Monthly Archives: June 2006

My (Very Simple) Bill Paying System

I like things that are simple. (So does my wife…That’s why she married me…hehe…DORK!)
So, I have created a super-simple way to manage all of my “online accessible accounts”. Please note: I can access all of my regular, monthly bills, online, except for my local phone bill. Here’s what I do.

First: I use the Firefox browser, which allows me to open multiple browsing tabs. I open all of my accounts at one time, each in its own tab.

Second: I right-click on one of the tabs, and select the “bookmark all open tabs” feature. This allows me to make a bookmark of each of the billing sites.

Third: When the bookmark option folder opens, I create a folder for all of my billing bookmarks to be placed in. I call my bookmark folder “Billing Information”.

Fourth: Now, when I need to find one of my billers, I simply go to my bookmarks, scroll down to my “Billing Information” folder, and pick the biller I want to see.

Fifth: This is my favorite. In Firefox, when you scroll through a bookmarks folder, there is this really cool option to “open in tabs”. I can click this, and ALL of my billing sites open at one time. I use firefox to store my passwords, so I can just go through, click the login button for each site, and, tah-dah, all of my billing information is open. I can click back and forth between my bills and my online bank, between my bank and ING, etc. etc. This way, I know when my bills are due, when they have cleared, and what my current balances are. Plus, if there were to be fraudulent charges, I would be aware of them very, very early in the process. By checking my billing sites DAILY, I am able to stay on top of things. AND, using this very, very simple technique, I can literally check everyone of them in less than 2 minutes.

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Vacation is Over…

I’m back from my vacation! My family and I spent 8 days in St. Augustine, FL, and we had a wonderful time. A tropical storm came through Florida last Monday, but we were unaffected by it. The whether was wonderful all week long, the temps were not too high, no one got sun-burned, and my little boy learned to jump off the side of the pool.

Now, it’s time to get back into the personal finance swing-of-things:

The budget for our vacation worked out perfectly. (We stayed at a BEAUTIFUL condo that one of our friends owns, so that much was FREE!!!) We took 500 dollars in cash, and came home with money to spare. We ate out almost everynight, and we bought groceries twice. All told, the vactaion, with gas, food, etc. costs us less than 700 bucks. So, I was very, very happy.

I’ll be updating the NCN Network site as soon as I finish this post, so please check it out. (I am taking the kids to see the movie “Cars” at 2PM, and I hope to do a podcast sometime this evening.)

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New Savings Goal Attained Plus Emergency Fund Poll and Discussion

I sent in another 2300 dollars this month, for a total of 10, 800 dollars. I will not post this as my official update over at the NCN Network site, just yet. I might have to take a few of these dollars back if a current work program sputters a bit. Either Way, I am at 54 percent of my goal of 20K. I am saving roughly 2600 dollars per month for the year of 2006. Our take-home pay in that same period has been roughly 5200 dollars, give or take a few hundred bucks. So, roughly 1 half of our paychecks go into savings. Yay!!! Once we get the emergency savings taken care of, putting aside 15 to 30 percent for retirement and college funding will be a breeze.

Quick comments driven poll:
Side notes: We bring home roughly 60-70 K. We own two 3 paid-for autos, all of which have over 100,000 miles on them. We do not want to borrow money. We send 5 percent to retirement already. We have 2 small kids, and live in a home provided to me by my job.

How much of an emergency fund should we have?
1. No emergency fund. Just use your credit card if you get in a bind. (Obviously, not my
particular favorite!!)
2. 1000 – 5000 dollars. Just a simple, easy to get to cash cushion is enough. Anything bigger,
and you can borrow to help out. Invest the rest and make more money!!!
3. 5000 – 15000 dollars. Come on, you have a wife and 2 kids. Stuff happens, and you want a pretty big cushion to protect you. This is a good amount for all “normal” life emergencies. (Car breakdown, washing machine breaks, etc.)
4. 15000 – 25000 dollars. Because you have no home of your own, you need to be ready to provide shelter for your family, and you don’t want to get taken in a bad real estate deal. This amount of money buys you time and relieves you from panic and worry. (This is my current plan.)
5 25000 – 100000 dollars. Listen, if you really want to avoid using credit, ever, you need a big, big, big, big, big cash cushion. Low risk, 4 to 8 percent returns are find. This money needs to be SAFE.

