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November 9th, 2012
He’s typically considered the blue-collar investor… the guy who did things the right way. And we can learn a lot from him. Here are 10 Financial Lessons We Can Learn From Warren Buffett
Graphic source: Best Finance Schools
How could we resist posting this graphic when the number one rule was “Spend Wisely” – that’s our mantra at Shoestring Budget! Plus all the points tell the same story: be smart, use your money wisely, do your homework, find good values, etc. It’s pretty much the perfect infographic for what we like to talk about on this site.
Print it out and give it to your kids!Filed under Investing | Comment (0)
November 9th, 2012
A penny saved is a penny earned so this holiday season, bank your bucks and stretch every red and green cent as far as it will go. Whether you tend to go overboard in extravagance or practice modest gift buying, you must remember the true meaning of Christmas: it’s not about the things money can buy.
This holiday season, no matter the size of your shopping budget, try to consider the long term and go Scrooge style. The benefits outpay the risks. To do this, start by determining what you can afford for gifts, meals, baking, beverages, and parties. When you shop, make it your mission to buy store brands over label brands without compromising quality. Lock up your credit card and use your debit card or even cash. Allow for and accommodate a cushion for hidden expenses (like last minute hostess gifts) in your budget and give yourself ample time and room to make a shopping plan. Whether you shop online or in stores, time is your most vital resource and procrastinating will leave you wiped out when you need your energy most. Plus if you’re pressed for time, it will increase the impulse to overspend and add to the stress of an already stressful season. Keep your eye on store advertisements to load your pantry and fridge on basic foods like butter, sugar, and eggs for cookies and frozen or non-perishables for your feasts and parties. Going simple and thoughtful in terms of the gifts you give people – from homemade goodies, crafts, candles, ornaments, etc.. to a box of balloons, treasure boxes, and other keepsakes – is a great way to save money and express your gratitude. After all, that’s what the spirit of the holidays are about!Filed under Alternative economics, Christmas | Comment (0)
May 13th, 2012
In case you haven’t noticed, college tuition is way out of control. We have a whole generation of kids that are basically mortgaging their future. It’s a higher education bubble.
The fact is that not all (probably not most) jobs require a 4 year liberal arts degree. Many liberal arts degrees these days are waste of time that offer zero job benefit (and since most kids go to school for the sake of getting a job, that means something is off. College kids are basically taking out large loans to get worthless degrees.
The good news is that there are options and alternative paths.
For starters, to get the most bang for your buck, you could consider a 2 year associates degree at your local community college. After a 2 year’s associates degree, you could consider whether to continue on for a bachelors. If you do things right, you should be able to transfer in most of your credits from your community college associate degree to a bachelor’s program.
Other options include getting your education online. Online schools have limitations but they also have benefits. Tuition tends to be lower. And you have more flexibility. When choosing an online school, make sure it’s regionally accredited, or else your education will be a waste. Consider rankings such as this one which only include accredited schools.
At the end of the day, only go to college if you have a plan for what you want to do in life. And even then, choose wisely. Degrees in science, engineering, health and computer science have the biggest payoff.Filed under Education | Comment (0)
October 8th, 2011
Following Wal-Mart’s announcement in late September that stores across the country would expand last year’s holiday come-on of ten toys priced at $10 to 100 toys this year. The list includes such desirables as the New Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Deluxe Action Figures, board games including Monopoly and Battleship, Tonka trucks with light and sound, the Play=Doh Burger Builder Set (for those young wannabe burger-flippers in your family, and even a Nerf sword. Among other items.
So it was probably to be expected that competitor Target would come up with an alternative plan to get shoppers into the stores during what is expected to be a dismal holiday shopping season. Target’s come-on is to offer a selection of toys discounted up to 50%. Whether that offers more savings to cash-strapped parents than the guaranteed low prices at Wal-Mart remains to be seen.
For parents who really have to buy a few ‘regular’ toys for young children this may be a good deal, as there are unlikely to be any new Transformers or Nerf swords at Goodwill. But definitely keep the resale outlets in your planning, for such things as winter coats, dress-ups for girls, trikes and bicycles, those ubiquitous plastic child cars and play sets, etc. And it’s always possible to find one-of-a-kind items they just don’t make any more that would be perfect for someone on your list. Kitchen canisters, spice racks (may have to give empty), wooden utensil sets and many other things that are more opportunistic than planned as gifts.
The whole 50% off thing sort of reminds me of when I got a 2-day job in North Chicago while my husband was in A-School (Navy) many long years ago. I had small children and he was only there for 10 weeks, so getting a regular full-time job was very unlikely. It was at the area’s Carson Pirie and Scott department store for an upcoming late summer half price sale. One day helping prepare, and the opening day of the sale as floor help in Women’s Wear.
