Personal Finance Week in Review – Yardwork Edition

Now that Spring is here the yardwork calls. I mowed our grass for the first time this season on Friday and then teamed up with a few neighbors yesterday to rent a power rake and do some spring cleaning on our yards. It seems silly to spend so much time and money on just maintaining grass, maybe I should just dig it up and haul in a bunch of crushed stone. Anyhow, here are some good money articles for the week.

Of course there are many more great articles to choose from in the blogosphere, you can always check out the most popular articles at pfblogs for some good reading. Happy Easter!


Always Ask for a Discount

I just ran across a new site called Tricks of the Trade that collects and shares “nifty occupational secrets”. People who have gained inside knowledge by working in a certain industry share their tips with the world.

A recent tip from an anonymous hotel manager is a good addendum to my post Ten Ways to Ask for a Lower Price or a Better Deal. The hotel discount post recommends another way to save.

Always ask for a business discount. You may not have a business, but you work for one–and even if you don’t, how would I know? The worst that will happen is someone will say no.

Most motel and hotels have corporate discounts. Nobody tries very hard to find out how legitimate people’s business claims are, and most of us secretly don’t care.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. This tip could be especially useful if you’re staying for more than a night or two. The business discount could really add up if you stay some period of time. Thanks to Matthew Baldwin for putting this site together, I imagine it will be a great place to look for other money saving tips.


Why it Sucks to Work For Chrysler

We all make bad decisions. DaimlerChrysler is trying to break free from its 1998 decision to merge with the Chrysler Corporation and is looking for buyers for the Chrysler assets.

While CEOs and private equity groups try to determine the best way to turn a buck from the game of hot potato with Chrysler, the employees wait with baited breath. If a private equity group like the Blackstone Group or corporate raider like Kirk Kerkorian win the bidding many fear the company will be broken up and sold off.

The auto-makers in Detroit have taken a beating over the last few years and those that have likely suffered the most are the working families that build the vehicles. Now they are caught in the middle of this corporate dance and fear for their future. It is sad watching a once – great company lose its grip but to me it’s even more depressing thinking about the uncertain future of those that worked for years to make the company what it once was.


Is the Turbo Tax Estimated Taxes Product Worthwhile?

I received an email from Intuit today notifying me of a service they provide called Turbo Tax Estimated Taxes that is supposed to be a “quick, easy, and accurate way to calculate and pay your quarterly estimated taxes online”. I’m just now getting ready to make my first estimated payment for my small business and would love something that makes the process quick and easy. The features of the Estimated Taxes tool are:

1) Sends e-mail reminders
2) Calculates your payment
3) E-files and provides IRS confirmation
4) Keeps records and summary report

One thing I’d worry about with an automated payment of taxes would be if the payments weren’t made or too little was paid. According to Intuit, if you “pay an IRS penalty or interest because of a TurboTax Estimated Taxes calculation error” then Intuit will pay you back for the penalty and interest.

They are offering a free trial of the service for one year so I’ll probably sign up and give it a try. After the trial expires it is $29.95 for a 12-month subscription which includes free e-filing. Has anyone else used or heard about Turbo Tax Estimated Taxes? If so, what do you think of it?


How Do You Hold a Debt Intervention?

Thanks everyone for your feedback on the credit card debt vs. emergency fund post from yesterday. The consensus seemed to be that not paying down the credit card debt was foolish but with the caveat that the couple should address the spending problem that amassed the 10K debt in the first place. Another common suggestion was that they keep a few thousand of the emergency fund around for a rainy day.

The next question is what’s the best way to stage a debt intervention for this couple? How do you bring up the subject of debt reduction to a friend? It is obviously a sensitive issue, one that could erupt into an ugly scenario depending on their reaction. In this situation the friend brought up the debt in the first place and even asked for advice so she wouldn’t be addressing the issue “cold”.

This is a tricky situation. You don’t want to make a scene or hurt their feelings because you value their friendship; however, as their friend you want what is best for them. Obviously carrying a load of credit card debt is not in their best interest. Have you ever been in this spot before? What are some ways she can address the debt problem without coming across as too pushy or intrusive?


How to Get the Promotion You Deserve

We all know a thing or two about unrewarded effort. The fastest way to get a promotion you’ve earned or a position you want is to be pro-active about the process. I’ve followed the steps below and it’s netted me four promotions in seven years on the job.

1) Determine Expectations
Identify the goals for the position you have and the position you want. Find out what your boss and your company expect from you in return for your current salary and the salary you desire. Many companies have a list of expected skill sets and duties for each job.

2) Perform a Gap Analysis
Find the gap between what you do today and what needs to be done to get promoted. Using the expectations for your current and desired role, make a list of the skills and responsibilities required for the next level that that you don’t currently possess or perform.

3) Communicate Your Desires & Intentions
Schedule an hour long meeting with your boss. Bring along your list of skills and responsibilities that are needed to earn a promotion. Start off by letting your manager know that your goal is to get to the next level. Then walk through your list and come up with projects you can work on that will help you achieve a promotion.

