Monthly Archives: October 2010

Personal Finance Blogs – Find Read Connect

When I started No Credit Needed in 2005 there were just a hand full of personal finance blogs.  Now there are thousands of them.  Keeping up with all of the great content and content producers can be difficult, but not impossible.

Here are the tools and sites that I use to find the latest content from my favorite personal finances bloggers, connect with them, and share their articles.

Find Latest Personal Finance Posts:

PFBlogs – An aggregating site that lists the latest articles from thousands of personal finance blogs and bloggers.

Money Tips Network – The Money Tips Network focuses on the most recent content from some of the most trusted names in personal finance blogging.  I’m proud to be a member.

Money Index – This relatively new site aggregates data from around the web to bring you recent, categorized content.

Personal Finance Alltop – This site lists the most recent posts from some of the larger personal finance blogs.

Promote Personal Finance Content -

Tip’d and PF Buzz allow users to suggest and promote personal finance-related posts and articles.

View Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs Lists -

Wise Bread Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs – This user-friendly list is updated daily and ranks sites using several metrics.

Fire Finance Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs – Ranked By Traffic – This list focuses on blog traffic and is updated quarterly.

Money Crasher Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs – This list is updated daily and allows users to sort blogs by categories – saving, investing, frugal living, etc.

Connect With Personal Finance Bloggers via Twitter -

Bible Money Matters Ten People All Personal Finance Junkies Should Follow On Twitter – Peter lists 10 must-follow Twitter users.

Money Crashers Top 15 Personal Finance Bloggers on Twitter – Money Crashers suggests these top 15 writers.

Saving for Serenity Ultimate List of Personal Finance Bloggers on Twitter – This list has dozens and dozens of twitter handles for all of your favorite personal finance writers.

Read Weekly Carnivals and Festivals -

Carnival of Debt ReductionCarnival of Personal FinanceFestival of Frugality – Each week, these carnivals bring you highlighted posts from various personal finance bloggers.

I am constantly amazed by the quantity and quality of articles produced by my fellow bloggers and writers.  If you have a resource you think would be beneficial to my readers, please leave a comment and let me know.  If you found this post useful, please consider using the buttons on the lower-left side and help promote it.  Finally, if you have yet to do so, follow me on twitter.com/NCN and say “Hi!”.  Rock on.

Edit –

Connect With Fellow Personal Finance Bloggers

Yakezie – If you have a personal finance blog and are looking for ways to connect with others, check out Yakezie and the Yakezie Challenge.  Big thanks to my man @mbhunter from Mighty Bargain Hunter for the suggestion to add Yakezie to this post.

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Preparing For Debt Reduction Success

Get Organized -

1.  Find a manila file folder and label it “debt reduction plan“.  This folder will contain all of the information that you will need to succeed.

2.  Use the telephone and online access to your credit accounts and find out your current balances, current interest rates, due dates for all loans / credit cards, telephone numbers for each creditor, and addresses where creditors accept payments.  Bonus Tip:  Use a spreadsheet program to organize the information about your creditors, so that you can have instant access, whenever your might need it.  Print a copy of the spreadsheet and place it in your “debt reduction plan” folder. Keep the folder / spreadsheet in a secure place.

3.  Find out how much money you have in non-retirement accounts.  Check your checking accounts and savings accounts.  Every available penny will have a purpose in your “debt reduction plan” – and you need to know how many pennies you have – and where those pennies are located.

4.  Balance your checkbook(s).  You need to know how much money you have, at all times, throughout the debt reduction process.  Financial sloppiness dies…today.

5.  Take a look at your credit report.  You can visit annualcreditreport for a free copy or your credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies.  This report will remind you of any accounts about which you have forgotten.

6.  Stop adding to your debt.  Personally, I stopped using my credit card, and this became a permanent decision.  You may feel free to go back to your credit card, but when getting out of debt, consider not using them and breaking those charge-everything, worry-about-everything, habits.  If you must use a credit card, be sure it’s one without a balance, and one you can pay off at the end of each month.

Stay Current and Add a Cushion

1.  This article is meant for those who are current with all of their creditors, and assumes that you are ready to start attacking your debt balances.

2.  Create an  easy to access emergency fund, to provide extra money, should you need it for unforeseen expenses.  The small e-fun might mean the difference between paying cash – and having to use a credit card.  I keep my emergency fund in my ING Direct savings account.

