Was The Payroll Tax Holiday A Good Idea?

By now, most people have probably received their first paycheck of the year and have seen the effect of the expiration of the payroll tax holiday.  As part of the economic stimulus packages during the throes of the Great Recession, the powers that be decided that giving a temporary break would help the economy.  Most Americans contribute 6.2% of their paycheck toward the Social Security Fund, and this was cut to 4.2% throughout 2011.

For someone making $52,000 per year, this resulted in additional take home pay of roughly $1,000 per year, with the hope being that Americans would spend that money, injecting spending into the economy.  Spending which, at that point, had been dramatically slowed.

At the end of 2011, the payroll tax holiday was extended for an additional 12 months, so Americans now had two years of extra spending money.

This is good and bad.

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10 Small Things To Do Around Your House Today

If you are fully or partially responsible for the place that you live, whether that be a house you own, house you rent, apartment, townhouse, whatever, you know that there is always something to be done.  Much of the time we are focused on big projects, things that can pay off big, cost big, and can take big chunks of time.

Today, let’s focus on some small things that everybody should take a look at (well, some might not apply, but I think there are enough things here that everybody can get some benefit).

Consider one or two of these things to get done today, and look at all of them as things you can do that will only cost you a few minutes of time, and in many cases, won’t even cost you a single penny.

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Be Honest With Yourself About Your Financial Situation

A few months ago I wrote a post about a nearby restaurant that quibbled with us about the cost of a salad.  Long story short, they charged us more for a salad attached to the ‘Special of the Day’ menu versus the price that was listed as the attached price of an entree.  I felt that the specials were entrees but the restaurant felt otherwise.

As it turns out, maybe they quibbled because they needed every dollar that they could get, because the restaurant recently shut its doors.

On the note they put on the door, they listed a couple of factors, most notably citing road construction in the area as a primary reason that they could not manage to stay in business.

Now, there has been a lot of road construction in the area.  The main road that the restaurant fronts has been the focus of a major widening project that has been spread out over a few years.  They could only go so far, then had to wait for another government agency to widen a bridge.  When that finally happened, they were able to continue along, but they had to split that up over two additional years.

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Eating Fresh Vegetables Has Gotten A Lot More Costly

Our family isn’t ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ by any stretch of the imagination.  My wife tries to cook healthy in the sense that:

  • We don’t avoid processed foods but we do try to keep them to a minimum
  • Every meal includes some fruit
  • Every meal (outside of breakfast) includes a vegetable
  • Limit consumption of red meat to once a week or so
  • Eat yogurt

Read moreEating Fresh Vegetables Has Gotten A Lot More Costly

Help For Families Who Want to Save Money on Utility Bills

Staying warm in the winter is a priority for everyone, not just vulnerable groups like the elderly and infirm.

When you are cold and can’t get warm, life can feel pretty miserable. But with the financial pressures that millions of households around the country are feeling, for some a choice has to be made between putting food on the table or switching heating on, the so-called ‘heat or eat’ debate.

In a developed nation, it is outrageous that so many households don’t have enough money for both food and heating, yet this is a situation many find themselves in. And with the recent increases in the cost of energy, the numbers are only set to climb.

But the price of energy has risen so sharply that it’s not just those with a low income who are struggling. There are many households all over the country which are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for all of their basic essentials, such as rent or mortgage, council tax, food, heating and travel to work.

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Today Is The Day To Stop Making Excuses

Take a look at the following and see if you can answer what they all have in common.

  • Members of the City Council of Detroit blaming the state of Michigan for revenue shortfalls that have left the city with several hundred million dollars of budget deficits.
  • The Republicans in Congress blaming their Democratic counterparts across the aisle (or in the Oval Office) for having waited until the last minute to avert the end-of-year Fiscal Cliff disaster which, as I predicted, would drag out until the very last minute.
  • A girl (or guy) who seems to date only losers blaming their ex’s for their failed dating life.
  • A person with massive amounts of debt blaming the institutions which provided them the debt.

Read moreToday Is The Day To Stop Making Excuses

Should You Send Thank You Notes For Gifts?

I went to college with a guy that has been a fairly good friend for quite a number of years.  We keep in touch regularly.  He played in the fantasy football league that I ran for eight years.  He lives pretty close by.  We met his girlfriend, who later became his wife, and we felt like we might have the option of developing a good friendship with this couple.  They were fun and friendly, and when they started their family not too long after ours, it seemed even more of a potential match since having the kids play together is always a good catalyst for family friendships.

Unfortunately it hasn’t really worked out as we might have thought.

We still get together with them and see them socially, but that closer friendship hasn’t really developed.  And, it’s all because of the habits coming down to the couple saying thank you.

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For Most People, There Probably Isn’t Really A Magic Number

What’s your magic number? I’m talking the number of dollars that, if someone gave you today, would convince you to stop working and stop worrying about money.  It would be enough that you would feel comfortable living off of for the rest of your life.

Most people probably have some sort of number in their head.

Five million bucks.  Two million bucks.  Ten million bucks.

Whatever the case is, I’m sure most people have it. I’m sure that most people have a number that would somehow end up in million.

I’m also sure that most people would not abide by the ‘no worry’ part for very long.  Why?  It’s simple human nature that once we have the money for a certain period of time, it’s going to become routine for us, at which point we’re probably going to start worrying about it again in some fashion.

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Do You Prefer Instant Or Delayed Gratification?

One of the favorite stories that comes up around the holidays has to do with my sister-in-law (my wife’s sister).  When they were kids, they both received Advent calendars around Christmas (a tradition that my mother-in-law now has started to introduce to her grandkids) which is a calendar sharing some of the stories of Christmas for the 24 days prior.  One of the mainstays of the Advent calendar is that there is one piece of candy that you get per day.

This works really well in most cases, except one year when she was little, my sister-in-law got a hold of the calendar and ate all of the remaining pieces (I’m pretty sure it was early in the Advent season).  I’m sure it wasn’t so funny at the time as it was discovered, but it’s now a funny story.

Even now, my sister-in-law will fully admit that she prefers instant gratification.  When a meal is served, she’ll eat her favorite part of the meal first, whereas I usually go from my least favorite to my most favorite.

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What Does Hernia Surgery Really Cost?

Way back in 1999 and 2001, I went under the knife, both times for hernia repair operations.  Going in for surgery is never fun, but looking back, I’m amazed at how little I thought of the cost of health care in terms of what was a priority and everything else.

The First One: I Didn’t Even Know What Was Wrong

When I had my first hernia, I didn’t even know what I had.  For those who aren’t sure of the exact problem, it’s essentially a tear in your inner lining that typically keeps your intestines in place.  I had a ballpark idea of what a hernia was and I knew how the doctor tested us guys (yes, we do turn our heads and cough), but I didn’t know why I had this big lump that appeared at the bottom of my stomach, and why I could push it in and have it pop out.  It didn’t really hurt, it was just…weird.

Read moreWhat Does Hernia Surgery Really Cost?