Festival of Frugality – 31 Ways You Can Be Frugal

Welcome to the source of all things frugal, otherwise known as the Festival of Frugality! This week’s edition will take a minimalist approach, a simple list of 31 ways you can strive for frugality:

  1. Throw Cheap Parties
  2. Save Money on Preschool
  3. Stick With Simple Toys
  4. Free Kids Classes
  5. Save Money on Food
  6. Dine Out for Less
  7. Eat Cheap but Healthy
  8. Avoid Debt
  9. Know Your Loan Officer
  10. Get a Free Credit Report
  11. Avoid Credit Mistakes
  12. Avoid Credit Card Fees
  13. Travel With Friends
  14. Cut Your Energy Bill
  15. Live Below Your Means
  16. Don’t Play the Lottery
  17. Find Other Frugalistas
  18. Get Free Stuff
  19. Don’t Go on Dates
  20. Have a Free Wedding
  21. Stay True to Frugality
  22. Hire a Student
  23. Calculate Hours Per Purchase
  24. Obsess About Saving
  25. Know What You Want
  26. Share a Car
  27. Buy Discounted “Damaged Goods”
  28. Save Time on Spam
  29. Go Dumpster Diving
  30. Shop Smart at Costco
  31. Don’t Indulge

Thanks for stopping by and being frugal! Here are a few more frugal tips from the last few months on Money Smart Life that might save you some money:

You can sign up for daily updates of more personal finance tips like these; you can even have them delivered to your email inbox. Be sure to submit your tips on saving money to next week’s festival of frugality hosted at Millionster. Thanks for reading!

Will Algorithmic Trading Change the Way We Invest?

Stock prices often move up or down when news comes out that effects a company or an industry. How would you like to be able to take advantage of stock price changes based on news such as quarterly earnings reports, industry events, political changes, or management shake-ups?

A product from Reuters called NewsScope offers stock traders this capability. Reuters recently enhanced their NewsScope product and put out a press release summarizing its capabilities:

“Reuters system will read news articles and score how positive or negative they are. The system will enable customers to analyse news across thousands of companies, far more quickly than can be done by humans. This will enable trading machines to react to market moving news in milliseconds.”

NewsScope will actually perform automated stock trades based on positive or negative news about a company or industry. The press release goes on to explain a little on how the system works:

“It works by assigning numerical “sentiment scores” to words or phrases which are then processed to give an overall positive, neutral or negative score to the company in the news article. These scores can be added together to calculate the prevailing sentiment for a company, a sector, an index – or even to assess global market sentiment.”

Since the high cost of the service will limit it to large investors the technology isn’t really available to mainstream traders. However, the way technology evolves perhaps one day average Joe day traders will have access to similar services. The whole concept goes against what I’ve been taught about a buy and hold investment strategy.

If a company is a good long term investment in the morning, it should still be a good long term stock after the earnings reports come out in the afternoon. I don’t know how this could affect the volatility and stability of the stock market but in my opinion a service like this in the hands of average investors would unfortunately shift the emphasis from long term investing to frantic day trading. What do you think?

Should Businesses Allow Employees to Work from Home?

You can tell from our manager’s email below my department’s stance on tele-commuting:

“Since I have received some questions concerning the email below, I wanted to clear up any misunderstandings concerning the reference to working from home. Scott was out of the office ill on Wednesday and he took this as a sick day. While he may have elected to participate in a conference call or to perform work while at home, we do not expect nor plan for anyone to work from home in lieu of coming in to the office to perform their work.”

We do have VPN access from home but as the email alludes to, it is so we can perform extra work after hours, not work from home instead of coming into the office.

It’s interesting because my company also has offices in California and many people there tele-commute, especially on Fridays. However, here in the Midwest there is a strict no working from home policy. I think the people on the West Coast have more leeway due to higher gas prices and horrible traffic.

I think the ability to tele-commute one or two days a week would raise employee morale/job satisfaction and wouldn’t hamper our productivity but the rules say no go.

