Saturday, July 24, 2010

My First Sewing Project

I've had the goal of learning to sew for years (literally!) and decided that 2010 is the year that I start working toward this goal. I made the shorts above as a project at a beginners sewing workshop I took here. The 2-hour class cost $40 plus the cost of fabric (which they sold at the store) and included usage of a sewing machine and materials like thread, measuring tape and scissors. At the end of the class you have a project completed. I opted to make shorts instead of pants as the instructor initially suggested.

I definitely plan to go back and take a few more classes to master the basics and am toying with the idea of eventually taking some classes in knitting as well. The imperfections may not be apparent from the photo above, but I'll definitely need to work on mastering sewing on a machine in a straight line : ) Threading a bobbin without help will also take a little practice.

So what is the value in spending my money on things like sewing classes when I have no aspirations of becoming a Project Runway contestant?

  • As a creative person, it's worth it for my personal happiness level to learn skills that are both useful and creative. Sewing fits those requirements.
  • I hope to master sewing well enough to do most of my clothing alterations and even make some basic items for myself like skirts. This would save me a lot of money over time because as a petite lady, a lot of my pants and other clothing require alteration before wear. As a result of the extra money required to purchase pants, I rarely buy them these days.
  • I like the idea of giving more hand-made gifts. Hand-made gifts can also be cost-effective in many cases if the materials required to make the gift are inexpensive. For instance, I could make a baby blanket for the next family member or friend that is expecting.

Learning to sew proficiently won't happen overnight, but I feel positive that it's an attainable goal with some instruction and a little practice. I plan to track how much money I spend on learning to sew and on the cost of materials during and after the 'learning' process.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Infograph: Credit Card Statement Changes

I'm sure many people are aware that as of July 1, your credit card statement has to meet specific formatting guidelines laid out by the Federal Reserve. These requirements are part of a larger set of rules put into place by the Fed in 2008. Five Cent Nickel created this infograph to illustrate the changes that I'd like to share.

While the new reporting requirements for credit cards statements will be helpful to some people, I don't suggest carrying credit card balances in the first place if you can, it's no fun at all paying them down, I speak from experience. It's only fun to the watch interest grow on investments and savings : )

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would you buy a property with a friend?

As I recently perused condo listings/real estate blogs and daydreamed about the day when I’ll be able to afford to become a homeowner, one particular listing caught my eye. This listing billed a 2-bedroom condo in my city that is up for sale as "perfect" for friends that want to purchase a home together. This listing made me pause and think about whether I would consider purchasing a property with a friend if I end up becoming a homeowner before I marry, which could feasibly happen since I am not married yet. Purchasing property with friends/significant others is not unheard of, but honestly, it’s just not something I ever considered. I’m aware that many 20-somethings live with their significant other’s or friends (and sometimes both!) and some also choose to purchase property with them.

But in my opinion from the outside looking in since I’m not actually in this situation, purchasing a property with someone other than a spouse brings up many considerations. I don't feel that I can effectively talk about issues around cohabitation, but other personal finance bloggers have succinctly explained this issues on the 'Interwebs.' I’ve never actually had a ‘falling out’ with a friend since adulthood, but I’d be wary of making such a huge financial decision with a friend or group of friends. What happens if your co-owner/best friend becomes your ‘frenemy’? I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the word “frenemy” in a sentence. I’ve clearly been watching shows like The City too much lately…Here are a few positive and negative considerations that could come into play when purchasing a property with friends:

Positive considerations
  • Pooled resources can translate to a larger down payment than one person could afford on their own in most cases.
  • You have the ability to customize a home more than you can with a rental (you can't even't paint your walls in some rentals).
  • You are building equity in a home instead of paying out rent.
  • If you happen to be an animal lover, you can have pets in a home if your co-owners agree to the pet.
  • Shared housing whether you are a renter or homeowner generally translates into lower housing costs.
  • Some legal concerns that co-owners going into the situation have can be addressed in some type of agreement or contract to prevent issues down the line. The agreement could addresses issues like how to handle transference of ownership among other key issues.

Negative considerations

  • All co-owners may not have credit ratings in a range good enough to get the best possible interest rate for a home loan.
  • Liquidating property when one or more of the co-owners is ready to move may be difficult if all parties aren’t ready to move at the same time.
  • Co-owners may have differing opinions on how much money should be spent on insurance or budgeting for unexpected expenses.
  • Issues could arise if all co-owners can’t agree on what their ‘pet policy’ will be.
  • Typical ‘roommate issues’ such as miscommunication around cleaning, maintenance, housework can arise.
  • Potential problems could arise if one of the owners is unable to pay mortgage due to issues such as loss of employment.
  • Coming to a consensus on issues like home improvements and d├ęcor may not be easy.

