Tuesday, February 16, 2016

This blog is for sale! Please email me @ john@thefinancialladder.com

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Knock Your Kid’s Birthday Party Out of the Park With These Killer Ideas!

 When your child’s birthday comes around, as it does on the reg, it’s up to you to come up with a great idea to impress them and their friends, to show how much you love your child and show the whole town that your child really is the most special out there.
It’s hard to come up with new ideas each year, and unless Junior comes forward with a demand of having a He-Man themed party, the responsibility will fall on your. Have no fear, we are here with some fantastic ideas for ways to make your kid’s birthday party unparalleled with fun and excitement. Show them how much you love ‘em with these great ideas:

1. Prizes Upon Prizes

  The rush of receiving a prize is addictive (this is why gambling and scratch tickets are so popular) and why not use that to your advantage and give the kids what they want. No matter the activity that you have your kids and their friends set up with, you can always introduce prizes.
 And one of the most fun ways of doing that is with prize wheels, which come in all sizes and shapes and for cheap at http://thedisplayoutlet.com. What you can do is have a different triangle represent all sorts of different things and when the child spins the wheel, they collect the prize. You can come up with all sorts of fun reasons why a kid earns a spin. It’ll be fun for all.

2. Bobbing for Apps

What’s better than bobbing for fruit other than everything? Well, kids these days love their apps on their iPhones, so why not take bobbing for apples to the next level and have them bob for actual apps for their phone! How can you do that?
 Well, you do a standard bobbing for apples set up – a big bucket of water, a lot of low-quality apples tossed in there – but instead of the prize simply be a terrible and bitter apple, you can shove the names of apps on sticks and put them in where the stem is and then when they get the apple, they’ve earned that app. How exciting! Just make sure they wear protective goggles so they don’t gouge out their eyes.

3. Cocktail Wiener Eating Contest

  Now I know what you’re thinking: that’s gross! And it is, but they’re kids, and they’re gross and they love gross stuff. What would be more fun than a cocktail wiener eating contest! Go to CostCo and get a whole bunch of those really low-quality cocktail wieners and set up a table in one of the rooms.
You have all the contestants sit around the table and set a certain length of time and ready…. Set….. go! Watch all the kids stuff their faces with wieners and make sure to take lots of pictures, particularly when the cocktail wieners go in the ‘other direction!’ It’s fun for the whole party and the whole family so enjoy the best birthday party of all time!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I haven't forgotten...

Nope, I haven't forgotten. Though I'm probably writing to myself, I'd like to update the blog more than not at all! It's been busy with a wife, 4 kids now, two jobs, a house and family, so give me a break! I haven't been on top of my finances as much as I should be, so perhaps the blog will help again. Talk to me soon!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tips on choosing high risk home insurance...

When choosing high risk home insurance, you'll want to make sure you pick a product that will adequately cover you and your belongings. While this might sound simple enough, here are some tips to ensure you get the protection you need.

Search thoroughly

The first step in picking a new insurance policy is to think logically about how you search for one. There are many ways you can locate top-quality products these days, so it is important to do your homework and find as many as you can - this way, you can be confident you're getting the best deal available.

You no longer have to settle for insurance from one of leading providers, as you can gain access to many smaller companies that might offer you just as good - or even better - protection by conducting a thorough search. The internet is a great place to start looking, and there are many online comparison sites that can put the latest deals right into your lap - so it is easier than ever to find a huge range of products.

Think about your belongings

Having access to a large selection of insurance options will definitely help you in finding the right protection; however, the only way to ensure it is the right product for you is by carefully thinking about what you need to be included in the premium.

With high risk insurance, you'll no doubt have a list of expensive items that you wish to put under more secure protection than other objects. These include prestige vehicles, valuable jewellery, one-off pieces of art and other assets.

It is important to think of everything precious that you own and include this when filling out insurance forms, so that the quote you receive is completely accurate to what you need protecting. You don't want to find that you've forgotten about something, and when this is added to your cover, it takes your monthly costs up significantly.

Weigh up benefits

There are lots of things to consider when taking out high value protection, such as weighing up the cost of the product against a larger excess, but it is vital that you take everything into account. Make sure that as well as looking at the overall monthly premium, you think about what benefits you may require most.

What's more, while you might prioritize points such as how much you will be covered if all your precious items get stolen, it is also important to pay attention to other factors, including whether you'll be protected against legal costs, employer liability cover (if you hire in-house staff) or investment property protection.

Read the small print

Before you sign up to any insurance policy, you must read the small print. You won't wish to commit to a provider, only to find out that they don’t full fill what you expected of them when you really need it.

