CalendarBudget Blog

Personal finance matters as they pertain to saving money, living within your means and using CalendarBudget to solve your personal finance problems and to manage your money online.

Still trying to figure out what to give?

Still trying to figure out what to give?

You often run into different gift giving situations where you don't know what to give. Maybe the person has the ability to get what they want whenever they want. Maybe they're a very picky person to buy for. Maybe you don't know what to get for that age. In our case, for Christmas, we have our 5 kids to buy for and so that could be very expensive so we thought we could get a gift for the whole family.

Some ideas we've come up with:

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Gift Alternatives:Gifts that Keep on Giving

Gift Alternatives:Gifts that Keep on Giving

Christmas Day arrives.

Sally gets a new doll.

Johnny gets a new truck.

By mid January they have joined the pile of their other toys leaving the purchaser wondering if there is a better way, a better gift to give that will not be so short lived. There are some better ways. You can be the one to give a gift that ripens with time. A gift of this nature will be truly appreciated in crucial times of people's lives, not just in the moment.

Here are some suggestions for gifts that keep giving after any initial joy of new toys wears off:

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Living Together, Spending Together, Budgeting Together

Living Together, Spending Together, Budgeting Together

One of the hardest things to plan for as a couple is Money Management. Money has created some great divides or great heart aches in relationships. You can plan ahead for different situations that will come up with money. This will help keep you both on the same page for your plans and minimize or eliminate any arguments you may have about money.

Some things I have seen people doing to stay on the same page as their spouse is as follows:

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Use Financial Calculators with CalendarBudget

Use Financial Calculators with CalendarBudget

CalendarBudget is a great tool to plan your money. You can see what your account balance will be like at any given point in the future with ease. But, to plan well, you need to know what you are going to do, how you are going to save and invest your money, set goals and plan plan plan. To do this CNNMoney has a bunch of really great financial calculators to help you determine where you are with your $$$ and where you need to go.

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Global Giving on a Budget - Just in Time for Christmas

Global Giving on a Budget - Just in Time for Christmas

Technology has made it easy to stay much more connected to more people throughout the world. Gift giving, as wonderful as it is, can be challenging for people in different areas of the world. Often by the time you have purchased the gifts to give away, you have to pay an arm and probably two legs for shipping costs (which can be more expensive than what's in the box).

Here are some ways to reduce the cost of spreading gift giving joy around the world:

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Bartering in a High-Tech World

Bartering in a High-Tech World

We live in a much more efficient society than our parents. While things are easier and more convenient, at the same time if something goes wrong, it goes really wrong. How many of us know how to fix these tightly put together vehicle engines, or how to identify and fix what's wrong with the beastly computer again, or repair the winding wiring/plumbing in your house. So many of us don't know the first thing about doing these things, so we have to resort to hiring the expert in that area. But there is an alternative to the high expenses that come with these experts... the barter system.

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What Charity Is Good To Give To?

What Charity Is Good To Give To?

I've heard a number of people desire to give to a charity (which comes up a lot more at this time of year, with the spirit of giving in the air) but debate which charity they should donate to, if they should, because they felt not enough of the funds were actually getting to the people in need. Too much of the amount they donated had to help cover the expenses of running the charity itself.

There are alternatives that can help local people in your community, as follows:

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Costly Christmas Food Outings Adding Up?

Costly Christmas Food Outings Adding Up?

Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year; it brings joy, kindness and warmth to colder weather and hearts . The Christmas season also bring family and friends together, usually involving elaborate dinners or trips to restaurants for group celebrations, not the mention the fast food consumption during shopping trips. Its great in the moment, but we can be left with huge dents in our budget over the food costs which add to an already very expensive season.

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Should I Pay My Bills Immediately or Wait Until the Last Day?

Should I Pay My Bills Immediately or Wait Until the Last Day?

Is it better to keep the money I owe as bills in my account for as long as possible so I can gain more interest on that money, or should I pay my bills as soon as I receive them?

