Friday, April 29, 2011

Frugal Friday: Check Hotel Amenities

I'm still out of town, so I will make this quick.

When choosing a hotel for an out-of-town trip, don't choose a hotel based simply on which has the cheapest rate per night. Sometimes, a hotel that costs a little more to stay in can save you a lot more money if it has the right amenities.

Breakfast offered. If I don't have to worry about one meal in the day, I save money and also save time on finding a place to eat. Occasionally, I am lucky enough to stay at a hotel that also offers evening snacks.

Refrigerator / Microwave. By using the fridge to keep some snacks in my room or items for light meals, I avoid paying $2 for a candy bar or from over-ordering at dinner.

Shuttle. I'm not just talking about a hotel that will shuttle you to and from the airport. Some hotels offer complimentary shuttle service to any place within a 5-mile radius from the hotel. The hotel I am staying in this week offers this service. When I first arrived here, I simply asked the shuttle to take me to the grocery store, so I could stock my room fridge. When I was nearly finished shopping, I called the hotel to pick me up.

With the above amenities, I saved money on 5 meals (each breakfast I was here), saved money on lunches and dinners by keeping filling snacks in the room fridge which helped me order smaller meals when eating out, and saved money by not having to hire a taxi or rent a car to get to nearby locations.

When considering a hotel stay, remember to check the hotel website or call customer service to see if the amenities in a pricier hotel will save you money in the long run.

Monday, April 25, 2011


How do you put off buying something you really want but is not a need?

I've been having a really lively game of fighting temptations to paint rooms, buy bedroom furniture, and add home decor accessories. I also want an army of hostas for the north side of the house and new shrubs for the flower bed in the front yard. The backyard keeps whispering to me to put in some flagstone and moss.

I want it! I want it I want it! 

Children do what feels good. Adults devise a plan and stick to it. But I still want it. What do you do to put off impulses?

The other night, I approached my husband for a self-imposed intervention. I say "self-imposed" because my husband is one of those loving husbands who wants to give me the world. He will say "yes" even when he really should say "no." Oh, once in while he puts out a brave "no," but it is no match for my "pleeease... I really want one," and he caves. When our daughters figure this out, we're screwed.

But the other night, I really needed him to say "no" because even though I am generally a fiscally-responsible person, I had a bad itch to be a kid on a toy spree. However, knowing I was still married to a doting husband, I presented a cautious plea:

"Honey, there are some things I really want. In fact, I want a bunch of things right now, and I am having trouble not wanting to buy them right off. I will tell you what they are, but I am not telling you that is what I will do or that you must agree to them; I am just sharing. If you think it's not a good idea. Go ahead and say so."

See how much I'm trying to help him say "no"? I rattle my list of desires to him.

He doesn't say "no," but, in an attempt on his part, he does smile and say, "We'll see in time." I walk away before I give in to pleading.  He's not ready to rebuff my begging. Man, oh man, it's hard sometimes to not be part of the world. Or at least buy a part of it.

We have the money to buy these things, but that doesn't necessarily translate into meaning it is the right thing to do or the right time to do it. How do you strike a balance between having fun and living on a wise plan?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scripture Sunday - John 3:16

For God so loved the world, 
that he gave
his only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in him 
should not perish,
but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

Friday, April 22, 2011

Frugal Friday: Free Songs and Albums

Did you know? offers for downloading:

Thousands of free mp3s

Now, you do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Will You Use Your Refund?

He's no accountant; he's a magical woodland leprechaun with a pot of gold! I have no idea how Joe the Accountant comes through every year and finds money to be returned to us. We have increased our exemptions the last three years in attempt to reduce our refund, but we keep getting a big tax refund.

Now, it's on to the business of figuring out what to do with this money.

There are personal funds:
  • kids' college funds
  • our retirement funds 
  • home repair fund

There are things I want:
  • landscaping
  • painting
  • basement finishing
  • home decorating

We could do some fun things:
  • family vacation
  • charitable donation 

And things we foresee needing in the future:
  • toddler's preschool
  • replacement car fund

Did you get a refund this year, too? What are your plans for that money?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What would you ask a finance counselor?

