Posts Tagged ‘finances’

Why Many Americans Are Becoming Minimalists!

In Your Guest Writers on February 20, 2011 at 10:15 PM

(And how you can too)

By: Jennifer Brown Banks



Image Credit Somedarkson



“Sometimes less is more”.

If nothing can be said of a tough economy and uncertain times, it’s certainly causing us to reassess our lives and redefine what it is that we value. True? Prosper perspective is crucial for survival and optimal quality of life.

‘Dem days of living high on the hog, keeping up with the Joneses, and making bold risks have gone bye-bye like eight track tapes and “free love “ in the ’60s.

As a case in point, I was surfing the Net and saw where quite a few folks were constructing and living in what are called “Tiny Homes” now. These structures, that are a mere fraction of the size of your typical American Dream, are said to “house” just as much joy for those that own them. Not to mention, they cost less comparatively in many cases, and prevent the possibility of over indulgence and hoardering.

With this being said, here are some factors to consider if you’re contemplating this lifestyle choice in the future.


  1. Our parents survived on less, and in many cases were just as fulfilled. In former generations, many didn’t have cable TV, or Internet or fast food conveniences.
  2. Minimalism typically means less debt.
  3. Less debt leads to less stress. Less stress can lead to longer longevity and better health.
  4. Having an attitude of materialism and defining ourselves through our possessions is unhealthy and unrealistic. As we have seen through world events, our status can change with one act of God or misfortune.
  5. Stream-lined living and proper focus can cause us to spend more time with family and friends,  develop and sustain important bonds and relationships, and cultivate cherished memories.


A wise person once said, “You don’t have to have everything, to have everything you need.” Food for thought.

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, Columnist, and Pro Blogger.  You can find her work at  Pen and Prosper, Coffeehouse for Writer’s and


Five Scams That Steal Your Holiday Cash

In Our Guest Appearances on December 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM


Image Credit Georgie C.



It’s that time of year again when cyber criminals are hard at work trying to separate you from your holiday joy.  They’re busy tricking victims into contributing to made-up charities, investing in Ponzi schemes and bidding on phony auctions.  All in an attempt to take advantage of your generosity and to steal your cash.

Check out the rest of our post at here, at

Learn How to Live Below Your Means

In budget, Your World on September 14, 2010 at 8:14 AM

Image Credit David Siqueira


When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I’d easily spend $300 on a Coco Chanel wallet or Tiffany card case.  And that evening, it was nothing to drop another hundred on dinner with friends.  Sears, Kmart, Target and “the Walmart” were definitely off my shopping radar.  After all, only poor people shopped those places.      

When I look back at all the money I wasted buying status symbols that only served to make other folks rich, it makes me ill.  The genius who said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” sure got that one right!       

Thankfully, when I turned 24, I married a man who can make a $20 last six months!  He showed me how to manage our money so that it wouldn’t end up managing us.       

These days when I climb into my 11 year-old Honda (156,000 miles and counting) – I smile.  And the folks at my local Walmart, well, they know me by name. 🙂  I’m ecstatic when I find scream’n deals on toothpaste, or save cash by dining in.  And paying extra on my mortgage makes me downright giddy!      

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to live like Ebenezer Scrooge.  It simply means living below your means – comfortably.        

Here are five tips to get you started.     

 Invest in yourself.  I believe in stimulating my economy.  And don’t count on Uncle Sam or anyone else to take care of my needs.  Dedicate a portion of every paycheck to savings. Whether you invest in the stock market, deposit money in a credit union savings account, a tin can or under your mattress – pay yourself.  Even if it’s just fifty cents a week.     

 *Backyard, Sauna and Room for a Pony.  Your mortgage or rent shouldn’t consume more than 28% of your monthly gross income.  But remember – just because you qualify for a loan or have 28% to spend on rent, doesn’t mean you can afford to make the payments.  Owning a home involves much more than paying the banknote.  Home maintenance, property tax, and home owner’s insurance are just a few of many, expenses.     

Note:  Your total debts, (rent, car payments, student loans, credit cards, etc.) should equal 36% or less of your gross monthly income.      

 Paying Retail is for Suckers.  It’s silly to pay full price unless you have to.  Shop around on and offline before making purchases.  And be sure to clip coupons and take them with you.  Check out, My Simon, Fat Wallet, Retail Me Not, Deal Hunting, and Ebates, to find mind-blowing savings.     

 Budgets Rock.  Whether you’re making a six figure salary or living off tips, the only way to see where you spend (and hopefully save) money is with a budget.  Mint and Money Strands are two good and FREE budgeting tools.   YNAB 3 is also a great choice, but the price is $60 bucks.     

 Got a Raise? Great!  Good for you.  Save at least 50% and put the rest towards paying off debts.     