Does your employer allow you to work from home? If so, what part of the country and what industry are you in? If you work from home, do you find yourself being less productive at home than at work?

Personal Finance Week in Review – No Air Conditioning Edition

How much does a new air conditioning unit cost? We just made the unpleasant discovery this morning that our central air isn’t working so I’m assuming the worst, thousands of dollars to get it fixed. I’ll have someone come look at it first thing on Monday; hopefully the wallet damage won’t be too bad. I guess that’s what emergency funds are for. Here are some personal finance articles of note for the week.

Lazy Man is steadily increasing his alternative income stream.

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity features a guest writer who has their personal finance house in order and asks what’s the next money step? I left a comment suggesting he look into starting his own business.

Money, Matter, & More talks about couples that do, or don’t share financial knowledge. I handle all of our finances, I really should sit down with my wife and give her a primer.

The enterprising Mighty Bargain Hunter is making money by selling magazines on eBay.

Sun announces that he’s reached the half million mark. Here’s the comment I left on his post. Congrats Sun! From nothing to half a million in 10 years, what a great example of the opportunities available in this country. Of course it takes determination, smart decisions, and hard work but it’s nice to know the sky’s the limit.

Get Rich Slowly published a Collection of Financial Literacy Resources. This is a great collection of personal finance information from JD and a few other personal finance sites that is a good primer for anyone wanting to learn more about money.

Advanced Personal Finance points out another way the credit bureaus are using consumer’s personal information to make money off us.

KMull looks at the pros and cons of Bank of America’s Keep the Change program and the ONE Card from American Express.

Have a great Sunday!

Why You Should Become a Personal Finance Blogger

Writing about personal finance will definitely help you learn about money. Lazy Man lists ten ways personal finance blogging has helped him with money. Here are thirteen lucky reasons, in no particular order, that you should become a personal finance blogger:

  1. You can answer your friends questions at work about their 401k investments.
  2. You can win financial “discussions” with your spouse.
  3. You know what the news guy means when he says the DOW and NASDAQ are up.
  4. You can hold your own when people discuss stocks at cocktail hour.
  5. You will have the best rewards credit card there is.
  6. You won’t fall for the car salesman’s tactics next time you buy a car.
  7. An emergency fund will actually be something you starting contributing to instead of just reading about.
  8. You still won’t read all the fine print on financial forms but you’ll have an idea what they say.
  9. You’ll learn enough about saving and investing that you can explain the concepts to your friends, family, and random people you meet on the bus.
  10. If you practice what you preach you’ll have a better financial plan and more financial security than before you wrote about money.
  11. You’ll make extra money by selling advertising on your website.
  12. You will meet cool people all across the country who also like to talk/write about money.
  13. A Google search for “personal finance blogs” only returns 124K hits. The world needs more personal finance writers, there just aren’t enough!

Lazy Online Banking

This week’s reader question comes from Binary Dollar. He is covering the question of what to look for in an online bank account. My contribution wasn’t as thorough as some of the other answers because I setup our online bank account more on a whim than as a result of exhaustive research.

ING Direct
We keep our emergency fund in an ING Direct account. I wasn’t very scientific about the way I chose to go with ING over the other alternatives. A friend at work had a coupon that gave a $50 bonus for opening an account with ING Direct. I was sick of the 2% interest we were getting in our money market several years ago so I opened an account with ING Direct and moved the money over there.

Status Quo for Now
It seems to me that the biggest differentiator between different online savings accounts is the interest rate they offer. I considered moving the money from ING Direct several times to different accounts but the small rate difference wasn’t worth the time and hassle in my opinion. Our finances are pretty much automated as far as direct deposit, online bill pay, and automatic investments so I don’t like to mess with it unless I stand to save or make a good sum of money. For now I’m happy with ING Direct but I am going to look into 4-week T-bills and tax exempt money market funds that Sun and SVB suggest.