Sharing homeownership with a friend (or more than one) is not something I would discount completely, but it would take a lot of consideration before I would agree to it. I'd personally rather wait until I am in the financial position to purchase a property on my own or with my future spouse.

But what do you think, would you buy a property with a friend?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ways to Live Big on Small Earnings During the Summer Months

Guest Post by Jena Ellis

It's summer time and having fun should be easy and inexpensive. This statement can even be true for those who are looking to live big on small earnings. After all, summer fun shouldn't be all about spending piles of money, doggedly monitoring your bank account, or breaking a sweat over whether or not you can afford a jaunt to the beach. This season, you and your wallet can relax if you adhere to a few simple tips for maximizing every last cent of your allotted spending money.

Use Coupons. Do not underestimate the savings that coupons can offer. Clipping coupons from the Sunday paper and weekly circular can seem like a waste of time – after all, most coupons only offer savings of several cents to a dollar – but if you find coupons for all of your basic purchases, you can easily add those cents and dollars up to save a total of $10 to $20 on your groceries and department store purchases. This can make shopping for a backyard barbeque much more affordable. The savings doesn't have to stop with just brick-and-mortar stores. Online retailers often offer promotional codes that can range in deals from additional percentages off the total cost to free shipping. You can find numerous online promotional codes for your favorite online retailers at sites like and

Explore Your Community. When you're itching to break away from the norm and try something new, check your local newspaper or community lifestyle website to find out what free or low cost festivals, shows, and other events are going on in and around your city. You can even make a fun "staycation" activity out of it! You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at all of the interesting events that occur nearly every weekend in bustling towns, especially during the summer. Visit your city's museums on designated free admissions days. Take a trip to the farmer's market to browse and try free samples of local fare. Stop by cultural festivals for free shows and good eats. You can live big while spending less by exploring all that your city has to offer, making staying in town for the summer much more exciting.

Entertain at Home. If you're looking for an affordable way to host a big summer bash, consider hosting a potluck party either in your own backyard or in a public place like the community pool or park. If you are hosting your party in a public area, you can easily have more fun and gain even more potluck dishes by inviting the entire community to come out and soak up the sun with you. A potluck party is great for stretching your dollar because your guests will each bring a dish to share so that you won't have to cook for the entire group. The best part is, you'll still end up with plenty of food, laughs, and memories to go around. And isn't that what living big in the summer time is all about?

This guest post was contributed by Jena Ellis, who writes on the topics of Online Certificate Programs. She welcomes your questions and comments at:

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Thoughts on The Power to Prosper By Michelle Singletary

During the month of June, I borrowed a book from the library called The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom by Washington Post personal finance columnist, Michelle Singletary. Although I have read her column in the Washington Post for the past several years and have actually heard her speak in person, I've never actually read any of her books. I decided that I would remedy that in 2010 and decided to read her most recent book.

While most (if not all) of the information presented in The Power to Prosper was not new to me, I found the book helpful in reinforcing personal finance topics that I have learned about over the last few years. The book presented a lot of information on the benefits of doing a financial fast to focus on financial goals. Personal finance fasting the Michelle Singletary way can help people that struggle with overspending, having a less materialistic lifestyle, budgeting and paying down debt. The Power to Prosper was presented for a Christian audience. This did not bother me at all, but if you aren't interested in approaching your finances from a spiritual basis (Biblical to be more specific), this book is probably not the book for you.

The Power to Prosper gives you day-by-day instructions on implementing a 21-day financial fast. I also liked the real stories interwoven into each chapter related to the topic of that chapter. To be completely honest, I did not actually fully implement the financial fast while I was reading this book because I made prior commitments with friends and family that called for spending money that I did not want to break (birthdays, baby showers, get-togethers). But during the month that I read The Power to Prosper, I did suspend extraneous shopping (clothing) and applied a recent windfall (student loan refund check) to debt repayment.

After reading the book, I definitely feel inspired to check out it out again in the fall and fully implement a 21 day financial fast, but it would take some preparation such as telling my friends/family/colleagues that during that time period, I won't be accepting invitations/participating in activities that would cost me money. Financial fasting is very achievable, but may take some preparation. Just as people cut down on or limit food-intake to eliminate toxins from the body, fasting from spending is meant to get spending in check and could be useful even if you don't have debt, or are already saving for retirement, college educations for children, mortgages, etc. It's just a more stringent way to implement that internal dialogue that many of us go through when we spend money. I regularly ask myself questions like "Do I really need that?" or "Is this item a need or a want?" when I shop. The Power to Prosper did remind me of the sacrifice that it takes to meet financial goals and encourage me to keep working toward them.

If you are already on track to meet certain money-related goals (budgeting, paying down debt, saving for retirement, etc.), this is probably not the book for you. I definitely suggest this book. for anyone who is just starting to focus on their personal finances, or to someone that would like spiritual inspiration to help them manage their finances.