Friday, December 21, 2012

Coming Soon!

AFP is making changes! I'll be offline for a bit while my website gets a makeover. Look for it by January 1st 2013!

Friday Link Love

My good friend Julie over at Vylette does a round-up every Friday of her favorite links during the week. It is no secret that here at AFP we've had some time issues and as a result not a lot has been said about personal finances in the last month or so.

So, to keep the juices flowing and to remind you of your own personal responsibility to your finances, I thought I'd give you some alternate perspectives from other personal finances bloggers.

Also, Andy's brother-in-law, a writer, suggests this technique and he's kind of smart so I'm going to listen to him.

Here we go!

As a small business owner I would love to start offering services like allowing people to pay with a credit card before they leave my office. Who doesn't love to get paid ASAP? This little device might be the future for that.

Unrelated to personal finance but a great article nonetheless about how to be both peaceful and looking for higher goals. I am constantly looking for the next great challenge and had no idea I could do this without being constantly stressed. This article has great steps for how to avoid that.

The blog MintLife took a poll and found the top 10 money mistakes. The most often committed money mistake didn't surprise me. Does it surprise you?

And finally, one of my favorite bloggers, though I don't necessarily support the super-frugal lifestyle he writes about, recaps a classic book Your Money or Your Life. What I find most helpful is the list of 9 steps from the book he outlines. The article is a bit long so just jump to the steps to get the gist.

Finally, if you're not in the reading mood listen to this great podcast from Planet Money about how the dollar bill was born. It's fascinating and at only 11 minutes it's a perfect accompaniment to a short walk around the block to escape the family.

Hope everyone has a safe, happy and healthy weekend and Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's in Your Wallet?

It's the motto of Visa and a good question to ask yourself. I refer very specifically to the cards you have in your wallet. Have you ever thought about what you could lose if your wallet is lost or stolen? I'm going to break down for you exactly what it is you need in your wallet and what you should leave at home or take in and out as necessary.

1. Photo ID- Duh.
2. Debit card- if you're still using checks bring yourself into the 21st century and get a debit card.
3. A check- ok, but have one just in case. This is more for those times you are without cash and need to pay the babysitter or someone else who doesn't accept a debit card.
4. 2 credit cards- one needs to be a major card accepted almost universally, like Visa or Mastercard. The second is a back-up card and can be a less accepted card like American Express or Discover. This is merely to cover you in case of a catastrophic emergency and you can't leave without paying an exorbidant bill. Unlikely, but that's what it's for.

If you have more than 2 credit cards leave the others at home unless you know you use them for very specific purchases, like a store credit card or a rewards card specific to travel.

1. Your most used frequent purchaser card- for example, A and I go to a sushi place and froyo roughly twice and 4 times a month respectively. Rather than track taking our "frequent diner" card in and out of my or his wallet, I just leave it in mine.

And that's it! No Social Security cards, no passports, no extra frequent purchaser cards, no gift cards. Keep your wallet light. Like a salad instead of a burger.

The only exception is if you are a small business owner and have a small business debit or credit card.

Right now I know I'm violating my own rule by having a few extra coupons and receipts stashed that I just haven't unloaded yet.

How do you stack up with the slimmed-down wallet?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Have a Holiday Like a Hallmark Card

I'm surrounded by parents at Christmas Carol. And not just because the audience is full of kids and families, but my cast and crew are loaded with parents. One consistent refrain I hear from parents at this time of year is "I just HAD to buy it". Always referencing an extra gift for their favorite little one(s). Who can blame them? We love shopping, we love our children, combine the two and impulse purchases will abound.

One of my best friends composes a diligent list of things for her children and every year when we do the final tally of what her children get she inevitably has a handful of unplanned items.

Maybe it's because I have no children, but I find I do not have this problem. I don't have impulse purchases for Andy or Gus. What I have are impulse purchases for myself.

How many fancy coffees have I bought in the last week? Let's just say the Starbucks card Auto-Reload receipt is a regular occurrence in my inbox right now.

Why does this happen? Why do we all succumb to impulse purchases at this time of year in particular?

It's because our inhibitions are low and our stress is high. I don't know about you, but work is crazy right now and not just because we've entered 12+ shows a week territory, but my other projects are amping up and people have an inability to just chill. The holidays are full of images of sitting by the fire in a cozy sweater sipping hot chocolate and admiring our brood while they play with old fashioned blocks.

Who has that reality? No one. And the pressure feels awful high to HAVE FUN during the holidays.

For us it's more like wake up, get out the door, work like crazy, meet a million people, come home, watch a Glee and go to bed. I'm grateful Andy and I sync up once during the day for a mid-day download otherwise we'd never have the energy to get all of our awesome daily occurrences out to each other.

So if there's one thing I can teach you about December, it's not just to budget for your present shopping and your holiday party throwing, it's to allow yourself a few impulse purchases. As long as they aren't cars, houses, boats, major stereo systems, etc, you'll be fine. Check in with yourself every few days about how you're feeling about your spending and if it's starting to worry you ask yourself what you really need. Is it just a half hour alone? Is it for someone else to clean the house or cook a meal?

Be sure to give to yourself in the holiday season as well as to others. This will prevent you from turning into Medusa with too much wine on Christmas Day and you will have your very own Peanuts/Williams Sonoma Christmas. Though maybe with an iPad instead of blocks.
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