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How I Plan For Irregular Expenses

Written by Brett McKay

My wife and I have done a good job of controlling our spending and saving money. For the most part, we know how much we spend each month and have been able to budget our money so we have enough left over for building our emergency fund as well as putting away for long term saving goals.

Everything goes swimmingly until we get notice that our $400 car insurance is due next month or we have our 6 month dental check-up. Costs like these are so irregular that they’re easy to forget. When they do come,we usually have to dip into our emergency funds for these not quite emergencies.

This arangement annoyed me, so I sat down last week to figure out how to plan for these irregular expenses. Here’s what I did.

Write down all your irregular expenses and how much you usually spend. For me, my irregular expenses include car insurance, car maintenance, Christmas shopping, and doctor/dental visits.

Add up how much you spend on each irregular expense and divide by 12. The outcome is how much you’ll need to put away each month in order to cover your irregular expenses when they come up. Instead of dipping into my emergency fund, I’ll already have the money.

Open and ING Electric Orange Checking account. I’m stashing my irregular expense money in the ING Electric Orange account with a 3.93% interest rate. Because these expenses happen every 3-4 months, I’ll be able to earn some decent dividends.

Use your ING Account for these expenses. I like keeping this money separate from my normal accounts. It keeps things easy and organized.

My wife and I are putting about $140 a month aside into this account. In order to make this work, we had to reduce the amount we put into our investment accounts a little. I definitely think it’s worth it. We were only fooling ourselves of our financial position by not taking into account these expenses. Sure, by not putting money aside for these costs we can invest extra or put more money in our emergency fund, but when these expenses come up, we have to take the extra money we stashed in an emergency fund and spend it. It’s kind of a blow to our psyche. Now we’ll always know that we have money for these irregular expenses.

5 Ways To Save Money On A New Suit

Written by Brett McKay

For attorneys, a nice conservative suit is the required uniform. If you haven’t started law school yet, you’ll want to include a new suit in your list of back to school supplies. You’ll not only need it for job interviews, but if you plan on taking part in moot court, you’ll have to wear one, too.

But at $200-$300 a pop, suits are expensive, especially for a starving law student like yourself. Here are 5 tips on how you can save tons of money on your next suit, but still look like a million bucks.

  1. Buy suits on sale. Read the department store newspaper inserts religiously. Stores like Dillard’s or JC Penny have suit sales quite regularly. You can easily score a sharp looking suit for less than $200 if you keep your eyes open.
  2. Avoid add-ons. Remember that department store salesman are paid on commission, so they’re going to try to up-sale you with belts, socks, and cufflinks. Buying in store will set you back. Say “no thanks” and go to a discount department store to buy your accessories.
  3. Stick with classic designs. Don’t buy trendy suits for two reasons: 1) law is a very conservative profession. If you show up in suit that looks like it should be on a run way model, you’ll probably get funny looks from judges; and 2) trends come and go. If your suit goes out of style, you’ll probably be tempted to fork over more money to buy another. Go with a classic. You’ll never go wrong.
  4. Don’t have your suit custom made. Custom made suits will have to wait when you are charging clients $400 an hour. In law school, saving money comes before luxury. Just buy your suit and have them tailor it in store. You’ll get the same custom made feel for a fraction of the price.
  5. Buy a gently used thift store suit and have it tailored. Finding a nice thrift store suit will take a lot of patience and time; however, if you have both, you can save big bucks. I found a really sharp looking suit at a consignment store for $10. I took it in to a local men’s clothing store and they tailored it to my measurements for another $10. Total cost: $20.

Save Money and Eat Healthier: Buy Frozen and Canned Produce

Written by Brett McKay

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We all know that eating fruits and vegetables everyday is an essential part in maintaining a healthy diet. Most people think that to get the full nutritional benefit of produce you have to buy it fresh. There’s some truth to that belief. However, if you buy your “fresh” produce from the supermarket, you’re probably not really getting fresh produce.

Fresh produce really isn’t fresh

Fresh produce loses vital nutrients and vitamins as soon as it’s harvested. Additionally, it can take weeks before the produce arrives at your local market, thus losing even more nutrients. By the time you eat your “fresh” produce, it will have lost most of its nutritious value.

Fresh produce is expensive

Most Americans skip on produce because it’s expensive. When money is tight, highly processed foods are an attractive, albeit unhealthy, way to save money.

The solution? Frozen or canned produce

Frozen or canned produce is virtually identical in terms of nutrition to freshly harvested produce. In some instances, frozen or canned produce have been shown to be better than fresh produce.

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Featured Resource

There are tons of little adjustments you can make that can help you live a Healthier life. There are tons of items that qualify as Health Food which won’t break your grocery budget. New Health Research constantly reveals new ways to become Healthier.

The History of Mechanical Toy Banks

Written by Brett McKay

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While I was in Vermont last week, my family and I visited the Shelburne Museum. One of the displays that captured my attention was dedicated to old cast iron mechanical banks. I’m sure many of you have seen these things. They come in a variety of forms- from clowns to baseball players. All mechanical banks work on the same two principles: the weight of the deposited coin causes an action to begin or a person pulls a lever that sets the bank in motion.

