Mediocre Money Management = Not Brain Surgery

I am not a financial whiz.  If I were, you would not see my words on this blog, as I would be touring the world on a more-or-less permanent basis.  I make a lot of mistakes with my money, thankfully most of them small ones (note to self at 18: don’t cash out that retirement plan your job made you get!  You’ll regret it much later!).  

Even though I consider myself only an average money manager in terms of ability, it still hurts my brain so much to read things like this.   If you don’t feel like reading the article, let me summarize it for you:

1.  Family lives in home that, due to whatever circumstances, is falling apart

2.  TV show comes in and saves the day by giving family a COMPLETELY FREE home, along with LOTS OF CASH.

3.  Family decides that best way to use this newfound stroke of luck is to take out a $450,000 loan on the FREE HOME to pay for a “construction business.”

4.  Three years later, family is in foreclosure on the FREE HOME. 

Now, let me just get on my soapbox.  I know I’m not a money whiz.  However, common sense is really not common when it comes to money these days.  Let me just spell it out for those who would follow in the footsteps of this family:

  • If your house is paid for, and you decide you want to start a business, your house does not then become a magic ATM.  If you take money out, you have to be able to put the money back in–and the banks won’t wait for you to hit that lucky 7.  Want to start a business?  Save cash, take out a regular small business loan, or sell your house and downsize–use the money from the sale that you don’t use on the smaller home for the business.
  • If someone gives you a free large house and a lot of money, and you’ve never had either of these things before, consult someone that does know what they’re doing.  Not me.  Not any blogger out there.  Talk to a person that has a business card that says “Financial Planner” and has a lot of certifications on it.  Do some research and get a person that doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg to make your money work for you.
  • If you can’t or aren’t willing to do any of the above with your free/paid-for home and extra cash, then give it to me.  I promise to do a better job with it.



Calling all Creative Readers

Next week, I will be hosting the Make-it-From-Scratch Carnival on my other blog, <a href=””>Novel Experiences</a>.   If you have a great posts that details something that you made from scratch, please <a href=””>submit!</a>  This is a great carnival and the entries are always so inspiring.   I’ll post a link here as well when it goes up.

Another Idea I Wish I’d Had First . . .

Spouse works full-time and goes to school. I take care of all his textbook purchases and such, because left to his own devices he would just go to the school bookstore while I, the Pennywise Librarian, will scour the entire internets to get the best penny-saving deal.

That is what I found myself doing yesterday, when I found this site. It was as if the heavens had opened. lets you rent your textbooks!!! What a fantastic idea! No more paying way more than you wanted to, only to later be stuck with a book that you can only sell for a quarter. I was quite excited. They don’t have everything, but they have enough to make a major impact on our book-buying budget.

Now, I haven’t used their service yet, so I can’t officially recommend them, but I can at least spread the word and save other starving college students some cash.


Where finances and perspective meet…

I have just finished two books about cutting back and spending less: Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine and Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno.

For one year, Judith Levine gives up things that aren’t necessities. She doesn’t buy q-tips, wine, or pre-made salad mix. She tries repairing her old stuff in lieu of buying brand new. She eats in, she rides her bike, she even joins a group for people interested in voluntary simplicity. When her niece graduated from college, Judith and her significant other put their heads together and came up with a priceless gift that cost them nothing at all. She is honest, funny, and analytical about the entire process. She even let’s you know that she slipped twice (a cute pair of pants and a resale shop outfit).

BUT HERE IS THE BEST PART – She totally boasts about what libraries have to offer! Because when she needed free entertainment or wanted to make hand-made gifts, guess where she found books, events, and information??? Ms. Levine is a total champion for libraries as an invaluable resource for the cost-free entertainment.

