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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A change in Pace

I've decided to change up the blog a tidge AGAIN. I want to go back to the talking about my life-type blog that I had and maybe bring Eric back into the saddle, but it seems pretty apparent that blogging won't be a full time gig for this lady. Also, it's easier to write when I'm not giving advice and when I'm just being a self-centered 20-something. Ok, maybe not self-centered. In any case, if you'd like to read about my life and maybe some tidbits of wisdom from those experiences keep reading. if you'd like advice well, read my old blogs?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Complete guide to money FOR FREE

So maybe you've been wondering who this Dave Ramsey fellow I've been talking about is. Or maybe not. However, if you have been wondering how to get started on your own debt free journey or how you can learn more about the Dave Ramsey plan I have great news for you...

The complete guide to money is now free. This book is pretty much financial peace university in book form. I loved it, it outlines the best practices to win with money. Now, this is not a cult or anythig so you don't have to follow exactly all of the minutiae but I think the general principles of being content, getting rid of debt, and saving money can work for most, if not all, people. At the very least you can learn how terrible title loans and pay day lenders are. (If you don't know me in person I'll let you know I could rant about those for days)  so just click the link below and you can get the complete guide to money for the best price: free

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A reflection on giving.

       As part of the Smart Money Smart Kids launch team, I had an opportunity to read the book ahead of time, and now I get to share it with you. I loved this book, it had a lot of no nonsense approaches to helping kids give, save, and spend wisely. What really touched me was the chapter on giving.

       During the chapter, Rachel tells about her brother giving $10,000 to a community in Peru that he had saved up for a car, but didn't use, and despite Dave asking "Are you sure about this you have college coming up soon" Daniel just explained that the money wasn't his which is why he wanted to give it.

   You read that correctly, a TEENAGER gave $10,000 to a community of people he has never met. 

Don't Underestimate Yourself

      It was August. For students in sororities at Iowa State that means one thing: recruitment. Our house was having a conversation practice, which was essentially like a mock interview. I was paired with someone that I thought I had NOTHING in common with. I was more nervous than anything, which is ridiculous since I was living with her for the next few years in the chapter house. 
     She asked about what I did for community service activities, I was bit embarrassed to say that I had ONLY volunteered by serving dinner at a local charity. I even thought that I was selfish by doing this because I did it when I was bored and was motivated by the fact that I got a free dinner. 
     I don't even think I got through my sentence before she said "OH MY GOSH.. I don't think I know anyone who does that. I don't know anyone who thinks to volunteer when they're bored. Literally no one." 
     Today I knew I wanted to write about giving (as April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, and Smart Money Smart Kids is coming out-- I tried to tie them together in a away that fits my blog and is appropriate) and I was unsure how to start. I read about some ways to start giving, and I saw things like "help people with their luggage" and "Donate blood" and "Serve at a soup kitchen" and I realized that I had done (or enlisted my husband to do) all of those things. Start small and work your way up.
    Although I don't know Daniel personally, I'm sure on some level he wished he could do more or thought that he wasn't doing enough to help. It may have took his family jumping up and down and getting excited for him to realize how big of a giving experience this was. 
   Wherever you're at, you can give or be in a giving mindset. Maybe you give your neighbor a lift, maybe you redo a website for a non-profit. To me, even that girl who talked to me during the recruitment practice gave. She gave encouragement, and without that I may not be as much of a giver as I am today. Acknowledge what you do.

Don't Overestimate Yourself

   When I was working in Domestic Violence Services I saw people who put their superhero cape on. They would get crushed about 30 minutes into their shift. If you're giving to have people kiss your feet, you're probably giving for the wrong reasons. When you give to receive praise you are using the people your giving to as a way to meet your needs. You may quit if you don't get the praise (and there will be times you don't). Giving is a big deal but it's a bigger deal when you do it automatically and without reward. In fact, the reward is giving. You realize the things you have and are able to do can make a huge difference in the world. 
     I think what touched me the most about Daniel's story is how nonchalant he was about it. Through Rachel's telling of the story it also seemed like she was impressed by how quickly and without fanfare he gave. Dave calls it a "Proud dad moment" When I read it I had to have a cry session and I have been tearing up the whole time writing this. It is really just that beautiful when someone gives humbly. 
    You aren't morally better if you have money and time to give and people aren't morally worse if they need to receive.