4) Monitor & Prioritize Your Work
Compare all new work that you’re assigned or that someone asks for help with against your list of skills and responsibilities. Focus your efforts on the work that will help you meet your career goals. This might sound a bit petty or selfish but in the corporate world, you have to be your own advocate because it’s likely one else will. As you finish projects and learn new skills keep track of these accomplishments, documenting them as you go.

5) Cash In Your Chips
Once you feel you’ve achieved the items on your list setup another meeting with your boss. Don’t jump the gun. Make sure you really have mastered what is expected of you and met any timeframe requirements that were discussed in your initial meeting. Bring along a document summarizing how you achieved each goal along with examples. After delivering your spiel, ask for the promotion.

If the meeting ends with your boss agreeing you’ve earned a promotion, send them an electronic copy of your summary. Most managers have to submit some type of recommendation to their boss to secure your advancement, which requires time they often don’t have. You’ve basically written the justification for them so give them a head start and take away any reason they have to delay your promotion.

Progress Takes Time
Notice that some period of time will pass between 3 and step 5. This is where you must prove yourself competent or even extraordinary. This is the hard part, doing the actual work. The great part is if you follow these steps then you won’t feel like all the hard work is for nothing. You’re working towards a goal and your effort should pay off.

Growth Opportunities
One thing to consider at the beginning of this process is the amount of room for growth in your current environment. I started my career in a new product group that has grown from 8 to 50 people. As the product grew, there were opportunities for career advancement for its members.

If your current group does not offer much opportunity for growth it may be time to look for another job. If you follow all the steps above but there are no openings to fill then it will be tough for your manager to promote you.

Promote Yourself!
Planning and patience will help you get the promotion you deserve; ensuring your hard work does not go unnoticed or unrewarded. The best way to get promoted is to promote yourself!


Should You Use Your Emergency Fund to Pay Off Credit Card Debt?

If you had $10,000 of credit card debt and $10,000 in an emergency fund would you use the emergency fund money to pay down your debt?

My wife’s co-worker likes to spend money. She and her husband have accumulated a $10,000 credit card bill that they just can’t seem to pay off. The wife would like to use the money they have saved up towards the credit card debt but her husband is emphatic that they have an emergency fund to fall back on.

When the co-worker asked my wife for her advice she suggested using some or all of the savings to pay for the debt. She pointed out that a lot of the money they paid towards the credit card bill every month went towards interest. If they paid off the 10 thousand in debt they could put the same money they had been paying in credit card interest towards saving for an emergency fund.

The co-worker agreed that this seemed like financially sound advice; however her husband was set on having an emergency fund at all times. Having an emergency fund is a wise move but does it make sense to maintain this fund while paying high interest charges on the same amount of money to the credit card company? What would you do?


Tax Deduction Baby!

I started working on our family’s tax return last night and answered yes to the question in Turbo Tax about dependents for the first time.

Of course, our son is more than just a tax deduction to us, he’s also a good excuse to leave work early!

Just kidding, being a parent is a wonderful, life-changing experience and we’ve had a ball watching him grow and learn. His smile just makes our day. The tax deduction is just another thing to smile about Here is what Turbo Tax had to say about the child tax credit:

“A child tax credit is available only to taypayers with at least one qualifying child. The maximum credit is $1,000 per qualifying child. If you have more than $11,300 of earned income, or you have three or more qualifying children, and you are not able to claim the full $1,000 child tax credit for each child because of tax liability limitations, you may be able to claim the child tax credit as a partially refundable credit that will reduce your tax liability or increase your refund.”

All I know is that we now have a “qualifying child”. I’ll punch in the numbers and let Turbo Tax figure out the rest.

[photo credit annieseay]


The Law of Attraction + Pursuit of Happyness = Realizing Your Dreams

You attract into your life whatever you think about; your thoughts determine your destiny. That is the key premise of the Law of Attraction as I remember it after watching The Secret last fall. Unfortunately, it seems the results promised from relying solely on the Law of Attraction are full of hyperbole that could potentially lead people astray.

Thoughts + Action = Results
As I watched the inspiring story of Chris Gardner in the Pursuit of Happyness last weekend it made me realize that many things are possible if you just set your mind to it and follow your dreams up with action.

What is frequently missing from the teachings on the Law of Attraction is the effort that is required to make those positive thoughts become a reality. If we can combine the positive thinking from the Law of Attraction and the unfailing determined action that is illustrated in the Pursuit of Happyness we can achieve great things.

Realizing Your Dreams
I remember Jack Canfield talking in The Secret about how he wrote in a bunch of zeros after the 1 on a dollar bill and pasted it to his ceiling above his bed. What if Chris Gardner had done the same thing? Would he expect to have a million dollars come to him, or would he expect one of his fellow boarders at his shelter to swipe the dollar?

The dreams that Chris had were simple. Provide for his son. Escape homelessness. He was defeated again and again in his quest, yet he kept getting back up and fighting the fight. It seems the only thing that kept Chris going through those extremely tough times was the power of positive thought. The image of having a safe, better life for his son drove him forward.

