Do you spend money without a plan?

Why are personal finance professionals so focused on budgets? Because a budget is a plan for spending money, a written record of spending and the consequences of that spending. A budget provides accountability for the money that flows in and the money that flows out.

One of the worst financial habits that a person can have is the habit of spending money without a plan. This is the reason why credit cards can be such a trap – it is so easy to spend a couple of extra dollars every time that piece of plastic gets run through the machine. If I go shopping with $10 cash in my pocket, I can only spend that $10. If I go to the store intending to spend $10, I often walk out having spent $11.40 or $12.75 or even $15.38 without really thinking about it.

I am a little late to the party:

Okay, I have always thought that I was pretty close to the cutting edge of technology, the internet and all the rest. Yes, I do not have an iPod, but that has more to do with the fact that I do not really listen to music much, not that I do not know how to use one. I bank online, I book flights and hotels online I get my news online . . . Hello! I am a blogger, for crying out loud! Of course, I buy stuff and sell stuff on the world wide web through sites like Ebay, Craigslist and shopping portals like Fatwallet and Ebates.  I use internet tools such as Gmail, social sites, Google documents, Mapquest and more. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on this thing that one recent president called “the internets”.

How to Get the Best New Auto Car Loan Interest Rates & Financing

Although it may be tough to think about spending any more of your hard-earned money right now, economic downfalls have created a great consumer environment for buying a new car. If you have a steady job, great credit, and are confident it can fit into your budget, you may be ready to make the leap towards buying a new car. If you do make the decision to buy a new car and you are not paying for it in full with cash, one of the most important aspects of the process is getting a quality car loan rate. Here are 5 tips to help you get started:

The Publican continued . . .

A couple of days ago, I recounted the story of the calling of Matthew the disciple. Except, at the time, he was not a disciple, but rather one of the most despised members of the nation of Israel. In fact, he held one of the most despised occupations in all of the Roman Empire.

Matthew was a tax collector otherwise known as a “publican”. On Wednesday, I explained that publicans were not just the first century equivalent of our present-day, friendly IRS agents. But rather publicans were crony capitalists of the worst kind, using the power of the government to take money right out of the pockets of citizens, making no pretense of offering a product or service.

Lessons from Luke: the Publican

Did you know that the disciple called Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector before Christ called on him to be a follower?

Today’s post is another in our Lessons from Luke series. Luke tells of Christ’s first encounter with Matthew here:

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”

The New Year, resolutions and all that

Welcome to January 2011 and the year where all your dreams will come true!

Okay, not quite, but I think we often over-hype the new year when the the reality is that January 1st is nothing more than a number, a date, a day that is really no different than December 31st. The day is typically cold, the sun comes up, the sun goes down and January 2nd is upon us.

Family stages of Christmas gift giving, Part II

On Monday, I wrote about the sociology of the first few stages of Christmas gift giving.

These stages are not meant to be exhaustive, there are all kinds of idiosyncratic changes that many of us could make based on differing Christmas traditions, blended families, differing socio-economic status and a host of other factors. Also, many of us might experience several of these stages at the same time when dealing with different branches of the family tree.

Here is the second half of the list:

Family stages of Christmas gift giving, Part I

I follow a few personal finance bloggers via Twitter, one of whom is Money Crashers. Last weekend Money Crashers hosted an #MCchat where the discussion revolved around Christmas, especially the family gift-giving aspect of the holiday.

The social media exchange piqued quite a few thoughts about gift giving. I thought I would put on my sociologist hat and share some of those thoughts. I think that most families go through similar stages of gift giving at Christmas. Each stage of life presents new challenges for the tradition and even different possibilities for offense and hurt . . .

What is the most amount of money that you would spend on a surprise Christmas gift for your spouse?

“Let’s be honest, no one ever wished for a smaller holiday gift.” Wait, what?!

Ways to save on electrical costs

When we were kids, my dad used to threaten to charge us a nickel or a dime if a light was left on in a room and if he could figure out who was the last one in that particular area. I’m not sure that he actually ever collected too many of the fines, but it proved to be a useful tool in reminding us of the importance of saving electricity.

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