More is Caught Than Taught

     Want to surround yourself with people who are good givers? then give yourself. This works in two different ways, one is that through giving you will meet givers. There are plenty of organizations to get involved in, but you can also sign up to volunteer directly with non-profits themselves. Different strokes for different folks.
     Also, by being a giver yourself you encourage others to give as well. It may be that someone sees how easy it is to give, or they see the benefits of giving. Another thing that may happens is that you have friends wanting to give but they didn't want to go at it alone. By being a giver your friends may see a piece of how to be the person they want to be in you. 

If you would like to check out Smart Money Smart Kids feel free to check it out (and pre-order!) by clicking the button below. 

The Dedicated House

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Prevent Child Abuse America

I want to use my blog for today to let everyone know about a sister chapter of my sorority that lost a member. I received the following e-mail. Her campaign is linked below.
Dear Sisters in KD,

I am a CAB for the Alpha Phi Chapter at Westminster College. I want to do something really special for the Chapter to honor Emily Hilliard, the sister we lost on March 7th in a tragic car accident.

Their Shamrock is in 2 weeks so I am trying to surprise them with a gift in honor of Emily. I am going to be working overtime to raise money to give to them on March 30th. I know it would really help lift their spirits to have a successful Shamrock.

If every alumnae chapter were to give $5, I would surpass my goal of $1,000! If you are able, I would love any support that you can give.

Please feel free to share this with anyone in your network. I want to honor Emily's kind spirit and help the chapter to move forward after this great loss.

Love in AOT,
Melissa Goodfriend
Eta Iota, Pace University
Fall 2008
Alpha Phi, Westminster College

Donate to her fund now

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meatloaf Recipe

1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 egg
2/3 cup smashed Ritz Crackers
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of Ketchup
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 t. of mustard powder

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Mix together the ground beef, egg, Ritz Crackers, and Milk and put in a loaf pan. Cook for 50 minutes. Mix the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard powder and pour over meat mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to decide your wedding budget

   So now that you've decided how much money you have you have to figure out how to spend it well so you don't blow your budget.

Don't Really Listen to What Wedding Planning Books Say

Every wedding planning book has a suggested budget percentage wise. You can follow these but it probably won't fit your wedding. Remember that these planner and wedding magazine companies probably work with vendors and want you to spend TONS on your wedding. So there is plenty of reason to take their suggestions with a grain of salt. For example we looked at one that said something like 5% for transportation but we had our wedding and reception in the same place, we didn't really need a limo or a horse drawn carriage. So how do you set your budget?

Decide on Your Four Walls

When talking about personal finance Dave Ramsey talks about the "four walls" being food, transportation, shelter, and clothing. Obviously things are a little different with wedding budgeting but decide what is most important to you or rank everything. We picked photographer, reception DJ, venue and my dress as the most important things.

Find Out What the Important Things Cost

For the most important things, I would just see what it would cost from vendors around your area to get what you want. I would still go with the least expensive that seems to do what you want. Having a good reception DJ was important to us, but our guy was great and cost $550 instead of the almost $1000 that other places were charging. After you've gotten the most important things on your list look at what you have left and make it work. Side note: every vendor is likely to say that their piece of the wedding is the most important part because they do that for a living, and this isn't to say that they're just trying to sell a product. They decided to do whatever 40+ hours a week, when they got married (if they are married) they probably cared about what they sell the most. Let vendors that don't have a standard fees know that you have a certain budget, they will honor that budget. Good vendors will see that as a "make it under this" threshold. 

