Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking on ANY Debt

February 18th, 2011
  • Can I pay this off quickly?
  • Is this the best interest rate I can get?
  • Is this purchase so necessary to warrant taking on debt?
  • Will this debt benefit me more than it will cost me?

Company Match in Investment Plans at Work

January 19th, 2010

Back to my semi-Saturday series of “investing fro complete and utter idiots (and dummies too)” which is my tongue-in-cheek attempt to understand the super-complex world of investment and then explain it to others like me who have no background in the subject.  I’m going to go ultra-basic today, and tackle the idea of a company match in your investment plan at work.

First up, I don’t have any investment plan at my work.  LOL It would be sweet if I did, but the boss lets us students do homework on the clock when business is slow, so I guess I can’t complain.  I did mention a 401(k) or SEPP-type plan to my boss, and he got a deer in the headlights look on his face.  I guess that isn’t a common question to hear from a minimum wage employee.

Now, if y’all have an investing plan at work, especially one that offers matching funds: GO FOR IT!  Unless it is the difference between your budget being in the black or in the red, take full advantage of it!

It really doesn’t matter if your company’s 401(k) is in a good or bad plan if you stop and think about it.  Your company is offering to match your contribution and automatically give you an immediate return on your money.  The sweetest matching plan is 100% up to a certain percentage of your contribution, and that is automatically doubling your investment money.

My Tuition Paid Finally

August 22nd, 2008

I finally got things squared away with registering for fall classes.  Good thing … the semester officially starts tomorrow!  I start on Monday at the indecent hour of 0800 (8 AM for civilians), but that was the only time biochemistry is offered this fall.

I had my tuition money saved up and tucked away, but it still hurts authorizing a $2021 payment.  Especially after all the headache, pain, and phone calls needed to simply accomplish registration!  Apparently I hit some kind of odd glitch, even though the registrars office refuses to call it that.  I ended up talking to the chemistry department chair to get an override to get me into a class that I was already qualified for.  His called the registration software system “a challenge at times.”  I informed him he was much much more diplomatic than we students are.

I never thought I would miss the days of physically going to campus to register for classes using pieces of paper and standing in line …. but at least then we could talk to real people when problems popped up!

Paid Tuition for Son’s School

August 6th, 2008

Yeee-OUCH!  I just got back from paying son’s private school tuition, and I honestly cannot remember writing a check that large before in my life.  No joke, I just wrote a check for $5900.  Wow.

I have not only been expecting this, but have planned for it all summer long.  Next week I will probably be authorizing an online payment for my own tuition, so August is the dreaded “tuition month” for us.  I’m expecting my tuition to run $2300-2500, and that will seem easy after this one.

The good news is son’s tuition is for the entire school year, and frees up almost $500 per month since last year I didn’t have enough saved to do the one payment and instead dragged it out over the year.

This year, being debt-free-but-the-mortgage gave us the opportunity to do this all at once.  I thought I would feel good walking in and just writing the check, but now that it’s done all I can think is “Holy cow!  That’s a lot of money!”

Five thousand nine hundred and no/100s dollars.  Wow.  It actually feels weird “moving up” in the world like this.  Maybe it will feel better in a few hours.

Then again, a few years ago writing any four-figure check seemed huge.  Now I can write out $1xxx checks without really blinking an eye (as opposed to nearly having a hairy cat fit in January of 2007 when writing the $1140 check to fix the heat).  Checks for $2xxx (like MY tuition) still make me blink, but don’t quite provoke the “ouch” response like this one did.

Five thousand nine hundred and no/100 dollars.  It’s there.  It will clear.  It will be rebuilt before the first frost.  Wow.  I love not having consumer debt anymore.

Economic Reality and Delivering Pizzas

August 1st, 2008

Last weekend I mentioned the numbers on the economics of delivering pizzas changed with the new pay scale that went into effect with the increase in minimum wage.  Today in between deliveries, I ran hard numbers from the last two weeks of this new pay scale and it wasn’t pretty.

Minimum wage went up 70 cents an hour, and to compensate the boss man cut our per-delivery pay by 53 cents per delivery.  Since I could only find two nights recedntly where I only ran one delivery per hour or less, this is actually a PAY CUT for me.  Last weekend I was running 2 or 3 deliveries per hour.

Gas prices have eased a little bit in the past week, coming down from $3.99 per gallon for 87 octane to one station only charging $3.65 per gallon.  Since I can remember $0.68 per gallon in 1999, I say “only” with my tongue firmly in cheek.

What my number-crunching this afternoon showed me is my earnings delivering pizzas has taken a nosedive.  When I started driving just one year ago, I was making an average of $14-15 per hour when figuring in hourly, gas offset/per-delivery pay, and tips.  The numbers from these past two weeks has only been $8-11 per hour.  That’s BEFORE gas expenses are deducted.

I just told the boss man to not schedule me anymore, unless one of two things happens:

  • Gas comes back down to $3.25 per gallon or less; or
  • He raises the per-delivery pay

He didn’t look the least bit surprised when I said it.  We drivers tried to stage a mini-revolt last weekend at the employee meeting, and the Boss Man reminded us that Tennessee is a “work at will” state … which means it’s our choice to work or not.  The insiders have been grumbling that they think we drivers were being paid too much before this pay change.