I asked myself this question a lot until I sat down one day and did the math. Lets take a look:

Lets say you have a bill for $270 for water in your home (the amount could be for anything). This bill comes to you in the mail or electronically. You get it on Dec 3rd, but it isn't due until Dec 18th. Furthermore, lets assume you have the $270 in your account now and could safely pay it off on Dec 3rd if you wanted without going in the red in the rest of the month.

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My Budget is Perfect and My Account Still Went in the Red?

My Budget is Perfect and My Account Still Went in the Red?

Scenario: You have a positive balance at the beginning of the month, and a positive balance at the end of the month. Your monthly budget seems to indicate that income is more than expenses. Everything looked great. But you had overdraft fees charged to your account because it went into the negative during the month somehow. Grrrr... How can this happen?

I've had this happen to me before. In fact, this is a common failing of most monthly budget systems which give you only a high level view of your spending/finances by category. The simple fact of the matter is, we spend money on a given day, not on a given month, so why do you track your money that way? Most likely this is solely the failing of your budgeting tool, not you. Luckily, CalendarBudget solves this problem.

Above is a screenshot from CalendarBudget which illustrates the problem, and could have been detected during the planning phase, rather than being noticed as an overdraft fee.

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Should I Invest My Money Or Pay Down My Debts?

Should I Invest My Money Or Pay Down My Debts?

Good question. Once again, the answer lies in interest rates (and your comfort level with debt). Generally the best answer is a mix of the two options.

Here's how it works:

  • figure out which of your debts has the highest interest rate. This is probably a credit card of some kind. If you have all of your regular debts paid off, this may be your home mortgage.
  • figure out what you expect as a return (in terms of interest rate) on a potential investment. This, of course, will be an estimate. Preferably look into some kind of tax-deferred retirement savings plan, such as a 401K or RRSP.
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Budgeting to reach a goal

Budgeting to reach a goal

You should not go into debt for purchases (except for things that appreciate in value such as a house or an education). All other purchases (including big items like vehicles or expensive electronics, such as a computer or home theater system) should be purchased with saved money. A discussion on this topic can he found here.

Thus, to fund your goals (aka. purchases) you need to plan for it. A budget is your best tool. Since CalendarBudget specializes in helping you plan for your goals, I'll describe how to do this using CalendarBudget, however, any budget, even one on paper, will be helpful in achieving your goal.

The first thing to do is make sure your budget is up to date so you can plan with the most accurate information.

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Christmas Shopping Ideas

Christmas Shopping Ideas

Its prime Christmas shopping season! Although I'm more of a 'week before Christmas' shopper, many people I know are out hunting for the perfect gift. Here are some ideas for keeping your Christmas shopping in line with your budget and perhaps, some innovative and inexpensive ideas.

My family has a great tradition between my 2 brothers and my father to make the most difficult to open gift. This typically involved steel, concrete, wire coat-hangers and other assorted impervious materials. Often the costs of "wrapping" the gift can exceed the cost of the gift itself, but the joy of opening the gift is exceedingly great. We use old recycling things, such as old broken computers... as evidenced by my joy in opening 2006's gift from my brother.

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Separate bank accounts for husband and wife?

Separate bank accounts for husband and wife?

There's lots of people taking sides on this issue. Should I have a separate bank account from my spouse and divide up the financial responsibilities?

This question is best answered on an individual basis, as each person's needs and situation are different. For my simple financial picture, this comes down to an issue of trust. Do I trust my spouse with the family finances (and does she trust me)? If trust is present, its certainly easier to manage bills, income, and the overall financial picture with 1 account. Without that level of trust, then perhaps separate accounts make sense. From my perspective, having a joint account is somewhat of a comment on the health of a marriage. 

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What is this "Miscellaneous" entry in your budget?

What is this "Miscellaneous" entry in your budget?

Every month has some expenditures which are "unexpected". Most budgets I've seen have the notorious "Miscellaneous" entry, usually one in each month for $50 or $100. Its amazing to think that we routinely have unpredictable expenses that add up to that much. Usually these miscellaneous entries end up being impulse purchases such as snacks or drinks while you are out. These type of expenditures, grouped together under a single budget item called "Misc" are hard to track and don't give you a clear picture of your spending.

