Why Writing Checks Is Inevitable

I remember back when I first went out on my own.  You wrote a check for every bill.  Gas.  Rent.  Car payments.  Cell phone bills.  Credit card payments.  It was the only way to do business.

Now we use electronic payments for just about everything.  Our utilities are deducted each month.  The same goes with the mortgage and cell phone payments.  Just about everything is done electronically.

Even so, we still use the dreaded checkbook.  It’s inevitable!

20 Checks In 6 Months

I was surprised to see that we’ve written twenty checks over the past six months.  That’s almost a full book of checks.

I took a look and found the following breakdown:

  • Grooming Places – 4 – My son and I go to a barber, and they don’t accept credit cards.  So, we write a check.  In addition, when my wife goes to get her nails or hair done, tips can’t go on a credit card.
  • Kids Activities – 3 – Certain parts of things that our kids do seem to be easiest handled by check.  Paying for equipment or such seems to end up being done by check.
  • School – 3 – Buying a t-shirt through the PTO.  Paying for a lost library book.  Again, the school doesn’t accept credit cards so business is handled by check.
  • Passport – 3 – My wife and I both got new passports, so there were fees to the government and the clerk’s office to get things handled.
  • Painting – 2 – We recently had our house painted, and paid some up front and the rest upon completion.  Both were done via check.
  • Family – 2 – We owed money for split costs on items to family members, and it was easiest to write a check.
  • Gift – 1 – A gift for a family member’s Confirmation was done via check.
  • License Tab Renewal – 1 – There’s no charge to use a credit card at the office, but they tack on a couple of bucks if you renew via mail with a credit card. So this just saved us time and money.
  • City – 1 – We get an annual pass to our local beach, and it’s either cash or check.

Cash Would Work But We Really Don’t Do That Either

In a good many cases above, it seems like cash would work.  But, in addition to writing less checks, we rarely buy things in cash.  So, it seems the fallback is to use a check.

Maybe a better option would be to keep some cash on hand and use those for things like the barber, family, gift, and city.  This would have reduced our check count by roughly another 50%.   But we really don’t like keeping a bunch of cash on hand around the house.  I guess a check just feels like it’s a somewhat safer and easier alternative.

Readers, how many checks do you write on average?  For what do you still write checks?  How has your usage changed over the years?  Let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Friday Favorites – September 22, 2017

Today is the first day of fall but you would never know it.  We are getting the summer that some say we never had.  It is HOT!  Temperatures are at or near 90 degrees!  And it will be like this through the first part of next week.

We are taking advantage of the time and going for a quick camping weekend.  And, we’re going to the beach!  Tomorrow

will be the hottest beach day we’ve had all season in all of our trips.

Crazy!

Here are some recent posts around the personal finance blog world that I love.

I hope you have a great weekend!  Happy reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Do You Believe These Money Myths?

There are a lot of different things you’ll read when it comes to your money.  The personal finance world has lots of people with many opinions.  I’m one of them!  But with so much out there, it can often get confusing.  What do you believe?  What’s true and what’s a suggestion?  I don’t have all the answers.  But there are a few money myths that I’ve seen come up more than a few times.

#1: Always Pay The Higher Interest Loan First

The higher the interest rate means that less of your payment goes to your principal.  This is true.  So, you should always pay the highest interest loan first, right?

Not always.

I think you have some flexibility here.  If you have a loan with a low balance, maybe consider paying that off first.  It will free up some cash flow.  Plus, paying off a loan will give you a ‘win’ on your scorecard.  Those can be very important and might be worth a few bucks in higher interest in the short term.

#2: It’s Too Late To Start Saving

Many people start saving for retirement or their first home right out of the gate.  If you’re one of those people, then congrats.  But if you’re not, don’t worry.

It’s never too late to start saving.  I don’t care how old you are.  Many people who give this answer are just making excuses to continue bad habits.

I don’t care if you have friends that are your age who are already retiring and you haven’t saved a buck.  You should and you can start making a difference.

#3: You Have To Choose Between Paying Off Debt Or Saving Money

I’ve read at least a thousand pieces over the years on this topic.  Which is better if you have extra money?  Paying off debt?  Or saving/investing?

I’ve never understood why people think it has to be either or.  It doesn’t.

If the answer isn’t clear or you don’t have motivation toward one, why choose?  Try a mix of both.  Either one is going to help you in the long run.  And, you might find that one excites you more than the other.  If that happens, then you can make adjustments.

#4: Having An Emergency Fund Is Good Enough

OK, so you saved $1,000 for an emergency fund.  You’re covered, right?  Wrong.

The fact is that even if you’ve built yourself a cushion, there is still work to do.  What if you have an emergency greater than $1,000?  How will you restore your fund if an actual emergency depletes your fund?  What if someone comes to you with an emergency of their own?