The Boss Man may not have looked surprised, but he also told me he’d look into whether he could raise our per-delivery rate.  For now, I am not going to be scheduled, by my request.  The economics have changed, and it’s just not worth the time away from my family at present.

We’ll be okay financially … that was the point of getting out of debt!  We just won’t be moving as fast towards our financial goals.  Only owing a mortgage and utilities gives us the freedom to make quality-of-life decisions like this.

Carnival of Debt Reduction 150: College Tuition Bills

July 28th, 2008

No fancy theme for this week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction, as I just spent almost an hour on campus doing the academic advising thing so I can finally register for classes.  Yeah, a little late in the summer, but I had to figure out how to switch my major and my academic advisor and the college’s website does NOT make that an easy task.  It was so much easier to do when you had to go talk to a real person and fill out a paper form! 

Next step: registering for classes on “drop day” then paying the bill right afterwards.  “Drop day” is when the registrar drops everyone who hasn’t already paid their tuition bill from all their classes.  I’ve used “drop day” to get the classes I want at the times I want for five semesters running now, and it’s how I will get into two “full” classes for this fall.  The key is having ALL of the tuition money on hand before drop day, because at midnight each night the registrar drops anyone who isn’t paid in full or has a payment plan in place already.

Speaking of payment plans, let’s get this carnival started!  Here are my picks of the 18 posts that made the cut this week:

  • Brainy from Pants in a Can writes about “Red Zone Finances” which is a football analogy for his level of motivation in eliminating his debts.  I like football, I LOVE killing off debt, so this one is a home run (to mix sports metaphors)
  • Frederic Premji from I Need Motivation writes “How I Paid $25,000 in Debt Within 18 Months“  Nothing like a kick (donkey) success story to really help folks get fired up!
  • Phil For Humanity has an idea that is not only near-and-dear to my heart, but one I wholeheartedly endorse: STOP USING YOUR CREDIT CARDS!  Seriously, give this one a good read.

Those three are my favorites, but the rest are definitely worth reading here:

And there we have yet another quality week for the Carnival of Debt Reduction!  Thanks to all the submitters for all the good reads.  Now it’s time for the reading and commenting to begin! :)  Meanwhile, I’ll be prowling the online class schedule and plotting out which class I want to take at what time for the fall semester.

The Economics of Delivering Pizzas

July 26th, 2008

Earlier this summer, I did a cost analysis of delivering pizzas as my part-time job.  This week, it’s time to re-evaluate the situation, as the pay has changed and I am not sure it’s for the better.

The big thing that changed was federal minimum wage went up this week to $6.55 per hour.  That’s a jump of 70 cents from $5.85 per hour, and I knew my boss was dreading it.

He warned us a few weeks ago that when minimum wage went up, he would have to lower the per-delivery gas offset pay … but I didn’t realize he would lower it this much.  We have gone down from $1.28 per delivery order to only 75 cents per delivery order!

We have an employee meeting this morning, and at least one other driver intends to mention to the boss man that this is not enough to keep our vehicles on the road.  In fact, this other driver told me last night he will be putting in applications to other jobs.  My comment was I am surprised it took him this long (this is the one who drives a truck for delivery).

As for myself, I will let the boss man know I will continue to work (for now) but I only want to pull three long shifts, with a minimum of 7 hours per shift.  The store is eight miles from my house, and I drive an average of 100 miles per shift.  Working only three days will bring back down to only one tankful of gas per week while still pulling the same amount of hours.

I have to wonder if this kind of thing is happening at other stores.  I’m also wondering if the gas prices may be the end of pizza delivery as we know it, especially with tips continuing to dwindle.

This should be an interesting employee meeting.

Double Digit Inflation

July 16th, 2008

Randall from Credit Withdrawal just got done poking fun at me for not having something up on this morning’s inflation numbers, and I might as well admit to being sort of lazy lately where the blog is concerned.

For those who missed the news, the official CPI numbers for the month of June came in at a scorching 1.1% … WITH seasonal adjustment still in effect.  I didn’t comment about last month’s 0.6% because that shocked me coming in that high.  Some “fun” and simple math:

  • 0.6% x 12 months = 7.2% annualized inflation based on the May numbers
  • 1.1% x 12 months = 13.2% annualized on the numbers for June!!!

Break out the disco now, the BLS can no longer hide the doo-doo we are standing in, inflation-wise!  Not even with seasonal adjustments, not with hedonics, not with substitution bias.  I could have lots of fun raking Ben Bernake and 8 others from the FOMC over the coals here, but that’s pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel.  Oh yeah, the “good” news: those rate cuts that went on from fall until April still haven’t worked into the economy completely … which means inflation will keep going up for a while.

Thankfully for me, the state board limited my college to “only” (?) a 6% tuition increase, but I am pretty sure they will hike the unregulated fees to cover that and the budget cuts the state is handing them.  Eh, I’ll tackle tuition next post.  It’s going to be on my mind constantly for the next month until I get both mine and the Teenager’s tuitions paid up.