Posts Tagged ‘budgeting’

unemployed-gift-giving1For foodies, health nuts and breakfast enthusiasts

Martha Stewart has a great recipe that’s pretty inexpensive to make and works as a tasty topping for oatmeal, yogurt, toast or ice cream. All you need is dried fruit, nuts and honey.

Don’t worry about getting a fancy jar to dress up your gift (unless you really want to), some pretty ribbon and a clear, disposable container is all you need.

For iTunes addicts

Burning music may seem passe, but there’s nothing like the effort one puts into creating a highly personalized music list for the audiophile in your life. You can theme it around a hobby, job or a memory you both share (like that vacation you took to…wherever). 

Or, if you have more time on your hands, you can download the series of  This American Life –  this is for the NPR enthusiasts (idea courtesy of Lifehacker).

For plant lovers and the ec0-chic

No. Not a chia pet. But, you can help incorporate some fresh, useful greenery for your favorite green thumb. Go to your local nursery or a Home Depot and pick up mini-pots and seeds (along with fresh, bagged dirt) to create your green gift.

Fragrant herbs are really nice to choose because they make pretty scenery on the window sill as well as tasty garnishes for cooking. Plus, they’re fairly easy to grow. If you’re really in the mood, a mini shovel adds that cuteness factor.

Techno geeks

If you really want to cough up the cash, a subscription to Make magazine should please your techie. Your techno-lover, however, may be more impressed with the items you create listed here or here.

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Earlier this year, around the time I bought my house (the fixer-upper bungalow), I had become particularly proud of my money tracking abilities. I meticulously logged my paycheck deposits, savings, 403(b), and my IRA. Everything was beautifully formatted on a funky Excel spread sheet with whacky formulas. I thought this was the path only the enlightened were able to tread.

I was an absolute nut.

The time I devoted to tracking such funds and expenditures streamed into dozens of hours of tweaking figures, creating formulas, renaming and creating categories. Now trust me folks, such an endeavor has nothing to do with Writerbabe’s OCD (that’s another post for another time).

It had more to do with the fact that I was at an absolute loss on how to adequately track my spending. Now, some people like the meticulousness of charts, spreadsheets and lists – I don’t. Data like that is nice to look at, but in the end it becomes too much of a pain to create and maintain. I want simple, clear cut and to the point – an Excel sheet just doesn’t cut the mustard.

I wanted (needed) something to do that for me. Also, it’s a little pathetic trying to track every last dollar by relying on something like the 3 pound mass sitting in your head.

Then, I discovered the wide, wide world of money tracking software. They have weird, playful names like Wesabe and straight to the point monikers like Microsoft Money. Mason Curry of Slate online wrote an investigative piece chronicling his money tracking adventure – it’s quite helpful for those (like me) who find themselves wanting to get out of the funhouse maze of financial software.

Suze Orman’s book, “The Money Guide for the Young, Fabulous and Broke” makes great reading for those who want to get serious about mananging their money. Orman delivers straight talk with a healthy dose of optimisim about being young and financially restrained. She doesn’t pretend that Gen X-ers and Y-ers are able to save like their parents used to or that the realities of day to day living don’t have a bigger impact than ever before. There’s no-nonsense advice about saving, using credit cards (she actually encourages it!) and becoming financially grounded – it’s a small investment for a lifetime of advice, folks. I still find it relevant and useful given America’s current economic crisis.

If those of you out there can suggest other books or websites geared towards Gen X and Gen Y, feel free to pass them along. I’d love to hear about ’em!

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I thought it would be fitting to post a more upbeat article since all the gloom and doom on Washington was beginning to bring me down. Congress has passed the mega huge bailout bill, but America is a long way from being out of the woods yet.

It can get overwhelming being bombarded with scary reports of rising job loss, slowed spending and an overall sagging economy.

So, if life gives you lemons, make a rockin’ sangria.

Keep a few things in mind next time you feel the crunch of the economy bearing down on you…

  • understand that while there is nothing wrong with being rich, it is always right to make conscious, wise decisions to live within my financial means.
  • save a set amount of money in a separate savings account, develop reasonable financial goals and invest my money wisely
  • appreciate coupons, rebates and other financial incentives that will soften my budget
  • not give into materialistic consumerism and shopaholism
  • treat myself once in a while and know I deserve it.
  • pay for everything I can with cash and save for the things I can’t
  • get in touch with my inner Scrooge and not let budget be a dirty word

Especially with the quadruple-threat holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) coming soon, money spending on the extra niceties (even just the niceties) will be difficult to do.