Oh boy!
I am getting ready for a financial counselor training next week, and I am excited!
And nervous.
And excited!

I have been jotting down questions to ask some of the master coaches. What kind of questions would you ask a finance coach? Would it be about setting up a budget? debt elimination? savings? insurance? managing bill collectors? retirement?

What is your most pressing question?
Let me know at adhisblog @ gmail . com

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scripture Sunday - 1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said unto Samuel, 
Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature;
because I have refused him:
 for the Lord seeth not as man seeth;
for man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

Friday, April 15, 2011

Frugal Friday: Free Email

My husband and I were driving to an appointment when I mentioned one of our sisters-in-law still has an America Online email account. He said his buddy at work (it seems appropriate to point out he's in the Information Technology field) inexplicably still pays for a email account.

Why are people still paying for email addresses like it's 1995? If you are paying even 50¢ for email, know that you can now have free, reliable email. A few of the more popular and easier-to-use dinosaurs are:

These are all web-based email, which means you can access them from anywhere in the world as long as you have internet access.

When I asked my sister-in-law about her AOL account, she said she kept it because it's the one she has always had and "everyone" writes her there. I had to chuckle. I lived in Florida for 13 years, but I eventually told my friends my new address in Utah. This brings me to another practice I occasionally see.

Sometimes, I find someone has an email account set up with their phone or internet service provider (ISP), for example or Never do that. When you move out of their service area, you will lose any emails you had saved and will have to set up a whole new email account. Or worse, when a phone company or ISP raises their rates, some people resist moving to a better deal because they don't want to lose the email account attached with the company they are leaving. Why do you think those companies so graciously offer to help new customers set up their email accounts with them?

To change to a free and portable email address, choose one of the free web-based email services listed above, set up a new email address, and then email your friends from the new account to let them know to update their address books. It really is that simple.

There are a lot of things in life we must pay for. Don't let free email be one of them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Proud Mama

Can I just report on how proud I am of my class?

I am so proud of the people who participated in the winter session of my personal finance class!

Twelve families enrolled and in the end, they collectively paid off over $108,000 in debt in 3 months! None of them made huge incomes, they only made big commitments. Good things come to those who commit, focus, and start walking toward a great goal.

♦ Two families sold a family car. At least one other put theirs up for sale.
♦ One person decided to go back to school as an adult.
♦ Five decided to take a personality or careers test to become more acquainted with their strengths and passions.
♦ One person got a job offer promising almost double their current income, working much nearer to home, and juggling less responsibilities. 
♦ Several commented that their marriages felt stronger due to getting on the same page.
♦ Three cut up a credit card in class.
♦ One found she would be out of debt sooner than she had planned.
♦ Several got their $1,000 Safety Net in place.
♦ Of those, some had an emergency happen soon after to necessitate using it and avoided using credit cards to save them!
♦ Of those, most were able to finish rebuilding their Safety Net before class ended.
♦ Ten set up auto-deposits to keep their Safety Net in place.
♦ So many sold belongings, worked extra, and cut down costs to keep moving toward their goals.
♦ We were all challenged in at least one belief we held about ourselves or our relationships or our stuff or our money.
♦ One grew in confidence by bargaining on a large family purchase on her own.
♦ A lot saved BIG money in day-to-day expenses or in needed repairs and purchases (including me!) by practicing bargaining and by sharing deals with each other.

Was this easy? NO! It sounds easy to the onlooker who sees only the end results; there was a lot of work, sacrifice, and commitment involved from these families to get from Point A to Point B. On, they will travel to Point C with perhaps few noticing the sweat they will break on their long journey before the finish line.

I again learned much about myself and about human behavior from some very interesting personalities! I thoroughly enjoyed the company of wise people.

I am very proud of these students and wish them continued learning and success!

Monday, April 11, 2011

How Committed Are You?

If you are new to the blog, you may not know that I teach a personal finance course in the community. I'm a tough teacher. When someone is plopping down $100 or more and three months of their life for a course, I want them to get their money's and time's worth, and to me, that means, they are getting results.