3.  At every step in the debt reduction process, always stay current with minimum monthly payments.  This is important.  Stay current, avoid extra penalties and fees, and improve your relationship with creditors.

Create a Debt Reduction Plan

1.  Using your list of creditors, consider which debt you want to attack first.  If you are following a typical debt snowball (like I did), pick the creditor with the lowest balance, and put it first on the list.  Put the next-lowest balance second, and so on.

2.  Which ever way you choose to list your creditors, the same payment plan remains important.  Pay minimums to all accounts, keeping them current, and then focus all extra payments on a single, top-of-your-list, creditor account.  Once that account is zeroed-out, move on the next creditor on the list, and apply the payments that had been going to the first account to the second account.  Thus, you see the reason this is called the “snowball” method.  Throughout the entire process, the total amount allocated for debt reduction remains the same, and only the account-to-be-focused-on changes.

Make It Easy To Send Payments and Extra Payments

1.  Sign up for free online bill pay from your bank.  Add each of your creditors to the bill pay section and pre-schedule minimum monthly payments.

2.  If you are unsure how your creditor (credit card company, automobile lender, ect.) handles extra payments, call them!  Some require that you write “apply to principle” in the memo section of the check.  There will be times when you will send one, two, even three extra payments – to the same creditor – in just one month.  You’ll want to be sure how / when those extra payments will be processed.  In most cases, most credit card companies will automatically add any extra payment, above minimum payment amount, towards principle reduction, but you might want to call, just to be on the safe side.

Spend Some Time Thinking About Interest Rates

1.  The most important thing about any loan is the principle itself – the actually amount of money borrowed.  The interest on the loan, however, is also very important.  Run the number and consider moving a balance from one card to another, if it’s worth it.  Frankly, for me, my plan was to be debt free in less than a year and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of a balance transfer.

2.  If you don’t want to go the credit card transfer route, you might check out loan consolidation information from Lending Club.  I have heard good things about Lending Club and have accepted them as an affiliate partner.

You Are Ready To Attack Debt When:

  • You are organized and know how much money you have and where it is
  • You are current with all creditors
  • You have established a small emergency fund
  • You have written out your debt reduction plan, listing debts in order they are to be paid off
  • You have an easy way to schedule and make payments and extra payments
  • You have taken into account interest rates and consider methods for reducing them
  • You are motivated, pumped up about reducing debt, and tired of gimmicks

Stay tuned, and we’ll move from “planning” towards “implementing the plan”.  Until then – rock on!

Edit:  Thanks for the link from the good folks over at Consumerist.

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Save Money On Lawn Care

When I was a kid, I never thought I would type the following sentence:

I really enjoy yard work.

Seriously.  I look forward to mowing the lawn, planting plants, raking leaves, and just spending time around the house, sprucing things up.

I also like sharing money saving tips, and here are a few of mine, for saving money on lawn care.  These are things I actually do (or have done) to save money and time.

Use Leaves and Pine Straw as Mulch

I live in the South, and have pine trees and oak trees in my backyard.  We use fallen leaves and pine straw as mulch.  The pine straw looks nice in flower beds and around shrubbery, while the leaves are reserved for a shady area underneath the kids’ swing set.

Leave a Portion of the Yard Alone

As our house sits, we basically have three sections of lawn – the front lawn, the back lawn, and a side lawn.  The front lawn and back lawn are mostly centipede grass, and are well-maintained, but we keep the side lawn, for the most part, alone.  Our kids’ swing set sits underneath a small stand of shade trees, grass doesn’t grow very well in this section of the yard, so we just let the leaves fall, pick up a few tree limbs from time to time, and that’s about it.  It’s cool to have the pretty manicured lawns – and a small part of the property that feels a bit more natural.

Build and Use a Compost Pile / Bin

I just finished building my compost bin instead of burning yard waste – or throwing vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps into the trash – I’m using them to create awesome compost.  This saves money, and bit of landfill space.

Plant Shade / Fruit Trees

I have already planted two trees in our backyard and in just a few years, they will provide shade for both our house and our kids’ playhouse.  I also plan to plant apple and pear trees next year.  Free fruit, more shade, and less yard to mow.  Win, win, win.

Keep Things Tidy

I have an electric, battery-powered leaf blower that I love.  I use it two or three times a week to keep our carport, sidewalk, and back porch clean.  It’s much easier to keep things clean – and keep them from getting dirty – when I spend a few minutes each day working in the yard.

