Archive for March, 2008

Week Two: Teenager on a Food Budget Experiment

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I know somewhere out on this great internet is someone waiting eagerly for this update LOL  What a beautiful fantasy world I live in, huh?  This evening was the Teenager’s second week of grocery shopping for himself!  I am happy to report that I think he did better this time :)  (For new readers, I have put my 14 year old son on a food budget of $35 per week and am allowing him to do his own grocery shopping.)

  • He did not spend the entire allocated weekly amount.  Instead he bought $25 worth of food, leaving him with $10 for a mid-week grocery run should he need it.  If not, he is free to roll that money into next week’s $35.
  • Yes, he bought a full gallon of milk this time!  He is free to drink milk at every meal, at snack, and drown his cereal in it if he so chooses.  Don’t laugh too hard: it IS a possibility.
  • Since he still has fresh fruit left from last week, he did not need to purchase any this week.
  • He bought those fruit and grain bars to take to school or for snack.
  • He bought Kroger’s version of Spaghetti-O’s (yuck) which I had been refusing to buy for him.  Personally, I prefer real pasta.  It tastes better and costs less, but I have told him this before.  He says he likes the Spaghetti-O’s.
  • He bought stuff to make his own quesadillas.
  • He bought his own doughnuts.

When hubby and I hit the doughnut case, we were happy to see it still had doughnuts in it, so we picked out half a dozen.  After we checked out, I asked hubby if we should share with the Teenager and he said he didn’t see why not (we’re not completely heartless after all).  Imagine our amusement when we pushed our cart alongside son’s cart to see an identical box in his!  We had a chuckle (but we can be easily amused I suppose).

Over the past couple years, I have emphasized to son the importance of NEVER ever going grocery shopping when hungry.  In fact it has become a ritual to eat out somewhere before going to the grocery store.  It just occurred to me, that all three of us (myself, hubby, and son) shopped last week on empty stomachs.  This evening, we stuffed ourselves before ever stepping foot into Kroger.  That might have made a difference along with last week’s experience.

So for the second week into this experiment, I am quite pleased with the results.  Son says he is enjoying it as well, as it gives him the freedom to choose his food along with the bonus of getting experience with an important life skill.  Hubby says he is enjoying the peacefulness of no longer listening to us bicker and fuss about food bought or not bought.

Kids and Credit Cards - The Conversation Continues

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Last week I posted about kids and credit cards and asked Who is to blame?  This was in response to a comment left on my post about a reader’s 12 year old daughter getting credit card offers where I was taken to task for blaming the banks and credit card companies for my (our) mistakes.  That’s what I love about blogging with open comments: y’all can make me think and rethink things.  (Just remember the comment policy is still in effect.)

The other beautiful part of blogging is other bloggers can join in, and some have:

  • CleverDude wrote a massive post on how he thinks it is first the parents’ responsibility to educate their children, then once the child has reached adulthood it then becomes strictly personal responsibility.
  • LJ from Mommy Gets Paid thinks the credit card companies know exactly what they are doing when they raise the college kids’ limits to ridiculous levels.  They did it to her, and her parents helped her out.  (Mine didn’t.)
  • Ryan from Millionaire Money Habits says college kids are just too impulsive and truly need a plan before they ever step foot on campus.  While I may not completely agree with his plan, it’s still better than no plan at all.
  • CindyS from Oh My Aching Debts supports personal finance classes in the schools, since her parents didn’t teach her about money.  Judging from the economic news nowadays, I’d say a lot of adults in America didn’t get financial education from their parents.

Perhaps the best response to the question I posed can’t be linked to.  Lara92 from MyTMMO board says there is enough “blame” to go around and touch all parties involved.

  1. It starts at home.  Parents should include things like budgeting, paying bills, and managing reasonable levels of credit on the list of “must teach” to their children.  I don’t think any parents simply hands a teenager the keys to the family car and says, “Go figure it out on your own,” so why do we do this with money?
  2. Once a person is an adult, they have the responsibility to keep learning and discovering better ways (or the tried-and-true ways) of how to manage their personal finances.  No one will look after YOU better than YOU.
  3. The banks and credit card companies are not blameless here.  They intentionally target college kids, and some have engaged in kiddie branding tactics.  They intentionally write their terms for credit cards in legal double-speak, so badly that Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School said (in the excellent Frontline special about credit cards, part 3) a graduate level contract law class of hers could not agree on what a credit card companies “disclosure” actually said.  They often use dirty tricks to hit you with fees and can change the terms at any time.
  4. Schools should teach at least a basic personal finance class.  We teach kids everything else in school, why is this neglected?  Perhaps the most comprehensive suggestion I came across recently was proposed by a college student in a guest post at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.  I’m not sure that plan will fly, but even just a budgeting and how to deal with credit class would go a long way for future generations.