I am probably too tough for some personalities. On a few occasions, I have seen the countenance of a student change to reflect a burning anger towards me or to a stonewalled face so as to disguise their desire to deck me. That's a good sign, for either they will allow their emotion to help them become aware an old idea is fighting for survival or they will again embrace denial. Either way, a decision will have been made and committed to.

I sometimes ask personal questions that are seemingly unrelated to money. I ask questions that people do not think are my business. I do not ask for curiosity but to gauge one's commitment, to assess the true situation, and to uncover possible solutions. Not everyone wants a solution.

In a dream, the prophet Lehi came upon a tree with a white fruit that was more delicious than anything else he had ever tasted. Naturally, he desired for his family to partake of this new-found joy. He beckoned them: his wife came, some of his children came. Despite his selfless desire to help others better their lives, he could not convince everyone to come to the tree. He had no ulterior motive, though one was suspected. He had experienced a most wonderful thing and he wanted only for others to be as free and as happy as he felt.

What I have found (and find still) is that most people want things to change for the better... without having to change themselves. Quite regularly, I hear or read people say they want to be out of debt, but they set up a limits as to how much they are willing to do toward that end. They want the delicious fruit to come to them, instead of going to the tree themselves to pluck it.

An associate of mine on Facebook recently posted,

"Being interested in change means you will do what is convenient.
"Being committed to change means you will do whatever is necessary."

Are you interested, or are you committed?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Deuteronomy 8:18

But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: 
for it is he 
that giveth thee power to get wealth,
that he may establish his covenant 
which he sware unto thy fathers, 
as it is this day.

Deuteronomy 8:18

Friday, April 8, 2011

Frugal Friday: eFile your taxes for free!

I can't be the only one who procrastinated on filing her taxes. Am I? Anyone else?


(crickets chirping)

This week's Frugal Friday post is for those quiet ones who are too shy to admit it. Fortunately for you guys, Tax Day falls on April 18th this year!

If you have simple taxes and do not need (or want) an accountant, you can figure out, print, and e-file your taxes for FREE on:


Good luck!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taxing 3

Crunch time! Tomorrow is our appointment with the accountant and I have a lot of work left to do!

I have all my papers. They are in categories and they are in chronological order. I have printed out or looked online for the missing statements.

Step 6:
It's time to pull out the calculator!
Start with one category and total up expenses from each sub-category. (for example, "Business" category: utilities, supplies, trainings, meals, etc.; for "Medical": prescriptions, copays, doctors/hospitals, etc.) Repeat ad nauseum in all categories.

When I total everything, I write the totals on a sheet of paper like this:
_____ miles
_____ goods donations
_____ cash donations

_____ office sq ft
_____ miles
_____ utilities
_____ internet
_____ advertising
_____ supplies

_____ miles
_____ co-pays
_____ Rx

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Step 7:
I realize I do not have some of my mileage recorded. I go down my list of accounts or places that fall under Medical, Charity, and Business (these are the categories that allow deductions for miles spent). I check the number of trips to the doctor, or a donation drop-off, or a business event and then google online driving direction sites (like Mapquest or Google Maps) and find the distance from my home to these various locations and write them down. In addition, I write down the number of miles I put on my car in the last year. This will help determine what percentage of my travel was devoted to business.

Step 8:
Almost finished!!
Put the sheet above in a folder with the rest of my documents: property tax info, 1099's, W-2s, mortgage interest statements, college fund contributions, my girls' social security numbers, and so forth.  

Completed! And my husband says he will reward my efforts with some Ben & Jerry's! I love ice cream, but I will definitely keep better records this year, so I don't dread and procrastinate this step again next year.

Tomorrow morning, I will hand over the contents of my folder to Joe the Accountant and let him figure out the best way to arrange everything to generate our lowest tax liability. Man, it's late-hour times like these that I am even more grateful I have an accountant!

Aren't you happy you filed your taxes already?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taxing 2

Tonight is the last night for the winter session of my personal finance class, so I only have an hour or so today to work on tax documentation.

Step four:
Once all papers have been placed in categories, place them in chronological order (January, February, March...). This helps me see what documents are missing.