Be prepared.  Think ahead.

#5: Following Someone Else’s Budget Is Your Ticket To Success

A budget that works for someone else may not work for you.  Everybody has different circumstances and different needs.

Also, many people are at different stages of how they can handle a budget.  Someone who’s never used a budget should start simple. If they tried to use the budget template of someone that’s had one for twenty years, it probably won’t work.

Budgets come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no one size fits all.

#6: Focus On Cutting Spending To Save Money

This isn’t bad advice.  It’s actually really good advice.  However, it may not always be the best advice.

After all, the advice here only focuses on one side of the equation.  Spending.  This is great, but there’s also opportunity that comes by making more money.

Consider that we all have limited time in our lives in which we can focus on saving money.  If your time allows you to cut $1,000 per month in expenses, that’s great.  But what if you focused that time on earning more money instead?  If you could earn $2,000 per month with the same effort, then focusing on cutting expenses could actually be costing you $1,000 per month.

#7: The Stock Market Is Always Going To Go Up

It may seem like this is true given that it pretty much has for the last ten years.  But it doesn’t.  And it won’t.  Don’t believe people on CNBC that tell you that ‘this time it’s different’.  And that the market can go up forever.

It’s not and it won’t.

Everybody needs to keep an eye on the market and recognize that it’s not a one way only road.  The experts that tell you that it can only go up probably have a plan in place.  And when the market starts going down, they’ll have executed their plan before they go back on the air and talk about the downturn.  Trust me on this.

The fact is, they don’t care about your money.  They care about theirs.  Don’t get the two confused.

Readers, what advice have you heard that may need some corrections or clarifications?  What do you think about the items I mentioned?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Projects Around The House – 2017 Edition

This year has been a pretty busy year generally speaking.  Even though there’s a few months left in the year, we’re just about wrapped up with our project list around the house.  Mostly because our budget is exhausted!  Of course, something unexpected could happen.  But, we’re hoping we can make it through the rest of the way.

Exterior Painting

The house hadn’t been painted in at least ten years.  Maybe as long as eighteen.  How do I know?  Because we moved in ten years ago, and the house is eighteen years old.

image from Morguefile courtesy of jade

Most of the home exterior is brick or siding, but all the trim work is wood.

We had some wood that was definitely rotting around some windows and corners.  Paint was flaking.  It was in pretty rough shape.

I happened to be talking to a fellow dad in my son’s Cub Scout troop and mentioned our need.  He mentioned that his former neighbor was a house painter.  He said he did great work and was very reasonable.  They’d just used him to paint their house, and he invited me over to take a look.  I went over right away and it looked great.

I brought him out to get a quote.  It was less than what I thought we’d spend.  We decided to use him.  In addition to painting, he power washed the exterior.  He replaced the bad wood.  He scraped where it was needed.  All cracks and crevices were re-caulked.  He added screws to areas where some nails had popped out.  He primed where needed.  And he put two coats everywhere, and in some cases three.

He even painted our shutters and front door with new colors.

The place looks great.

Appliances

We bought new LG kitchen appliances earlier in the summer.  On a side note, click here to find out why GE was ruled out.  We’d already had a newer dishwasher, so we didn’t need that.  Our purchases were made at JC Penney.

We had the fridge and stove installed.  The microwave is still in the box.  I just need a pair of hands to help install that myself.  But so far we love the new appliances.  We have extra fridge and freezer space (the old box got moved down to the basement).  In addition, the oven cooks to a more accurate temperature and cooks evenly.

Plus, it gives the kitchen a more updated look.

Deck Painting

Our deck is starting to show age pretty considerably.  We’ll probably have to have the horizontal surfaces replaced in a couple of years.  I’ve done some pretty meticulous paint jobs over the years, which has helped.  I plan to give it a quick painting in the next couple of weeks.  I’m not going to bother with the power washing and scraping.  Unfortunately, I think that’d do more harm than good.  I will give it a light wash and paint.  I think doing it before the winter will help give it an extra year or two versus if I wait another year.

Tree Trimming

The neighbors have trees in their yard that hang over our yard.  Over the years, the trees have grown considerably.  I’ve longed to get them trimmed for a while.  The neighbors really don’t care about the overgrowth on their side.  I’ve got a quote that I knew couldn’t be beat.

The problem is that I can’t get the company to come out!  The good news is that they’re the same company that our subdivision uses for the common areas.  I’ve used them before.  So, I’ve gotten used to having to bug them to get the work done.  It’s a pain to chase them.  But they do good work and the price is right.  We’re hoping to snag them before the year ends.

That’s all we have lined up and planned.  Again, hoping that there aren’t any emergencies.

As for next year, we’ll see.  Stay tuned.

Readers, have you done any home improvement projects?  How did everything go?  Let me know in the comments below.  And thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.