But don’t worry, I’m looking out for my readers. Occasionally, The Writerbabe Series will post some interesting money saving ideas and tips that especially come in handy, this is particularly target to those with champagne taste on a free water budget.

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This American Life produced an excellent segment detailing the American economic meltdown (is meltdown even an accurate description?). The three part series includes a medley of interviews with players within various points of our current financial conundrum. The series would be more aptly called, “The Wall Street Trail of Blunders, Lies and Greed” – I think my title is a little more transparent, if I do say so myself.

Essentially, NPR gives a condensed review of the systematic breakdown of (what should have been) a sound financial infrastructure fueled by a combination of capitalistic greed, short-sighted fiscal responsibility and plain ol’ stupidity.

But, am I telling you anything new? Of course not. Yet, for anyone still wondering how we got into this mess, (or, you are a glutton for punishment) I suggest you listen to it – it’s definitely an eye opener.

Unfortunately, no one likes to ask questions when money is flowing freely beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Personally, wild dreams and greedy imaginations are what got us where we are now. The bailout totally tanked  and Washington is scrambling to pick up the pieces. The Dow plummeted over 700 points and Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other on who is to blame for the House failing to pass the bill.

All this bi-partisan bickering doesn’t change anything. Americans are still losing jobs, having difficulty paying for basic necessities and economic growth remains in question. If anything, we should learn how greed (Swedish style) was solved abroad – we aren’t the first country to screw ourselves. Also, I’m not so sure a bailout would even work, especially since Congress seemed especially queasy about even passing it.

Well, Republicans seemed more queasy about it than Democrats, but, I digress.

It also doesn’t help that the resounding cry from Wall Street is, “Well, everyone else was doing it – and we wanted those profits!” It’s the economical equivalent of the twinkie defense in regard to the financial system.

No wonder why American’s aren’t sympathetic.

Oh, did I also mention that the $700 billion bailout roughly calculates to $10,000 per American family.
(Cha-ching! Why doesn’t someone give me a bailout?!)

The ridiculously bad decision making of banking institutions won’t be solved by a swift punch of money from the government. It may be years before America recovers from its mistakes. Government reform seems to have such a nasty habit of being reactionary rather than preemptive (at least, where it matters). Without implementing better oversight, regulation and performance measures of financial industries to keep greed at bay – we will only find ourselves in the same (if not worse) situation again.

And frankly, I don’t think America will have another $700 billion to spare.

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spiralMy weekend’s may look a little less fun nowadays.

As I type this, I’ve been doing some personal research on the state of the American economy (actually, who hasn’t?). More specifically, how the economy is affecting my ability to have good time (and best of all –FREE!).

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a native Chicagoan and a brand new homeowner. I have to be more than conscientious about my spending habits. A girl wants more for her dollar nowadays, (if she can get it.). Gone are the carefree Tazo tea moments –  hello home-brewed Celestial Seasons. That’s why it’s all the more important to invest my time in any social outreach or arts programming that my city provides.

Places like the Chicago Cultural Center, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Humanities Festival are guaranteed to feed my brain – I could go on. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I attend discussions about human rights and genocide or hear FREE music from klesmer bands, check out shows from progressive dance artists – alright, it’s obvious that Chicago is a mecca for culture lovers. But, don’t be too hard on me for bragging.

But, Lehman Brothers is ruining my weekend.

You wouldn’t really think that a soon-to-be defunct bankrupt investment bank is screwing with my opportunity to have fun (ok, I’m not really that into klesmer, but that’s not the point).

Failing investment banks, credit crunches, foreclosures – these financial debacles spider into everyday life a lot deeper (and harder) than most people would think. Shrinking endowments (which are linked to bonds, stocks , etc. from the failing I-Banks) interfere with NPO operating costs.

This means more staff cuts. The dollar is weaker than ever (although, some experts claim the dollar is now gaining strength), so paying travel costs for bands abroad or foreign speakers is a lot more expensive than it used to be.  

Charitable donations are the first things to get cut in a market’s financial downturn. Even more specifically, the shrinking dividends in Daddy Warbucks’ financial portfolio directly affect if the programs and fundraising events that your (favorite) local NPOs create will have a budget for the coming year.

Americans as a whole are losing trust in big institutions – can you blame them? If they haven’t already, Americans are raiding what’s left of their 401(k)s and spending it or hiding it to under a mattress.

The current economic crisis affects everything: good and bad. Unfortunately, the only real question is: where does it stop?

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