Don’t let a sense of entitlement make you poor.  Instead, practice a little self-control and spend carefully.      

*Keeping Up Appearances – British Situation Comedy.

Sure It Looks Cool, But Does It Really Work?

In Your Guest Writers, Your Home on August 29, 2010 at 1:52 PM


If someone told me they’ve never been tempted late at night to pick up the phone and order whatever unbelievably innovative product they saw on TV, I would have a hard time believing it.  The infomercials are so convincing in presenting a product that will literally change your life, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who hasn’t been sucked in at one point or another.  The problem though is it seems so risky.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the horror stories of the hidden $30 shipping and handling fees or worse yet reoccurring billing only disclosed in extremely small print.  Even more, what if the product doesn’t work?  To return something purchased on TV you usually have to pay the shipping charges to you and back, so no matter what it always ends up costing you something.  To be an educated buyer and save ourselves time and money, we must do our research.
Just the other night I saw an infomercial for a product called the Shake Weight.  Now this product is a little suggestive and borderline inappropriate for television so I wasn’t so much tempted to buy it as I was intrigued to know if it really works.  Like the millions of other young people in America, I turned to the internet to do a little research.  I quickly discovered there are dozens of websites that claim to objectively review these kinds of products.  However, when you read between the lines you can hear the tone of a sales person.  Usually these types of reviews are sneakily written by the product owner or someone working for them disguised as a regular Joe Shmoe, and it’s highly unlikely they will say their product is a piece of junk if it is. 
After a little more searching I found a decent website that rates and reviews As Seen on TV products called TVTopTen.  Not only do they have actual customer reviews, but they also have a slew of different videos including product demonstrations and the actual commercial.  They post real customer reviews, both positive and negative.  Using websites like these and taking the information objectively, you can avoid making costly investments into products that suck.  Doing this kind of research will save time and money, and who doesn’t need more of both these days? 
About the Author:

S. Sparks is a writer for small businesses and online stores with an emphasis on health and beauty. Some of her most recent work includes articles for Ace Carpet Cleaning  San Diego.

Top 7 Creative Ways to Get Out of Debt

In budget, Your Guest Writers, Your World on June 9, 2010 at 8:31 PM

If you’re thinking about moving to Argentina and changing your name then you might be missing the point of this article’s title. Let’s face it, debts have to be handled responsibly and promptly and it’s important while fighting debt to not lose hope. Here are seven creative ways to get out of debt: 

7. Circle the Wagons

If your debts are threatening to drag you under then its time to realize you can’t go it alone. Sit down with your spouse and family and hammer out a way to fix your finances. Two heads are better than one and you’ll be teaching your kids the importance of good spending habits in the process.

6. Do It Yourself Luxury

There’s no easier way to take a bite out of debt than to cut back on some of the luxuries we’ve gotten used to pampering ourselves with. Make your own coffee, roll up your sleeves, put down the phone book, and attack those minor household repairs yourself. Maybe take a break from dry-clean only clothes in favor of wash and wear. Feeling tense: take a hot bath, not a spa treatment. You get the message here.

5. Starting Small (Business) 

It’s going to take a lot of work to eradicate your debts so why not make the work fun? Have a hidden talent or skill you’ve always wanted to show off? Well, now is the time. Turn your talent into a small side business for extra income or create a business out of whole cloth. You can pay off your debts while being your own boss. That doesn’t sound so bad.    

4. Ducks in a Row 

The key to starting out on the road to being debt free is to get organized. Spending can sometimes get away from us if we’re not on top of things so when you start to get that sinking feeling on the way to the mailbox, it’s time to step back and analyze where and how your money is being spent. Eliminating unnecessary expenditures is a lot easier when you’re looking at the big picture.  

3. Department Store Servitude 

Attacking debt head on means, first and foremost, launching a full-scale assault on those department store credit cards. With crippling interest rates, these cards will keep a stranglehold on your finances. Clear these as quickly as you can. Hold a burning ceremony in the backyard when they are paid off and never apply for one again. 

2. The Envelope Please 

It’s a good idea to set up envelopes for various expenses: groceries, bills, clothes and so on. According to your budget, put the amount needed for the week or month for each of these costs into their respective envelopes. If one of them empties ahead of schedule, you’ll pinpoint a spending problem. Stick with this method and you may find you don’t need to spend as much on certain items as you did previously. 

1. Cashing In 

Vampires live among us. They suck the life right out of our wallets. We refer to them as credit cards. It’s imperative while struggling with debt to begin paying cash for everything whenever possible. Raising credit card balances will only increase your debt. Put the cards away.

This article was provided by Andrew Salmon from IVA – a website about Individual Voluntary Arrangements