguration Day — My Own Inaugural Ball
  2. My dog Odie:  How Socks Can Affect Your Emergency Fund
  3. The MyMoneyMinute Economic Stimulus Plan
  4. Beyond the Paper: How Your Digital Imprint Affects Employment

photo by BallGame68

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#027 — Don’t Laugh, It’s Paid For!

March 16th, 2009


We paid off our car!

It is definitely tough economic times out there for everyone, so I wanted to share a bit of positive news on the home front.

While the Lovely Miss H has permanent employment, I have been working in project-based, temporary employment.  The bad news is that it is temporary.  The good news is I can work nearly as many hours as I want.  So the past few months I’ve worked a lot of hours.  I finally figured out how much we had spent compared to our February budget, and the surplus was enough to finish paying off my wife’s car, a 2004 Saab 9-3.  I just logged off of an internet chat with a bank representative confirming we had paid in full, and that the title will be mailed within 10 business days!

Consumer debt is gone

Just want to send a small thank you to Dave Ramsey and his debt snowball methodology.  Yes, there may be mathematical flaws within a particular snowball of debt, but the psychology of “quick wins” in reducing debt cannot be denied, particularly when you’re married and you need two people to consent to a financial plan!

After 26 months, through full employment & layoffs, over-spending & saving, emergencies & good times, our consumer debt is now gone.  We haven’t been the best at paying down our bills, but we remained true to the overall goals & financial principles.

So now you’re rich, right?

No, far from it!  We’ve got so much educational debt, that I think our student loans took out student loans.  A married couple both going through college and grad school without a financial plan will do that to you!

Our next step is to build up an Emergency Fund to a reasonable level.  My car has 185,000 miles on it, hers is over 100,000.  We both commute about 75 miles round-trip each day.  We will need those replaced at some point, so I’d like to be ready with enough money to pay cash for our vehicles.  Now that our vehicles are paid off though, it makes me want to drive my lovely 2000 Nissan Maxima until it dies.  Instead of impressing people with a nice car, I’ll be impressing myself with how long this car can stay around.  This shift in thinking is much easier on the pocketbook.

The Journey Continues

There are always hiccups, bumps, and bruises along the way, but we will enjoy this minor victory, and use it as motivation to keep focused on our long-term goals.

What about you?  Have you had any financial victories or setbacks lately?  Tell me where you are in your journey.

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photo by dreamweaver1619

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#026 — Links O’ The Week

March 14th, 2009

I’ve been a little behind on my blog reading, so I’ve got tons of links to share with all of you out in Internet land.  I’ll stick with a few here, and add a few links here & there throughout next week for you to enjoy.

Clever Dude gives practical advice with 7 Tips to Extend the Life of Your Business Clothing.

My Money Blog brought us an interesting way to “Fail-Safe Investing”.

Get Rich Slowly has been putting out some great content.  Here’s two articles I enjoyed:

The Passive Dad also has great content.  Here’s two of his great ideas:

The Wisdom Journal is another one of my favorites.  Here’s a few I’ve been impressed with over the past couple days:

Have a great weekend everyone!

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photo by Robert Brook

Links O' The Week