You don't want to find any hidden clauses that mean they won't cover you for certain reasons - but if you do, at least you'll know before signing on the dotted line. If you fail to read all the details of the policy thoroughly, you might end up realizing your most precious items aren't protected when it's far too late!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sound Financial Advice for Any Age...

If you're feeling uncertain about your financial condition, you're not alone. In fact, a majority of Americans report feeling anxiety about money issues on a regular basis. Starting at about the college age, people begin to worry about debt and how loans will affect them in the long run. From Discover student loans for college degrees to hefty credit card balances accrued purchasing books for school, students these days are faced with a variety of financial concerns. These concerns don't completely dissipate as you move into your twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond. In fact, for many people the worries accelerate. Even after you've established a career and a family, the need for financial responsibility does not go away. Here are a few things you can do from an early age that will help you and your family for decades to come:

Know your interest rates. A surprising number of people do not know what interest rates they pay on their credit cards, student loans, money market accounts, and home loans. Interest rates aren't just arbitrary statistics that only matter to banks, they determine how much money you pay to your lender. A high interest rate on your credit card or home load means more of your monthly payment is going toward the bank's pockets. Conversely, a high interest rate on a savings account means you're saving more money. Know your interest rates so that you can look for financial institutions that offer the best deals.

If you invest in stocks, make sure you diversify your portfolio. Many inexperienced and first-time investors throw their money at big name blue chip stocks that may not carry the best risk/reward balance. Especially in this rocky economy, when the market seems to be fluctuating without rhyme or reason, it's important to balance out your investments so that you don't lose everything because of a big hit to a certain industry. Spread your money across multiple industries, and don't scoff at small stocks. Sometimes they can pay the best dividends.

Purchase life insurance. Term life insurance is relatively affordable and will give you peace of mind that your family is taken care of in the event of the unthinkable. Life insurance plans will also frequently offer you additional coverage on things like flight insurance, credit life insurance, mortgage life insurance and others.

These are rough times for the American economy, but there are still practical financial steps you can take to assure yourself of a retirement nest egg and a solid future. Start by assessing your interest rates, investing maturely, and protecting your family with life insurance.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Protect Your Name Financially...

Most of us are proud of our names, or at the very least, we take great pains to defend our name in a public setting. Our name is our identity, after all. The rest of the world forever associates us with our name, and anything we do is immediately traceable because of it. Even if you don’t walk around with initial necklaces that spell out your name for everyone to see, your name is always with you and it will continue to define you long after your death.

Since your name is tied to everything you do, it is only natural that this includes all your finances – your incomes, your mortgages, the money you have spent in the past and the money you will spend in the future. Our past experiences go a long way in dictating our credit score, our legal record, and the account attached to any vehicle we have ever owned. All of these things, furthermore, have future implications. If you have a low credit score, after all, you surely are aware that your borrowing options can be limited and your finances severely curtailed.

But how do we synthesize all of our financial history? How do we know exactly where we stand in the eyes of a potential creditor? Why, our names, of course. To track your financial record, all you need to know is your own name.

There are a few places that you want to periodically search to determine that all your public records are in order. Even if you don’t plan on taking out a mortgage or making any large purchases in the near future, it’s always good to know that your identity is fully intact.

Here are a few things that you should regularly check:

-Your credit score. This is the obvious one, and can be viewed for free from several websites such as freecreditreport.com.

-Your public records. You may need to contact a political representative to get access to these, but most people can see their records on genealogy databases, available free at many public libraries.

-Your vehicle ownership history. This is best viewed through a provider like carfax.com.

-Your home ownership history. For this, try zillow.com or blockshopper.com.

-Anything else. Try a Google search for this one.

Searching for your name again and again may seem like something of a chore, especially if nothing comes up. But, if something does, you’ll be more prepared to react and to deal with the situation. It only takes one issue – or, even worse, one mistake – to impede your financial freedom for decades to come.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Old School Ways To Save Money...

Looking to save money so you can pay off you debts and restore your good credit score? Sometimes you have to get back to the basics and balance your budget the old fashioned way. Here are some old-school money-saving tactics that worked for our grandparents and can work for you:

Bring back the piggy bank

Not many people still have actual piggy banks and I'm not sure why. Not only is it kitsch and fun, it really is a good way to save money. Change isn't regarded the way it used to be. Quarters are the new pennies. In fact, if it weren't for laundry and parking meters it's unlikely we would even use change at all. All the more reason to squirrel that money away into a piggy bank. Let's say you're able to save $5 a week in change. That adds up to a handsome $20 a month that you could easily hedge away into a savings account and watch grow with literal interest. Bank of America took all the fun out of this with their 'keep the change' rigamarole, but maybe they were onto something.