Thanks for any and all input.

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Kids and Money (Chores / Allowance / Kid’s Finances)

My daughter is six years old. This week, I began the process of teaching her about money.

Background: My daughter can read. She can count. She can make change. She knows the difference between dimes, nickels, quarters, and pennies. She has some idea of the “value” of money. She is beginning to understand that you earn money by working for it.

What I am teaching her:
There are 3 things that you can do with money. Spend it, save it, or give it away. In our home,
we give 10 percent of our income to our local church. We will be teaching our children to do the same. (Yes, I am a psycho conservative Christian who believes in indoctrinating my children with old fashioned, out of date, Biblical values…:>) So, the breakdown for her monthly “salary” will be as such:

Spending Jar: 50 %
Savings Jar: 40 %
Giving Jar: 10 %

(To get started, we took the money that she already has, from birthdays and grandparents, and divided it into pennies, nickels, dimes, etc. Then, to teach her about percentages, we put 5 pennies into the spend jar, 4 pennies into the savings jar, and 1 penny into the giving jar. We did this with all of the various monies, thus achieving our 50/40/10 breakdown.)

I do not believe in allowance. I believe in a “salary” or income derived from actual work. So, our little girl will receive a “salary” every week. Here is a list of the “jobs” that she can do to earn her salary:

Chore $1.00
Clean Your Room: Closet, Bed, Floor, Neat  
Fold And Put Away Clothes: Towels, Clothes  
Clean The Carport: Bikes, Trash  
Clean The Backyard: Toys, Swings  
Vacuum: Kitchen, Living Room  
Quick Clean The House: Pick-Up Clothes  
Keep Van Clean: Toys, Food, Etc.  

As you can see, some of these chores must be done daily (cleaning your room, folding clothes) and some are done weekly (cleaning the carport, vacuuming, etc.). Now, lest you think I am a cruel task master, I realize that my six year old is not really capable, as of right now, of vacuuming the whole house or cleaning the entire carport. These jobs are “helper” jobs, where we ask her to help Mommy and Daddy.

(The Bonus categories are for various jobs that come up during the week that we will ask her to do. This comes in handy when kids say, “But, it wasn’t on my list…”. Now, we have a place to add it. In fact, my daughter has already started to ask for “bonus” things to do. Examples are: put up dishes, gather up dirty clothes, feed pets, etc.)

As you can see, our daughter earns 1.00 per chore, per week, for a total of 10.00. She simply does the chore, checks it off, and gets Mommy or Daddy to verify that she has completed the chore. Then, every Friday, I will sit down with her and pay her for her jobs. We will then break her money down into her 3 jars.

How did I arrive at 10 dollars a week? Well, we have budget of 100 dollars a month for “Misc. Children’s Stuff”. So, I broke that down into 20 dollars a week. We have two kids, so that is roughly 10 dollars a week per kid. My son is only 2, and is not quite ready for his chore list. (Though, I will probably start him much earlier than I did my daughter. I think she was ready at about age 4, but I was too lazy to implement the system!)

What do they “use” their money for? Well, my daughter can spend her money on anything she wants, and can save for anything she wants. It’s hers. I will not interfere. I will make suggestions, and I will help her find deals, but I will let her “enjoy” the fruits of her labor. Right now, she’s spending her money on bubble gum and bracelets, and saving up for a “computer like Daddy’s.” Yay!!

Now, the reality is that I cannot afford to pay my daughter for EVERY single thing she does around the house. I am making it abundantly clear that there are some things that family members just DO because they love one another. I buy her clothes, buy her food, provide her shelter, and buy her presents because I love her. She will never, ever, ever, have to earn these things. The chores list is simply a bonus opportunity for her to earn spending money for things that she does not “have” to have.

Caveat: If you put a chore on the list, and the child does her very best to actually do the chore, you are not allowed to complain about the results. Don’t be a jerk about a few wrinkles in the bed spread or shoes on the wrong side of the closet. She’s SIX, loser. Remember, we are teaching responsibly AND building self-esteem. She will mature, not only from doing the actual work, but from receiving praise for her accomplishments. When she spends her money, it will be HER money, and she will associate hard work with reward.

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