This post probably doesn’t clear much up for anyone LOL  It doesn’t for me.  This is a massive problem, especially here in America right now.  We have at least three generations of adults who seem to have problems managing their personal finances!  (That’s a generalization, I know there are quite a few individuals who can.)

With so many different factors involved in identifying the cause of the problem, how are we going to figure out and agree on a solution?

Link Love for a Grey Sunday

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I’ve been up for over three hours, after going through a bit of insomnia last night.  I am on my FOURTH cup of coffee.  I’ve popped the best pain pill I have on hand.  I’ve looked at all kinds of blog posts, hoping for inspiration.  I’ve looked through some search queries for inspiration.  Nothing. is acting up on me, so I can’t get to all my bookmarks, because I am majorly copping out and doing a link round-up for today before I drag into work.

  • Money and Panic at How to be a Middle-Aged Man.  New post from a new blog, and I sure hope he can find a solution and work on a budget with his wife.  For the record, my teenage son is in private school.
  • NCN has his preparation list for his new baby.  A super list for “just before” the baby comes!  Almost like he’s done this a time or two before ;)  Best wishes for a healthy baby and trouble-free delivery for mom.
  • Money Kings has a humorous look at my favorite vice: eating out.  Never thought of it as “cheating” on my wallet!
  • Get Rich or Die Trying asks if this is a good time to start an emergency fund with the Fed cutting interest rates.  “Now” is ALWAYS a good time to start an e-fund!
  • Wide Open Wallet discusses the evolution of a budget with a good experience based way of handling money when you work on tips (like I do) and the transition to a steady paycheck.
  • I was only listed in one blog carnival this week, the second edition of the Kids and Money Carnival which of course included a post about my teenage son and his food budget.

I have quite a few other things bookmarked as well, from blogging tips to humor (heads-up: some of the humor is decidedly “off color”).  It seems my experiment of putting the Teenager on a food budget has sparked some interest around the blogosphere as well:

  • CleverDude has been enjoying it, although I think he commiserates and relates with the teenager.  Thank you for the spotlight post over at your blog, Dude :)
  • CindyS from Oh My Aching Debts reflects on what her parents taught (or didn’t teach) her about money and budgeting, as well as being very active in the comments over here and giving me good feedback and ecouragement.
  • Although he (?) first thought I was a “making money online” blog, the reviewer over at the mainstream Pro Blog Reviews has been following the teenager on a budget experiment as well, and gave my site a very nice review.  I appreciate the kind words :)

Finally, for being a “cop-out” post this sure does take longer to gather up the links than it would for me to just be inspired and type like a demon spouting off some opinion LOL  Enjoy the reading!  I am still trying to shake the zombie feeling before I head off to work.

Teen on A Budget: The Milk Update

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Those of y’all following the teenager on a budget saga remember Monday my son only bought a half gallon of milk, smugly convinced HE wasn’t the one who was drinking all the milk in the house.  It didn’t take long for him to realize just how wrong he was about his milk consumption.  Hubby and I have been watching (with amusement) this situation to see if the Teenager could come up with a decent resolution on his own, since the boy only had two dollars left over from his allocated grocery money.

We adults know that if you don’t have sufficient funds in the grocery category, some money gets pulled out of discretionary funds (also known as “fun money”) because food is always more important than nonessentials.  Hubby and I have been watching for some sign that my son has learned this.

Thursday my son asked if I would take him to the post office so he could mail a gift (long story, don’t ask).  I instead volunteered to take him to the grocery store so he wouldn’t have to suffer the shock of how much a convenience store charges for milkMy son replied that if he bought milk, he wouldn’t have enough money to mail his gift.  Since I disagreed with the boy’s order of priorities, I didn’t take him to the post office (and he did not want to go to the grocery store).

Yesterday, my son purchased a bowl of milk from me, carefully doing the calculations starting from the price of a gallon and dividing by how much milk it takes to fill his (super-sized) cereal bowl.  He was a bit dismayed when I rounded that figure up to 85 cents.  I offered to take him to the convenience store if he preferred a real-life example of something called “convenience markup.”  He declined and gave me three quarters and a dime.

I also offered the Teenager the opportunity to do extra chores to earn some milk money.  He knows that extra chores equal extra pay, and that payment is often immediate in those cases.  My baseboards are still dirty, so I guess the boy is just not that interested.  It’s a shame, because cleaning the baseboards is worth between $3-5 depending on how thorough he is.  He could buy an entire gallon of milk if he expended one hour of work.

