It has me thinking…

Today, on the way to work, I was listening to a report on my local public radio station and it caught my attention when I heard that,

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com, who has compiled the estimates of student debt, including federal and private loans.

The article from the NYT/msnbc.com talks about how Student Loan Debt is now outpacing Credit Card Debt in the US economy. I can attest to this, as we currently have more SLD than we do consumer debt.

And after working for non-profits for the last 9 years, with no plans to move back into the private sector, I know that it will be a long road toward paying my loans off, even as I continue to take my classes in the evenings.

But I’m starting to think that we should be move vocal about disputing the idea that SLD is “good” debt…I think if we are honest, we can admit that it is a form of indentured servitude that keeps us striving for better paying jobs (let’s ignore the fact that adjusting for inflation there have been no increase of earnings for the lower 90% of US earners in the last 30 years) instead of working for organizations and companies that may contribute more to society and the development of culture. Sure, they say that degree earners make more money than those without, but they don’t say that they are happier and that doesn’t mean that every field that requires advanced degrees will pay more.

I’m sure there is MUCH more to say about this, but I’m still just mulling it over at the moment, so I’ll end it here…

But I’d love to hear what YOU think.

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Article :: Frugality among consumers

Yahoo has this article up today that suggests that consumers are “shopping more prudently and learning to live with less” in response to the state of the economy and the reality that their savings and investments are worth less than they were before.

I know that when we started this journey that we certainly took both of these steps and that we have continued to live that way for 18 months. Whenever we talk about being debt-free, we don’t really talk about getting all “spendy” in our lifestyle. We talk about saving up to go on vacation, or to be able to give to our community more. But I say it from this side of the fence – it will take a lot of self-control not to go all crazy once we have that $1,600 back each month…

That being said, I’m hopeful that there will continue to be a trend toward more simple living that values community and relationship over status and spectacle.

Here is the article:  Frugality among consumers is outliving recession – Yahoo! Finance.

What do you think?

Hey, who are you?

Hi there!

I realized yesterday, I’ve been doing all of the talking for a while and while it would seem that blogs do lend themselves to that type of dynamic, I would really love to find out more about YOU!

So let’s hear it!

  • Who are you?
  • What brought you to this blog?
  • Have you learned anything from my journey?
  • Have you learned anything you’d like to share from your journey?
  • What is your best cost-saving tip?

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Trying some new food ideas

We’re always on the look out for low-cost flavorful food so that we can lower this budget category that seems to spiral out of control more months than it doesn’t . I’ve posted before about the “morphing” meals we have done for several months, but we’ve found that we’re looking for a little more variety.

I think we have found it in Melissa d’Arabian’s new show on The Food Network.

My husband and I are fans of the show “The Next Food Network Star” and we were thrilled when the “underdog” won the most recent competition. She is a mother of 4 and she has a lot of great money saving tips, so the Food Network launched her first show as Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian.

This is exciting for us, because we figure that with just two of us, it will really equal a lunch AND dinner for two people for $10. What a great way to keep food costs down while stretching your dollar (especially with flavorful home-cooked food).

Tonight, we are going to try the North African Meatballs and Couscous with Dried Dates (yum!) and are looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Note: each episode comes with money saving tips posted as “web only” content on the site – here’s a peek at the one for the meal we are making tonight.

Considering the economic climate, was this a smart move by The Food Network, or what?

Regrets…I’ve had a few

The last couple of weeks have been spent contemplating and thinking about what the next post should share about this journey, so even though I haven’t been posting new content, I have been thinking of you, dear readers.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been determined that I had no interest in ever owning a house and that I would be just fine with moving around the rest of my life nomad-style. I married an artistic type, and he seemed agreeable to that and the only time that we really brought up owning a house was when we had the “If we win the lotto…” conversations.

Part of this is the fact that I grew up in a military household and the wanderlust that was instilled in my formative years took root – to date, I have moved 25 times. Yes, 25.

I can’t identify what has made me turn a corner on this issue, but in the last few weeks, I have  started watching HGTV (specifically My First Home and House Hunters) with my husband and we’ve started talking about what we would like in a house. The market in Los Angeles is truly a buyers market at this point (I think it has fallen at least 25% in the last year or so) and there are some amazing properties out there that are way more reasonably priced than they were 3 years ago.

Here’s the irony: with the $60K that we are going to pay off in this process, we could have had a great down-payment and be set up to actually afford house payments, especially in this market.

I had always felt the weight of this debt in other ways, but it has never been tied to the idea that we are going to miss out on getting a house in LA when they are more affordable. I’m not a person that has many true regrets – but this is going to be one of them.

I guess that we can take comfort in knowing that we’ve never been closer to freedom than we are right now. And every day we get closer.

Have any of your financial decisions caused you to have regret? How have you addressed this or changed the situation?

Charitable Donations – even when money is tight?

Lately, my husband and I have been talking a lot about charitable giving and what our level should be in this time of conserving funds in an effort to reduce our consumer debt.

We recently increased our giving by 1%, which seems like a little, but is $975/year or $18.75/week (we actually raised it $20/week – $18.75 is such a weird amount). Part of this is in response to our gratefulness that as we have started this journey to face our financial issues and deal with them, we have started to feel freedom from the weight of never-ending debt. The other part is that we feel a responsibility to help those who are even more impacted by the state of the economy, because no matter how bad it is for us, we are actually in great shape compared to the rest of the world and a big section of our own country. Our woes come from bad decisions and the inability to deal with circumstances because of those bad decisions. But there are those who a geographically and socially less able to earn as much or bounce back from the economic climate. So we feel a need to try to give something to help, even if it is small.

A recent article from the Washington Post noted that Charitable giving is down for the first time in 21 years – just at the time that it is needed the most.

Local charities said they have been struggling as the economy has faltered, just as many nonprofit agencies, such as food banks and homeless shelters, have been experiencing skyrocketing demand for their services. A surge in giving around the November and December holidays probably prevented a worse overall picture, some said.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

A CNN Money article talks about considering the decision (click HERE to read) to reduce charitable donations. Their recommendation is that:

What you should do, though, is tell the folks who run the food bank that they won’t be able to count on you for an anchor donation this year, and tell them now. They need as much time as possible to find replacement funds and/or to figure out how best to cut back their services.

This seems like a reasonable and responsible way to approach this issue if you find that you need to make the some cuts in this area. And it may be that there are time and effort resources that you could offer/volunteer to the charity that would absorb some of burden that would normally be addressed by your financial donation.

Have you had any conversations about this lately?