However, Chris’s thoughts were definitely not enough to get him where he imagined. I’m sure there were many others sleeping next to him in the shelter that dreamed of having a place to live who never realized those dreams. The difference for Chris was that he acted on his dreams and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Take Action Today
Chris is now a very wealthy man that has inspired us with his story and is helping others that are in dire straits. He didn’t achieve his dreams simply by picturing his ideal outcome and waiting for it to materialize. He got to where he is today through determined action.

So go ahead, picture what you want most in life but don’t stop there. Strive to achieve your dreams with unfettered determination and enthusiasm. When you get knocked back, draw on Chris Gardner’s story for strength. Picture how he overcame the odds and obstacles and realize that you can too. Take action today!


Carnival of Money Stories #8

Welcome to the carnival of Money Stories! An event that shares stories about money in our lives deserves an interesting presentation. Alas, the flu has descended on our household and put the kibosh on plans for a more creative approach so I apologize in advance for the InstaCarnvial below. Enjoy the stories!

Business

Ybother presents 10 Ways Retailers Make You Pay More! posted at TodaysTen.com: Daily Top Ten List to jumpstart your knowledge, saying, “Think you are getting a good deal? Think again. There are many ways retailers can make you buy more or pay more than you should. If you are a business owner, you are free to set prices for the most efficent profits.”

Daryl W.T. Lau presents Amazon Is Sticking It To Kontera With Context Links Beta posted at How To Earn Money Blogging.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Silicon Valley Blog About Money, Finance, Geek Culture and Cyberspace posted at The Digerati Life, saying, “And now for something a bit different.”

Ted Reimers presents Benefits of getting an MBA posted at CampusGrotto.

ISPF presents The Birth of a Weekend Entrepreneur posted at Grad Money Matters.

Credit

Priya Jestin presents Live without Credit Cards: 77 Tips posted at Credit Card Lowdown.

Priya Jestin presents Starting Early: The Young Adult’s Guide To Personal Finance posted at Debt Consolidation Lowdown.

Sagar Satapathy presents “Borrowing to Pay Me” and 19 other moronic things people do with credit cards posted at Credit Card Lowdown.

Amy Pedersen presents Debt to Credit Ratios and How they Affect Your Credit Report posted at Your Credit Score Secrets.

Debt

Sagar Satapathy presents Starting Early: The Young Adult’s Guide To Personal Finance posted at Debt Consolidation Lowdown.

Alex at The RE Forum presents Lowest Common Denominator Laws And the Subprime Lending Market posted at The RE Forum, saying, “As the inevitable talk of legislating our way out of the subprime mortgage mess, why are the 90% of performers being left out of the equation?”

Aspeth presents Send Casey Serin To Prison saying, “Like many folks in the blogosphere, I really don’t want to publicize Casey Serin any more than he’s publicizing himself. But I’ve ignored him in these pages for as long as I can stand. I’ll admit that for the first few months of reading his self-aggrandizing blog, I thought it was a fake. I mean, there’s just no way that someone could commit multiple felonies, then create a blog to boast about it.”

frugal zeitgeist presents student life posted at Frugal Zeitgeist, saying, “Hope you like it. Thanks for reading!”

Prince of Thrift presents 70% Attitude, 30% Hard Work posted at Becoming & Staying Debt Free, saying, “Some people are often heard making the claim that they can’t get out of debt. Some even claim they can’t buy a car or house (or whatever) without using credit. Perhaps they have not heard the Henry Ford Quote”

General

Stephanie presents 200,000 posted at Stop the Ride.

Nina Smith presents Sleeping with Money: Who Pays for What posted at Queercents, saying, “Sleeping with Money is our series at Queercents about money lessons learned from past lovers and partners. These include a few escapades…”

Priya Jestin presents Get Divorced while Screwing the Woman out of Everything posted at 1031 Exchange Lowdown.

Big Cajun Man presents Zen, Thomas the Tank Engine and the Art of Financial Planning posted at Canadian Financial Stuff, saying, “Financial planning is an art, and learning to deal with it that way, might be the answer, although what the question was, I am not sure.”

Easy Change presents The Best 400$ I Ever Spent posted at Easy Change.

Arun presents Money DOES Matter posted at Arun is bringing you…Your Daily Remedy, saying, “The correlation between Money and Happiness and an explanations of why Money really DOES matter”

Investing

David J Kosmider presents The Books / Research Papers On My Trading Desk posted at StockWeblog.com.

Bryan C. Fleming presents How to Drive a Mercedes Benz instead of a Hyundai posted at Bryan C. Fleming.

FIRE Getters presents Investing – Total versus Annual Returns posted at FIRE Finance.

Other

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Taxing Times posted at Mad Kane’s Humor Blog.

Alan presents The Worst Boss Ever – Sound familiar? posted at Made to Be Great.

Pushpa Sathish presents What will the Price of College be in 2050? 10 Signs Change is Coming posted at Debt Consolidation Lowdown.

John presents Sleeping with Money: The Ghost of Money Future posted at Queercents, saying, “In this week’s Sleeping with Money series in which we talk about money lessons learned from lovers and relationships, I’m going to turn to the device of allusion.”

That concludes this edition of the carnival of Money Stories, thanks for reading! You can submit your article to the next edition using the carnival submission form.



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