Friday, September 30, 2011

Financial Blogger Conference - Here I Come!

As The $60K Project jets off to Chicago for the Financial Blogger Conference - better known as #FINCON11 in the Twitterverse - I find myself super excited and also super nervous at the same time. Super excited to meet the faces behind many of the tweets/words/comments I receive on my blog. Super nervous because I'm human and can't imagine not being nervous about meeting a bunch of new people, trying to keep names straight, speed networking and trying to think of interesting things to say. I won't even get into my minor freak out about what to wear (yep, I'm shoe shopping tomorrow morning before my flight). Let me just say I had to take my winter clothes down from the attic because 50 degree weather is considered winter in San Diego. Oh, what a tough life I lead!

Despite the pre-game jitters, I feel like this will be a great opportunity to learn some great skills to apply to my blog. Here is some knowledge I would like to come away with this weekend:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Financial Update - September 2011

I haven't been so good about financial updates since we switched our focus from paying off debt to building up savings. I decided that once a month I want to update you on our current financial goals and also provide a snapshot of our net worth. I'm hoping that this additional analysis will help us figure out where our financial focus needs to be.

The Goal Tracker (the thing with all the colorful bars over on the side) keeps track of the goals we have accomplished and the goals we are currently working on. As you can see, the $60,000 in debt we paid off shows up as the maroon bars. Our remaining debt, fondly nicknamed Albatross, is the bright yellow bar, and the green bars depict our current savings goals which are:

Create $15,000 Emergency Fund. Since we just started saving about a month ago, it feels good to be

Monday, September 26, 2011

Side Hustle: How to Make Money Pet Sitting

Vlado /
In need of some extra cash? Love animals? Why don't you consider becoming a pet sitter? More specifically, a pet sitter who house-sits at the same time. As a dog owner, making sure Duke is well taken care of while I am out of town is a high priority. At one point, I had a dog sitter who would come over three times a day to walk him and feed him, but I stopped using her when Duke ended up with a $1,500 ear surgery after we got home. A second dog sitter I know is pretty good but she is so busy that I can't even consider her unless I know months in advance when I'll be gone. Plus although she is great, she also only visits three times a day and leaves Duke home alone at night. Our top choice in dog sitters is actually the front desk woman at my company who dog sits on the side to pay for her vacations. Joanne is awesome - she stays at our house while we're away and is one of those people who truly loves animals. Plus she only charges $25 a day which is ridiculously low for the level of service she provides (compare that to $60 a day for the two previous sitters mentioned who only visit three times a day). But she is also reaching the too busy point - last time I saw her she told me she hadn't slept at home in 6 weeks.

The ideal and least stressful situation for a pet and its owner (in my opinion) is to have someone stay at your house with your furry friend. That likely means a pet sitter is super flexible and has no family relying on them to take care of them every day. A pet sitter also needs to establish a level of trust with a person to be let into their home. How do you get to this level?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weekly Roundup Cocktail Party Edition

I usually like to do reading round ups on Friday so you readers will have some nice material to read and talk about at your fabulous cocktail and dinner parties over the weekend. Since I am sitting here wishing it was Friday, I decided to give you some excellent reading material a day early. Skim through the categories that interest you, impress your friends with your wit and wisdom while delicately balancing an extra dirty martini. And most important - enjoy your weekend!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tying Up Some Link Love & Loose Ends

First - an important clarification.  

We are not debt free.

Although we just kicked $60,000 of debt to the curb, we still owe $50,000 towards our last student loan. Mike and I decided to start focusing on saving rather than paying off this last debt for multiple reasons. Initially I did not include our last student loan in our debt payoff tracker - mainly because it would then become the $110K Project which just doesn't roll off the tongue as easy as $60K Project. Plus paing off $110,000 in debt would be pretty much impossible for us to do in a year.

I want to make sure I'm not misrepresenting myself to my readers so I have decided to add the $50,000 to the Financial Goal Tracker. Although it will depressingly sit there with a gigantic balance to be paid, I want to make sure there is full disclosure for everyone that visits my site. So check out that bright yellow bar on the left side of the screen - that's our albatross.