In a typical monthly budget sheet, which simply lists your monthly expenses in a column, you cannot account properly for these "Misc" expenses. A better approach is tracking your expenses daily, as in CalendarBudget. You'll probably still need to have an entry for "Misc" each month, but this entry should disappear as you actually make your miscellaneous purchases. As you do this, be sure to add the expense to the correct category (not to a "Misc" category). 

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How I got a free dinner

How I got a free dinner

My wife is the editor of a small community newsletter, which has a distribution of about 80 adults. Recently, while thinking of win-win scenarios for marketing, I thought of an idea to get us a free dinner. Here's how it goes. She calls a local restaurant, and tells them she is the editor of a newsletter that has a distribution of about 80 adults, 30 children and about 20 teens. She explains she is starting a new section called "Date Night on a Shoestring". As part of this section, we'd like to enter a review of their establishment and asks if they would be willing to donate a meal for a couple so we can write a proper review. We get a free meal, they get a free review and advertising to a highly qualified audience -- everyone wins! I am confident this will work at almost any restaurant.

Any other win-win scenarios you can think of that get you free stuff?

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Inspiration for "The Secret"

Inspiration for "The Secret"

As I understand it (from listening to "The Secret" DVD, commentaries section,) the inspiration that triggered the author to write the book and make the movie began with the book "The Science of Getting Rich" by Wallace Wattles. I've begun reading this book. Despite being almost 100 years old, it has a very compelling beginning.

"Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich. No one can rise to his greatest possible height in talent or soul development unless he has plenty of money, for to unfold the soul and to develop talent he must have many things to use, and he cannot have these things unless he has money to buy them with.

A person developes in mind, soul, and body by making use of things, and society is so organized that man must have money in order to become the possessor of things. Therefore, the basis of all advancement must be the science of getting rich".

To a large degree, I have to agree with this. One must attain to some level of financial success to experience the good things of this earth, which are many. That is why it truly pays to invest in education, personal development, budgeting and living frugally so you can afford these advantages in life.

Is it possible to be truly successful in poverty?

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Reporting on your budget. What really makes sense?

Reporting on your budget.  What really makes sense?

Most household users (not corporate/business) people want to maintain a budget so they can plan for expenditures and ensure they can survive on their income. CalendarBudget allows people to do exactly that and we want to expand its capability to include some innovative reporting. Most budget programs have a list of reports, some of which are not relevant or even useful. In order to keep CalendarBudget ahead of the game, I'd like to hear from you regarding what kind of reports/graphs will actually be useful in planning/implementing your budget?

I'll send the best response a cheque for $1 :)

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Teaching Kids About Money

Teaching Kids About Money

The Toronto Star had a great article today on teaching kids about money and how this teaching should be part of the school curriculum.

While education would be a HUGE improvement on the current situation, what's missing from this article plan is the poor example set by parents. The sad fact is that kids learn most of their consumption habits from their parents. That includes many parents bad habits of getting whatever you want right away, on credit rather than having the self-discipline to save first.

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More on Less-expensive Alternatives

More on Less-expensive Alternatives

The excitement of owning NEW big ticket purchases (like a new house or new car) wears off quickly when the bills start coming in. We start to reconsider if the purchase is worth the long haul to pay it off. Was there something else we could have done from the start?

At different times in our life we just need a change in our environment and sometimes think one way to change that is to buy a new house. The alternative they gave was to renovate your current home. Some new wallpaper/ paint or some throw pillows on your couch instead of a whole new set of furniture. We recently went through our things we've collected and passed on things we had too much of or our family had outgrown. This gave us more space to feel not as crowded. We also painted one color throughout the house to make it easier to match things in the house. The house felt so much cleaner after that. Next on our list is getting the carpets cleaned to give us another feeling of bettering our environment. It is an ongoing process.

Occasionally we find items that we can purchase at a fraction of the cost by purchasing from such places as a dollar store instead of from a specialty store. In some cases its a great buy, but in other cases it would be better to go to the specialty store. Quality is sometimes compromised to provide a product at cheaper cost and so, in the long run, we would end up spending more because of having to replace the item every time it broke down.

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