I showed up at the appointed hour, the store was closed in preparation for the sale. Turned out our job as temps was to replace the price tags on all the items in our departments – with the ‘original’ price doubled so the sale price underneath was exactly the same as full price was just yesterday. What a scam! Then the next day we braced ourselves against the huge crowd of revved-up shoppers who had been waiting for hours on the sidewalk. Nothing can really prepare you for watching a bunch of frenzied women with credit cards literally fighting over bras, sweaters, skirts, dresses, jeans and other items they only THINK they’re getting cheap. Clothes were flying everywhere, some things got ripped in half. It disgusted me enough that I never have trusted sales gimmicks ever since.
It wouldn’t hurt to check up on the going prices for some of those items you’re supposed to think you’re getting a great price on before you go to the big box stores to spend hard earned money. You might really be saving on that $20 item now going for $14.99, but you could be making it up on that peripheral item that’s been marked up to double. It might be a really pretty candy plate with angels and Aunt Ruth would love it, but if your experience suggests you could get the same useless item at the Dollar Store for $2, $9.99 is way too much. Retail is a little like a gambling casino. Sure, there are occasional winners, but the house always wins in the end.Filed under Brand New Used, Discount Outlets, Holidays, Resale, Shopping, Thrifting | Comment (0)
October 25th, 2010
Most of us don’t have the money to spend on higher education these days and some of us don’t want to take out loans in order to further our educations. What we ultimately need is the best education we can get for the lowest cost.
Sometimes this means getting an education at a local community college. If you pick a community college within driving distance of a major university, chances are that you’re actually going to get taught by some bright, young and enthusiastic graduate students working as adjuncts. These can be some of the most memorable classes as the professors are not yet jaded and boring.
Another option for affordable education is to take classes online. If you pick the right school, and you are a self-initiator, you can get a quality education without having to pay of all the overhead of a traditional school. When I was doing research for this article I came across this website which ranks online schools by lowest tuition. For example, if you want to get your MBA online, the most affordable program is Wayne State College at $7,433. That’s not cheap, but it’s the sort of investment that will probably pay off.
So there are two ways to get a relatively affordable college education on a shoestring budget. Do you have any other ideas?Filed under Education | Comments (2)
October 5th, 2010
Autumn is well upon us, and people who have been struggling to stay afloat in this lousy economy all year are now faced with the prospect of the coming holiday gifting season. Which can be daunting in the best of times, but can be positively depressing for those not used to not having cash or credit for the consumerist frenzy. This post is about helping to trim the gift list if you haven’t done so already, plus how and where to find gifts for loved ones that they may cherish forever, help maintain and spread the joy of the season, and not cost an arm or leg.
1. Analyze your gift-giving habits, trim the tree.
In our free-wheeling consumerist culture the Christmas shopping season represents half or more of retailers’ annual intake and an average middle class family’s greatest expenditures on unnecessary items for the year. If your family is struggling, the credit cards with their usurious interest rates have already been cut into small pieces and thrown away, consumer loans have been paid down or frozen in place, and promises to self not to spend more than you’ve got have been made. Don’t change a thing just because the holidays are coming!
If you have a lot of friends and extended family for whom you’ve bought gifts in years past, networking with them early is a good idea. See if doing something other than gifting this year could be a thankful relief to them as well as you. Pot-luck holiday get-togethers are fun, and no one person has to provide all the food and drinks. “Re-Gifting” parties can be great fun too, where you give some trinket you got from someone else in the past (it’s been just taking up room in the closet or on the shelf ever since) to someone else. Chances are someone will remember who gave Fred that hideous tie he’s never worn and laughs will ensue. The holidays are for fun, so have some!
If you’ve got children, find out what they want most instead of just gathering their wish lists of every toy they’ve seen advertised on TV. For children old enough to know Santa isn’t Bill Gates, one big gift can be better than ten little ones. Items like bicycles, roller blades and other sports equipment can be purchased second hand and refurbished, maybe personalized with glitter paint and trim. Go for things they’ll really use and enjoy, stay away from basic junk.Alternatives, Brand New Used, Clothing, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Shopping, Thrifting | Comment (0)
September 22nd, 2009
The long summer has finally come to an end, along with August’s endless supply of bread and circuses we all enjoyed so much. The spectacle of so many angry elderly folks demanding that the government stay OUT of their Medicare, the long parade of signs depicting the President of the United States as Adolph Hitler for daring to suggest there’s something wrong that needs fixing, and a long line of leftover Republican lawmakers acting as town hall ringmasters for the Greatest Show On Earth. Brought to us by Big Pharma and the for-profit insurance industry lobbies who have spent nearly $1.5 million dollars a day to make darned sure that Health Insurance executives never have to give up a single vacation McMansion swimming pool, winter in Bermuda or multi-million dollar bonus just so we and our families can obtain a basic level of health care.