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Mechanical toy banks grew in popularity between 1870 and 1930. The two biggest firms that manufactured mechanical banks were Stevens and W.J. Shepard. After the creation of the first charted savings bank in New York City in 1819, thrift became a national policy. Manufactures felt that mechanical toy banks could help instill that ideal in children. Consequently, most mechanical banks have themes geared towards children such as sports and the circus. However, several mechanical banks illustrated controversial political and social subjects. You’ll find many of the bank designs mirroring the racism of the time by depicting African Americans in offensive stereotypes.

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As a kid, I thought old cast iron toy banks were pretty cool. To me, they represent a unique part of Americana. I was happy to see a museum working to preserve this part of our country’s financial history.

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The Best Personal Finance Advice I’ve Ever Received

Written by Brett McKay

As a teenager, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by adults that took an interest in my success. They would take me under the wing and mentor me in different ways. I can still remember many of the conversations I had with these individuals; however, I remember one conversation with a mentor quite vividly. That mentor was named Charles Smith.

Charlie was a neighbor of mine. He and his family still live down the street from my parents’ house. Charlie was not only a neighbor, but he was a member of my church’s congregation, so his family and mine interacted with each other a great deal. I always respected Charlie because he had created a very successful life for himself and his family. He not only had a successful career, he was an active leader in our church as well as the community.

Charlie and I worked together in our church visiting families that needed help. On our rides together to visit families, we had plenty of time to talk. One day, the topic of personal finance came up. Because I was getting ready to go to college, I mentioned how expensive it is now a days to attend and how I was saving up for it. Charlie nodded his head and simply said the following:

“Brett, here’s some financial advice that’s helped me get to where I am. If you pay 10% to Lord first, and 10% to yourself second, you won’t have too many money worries.”

For some reason, that bit of advice burned into my young mind. Ever since then, I’ve tried to put it in practice. Whenever I get paid, I take 10% and contribute it to my church. I take another 10% of my original pay, and put it in a savings account. I then distribute the rest for the other expenses. And you know what? Charlie was right. I haven’t had to worry too much about money by following this advice of paying a tithe and saving money. Sure, there have been times when money has been tight, but despite being a poor student, my wife and I haven’t had to worry about where we’re going to get the money to pay for food or bills.

How can you apply Charlie’s advice?

Saving a percentage of your income is personal finance 101. If you’re not paying yourself now, start doing it. Set up an automatic deposit with your bank so it takes a percentage of your income and puts into savings. 10% is the recommended amount; however, if you can handle saving more, do it! If 10% is too much, start off with 5%. The goal is to just start.

What about tithes?

If you don’t belong to a church, if you’re not religious, or don’t even believe in God, you can still tithe. Find a cause you’re passionate about and donate a percentage of your income to it. It can be anything! The environment, a political organization, or a charity. Donating your money to a cause or an organization is a reflection of your values. It’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.

If you’d like to read about the benefits of donating your money, check out Charity: Why You Should Give Your Money Away by Trent at The Simple Dollar.

So, that’s the best personal financial advice I’ve ever received. It’s simple, but effective. Thanks, Charlie, for taking the time to share your wisdom with a sixteen year old kid.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the best financial advice you ever received and who gave it to you? Drop a comment, or if you have a blog, write a post, let me know, and I’ll link to it.

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I Am 26 Years Old and My Mom Cuts My Hair

Written by Mrs. FLS

My mom has been cutting my hair since I was knee high to a grasshopper. And she cuts it still today, although I can now crush that grasshopper with a 26 year old’s foot. She still cuts it the same: straight across. Up through high school she also cut my bangs, also straight across. Eventually I realized that my straight across bangs, complete with a cowlick in the middle, were doing nothing to help my already stilted social progress. And so the bangs were grown out. Then I had my mom cut my hair shorter, but still straight across. So then I looked like a knight from the round table. Did I mention the stilted social progress?

There was a period in college when I had shorter, hipper hair, you know the kind with some style as opposed to straight across. And this required a regular visit to the hairdresser. So a few years went by without mom taking the scissors to the hair. But then I grew tired of short hair and I grew my hair out longer.

So I went back to mom for my trimmings. My hair is fine and straight, and there is just not much style that could be put into it, regardless of who cuts it. So mom just gives me regular trimmings-you guessed it-straight across. These days I have been itching for a change, something shorter and more stylish. But since money is so tight, long, straight hair will have to do. I simply won’t plunk down $25 every six weeks at this point in my life. And shorter hair on women shouldn’t be attempted at home. So while my hair is rather blah, it is really just cut with the latest “frugal style.”

If you are currently into sporting the frugal style than you too should find a friend or family member to cut your hair. Another very cheap option is to have your hair cut by the students at a beauty college, although the results can be mixed. Never cut your own hair, unless you are using a Flowbee. And if you are middle aged or older, you should go the “gray braid” route. My friends and I always joked about becoming “old gray braids” when we were older. Although my hair is really not thick enough to pull off a proper hippie gray braid.

So there is my confession. I am 26 years old and my mom cuts my hair. Perhaps this should be embarrassing to me, but the fact that I am also living with my hairdresser is more so.