Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

A fiscally responsible holiday is my wish for you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stock Ups and Downs

I'm not going to make a habit of looking at single stocks, but Starbucks (SBUX) is trading just a few cents above its 52-week low. Read the reports, do your research, but if you like the company, it's a good time to buy.

I like to buy and hold. I don't like to fuss with my stocks, so I choose funds or individual stocks that I will want to hold for at least five years. When you're buying securities, it's important to know why you're buying, what your plans are for that money, and how long you plan to hold the security.

It's a good practice to sit down with your end of year financial report and really look at it. What did you sell and why? Was that decision in keeping with your overall goals? What did you buy and why? Again, double-check that your decisions agree with your goals. Sometimes during the year, a stock report or an article in the Business section of the newspaper might inspire you to make an impulsive decision. Make sure that those impulses aren't costing your portfolio money.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Eat Simply Eat Well

Food is an expense that can easily get out of hand. Forget to shop for dinner, heck, just order some pizza. If that is happening to you more than, say, once a month, your food budget could skyrocket.

It's not that hard to eat well on a budget. But it does take some work. Some cost-conscious folks take the grocery price book angle and keep track of prices at several grocery stores in their area. Then, they check the circulars each week and make up their list, focusing on what is cheapest that week. Some parts of the country offer double coupons, which can make couponing actually pay off.

I personally avoid coupons. I try not to look at the circulars. I also don't shop at many stores. I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at two stores: the local market two blocks away that is part of a small, local chain and Costco. If you've come here from my other blog, Confessions of a Hoarder, you'll know why: I tend to stockpile. I'm one of those strange people who really lovees to grocery shop. I'd do it everyday if I could. I'd shop for others! So, for me, going to more stores doesn't guarantee a bargain, it only guarantees that I'll have more opportunities to buy stuff. The more you see, the more you'll want, and the harder the decisions will be to make.

Thus, to save more on food, keep it simple. Choose one or two stores at which to do your shopping. Make a list and stick to it. Plan your meals for the week (or month if you like to plan ahead). Make use of tools like the Crock-Pot and the freezer. If you find an item you often use on sale for a price lower than you usually see it at that store, consider stocking up, but only if there is money available for it in that week or month's budgeted amount for groceries. If *will* go on sale again, believe me.

Another reason to shop at one or at most two stores is that you'll learn their patterns. For example, I really like Cascade Fresh yogurt in the 32 ounce size. It's normal price is $2.99. I know that about once a month, it goes on sale for $1.99. So, I wait until it's on sale, and then I'll often buy two or three containers, which can sometimes even last me until the next sale. You'll get to know the patterns at your local store, and then you won't need the hassle of a price book or the weekly circulars.

Avoid buying convenience foods and junk foods. They cost more per serving and they have less nutrition. They do save time, I'll give you that. And sometimes, you need the help of a packaged mix or pre-made item. Use them in moderation.

How have you saved on your food budget?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Banking Decisions

I think of there being two major ways to manage one's money: keep it all in one place or spread it out among many institutions.

The trend of banks and brokerages offering bonuses for new accounts can lead to a dispersal in ones funds. I personally am always tempted by the various offers (My Money Blog has a lot of the good ones...), and often succomb. The problem then is, you have another account to keep track of. Another user name and password, more statements, more potential tax consequences.

The simple me wars with the frugal me on this issue. The simple me wants just one institution, maybe two (a bank and a brokerage). The frugal me wants to get as many extras as possible, whether it be free trades, account bonuses or iPods. Who will win? So far, it's frugal me, but when it's time to do this year's taxes, well, simple me may need to take over!