I liked her ingenuity and I liked that she provides insight into how she got more from purchasing less. (For instance, who knew going to the museum on “free night” could be so fun?). You can visit her website and blog at

Give It Up! did not impress me as much. For one month each year the author gave up the following: alcohol, shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate, and multitasking. Now clearly she wasn’t just giving up financial things, she was also giving up some habits. I liked her sense of humor and approach to things at times, but something kept nagging at me as I was reading. Then I got it…her attempt at giving things up and living with less is how I have to live daily. I’m not holier-than-thou or anything, don’t get me wrong. I love to swear, I multitask like a fiend, and I have never met an elevator I didn’t like, but my financial situation forces me to live a certain way. I guess I was looking for a book on saving cash and what I got was a book written by a New Yorker who pared herself down to the standards by which most Mid-westerners (and especially Michiganians) are living. It just kind of makes you feel a bit dismayed and even resentful.

Now in poor Mary’s defense, she is funny and speaks with great candor. She asks herself (and her friends) some tough questions (like, why do you feel compelled to drink when you hang out?). She is founder of Order, a clutter control and organization company and I’m looking forward to a book about that from her because the website is interesting. But at the end of the day, our financial perspectives are too different for me to really like the book.

For my next literary adventure I’m waiting for a book about America’s Cheapest Family to come through inter-library loan. I bet the pendulum will be swinging to the other extreme and I’ll be sneering at them too! Well, I’ll let you all know.

– C

Carnival Monday

Good morning!  And what a morning it is.  Personally, I stayed up too late last night watching DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer  and so my creative energies this morning are only up to sharing the fruits of others.  Hence, I guide you to these great carnivals, both of which were kind enough to include our small efforts in the blogosphere:

First, the Carnival of Debt Reduction which included my post on how I need to have more self-control. This carnival is hosted at Destroy Debt which, holy cow, I’ve never come across before but it looks like a great resource. I’m particularly excited by the articles in this week’s carnival, as there are a lot of really creative and helpful ideas out there.

Secondly, my article on how much I paid for a People Magazine subscription was included in the massive Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Greener Pastures. In this carnival as well, there are some awesome ideas. I can’t just pick a few favorites.

I’m honored that we were included in both blogs, and I hope you enjoy all the posts!

Hey, they do that with ransom too!

It’s always been a trend for gas stations to give you a less expensive price if you buy a bad car wash.  But more and more in the Metro Detroit area I am seeing signs that you can get the cheaper gas if you pay in cash.

Just a thought…but don’t they do that when someone is kidnapped?  “We only want cash…unmarked bills”.  I get to drive my car just a bit further if I pay the gas station in cold, hard cash.  They might as well post the price in letters cut out from magazines.  That’s ransom proper.

I am resigned to the high gas prices…there are far too many elements to the gas game than I can protest, letter-write, or lobby to (God love ya if you do).  But don’t toy with me.  I need to see one price when I am driving by the gas station at 40 miles/hour or else I get confused.

I don’t give you two different answers to reference questions depending on if you paid your taxes via check or cash to the city.  But if you are a gas station owner, maybe I will.  (Ah, spite, it is an evil, evil thing.)

– C

Ann Taylor, you slut

I am addicted to the local resale shoppe (it’s spelled shoppe – which apparently means it’s in a different league than the other consignment shop? i dunno). There are days that my car just magically turns into the parking lot. Must resist the pull of the wheel…but all red tags are 50% off…it is beyond my will power…and there is a parking spot RIGHT THERE!!!!

I live in a nouveau-riche community, the type with McMansions and an abnormally high number of those pet boutiques that sell diamond studded dog collars. (Somehow my 1970s Tudor style apartment complex and a shabby Amoco snuck into the mix)

Anyways, the resale stores in the area are teeming with beautiful clothing that I would never buy first-hand because they are so very far from my current buying power. And after reading “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine (next post will be a review) I like to think that I am reducing my ecological footprint by buying something that might be “new” for me, but did not have to be made from scratch. (Green Cotton describes it a bit better than I can…)

I find myself making purchases and muttering, “Ann Taylor, J. Jill, Liz Claiborne…you are such sluts. And you’ve seduced me!!!!!” I am a resale pimp, and I have a lovely wardrobe to show for it. 🙂 Hence, the $4.99 Ann Taylor skirt with the tags still on it:

W Magazine Article on Consignment Shopping

Can’t wait to hear about other people’s best finds…do tell…it’s the thrill of the hunt, you know!