DIY what you can

I have seen weddings with DIY everything. People have had weddings at their house or a family member's house, TONS of people DIY decorations or invitations, and people have just relied on guests' pictures for their photography. Eric and I got invitations from Vistaprint (WAY cheaper, and in my opinion, same quality) had Eric's mom make most of the decorations and had a friend do make up and hair. We didn't really care to spend a lot of money on those things. Just remember you want to talk about how fun it was and not how much you saved. Doing some things yourself or relying on family members can make that more realistic. 

Jewish Readers: DIY or Borrow Your Judaica

Seriously, do you want to spend $70 on a glass your going to smash? Use a lightbulb instead. With the exception of Kippot, Judaica is very expensive and wedding things are expensive so by the transitive property of cha-ching Wedding Judaica is astronomically expensive. Eric and I made our own Chuppah (and if you want a canopy for your wedding, regardless of religion, I suggest you make it yourself-- renting one was going to cost us ~$80) Plus when you make things yourself then you have a cool family heirloom and who doesn't love cool family heirlooms. Also check in to what your synagogue offers with wedding services (ours offered a Ketubah) and what your family has especially since you'd hate to drop $100 on a Chuppah cover and then have your grandma want you to use hers. If you're having your wedding at a synagogue I would skip buying kippot because you will end up with roughly as many kippot as you bought. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to talk to parents about the wedding budget

    Money can be a difficult subject and asking people for money can be even harder but it's very important that everyone is on the same page right off the bat when wedding planning. Getting a clear budget is very important right off the bat for a few reasons. First off, the most expensive parts of your wedding may be the first things you do. For Eric and I, the most expensive parts were the venue, catering, and my dress. We had to pick our venue out a year ahead of time and the dress was set pretty close afterwards. Also, if you have logical family (which may be a huge if) and they hear that your total budget is $200 they won't push you to invite every single person they've ever talked to. Obviously this is an extreme case, but I'm certain that at least a few wedding budgets have been blown out of proportion by insane guest lists, and not only over the top decorations or wardrobes.

Be Clear and Direct

When you're meeting up to talk about the wedding budget, it's fine to go out to dinner, but be clear that you want to talk about the budget. Money is a sensitive subject and to blindside someone is not ok. Also if something is vague ask some follow up questions. Don't push anything though. 

If there's something that is a want for either set of parents and you just can't afford it be direct in explaining that. For example if your parents want you to have a certain dinner for the reception and you can't afford it, be clear in that. They may have ideas to work around it. I know a person who had the ceremony, dinner, and reception as three separate events where they had close friends and family at the ceremony, extended family and friends at the dinner and then everyone from their church at the reception.

Give Them Time

Your parents or future in laws may not know how much they can contribute right at the moment. Give them some time.  It may take a few weeks to figure out their home budget and get back to you on what they can contribute. They may need some time to actually contribute as well. Most things you have to pay a deposit and then the balance is due somewhere between a month and 2 weeks before the wedding so if you parents/in-laws have to contribute on a monthly or some other form of payment basis that won't derail anything in your plans. 

Show you Have Some Skin in the Game

Let your parents and in-laws know that you are contributing as well to the wedding budget. I would also suggest that you are in charge of the budget instead of one set of parents saying "I'll pay x y and z" as this will avoid some bridezilla-esque fights (watch "Say yes to the dress" if you think that paying for a certain category won't cause overspending) and it's a great practice for doing a household budget for the new couple.

Take What They Give You

This should be self-explanatory but you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. On the other hand if you have to open 7 credit cards or take out a second mortgage to invite everyone on your parent's lists then there needs to be a conversation about timeline or budget. 

Don't Count on Money You Don't Have

   Here's the thing I wish I had known/thought of before our wedding. Don't count on money you don't have. Even if someone is offering to pay for something don't order something you can't pay for out of your pocket or what is in your wedding budget. We blew our budget sky high because we just didn't have in our account or as a check in the mail. Obviously my opinion is to not use credit cards or any form of debt, but check your own comfort level and don't go further in debt than that.