Tag Archives: cash

Shopping for a Family Car

2008 Toyota SiennaShopping for a new family vehicle is my latest financial expedition. I am very confident in my ability to repair vehicles, so I tend to buy and drive older cars with higher mileage.

For me that is fine. However, our current 1999 Honda Odyssey has 254,000 miles on it, and it is starting to see the limits of its useful life. Many small things are piling up that I figure will cost somewhere around $3,000. I can’t justify putting that kind of money into a 15-year-old vehicle with that many miles.

If this were a classic vehicle that my family didn’t need to rely on for trips, this might make sense. That is not the case. My family travels very often and with 3 kids in tow, I need to have a vehicle that I can trust for them.

I’ve always been pretty good at shopping for used vehicles, but this time around is slightly different. I’m looking to get a van with less than 100,000 miles and that is proving more challenging that I thought. Vans (especially the Honda and Toyota models) are very expensive used vehicles, particularly if they have less than 100,000 on the odometer.

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Saving for Christmas

Saving for the holidays is an interesting proposition. What makes it really interesting is that it comes every year at the same time. Everyone knows the holidays are coming and yet, most people still do not save. The shopping becomes a strain on your budget and an added stress for having to complete your shopping in a short amount of time.

My wife and I are no exception to this rule. Here we are less than two months away and we literally have $109.12 saved. Considering we typically run a $1000 holiday budget, one could say we are a little behind. What are the consequences for this behavior?

  1. Have to pull from other savings to make up the difference
  2. For November and December, no contributions to our IRA
  3. November and December will be cash poor
HAPPY CHRISTMAS BOKEH! by kelp1966 on Flickr

Photo by kelp1966 on Flickr

This happens every year. This year is particularly bad on our part. Now that we’ve seen how things work in the worst way. Let us look at how saving for Christmas should work.

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Is Craigslist worth it and at what price?

Today I completed another successful transaction using Craigslist. Over the years I have sold several large ticket items and many smaller items through their free classified service. My experiences have always ended well. I think my luck with this so far is great. I also know that not everyone is so lucky.

The real question today is whether selling items are worth the hassle of the Craigslist coördination. What sale price makes them worth it? Especially if you have to drive somewhere to meet someone (highly recommended for safety on all items that you can move around easily).

If you factor in the cost of gas, use of your vehicle or other mode of transportation, time and the hassle of meeting and dealing with new people, selling a $10 item is not worth it to me. What about $20 or $50?Zero Based Budgeting - Item I sold on Craigslist

Today I sold a vanity light from my bathroom remodel. It was nice enough, but not really our style. Vanity lights in the big box stores and even online have a huge variance in price. I have not found one of decent quality for under $30 on average. I sold mine for $20. The guy was very nice. He did ask if I would meet him somewhere further south. I just told him the Wendy’s 2 minutes south of my office. I did not think it worth a trip to another city, taking time off of work, etc. to sell a $20 item.

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Variable Expenses

I recently posted how to budget for variable income. Now I want to discuss a related subject, variable expenses. Budgeting for variable expenses frustrates people just as much as inconsistent income.

I have noticed since starting zero based budgeting that my fear of variable expenses has dramatically decreased. I attribute most of this anxiety decrease to gradual learning about where I spend my money. Each budget that I go through teaches me a little more about my routine finances and gives an idea where to make adjustments in future budgets.

Free Zero Based Budget - Variable Expenses. Image from Flickr by basykesA few examples of variable expenses:

  • Groceries
  • Medical
  • Gasoline
  • Electricity

There are of course many others, but those listed above apply to a large amount of people.

Groceries are probably the easiest to control. You know exactly how many mouths you have to feed and you typically know how many days you do that for. In my case, it’s 5 mouths and a two-week pay period. What you do not know are the variances in price, what’s on sale, etc.

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Cash for Gas

In 2006, my wife and I started following some of the suggestions of Dave Ramsey. One of which, he recommends using cash to pay for certain expense categories. We were reluctant to start using cash. The idea of it made us uncomfortable at first. What happens in the grocery store if you get through ringing up and you need more? The answer is simple actually. You put something back. Okay, that works.

Zero Based Budget - Cash for Gas from Flickr by taylor.aWhat about gas? I thought gas was a wash no matter how you paid for it. I assumed that you use the same amount of gas whether you pay for it with credit card, debit card or cash. I was wrong.

Let’s look at an example for Gas:

I pull in my truck, press the pay outside with credit button and fill up. I let it run until I hear it stop. The total is $67.84.

What if I pulled up with $60 dollars cash in my pocket? I press the pay inside with cash button. I start pumping and stop on $60 dollars’ worth (actually most of the times I get $60.01!).

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