Here’s what some Hollywood actors have to say in defense of those pitiful corporate victims of possible competition in todays health care market… Enjoy!
New health care plan and your wallet
September 8th, 2009
Those of us who have spent a good part of our lives not being rich – or even middle-middle class – have likely spent quite a bit of our lives without health insurance as well. Or with junk insurance that doesn’t actually cover anything but Big Ticket Items such as major accidents and illnesses. And many of us have unfortunately discovered that junk insurance won’t pay for Big Ticket Items either, if ever those happen to accrue.
Thus we have likely been watching the D.C. Street Theater (recently back from nationwide tour over the August recess at Town Hall meetings in every state) with some amazement. Knowing that the truth is that health care is the third leading cause of death, perhaps wondering if greater access for some of the ~50 million Americans without insurance is actually going to “fix” what’s wrong with health care in this country. Which is #37 on the list of 37 industrialized nations in both access and outcomes.
One of the more “important” results of what is now more honestly being called Health Insurance Reform is the promise of government subsities to enroll as many of those ~50 million uninsured Americans in for-profit health care as possible. This is of course a way to compensate for-profit insurers for new regulations that will prevent them from refusing to insure those with pre-existing conditions, rescinding policies when the person gets sick or injured, and other racketeering practices that have 3 of every 4 of the “medically bankrupt” bankrupt despite HAVING insurance.Bankruptcy, Government Bailouts, Health Care | Comment (0)
August 17th, 2009
…and HCR update
The biggest bank failure of 2009 happened last week when the FDIC moved to shut down Colonial BancGroup of Alabama, along with four other banks, bringing the total thus far this year to more than 70. A quick deal with BB&T to purchase Colonial caused its shares to rise. FDIC will be shouldering much of the losses, of course, which adds billions to the bailout of the banking system while at the same time working to further bank consolidation for the wealthiest banks still standing.
Such situations are a ‘win-lose’ proposition. Win for BB&T and their stockholders, lose for We the Taxpayers. This scheme where the feds cap the buyer’s losses at taxpayer expense is just another outrage to the hard-pressed public at a time when all the glorious pronouncements of economic recovery have yet to even begin to touch the lives of the general public still losing jobs at a high rate while no new jobs seem to be forthcoming.
And on top of the still-dismal economic situation for average people in this country, now we have the extremely contentious health care reform debate ongoing that looks more and more like bad street theater every day. Between the noisy hoards of idle old folks bused around the country to shut down discussion of provisions during Town Hall meetings held by vacationing congresscritters, and the absurd lies being spewed by the usual suspects at FoxNews and right wing radio, it’s looking more and more like the final result will be a significant new tax on the working poor that will be earmarked directly to the health insurance industry by means of mandatory purchase of junk insurance.
The situation is really health insurance reform, though reform isn’t really a good title either considering how much the Death by Spreadsheet crowd will end up getting from the public directly and from the government as subsidies. Yes, they will have to stop excluding anyone with a pre-existing condition, retroactively canceling policies if the insured person gets sick, and simply not paying for covered health care after the fact. But they will more than make up for however much this costs them by the ~40 million new policies the uninsured will have to purchase, and with government subsidies for many of those as well as losses incurred by having to honor their contracts.Bank Failures, Economic Recession, Government Bailouts, Health Care, Joblessness, Taxes | Comment (0)
August 8th, 2009
Those of us attempting to live on what was a shoestring budget even before the Great Unending Recession/Depression have probably been watching the large insanity of vacationing Congresscritters attempting to hold Town Hall meetings with their constituents back home with some bemusement. It’s no secret that the WingNut Network [a.k.a. Fox] and Hate Radio pundits have been inciting their faithful dummies to riot, since this has been ongoing ever since they lost the election last November in a big way. Between the clueless idiots who can’t believe a black man is a real American citizen (or that exotic Hawaii is actually a state) and the Bermuda shorts and gray hair crowd shouting “Keep the government OUT of my Medicare!” one really does have to wonder if maybe there’s something in the water making people lose what few IQ points they might have had back in kindergarten.
Some of us also know that going to a doctor regularly if you aren’t actually sick is not wise, thus are probably better off if we don’t suffer some chronic condition with our very limited access to the health care system than we might be if we had annual check-ups and the ability to demand whatever drug is advertised on television nightly. While it’s a sad truth that ~50 million Americans have no access to the health care system – and that’s an insurance issue – I haven’t seen anybody talking much lately about the health care system itself, which just happens to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.Conscious Living, Economic Recession, Elitism, Health Care, Inflation, Nutrition, Politics, Prescription Drugs, Surviving | Comment (0)