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Guest Post: Remodeling in a Recession: Why You Shouldn’t Wait

June 29, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 4 Comments 
Today’s guest post was contributed by Jennifer Kardish.  Jennifer is a communications coordinator at Kitchen Cabinets. You can check out their free design tips for your kitchen and home.

With the economy still in a decided downturn and foreclosures reaching all-time highs, now might seem like the worst time in recent history to think about remodeling your home. It certainly won’t be easy to get a loan or a line of equity on your house with the real estate market slow to rebound and banks pulling the purse-strings tighter and tighter. However, if you can find a way to scrape together a little cash, or if you’ve been saving, now is a great time for the frugal shopper to do some home upgrades.

For starters, a little can go a long way in this economy. Retail spending is, simply put, not what it was. Vendors that were thriving a few years ago are now being forced to slash prices and even close their doors. The point is, they want your business! And you can use it to your advantage. Shop around to find the products you want and you will be amazed at the discounts you discover (shopping online may be even more fruitful). Then go to several stores and find out if they are willing to price match or give you a better deal to stop you from going to the competition. You can often get an outrageous bargain just by asking for it. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, consider a merchant that sells reclaimed items (like flooring, cabinets, hardware, etc.). Although it may not be the newest product on the market, and it might have a little wear and tear, you can often find merchandise that has a higher value (in terms of construction, quality, materials, etc.) than you could get for the same price if you bought something new.

And that’s just the parts. You can also save on labor. Of course, there is always the do it yourself method, which is great for handy people. For the rest of us, a contractor is necessary to get the job done. And while contract work has a bad reputation for getting very pricey, very quick, we are currently in a buyer’s market. Building of new structures has slowed significantly and as a result, the market is flooded with contractors looking for work. If you seek several bids (make sure to get recommendations) you stand to save a lot of money on labor. That said, don’t be afraid to do some of the work yourself. Almost anyone can learn to install a backsplash, replace a lighting fixture, or swap out a faucet, so get yourself a home improvement guide to save even more.

Why wait to build your dream home? Even if you plan to upgrade as a way to get more value out of your house, you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to sell. Remodel now, while you can get the best price, and you stand to appreciate an even better return on your investment in a few years when the housing market rebounds. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a custom-made interior in the mean time.

Monthly Net Worth Update – June 2010

June 23, 2010 · Filed Under Net Worth · 2 Comments 
Cash + Money by Terence Chang

Another volatile month sees us end up …. exactly where we started?

Our assets decreased 0.07%

As I look over our asset accounts, it appears that every balance has dropped slightly except for my stock options.  My stock options value increased almost 14% and that just about completely balanced out all the other drops.  Actually, that’s not exactly true – somehow our retirement accounts managed to increase slightly this month as well.

Our cash accounts have been dropping pretty quickly the last few months as we continue to pay off the large expenses related to our baby’s birth and adjust to living on one salary.  Overall, it did decrease again this month but by a much smaller amount that the previous few months.  I’m hoping that’s a good sign that we’re starting to get our spending in line with out income.

Our liabilities decreased 0.12%

Our mortgage dropped the standard 0.12% again this month.  I mentioned previously that our mortgage payment is by far our largest payment each month (well, it still is).  I think we’ll need to do something about this to get our expenses to meet up with our income, but I’m not exactly sure what to do about it at this point as our home value is much less than our mortgage balance.

Our net worth held steady

Well, this is the first month that has happened – our overall net worth basically did not budge from last month’s value.  I guess that’s a good thing.  Of course, I’d like to see it increasing but after a significant drop last month, I’m just happy it did not head even further south this month.

Weekly Bible Verse – Why is it Important to Handle our Finances Well?

June 7, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?  Luke 13:11 (NLT)

I spend too much time thinking about, writing about, and discussing my finances.  You might have the same problem (it’s likely since you are reading a personal finance blog at this very moment!).  My wife often correctly tells me what I should worry less about our finances and trust God more in that area of our life.  Of course, she is correct but I do think that a healthy balance is needed in this area.  In fact, I think this week’s verse underscores the need to be proactive about being a good steward and taking care of your finances.

As it states, if we are “untrustworthy” with our worldly wealth, then we will never be trusted with heavenly riches.  It is therefore not appropriate to simply put our heads in the sand, ignore our finances, spend whatever we want, and then rely on God to make it all balance out at the end of the month (Reminds me of a Tim Hawkins routine: “Father, change the molecular structure of this food, this complete trash we’re about to shove in our gullet.  Change the cheeto into a carrot stick on the way down!”).  Remember that this is Jesus talking in this verse – Jesus Himself is reminding us that we need to be active in managing our finances to prove that we are capable of being entrusted with the “true riches of heaven.”