Step five:
Log online to find missing statements, if any. Also, to check records from online-only accounts (FLEX, bank accounts, etc.) This step takes the longest for me.

Oh, boy. The medical category is taking the longest...

For behold, we are in bondage ... 
and are taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne.
Mosiah 7:15

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have not filed my taxes. Yes, it's true. The Mormon money lady has procrastinated one of the things that one cannot (should not) avoid in this life.

How about you? Have you been good girls and boys in getting your taxes filed this year? The IRS is making their list and checking it twice. They're gonna find out who has been naughty or nice.

Is Tax Day really less than 2 weeks away already?? I usually get my tax info submitted to my accountant by February, but this year, oh, this year, I just haven't gotten around to WANTING to collect and categorize that information.

After having the baby last year, I completely lost all sense of organization and forgot to record anything, which leaves 8 months unaccounted for. In addition, the labor and delivery did not go according to Plan A (or Plan B) (and Plan C was really expensive) leaving us with more accounts to keep track of. And on top of that, some of the medical bills arrived at our house many months after service was rendered, throwing us off and leaving us scrambling and pulling money from various savings accounts to pay them. We ended up paying a lot of medical bills which I now need to locate and sort into what got paid with FLEX (pre-tax money) and what got paid with savings (post-tax money). That sounds really fun, huh?

(What's with the super-late billing anyway?? If you are a medical professional who charges patients late fees for paying months late, I say if you send your first statement months late after service, patients should get a "late credit" applied to their bill. Just sayin'.) 

So, how do I tidy up the disarray now?

Step one:
Clear off workspace in the office. Empty out the trash can for for document shredding.

Step two:
Get all paperwork out. Receipts, invoices, statements, agreements, etc.

Step three:
Sort into categories: Medical, Business, Utilities, Pay Stubs, Internet/Communications, Charity, etc.

Step fou-
Naah... That's it for today. My tolerance for this work is full. Next step, tomorrow!

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Thomas Jefferson

Sorry, Tommy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Proverbs 19:20

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, 
that thou mayest be wise
in thy latter end.

Proverbs 19:20

Friday, April 1, 2011

Frugal Friday: Selective Organic

When some people hear "organic", they think "expensive". Truth be told, it IS expensive to do organic if you buy EVERYTHING organic: organic apples, organic cookies, organic clothing.

Well, don't do EVERYTHING organic. I, personally, find it ridiculous to buy organic cookies. If you're going organic for health reasons, you may want to reconsider your snacking. I heard food journalist and author of Food Matters Mark Bittman discuss in an interview that the most common choice Americans are faced with is not between organic broccoli and standard broccoli; it's between broccoli and a burger. The organic cookies don't mean much if you are choosing cookies more than you choose an orange.

If you want to lean more towards organic food or if you have been struggling with your grocery budget since you converted to organic food, consider the following. When the grocery budget is modest, but your healthy intentions are big, focus your purchasing on a few items that make the most impact.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed conventionally-grown (non-organic) produce to measure pesticide residue levels. After nearly 96,000 tests, they determined that consumers could reduce their exposure to pesticides by nearly 90% if they avoided the most contaminated foods or replaced them with their organic counterparts.

The 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables are:
  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries (domestic)
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale / Collard greens
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (imported)
You can get a shopping pocket guide here, but see the full list of tested produce here. The full list seems to be updated more often and you will notice that the "Dirty Dozen" at the bottom of the list varies a little bit. But, hey, it doesn't hurt to know what other fruits or veggies would make the "worst" list if the organization decided to include number 13 and 14, right?

Currently, the only organic my family buys is spinach, carrots, and apples since we tend to juice these, and juicing makes things more readily absorbed by the body. (I didn't think it a good idea to make pesticides easier for my body to absorb!) Interesting enough, my wallet was easily converted to buying the organic carrots when I found that my grocery store prices them cheaper than the standard carrots. That may not be forever, but for as long as that lasts, I'll take it!

Now, you know eating organic doesn't have to break the grocery budget if you know where to focus your efforts and your dollars.