I could bail him out, but I think that would send the way wrong message to the Teenager.  Yes, I am his mother and I do provide for his food, shelter, clothing, and schooling.  However, my son himself tells me: “Mom, you’ve made your mistakes already.  Please let me make my own mistakes so I can have some kind of experience.”  This is usually in response to my pleading for the boy to learn from my mistakes so he doesn’t have to repeat them.  What can I say?  My son is hard-headed (my mother insists he is just like me in that respect).

So far I have resisted the urge to bail the boy out of his short-sightedness, and refused to indulge his skewed priorities.  He DOES have the money to buy himself more milk, but simply won’t.  He DOES have the opportunity available to do extra chores for extra pay, but so far has not taken initiative.  So his other options are to do without or buy milk by the bowlful at a convenience mark-up price.

Did I mention my son can be stubborn?

Now, I have seen a bit of commentary on a message board calling me a bit harsh for doing this.  I did stop and think about that criticism, but as noted above, the Teenager has the money to buy his own milk, but wants to spend it on something else.  He also has the opportunity to earn money for it, and is simply not interested.  Finally, I really don’t think the boy wants me to bail him out of this.  Judging from his remarks, I think he’s got quite a bit of teen male pride tied into this experiment and rescue-by-mom goes up against that pride.

Basically I’ve just expended a lot of typing to get around to a simple question: do y’all think I am somehow being harsh by not bailing my son out of his milk dilemna?

Kids and Credit Cards - Who Is to Blame?

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Sometimes I get comments on posts that make me stop and do some serious thinking.  If I think long and hard enough, I end up writing a whole ‘nother post on the subject.  Once again, I find myself in this situation, with a statement from first-time commenter klippies on my post about credit card offers for minors:

I read a lot of pf blogs and are always amazed that people blame the banks and the credit card companies for everything. (…) Do not always blame someone else for your bad choices. Nobody is forcing a student or anyone else to apply for credit cards or to use them without being able to pay the balance. Use common sense when dealing with money.

This has made me stop and think: Who is to blame when the combination of college kids and credit cards turns out badly?  Or the combination of military kids and loans turns out ugly and in the first sergeant’s office?  Those two groups are highly targeted by credit card and loan companies to the point it is nauseating. 

  • Is it the kids’ (young adults, barely over 18 years old) fault for being naive and uneducated in the ways of handling money and credit
  • Is it the credit card companies’ and loan places’ fault for taking full advantage of this naivete? 
  • Is it the kids’ parents’ fault for not teaching what they might or might NOT know about handling money?
  • Is it the schools’ fault for not including sound financial principles in the curriculum?
  • Is it the government’s fault for not regulating this?
  • Is the blame somewhere in the middle of all these?  With everyone having a share in the fault?
  • Is it no one’s fault because (excrement) happens?

This is a really touchy subject, because any time fingers are pointed, someone gets defensive as a knee-jerk reaction.  I know I got a bit defensive when I first read klippies’ final sentence:

Maybe common sense kicked in late for you, but at least you fixed your behaviour (the banks did not change theirs).

Yes, common sense waited until I was almost 34 years old to slap me upside the head.  I knew I didn’t like credit cards, and knew I shouldn’t use them … but I also didn’t know how and what to do to rid myself of them.  I didn’t know any other way other than what I saw on the television and in the ads and what my parents and friends did.

I don’t think I have a straight answer to this.  Maybe I need to think on the subject a bit more.  I am certainly interested in hearing YOUR opinion on this subject!  Who is to blame when kids and credit cards (or loans) turns out to be a very bad situation?

Credit Card Offers For Minors

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Monday, in response to my post on how credit cards were my biggest money mistake when I was a college freshman, reader blackneto sent me this email:

My 12 year old daughter received an offer for a credit card targeted at HS Seniors from 1st Financial Bank. (emphasis mine. -Ana)

I have a feeling she got it because  she’s been in several programs through the local Community College and they probably sold their enrollments to whomever sends these offers out. Or she entered a contest or drawing at one of the events she’s been to and the list was sold from there.

This is a scary situation!  I have very little doubt colleges are now selling their enrollments to credit card companies.  After all, they let them on campus throughout the school year for money, so selling the enrollment information is the natural progression (anyone have a link for this?).

It’s also extremely likely it came from a contest or giveaway.  Credit card companies are more than profitable enough to hold giveaways worth more than a free pizza, t-shirt, or hat (although that is usually all it takes to rope in the college freshmen).  It could very well be that the giveaway was sponsored by a credit card issuer, and the fine print might have said that you agree to receive solitations.  It wasn’t that long ago my son was 12 years old; I know they don’t read the fine print.

In my email response to blackneto, I suggested two things to help safeguard his daughter against identity theft:

  • going to and stopping any future credit cards offers.  I have done this myself for hubby and I.
  • If available in his state, putting a freeze on his daughter’s credit report until she reaches the age of 18.  There is absolutely no reason for a 12 year old to have any credit activity, so freezing her credit report is a good step to prevent identity theft for minors.