Re-use and cut back

Don't throw away anything except garbage (and even that can be used for a composting worm farm if you really want to get DIY). Cartons, containers, rags, sponges, bags, linens, and jars can all be put to good re-use, eating into ancillary shopping costs. And speaking of eating, cut back on over-consumption. Only put one slice of cheese on your sandwich, stick to just one bowl of cereal for breakfast—and don't use three times the amount of shampoo you actually need to wash your hair. A little bit of frugality and common sense will go a long way toward cutting costs.

Reinstate the swearing jar

Every time you curse you've got to throw in a buck. And, just to make it more relevant to the times, let's go ahead and say that every time you log in to Facebook you've got to throw in a buck as well. That money's going to add up quick and before you know it you've got another savings account, grown simply from your addiction to swear words and social networking.

Start collecting coupons

No matter how much you can't stand people at the grocery store who hold up the entire line with their endless Rolodex of coupons, the fact is if you use them efficiently, coupons can save you a lot of money. However, if you positively can't bear to become 'one of those people', newer services like Groupon and Living Social recreate the coupon experience for the digital age.

There's no end to the advice you can find about saving money and cutting costs, but a lot of it is just a dressed up way to keep you buying stuff. The best way to save money is to do what our grandparents did and count the pennies. We're not in an actual Depression yet, but that doesn't mean we can't act like it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Decrease Your Cell Phone Bill

The cost of owning a cell phone is exceptionally high when compared to other items that we use on a regular basis. In fact, most cell phone bills exceed monthly utility bills. However, the cost of owning a cell phone isn't usually enough to deter everyone from having one. Instead, they just find ways to afford the smartphone of their dreams – even if it means picking up a few extra hours at work.

Owning a cell phone, however, doesn't have to put you in the red every month though. There are a few easy ways that every cell phone owner can decrease their monthly bill to make it more affordable:

Inquire About Incentives

Many people lose out on receiving discounts on their phones simply because they never ask. If you feel that your cell phone bill is too high, call your service provider. You may find that you are eligible for discounted plans or other services that could reduce your cell phone bill by 15 to 50 percent.

Choose a Prepaid Phone

One of the biggest expenses of a cell phone, is the plan the service provider provides itself. Contracts with service providers are often expensive and binding, and charge outrageous fees if you were to ever need to break your contract. To avoid high monthly fees or expensive contracts, consider getting a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones these days are as high-tech as many contracted phones, and are much more affordable.

Limit App Purchases

Apps make owning a cell phone fun, but they can also quickly run up your bill – especially if you've got kids on your plan. While each app may only cost a couple of bucks, downloading multiples can quickly add $20 to your cell phone bill. To avoid having extra high charges to your already high bill, set a budget for your monthly app purchases.

These days, it seems nearly impossible to get by without your cell phone. However, many would be more than happy to get by with a cheaper monthly bill. Be smart when using your phone, and always make sure to look over your monthly bill for accidental charges. Doing so will not only allow you to fully enjoy your cell phone, but it will also keep a few extra bucks in your pocket for savings.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Reading Bills All the Way Through, Even if They Look Right

For most bills we get, there’s an accompanying statement. Whether it’s a check at the restaurant, a cell phone bill, or a tuition bill; most will have an accompanying breakdown of charges. Sometimes we read these bills over to check them, when we know exactly how the breakdown should look, but rarely do we exert the same diligence when the situation is reversed.

Restaurant checks and cell phone bills are a case in point. When my wife and I go out to eat, even if it’s just the two of us, I almost invariable glance over the tab before adding a tip and signing my name at the bottom. I check to make sure that each of our entrees are listed, that our drinks are there, if there were any, and that nothing extra has been tacked on. That last point is the most important, because it’s the only reason most people read through their bills – to make sure that they are not being overcharged.

It’s the same thing with my cell phone bill, although I look over the statement less frequently because I never remember every call I made that month. Without a recollection of the details, I’ve always figured, why bother looking the bill over? After all, there’s no way to double-check the phone company’s records if I don’t know what I’m looking for in the first place. As a result, I only find myself looking over phone bills when the total balance seems unusually high. Maybe there will be some suspicious and random long-distance call, which I can then use a reverse phone lookup to track. Or maybe I simply failed to pay the full balance last month.

But there’s something to be gained from looking at a statement even when the bill looks right, and when there’s no suspicious long distance calls, and when there’s no remaining balance from the previous month. You probably know what I’m getting at here.

