Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Not for Kids Only, Part II, or, the Mo' Money Edition

I'm pleased with myself, finally taking to heart Suze Orman's advice not to spend the change, but save it. The practical difficulty, until recently, has been in finding a good place to park the coins.

A small "toy" (well, that's how it's marketed, unfortunately), to the rescue--the Money Savvy Pig. I got one as a giveaway, at the Wachovia booth at a convention, and I've been using it ever since. A modern-day incarnation of the old faithful savings device, this piggy is translucent, and available in a number of colors to boot. Most important, instead of the one drop-in slot for the loot, there are four slots, as well as four piggy feet that you use to empty the plastic porker, each slot corresponding to a foot, which you open to empty that particular chamber.

Although the four chambers are labeled "save," "donate," "spend," and "invest," I use the compartments my own way, of course, and ignore the labels. Instead, I designated each slot for a particular coin denomination--the first for pennies, the second, nickels, etc. That way, as each compartment fills up, I can open its foot, and slide its coins into a roll or rolls, which will prove a big timesaver over having the coins mixed, which meant having to separate them into separate stacks for rolls.

The pig is available at http://www.toysrus.com/, of course, as well as other Internet sites, for about $15. It's the creation of a company called Money Savvy Generation, a corporation started by a mother wishing to teach her children about money and saving. (It markets another product called 'Cash Cow.')

As great as I think the product is, I think it's a mistake to limit the marketing primarily to the schoolyard set, as people of all ages need help learning how to save, and all the practical encouragement that they can get, if the recent statistics on the dismal American savings rate are any indication.

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Mo' Money, Mo' Money...

A website that generally dedicates itself to the time management principles of GTD ("getting things done") has recently focused on sites that deal with money management--the other side of the coin to time management, so to speak. 43 Folders' emphasis on all things monetary had various strategies for keeping (and even earning) more money. What a concept!

I agree with many of the sentiments in the Free Money Finance article, The Fastest Way to Get Out of Debt, because it works! (I've used the same principles in the past to pay off debt.) I would add that to take full advantage of the timing of your income, particularly to pay off the largest debts (or to make a large purchase in cash), it's best to take a calendar to map out a year at a time, circle every payday, and note the months in which you have more than two paydays. Depending on the day of the week you are paid, the number of months in which you have more than two paydays works out to two to four months of the year! Combine this knowledge with snowballing the payoff of debts, as Dave Ramsey recommends [which, I can say from experience works, and which I did before I even heard of Mr. Ramsey], and you will see great progress in debt reduction in a year's time.

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The most practical book I've read (and, more importantly, purchased) on personal finance is All Your Worth, co-authored by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi, because the ladies tell you which financial moves you should make, and, crucially, in which order you should make them--should you pay off your debts first, or save for retirement first? (Or at the same time?) Warren the Elder and the Younger tell you how, why, and even give permission to have a little fun money! (Thankfully, the book is a no-scold zone.)

Elizabeth Warren, who used to be a Republican until she started research on the reasons that people declare bankruptcy, currently writes a column, Warren Reports on the Middle Class for the blog TPM Cafe, concentrating on financial issues that affect the average person, particularly on how companies are trying to wheedle more money from our pockets. A must-read.

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Granted, this topic does not affect me, as I use a prepaid cell phone (don't blab enough to justify a bill of $40 a month, at a minimum), but bet'cha didn't know that you can ditch your cell phone contract without incurring the wrath of a termination fee! In fact, you don't even need to give up your phone number. Good news!

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