So with the safety issues taken care of, let’s step back for just one second.  Credit card companies have been targetting college students like nothing else for over a decade … but now they are going after high schoolers?  Are they going to start showing up on our kids’ doorsteps the morning they turn 18 next?  Tapping on their windows as the sun rises, with a huge smile saying: “Good morning!  You are now officially an adult so fill out this credit card application!”

My son starts high school in the fall.  I am beginning to worry that all my admonitions against getting into credit card debt may fall on deaf ears.  There is an unbelievable amount of “peer pressure” out there that says you are somehow magically an adult once you get a little piece of plastic with a magnetic strip … and the debt that comes with it.  Most of this pressure comes from the credit card companies’ marketing departments themselves.  I am glad we just don’t watch much television, with its brainwashing barrages in 30 or 60 second doses during every commercial break (which seem much closer together than when I was younger).

Hey, I’m a mom; I’m allowed to worry needlessly.  Blackneto is also a parent and is allowed to worry about this situation.  If you are a parent, YOU should be worried about credit card companies trying to snare our young people into serious debt!  The idea that college campuses are willing (and bought) accomplices should be a huge warning flag: WE as parents need to counter-brainwash our kids to “JUST SAY NO!” to credit cards.

Colleges across the nation don’t look out for our kids.  They have already sold out, and the credit card companies can easily afford the proverbial “thirty pieces of silver” in each and every college town.  Now it sounds like they are targetting our high schoolers.

Anyone else’s minor children receiving credit card offers in the mail?

My Podcast Debut - Interview on Field Guide

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The podcast interview went off without too much trouble LOL considering I was a bit nervous and there was a typo in the call-in number at first.  Since I used to be in the Army and lived under the “be five minutes prior to the five minutes prior,” that glitch was fixed before the show was scheduled to start.  Big thank you to Duane of All American Blogger for inviting me to speak on his Field Guide to American Politics podcast show (direct link to my interview).

I’m listening to it now, and my immediate reaction is: I don’t sound like that!  My son disagreed with me when I said it out loud.  I sound almost like a female version of Dave Ramsey LOL but my voice sounds “funny” to my ears.

We didn’t talk politics, but we did cover all the questions he had sent me in email.  We talked about making a budget, setting up an emergency fund, saving money when buying things, the debt snowball, and of course just how great life is once I became debt free.  He asked me about why I started the blog, and where I get my inspiration.  We also talked about marketing and resisting impulse buying.

Hubby is now chuckling at hearing me on the internet.  Of course he hears all of these things every day.  Now, if you want to (and are brave enough) you can hear it also.

Links and a Podcast Interview

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

 I’ve got my second cup of coffee, and am coherent enough to blog!  Some fun links for everyone this morning, and a reminder that this afternoon I will be interviewed on a podcast.  First up, the links:

  • Ryan Healy held this week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction - the Moving Edition and selected my post Too Much Debt as one of his Editor’s Picks, saying: “This is probably the most passionate post in the Carnival. More of a rant than anything. I can’t say there’s much personally actionable advice, but it’s still definitely worth reading.”
  • There’s a new graphic and link in the sidebar.  Yan from Pro Bargain Hunter is co-founder of the new bargain shopping site so if you’re looking to purchase something, take a peek there to see if his site can save you money.
  • I’m starting to figure out how works :)and am actually using it now.  Don’t laugh, I am old and might crawl back under my rock if you do!  But y’all can add me to your network and even send me links through it that you think I’d be interested in.  Some of those bookmarks will certainly become fodder for future posts.

Now, for the podcast info: I was asked if I’d like to be the interviewee for All American Blogger’s “Field Guide” podcast, and while I am a bit nervous I was flattered and honored.  It will start at 3 PM Central Daylight Time (US) and not only can y’all listen live but you can even call in and ask me questions after the interview portion :)  I’ve never done a podcast before, and had no idea you could do it from your home with no fancy equipment!  Yes, I truly have been living under a rock … especially since I started organic chem this past fall.  Oh, here are some of the questions I’ll be answering:

  • Why do you write about being debt free?
  • Where do you get your inspiration?
  • What are some benefits of being debt free?
  • Where do people have difficulties in becoming debt free?
  • What are some tips in becoming debt free?
  • Why did you start Debt Free Revolution (the blog)?

For those of y’all who can’t listen live, the archive will be available and I will certainly link to it from here!  For the terminally curious wondering just how this happened, Duane (the one who hosts the podcast) says he’s been reading my blog after going through Financial Peace University himself.  Now if I can get him to play a certain song as “bump music” hehehehe…. Queensryche’s “Revolution Calling” off their masterpiece, Operation: Mindcrime.  I think it’s appropriate.