I would simply caution you not to go overboard and get so focused on money and your finances that they replace God as most important in your life.  Yes, be a good steward and manage your money faithfully, but your main purpose in life should still be to glorify God, not to spend every waking moment reading blogs, fretting about the stock market, and clicking on tweets that contain “get-rich-quick” schemes (oooh, maybe this one is legit)!  Again, accumulating wealth on earth should not be our end goal here;  our main goal is to be faithful to God with our finances to prove we are worthy of being entrusted with the true riches.

God bless and have a great week…

Guest Post: 7 Reasons to Give More of Your Money To Charity

June 3, 2010 · Filed Under Giving · 6 Comments 
Today’s guest post is provided by Melissa Tamura.  Melissa Tamura writes about online degree programs for Zen College Life. She most recently edited the guide to the best online colleges.

“Charity” can be a loaded word that means something different to everyone. Charity can be pejorative, such as: “Those charity cases get money, sit on their backsides, and don’t work”. It can be a scornful word, meaning a break is being given because one is better than the other, for example: “Tom took the girl out on a charity date.”

It’s interesting how the word was first used, hundreds of years ago; “charity” meant “love”. It could almost be said that “charity” had a double meaning from the start. You give charity because you have charity. Charity, in its modern sense, means that we feel a kind of love when we give, even for those we may never meet.

People who need charity now, in large part, are people who never needed charity before. The ruined economy, predatory lenders, and the bank bailouts that helped no one except the banks have made a new class of poor in our country. Anyone who escaped relatively unscathed from the recent economic meltdown can thank their lucky stars by opening their wallets a little wider when it comes time to give to charity. Below are seven more very good reasons to give.

Tax Deductions

Lots of folks give to the charities of their choice for this reason. Others find it a nice reward for the charity they give. Whatever reason, give, keep the receipts, and claim it on next year’s taxes.

It Will Save You Money Long Term

This may sound in essence a bit cold, but here goes. Children who receive a good education, have someone who cares about them, and eat nutritious meals are more apt to finish school and stay out of trouble. Donate to boys and girls clubs, local schools, food banks and free lunch programs, or some other charity that helps out kids. You won’t have to pay in the future for new prisons, for one thing, and if spending for prisons isn’t throwing your money down a rat hole, what is?

You may need charity yourself one day.

Donate for research to learn the cure for cancer, HIV, MS, MD, diabetes; whichever charity speaks to you. Hopefully the cure will be found before you or someone you love is diagnosed with these illnesses.

Create a Lasting Legacy

Donate to building funds for hospitals, libraries, schools, your local church. Perhaps you aren’t rich enough to have a wing named after you, but your kids can tell your grandkids that you help build something important.

For Your Grandchildren

While we’re on the subject of grandkids, you do want them to experience clean water, fresh air, icebergs and wild animals, don’t you? Donate to environmental groups, wildlife groups, conservation groups; they’ll be glad you did.

Healthy for the Soul

It’s good to give, why else do we celebrate gift giving holidays? You don’t have to go around trumpeting how much money you give to a particular charity; you can celebrate that warm glow quietly and teach your kids to do the same. It’s only money, right? Put your money where your mouth is.

If not you, who will?

Sad but true. There are a significant number of folks who think being a cold hearted old skinflint is a sign of good character. Give to prove them wrong.

Weekly Bible Verse – An Extreme Consequence of Discontentment

June 1, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · Add a Comment 

Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  Numbers 11:1 (NASB)

Have you ever been around someone who constantly dwells on what is wrong around them?  No matter what happens, they’re not happy.  Have you ever heard the saying “every cloud has a silver lining?”  Well, these people’s favorite saying seems to be “every silver lining has a dark cloud.”  This is what was happening to the Israelites in this week’s passage.

God had miraculously brought them out of Egypt.  He had freed them from slavery and was leading them to the excellent land that He had promised to them.  He also provided them with food for each day even though they were wandering through wilderness and what-not.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough for them.  Instead of dwelling on their amazing circumstances of manna failing daily from heaven and God in a pillar of cloud guiding them, they missed Egypt!  They missed the fish they used to “eat free” and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.  Would they really rather trade onions and leeks for freedom? (personally I wouldn’t trade a a broken CD for onions but that’s a topic for a different day)

Our situation may not be as extreme (you’re probably not reading this from the wilderness somewhere) but we often tend to fall into discontent and complaining as well.  No matter your current situation, you are most likely better off then the vast majority in this world.  Focus on what you do have not what you don’t and if you do find yourself longing for your Eqypt, be realistic in your memory.  Sure it was nice to have fish each day, but the Israelites obviously forgot about the price they paid to get those meals.  Again, get your focus off of yourself and onto God and others and you may find that your discontent drops considerably.

God bless and have a great week…

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