Two Ways to Grow Your Business Income

TuesdayMorningI’m excited to announce that I’m working on a strategy to double the amount of money our little eBay business brings in!

Until now the amount of money I’ve been able to make on eBay has been constrained by two main resources, products and time. Over the last week, I think I’ve made progress on both of these constraints.

Finding More Products
Thanks to Generation X Finance, I checked out a store called Tuesday Morning last week and was excited with what I found. As the image shows, they sell new products for 50 – 80% off retailer prices. With the additional markdowns I saw in the store, I can buy items for as low as 90% off retail price!

I’ve been limited to one main source of products that can be hit or miss on the deals. Although the margins may be somewhat lower for stuff from Tuesday Morning, it should provide the consistent source of products I’ve been looking for. In addition they have items I wouldn’t find at my other source, adding variety.

Finding More Time
Once I get the products home my biggest challenge has been finding the time to put them up for sale on eBay. My family and career obligations aren’t changing any, just the way I make use of my free time, i.e. 10 PM – 2 AM.

Thanks to some ideas from the book 4 – Hour Work Week, I’m going to try and hire some help to get my backlog of products out on the web. If my spreadsheet calculations hold true, I’ll more than make up the cost of paying others by the increase of sales volume I hope to achieve.

Growing the Business Income
My current projections are that a new source of products combined with listing these products for sale in a more timely fashion should double the monthly income our eBay store generates. Time will tell; I’ll let you know how it goes.

One thing I have been researching is inventory tracking and management software to help manage the increase in products. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.

How Can You Save Money on Kids – Festival of Frugality

I’ll be hosting the Festival of Frugality next week. Submissions for any articles on being frugal are welcome but I’m particularly interested in tips on how to save money on kids.

Our little guy is just under a year old and can cost us a pretty penny at times. Any articles on ways to save money when buying for young kids would be fabulous! Of course if you have different frugal insights please share them as well. You can submit your articles here, be sure to check back next week for the festival!

Good News for American Century Mutual Fund Investors

As an investor in American Century mutual funds I was disappointed when I read about a month ago that the fund company was changing its funds to load funds.

My wife’s retirement account is with American Century so I knew it was going to be a hassle to find and switch to another fund company. Plus, we’ve been investing in American Century Equity Income Fund (TWEIX) for several year now and have been pleased with its performance. However, I’m not a believer in the fees that load funds charge so I called in yesterday to inquire about switching the accounts.

I was pleased to discover that any person that invests directly into an American Century mutual fund before the last week in September will not be subject to the load fees now or in the future. Basically, any existing investors will be grandfathered in and won’t have to pay the load. My guess is they didn’t want to chase away existing investors but wanted to implement a load so this is their approach.

This is good news for us. We’ll be rolling my wife’s 403b into a Vanguard IRA at some point in the future after she stops working. Now we won’t have to hassle with finding a new fund company in between. No load fees, no hassle, good news!

Personal Finance Mid Week Review – Free Stuff Edition

Five Cent Nickel has been writing about personal finance for two years now and is giving away free iPods and other goodies to celebrate!

The Digerati Life tells us 10 Ways To Organize and Simplify Your Finances.

Free Money Finance warns us about the greatest enemy of a good investment plan.

Binary Dollar offers a tip on a good way to pay off our mortgage early.

Generation X wraps up his 24 Signs You Could be in Financial Trouble series with the final post ignoring the signs.

The Frugal Duchess gives tips on bargaining for furniture & electronics. Our neighbors did this just last weekend to get a great deal on a TV at Best Buy.

The Simple Dollar talks about setting and reaching short-term and intermediate-term financial goals. I imagine we’ll soon see an article on long-term financial goals to round it out.

Blogging Away Debt tells us how she makes extra money for her family.

This mid week review is a new edition to the lineup. I’d typically been doing a weekly summary of personal finance articles but there are so many to mention that the weekly list was getting pretty long. I decided to break it up into twice a week and smaller lists, enjoy!

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