Just like the act of underlining makes someone more engaged with the writing, the simple act of reading over a statement makes it harder to mentally separate the phone calls you make every day and the check you write twelve times a year. By reading over the summary, and by seeing your charges slowly add up, you can more effectively learn to cut back calls and reduce needless phone expenses. My wife and I have been trying it out. At the very least, it will prepare us to read the bill judiciously in the case when our daughter becomes a teenager. ;0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whoa, It's still here!

I thought this blog was gone. I've been trying to access it for the past couple of weeks, but it stated that the blog was deleted. But to my pleasant surprise, it's still here. Update to come soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March Net Worth...

It's about that time of the month to break out the aspirin and calculator, and crunch the numbers. I was actually quite satisfied with the first net worth calculator in about two years. I thought it would've been worse. In the past two years, we bought a house, had about two children, and put a lot of money into the house. But it seems the value of the house is really helping out. You can see a detailed view by clicking on the picture on the left.

Liquid Assests: We could improve on savings verses spending on unnecessary items, but it feels good to be a little safe and spend a little more. But overall we've done a decent job of preserving our emergency fund cash supply. Unfortunately our cash is only earning under 2%. I've been very lazy with the finances in the past couple of years. I think I could've done a better job with that money.

Retirement: I have a 401K that I contribute 6% of my before tax salary. Unfortunately, my company is going through hard times and isn't matching any of it at this time. We also have a ROTH and Traditional IRA that we've made small and regular contributions to on an annual basis. But since the market hasn't been doing well for the past year or two, it's been reflected in all of the retirement funds.

Immediate Liabilities and Long Term Debt: Most of the credit card debt is our new furnace and central air. That part of the debt is interest deferred for the time being. The other part is a combination of necessary and unnecessary spending on our main credit card. I received our tax refund today, it's going to that today.

About a year after we bought our house, we took advantage of the low mortgage rates and went from a 6% to 5%, helping us out with tens of thousands of dollars in interest. We make little payments towards our principle with reward money from our credit card. That pretty much sums it up. Next I'd like to write up a post comparing out very first net worth 4 years ago, to today's. Climbing the financial ladder, slowly but surely.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Big Layoffs...

Good thing I wasn't at work on Friday. Our company dropped the axe yesterday. 175 people in the I.T. department alone. Many people who I knew and worked with lost their job and were laid off. Some people that have been with the company for over 40 years. It looks like they went after the people with the higher range salaries. Time to update the resume and make sure I have an escape plan myself. What to do when you're laid off? Here are"30+ websites to visit when you're laid off."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What? You want to save me money?

About two years ago when we moved into our new home, we signed up for cable TV, cable internet and voice over IP. The cable co. was offering all 3 services for $99 per month for a year, which is a pretty decent deal. I was able to squeeze one more year out of them by trying to cancel my voice over IP service. We don't really use our land line phone since we already have two cell phones that we use and pay for.

I recently canceled the VOIP, and was now paying regular price for all of the services which comes to about $130 per month. I was pretty bummed. That's an extra $360 per year. Until one day, well several days actually of getting calls from a strange phone number. I actually picked up one day and found it was cable company offering the 3 package deal again for $99 per month.

I took the deal, but they'll have to come back out to the house to check on the set up, which is free. That made my week...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wow, that long?!

It's really been over 4 years since I started this blog?! I suppose it doesn't really mean much since I only updated it on a regular basis for a little over a year and a half after it was started. But, we're still making and spending money, so I guess we still have much to write about.

My wife and I are still with the same companies in the same positions. We still live in our house we recently purchased in mid 2008. The big addition to our family occurred 4 months ago today, with the arrival of our daughter. It seems we've become a typical middle class American family. A marriage, house, two children and a dog. Oh, and a picket fence in the backyard.

My wife has been on maternity and family leave for the past 4.5 months, so we haven't been saving any money. In fact, we're losing ground on the savings front. We've built up a good amount of credit card debt in the past year, but that includes a new furnace and central air unit. I've been doing our taxes for past 2 years using turbo tax, and it seems this is a good year. Last year we had to pay almost 3k between federal and state. Most likely due to my wife's job not taking enough out. They got hit by the feds for all kinds of tax violations last year.

We're looking to get a little over 5k this year. That return is much needed! Our net worth has been stagnate for the past year and a half or so. Hm, I think that's most of the more important financial info for now. I'll have to calculate our current net worth soon, but I'm afraid to do it. Adios for now.

Friday, November 13, 2009