Switching Gears
I am lucky to have some really great blogs that have mentioned my site and sent readers my way. Today I want to say thanks to a few of those sites. I hope to pay it forward and make this a regular thing. Grab a glass of wine and your iPad and enjoy some great reads.

According to my good buddy, Google Analytics......

Top 5 All Time Referring Sites
1. So Over Debt
2. Blonde And Balanced
3. No More Spending
4. Young And Thrifty
5. Minting Nickels

Top 5 August Referring Sites
1. So Over Debt
2. Young and Thrifty
3. Minting Nickels
4. Prairie Eco Thrifter
5. Blonde and Balanced

Special thanks to Canadian Dream Free At 45 for including me in the Carnival of Personal Finance #326 - I am honored to be included among a lot of great writers. This carnival is like a "Who's Who" of personal finance blogs so make sure you add this to your reading to-do list.

Stay tuned,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Coupons & Credit Cards: More Similar Than You Think (Guest Post)

In the day 298 post, Sarah made a comparison between cable services and credit card promotions – they are both a hook, line, and sinker. I completely agree and we should all view them as such before we bite the bait. They only make sense if used 100% responsibly. For the cable “deal” that means it should be the exact same package you were going to buy anyway. For the credit card “deal” it’s only worth considering if you always pay your bill in full every single month and the card won’t cause you to overspend.

But what about coupons? Are they just as problematic as credit cards?

My background with credit cards                 

First off, let me explain my background with credit cards so you can know where I’m coming from. When I was 18 years old, I was in a very bad accident that left me with mountains of medical bills. What insurance didn’t pay ended up going on credit cards. This burden of debt became such a large part of my life, I created a forum/blog  dedicated to credit cards, as a place for myself and others to discuss the good and bad that come with using them.
But even throughout my own debt ordeal, I never once blamed the banks for my debt. Why? Because it was my decision and responsibility. It was my decision to use the credit cards for that purpose. Don’t get me wrong, there are many shady tricks banks pull off which they definitely are at fault for, but when it comes to the concept of spending more than one can pay at the end of the month, I think we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Why I think there’s a double standard

Credit cards can be used for good or bad. Someone can use them to earn cash back, gas rebates, or airline miles, and pay their bill in full every month. Or someone can use them to spend beyond their means, raking up a balance and incurring interest. I think our culture generally does a good job highlighting the pros and cons that come with credit cards.
Coupons can be used for good or bad, too. But unfortunately, you rarely hear about the latter. For some reason, our society seems to portray them as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But is that an accurate representation? Could the argument be made that coupons (and promotions in general) are also very damaging to our finances, when used the wrong way?
How many times have you (or someone you know) bought something just because a coupon was involved? I’m definitely guilty of doing that sometimes! Just a few days ago actually, I ended up spending $15 at CVS so I could use a $3 off coupon. Without the coupon, I probably would have spent $5 or $6 because I only went there for some darn dental flossers. I tried to use the excess spending to stock up on various supplies, but that was still wasteful. Why? Because even though the items were on sale, they still were more expensive than Target or Walmart. Conclusion? I wasted money.
Coupons + credit cards = double the trouble?
Even though credit card rewards are trivial in the grand scheme of things, we all know some people use them as an excuse to spend more. So what happens when you also add coupons into the mix? Last week I was having lunch with a friend, and his friend, who I’ll call Nicole. She said “I need to go to JCPenney after this, you want to come?” I said no thanks and asked why she was going. Her response was something like this “Well I have a coupon for $15 off a $75 purchase and my JCPenney charge card is giving double points right now.” Now if you think that’s bad, the scariest part is what she said next: “There is absolutely nothing I need or want right now, but I don’t want to lose out on this deal so I will find something.”


Just like credit cards can be an excuse to overspend, the same can be said about coupons. From the grocery store to Groupon, it’s such a prevalent problem. The most dangerous part is that unlike credit cards, very few people view coupons as dangerous… but they really should be!

Mike started Credit Card Forum in 2008 during the peak of his debt, which has since been paid off completely! Speaking of store-affiliated cards, his most recent post was about why the Walmart credit card is a rotten deal.
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