Buy Plants in the Fall

Again, I live in the South, so our summer growing season is a bit longer than some places in the country.  As such, there are great deals on shrubbery, trees, and even flowers to be found at the local nursery.  Seriously.  A few weeks ago, I purchased some shrubs, regularly priced at $12 per, for just $4 per.  Shop around – and think local.  A local nursery owner will know exactly which plants are appropriate for where you live.

Share Tools

I have a pressure washer, but I don’t own a tiller.  My neighbor recently borrowed my pressure washer, and next spring, I’ll borrow his tiller.  If you can’t find folks to share, you might look into renting tools, especially if you are only going to use them once or twice.

Build a Rain Barrel to Catch Rain Water

As I mentioned a few days ago, I recently built and installed a rain barrel.  I am very happy to report that the rain barrel is working perfectly – and my new shrubs are strong and healthy.

Leave The Leaves?

When we moved into our house in February, there were leaves all over our yard.  The previous owner had chosen, like lots of folks do, to simply allow the leaves to pile up, and was planning to rake them up in the spring.  Me, personally?  While it might save me a few bucks or a few hours, I’m against letting the leaves pile up.  I have a mulching-blade on my lawn mower and I plan to mow the yard, three or four times this winter.  I’m not sure if this is a money-saver, but it helps me feel better about how the yard looks.

Increase the Size of Flower Beds

In the front yard, there is a small flower bed.  When we moved in, I just planted a half-dozen shrubs in the bed, added a bit of pine straw, and called it a day.  After several months of looking out the window and seeing the bed, I’m unimpressed with its layout.  In a few weeks, I’m going double the size of the bed.  This will decrease the area of lawn to-be-mowed and watered – and increase visual interest.

Buy Your Kids a Pair of Work Gloves

This is for those who have kids, and are looking for a way to spend more time with them.  Recently, I went to the home improvement store, and purchased a new pair of work gloves.  My son, six, was there with me – and asked for a pair of his own.  I think they cost me 3 bucks, but have more than paid for themselves.  Now, instead of being afraid to get his hands dirty, or pick up worms, or pull weeds, he puts on his gloves and feels like a yard working super-hero.  A couple of Saturdays ago, he helped me trim the shrubbery in the front yard.  He learned how to use the shears and the rake – and we had a blast.

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I Spend One Day Managing Finances And Then Enjoy The Month

My current system for managing our household finances is super-simple.  Here’s the entire process:

Monthly Review

On the last day of each month, I review that month’s budget, income, and expenses.  I make a note of any budget overages or shortfalls  I also balance our checkbook.

Budget Creation

After reviewing our budget, I create a zero-based budget for the upcoming month.  Usually, the changes to the monthly budget are minimal, but it never hurts to review and fine-tune.

Income Deposit

My wife gets paid on the last day of the month, and I get paid on the second Monday of each month.  I wait until the first Tuesday of each month and deposit both checks in our local bank.

Income Distribution

Bills - I pay all of our bills online, using free bill pay, and schedule all bills to be paid on the second Wednesday of each month.  A couple of our bills are on auto-draft, but most are paid using online bill pay.  We know longer write paper checks to pay bills.

Food / Groceries / Gas – We use the envelope system for managing our cash.  Here’s a video I made, explaining the system and how it works.  I also use a debit card for certain expenses, but prefer cash.

Savings – On the second Wednesday of each month, a portion of income is deducted from our bank account and deposited in our online savings account.  The amount to be deposited is determined by our current long-term savings goals.  Currently, we are saving to replace two automobiles and to buy a new kitchen table with chairs.

Final Thoughts

That’s it.  I spend about two hours on the last day of the month working on  the budget and making any necessary changes to our bill-payment schedule.  Once in a while, I’ll have a random bill, something like a car tag fee, that will have to be paid out-of-pocket.  Oh, yeah.  I have to make the three minute trip to deposit our checks, once a month.  Direct deposit is unavailable.

Contributions to our retirement accounts are automatically deducted from our paychecks.  A couple of times a month, I’ll clip coupons and update my grocery price book, and I frequently log in to our various accounts, just to make sure all-is-well.  Oh, I also spend a couple of minutes, each month, filing away payment stubs and balancing the checkbook.

Keeping things super-simple works for me.  In the past, I struggled with disorganization and procrastination, especially when it came to dealing with bills.  Now, I have a fool-proof system in place, one that keeps me organized, assures that my bills will be paid on time, and still allows me to relax and enjoy my life.

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