Archive for 2008

Fall 2008

Another year and another update in the life and times of what we’ve been up to:

Hi! I’m Cat, and this is going to be the busiest year of my life. I keep saying that every year, but as I look forward to the coming year, I can’t imagine it being any less busy. This year Scott and I are  introducing twins into our family to come hang out with our son who will be just 18 months old when they arrive! What do you think the new ones will be…boys, girls, one of each?

Last year I had some time when our son was small to get my tutoring business off to a good start. Quantum Tutoring is a tutoring business specializing in teaching science and math to high school and college students in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois. Keeping our overhead costs to a minimum, we became profitable in just a few weeks. It was also our first experience with actually marketing a business, doing business taxes and running a business while raising kids.

Everyone else is still in school. My husband Scott and my sister Sara are in graduate school studying Electrical Engineering and Music Education, respectively. Sara’s husband Jonathan is an undergrad double major in Religion and Psychology. Will they ever be done with school so they can help me start another business? Someday.

In the meantime, what do two engineers, a psychology guy and a singer know about business? We all have practical experience now and have tested out some theories in the real world. Quantum Tutoring is ready for a new school year; Sara decided to put Quincy Massachusetts Voice Lessons on hold after a very successful year of business, while she raises her twins and finishes school; we’re continuing to develop new business ideas that we’d like to try someday; and we’re still learning and sharing that new knowledge with you.

See how far we’ve come:
About Us Summer 2006
About Us Summer 2007 this! · digg this!

Personal Finance Favorites

A friend recently loaned me the book Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey. It has a lot of good advice, though I find the writing to be somewhat wordy, and there’s a contradictory part about Roth IRAs versus regular IRAs that I think must have happened in the revision to the original book. However, my friend had loaned me the book to advocate responsible saving, investing and avoiding debt. She wanted to help make sure I don’t make the financial mistakes that can be easily avoided. I felt inspired by her desire to help me. Therefore, I want to help others also know how to avoid financial mistakes.

It is my belief that everyone should:

  • Spend less money than they earn.
  • Have absolutely no consumer debt. This means not going into debt for anything except school or a house.
  • Have an emergency fund in a savings account to cover 3-6 months of income.
  • Save as much money as possible every month in a high-interest savings account and in a retirement account.
  • Everyone should START NOW!

First, there are a lot of great resources on the internet, but it’s sometimes hard to know if a website has good information. So, here are some of my favorite sites:

  • This site has great calculators for renting vs. buying a home, saving money, paying off your debt, etc. Here’s a fun one to motivate you to save money NOW . Just type in your age, some amount that you would like to save monthly, and an interest rate. Use a rate around 10%, which is a good estimate of the interest rate you could get in an investment. I used a lower interest rate as a sign of mourning that the economy has slowed down recently.
  • This blog has a ton of information. Start with the “Best of FMF” links in the leftmost column. I read a post on this blog about how to make an extra $10,000 per year by selling your used items, starting a business based on a hobby, or talking your way into a raise. Looking at all the textbooks and other items we’ve sold and the income from my tutoring business, we won’t quite make an extra $10,000, but we’ve made more than you’d expect.
  • This blog has bit more on being an entrepreneur than Free Money Finance, and the author is not much older than I am, so it’s motivating to see how we can manage money while we’re young.

Some of my favorite books (and a pamphlet) on personal finance I’ve read are:

So anyway friends… I just felt like trying to motivate you to save money now, or get out of debt, or stop spending more than you earn. this! · digg this!

Start Saving Now

This example has been given many, many times, but it makes such a great point.  Investor A contributes $2,000 from age 26 to age 65 (40 years, $80,000 contributed); Investor B contributes $2,000 per year from age 19 to age 25 (7 years, $14,000 contributed).

Compound Interest

Who ends up with more money at age 65? By contributing early, Investor B ends up with $36,937 more than investor A, even though he contributed $66,000 less of his own money. So start saving now! this! · digg this!

SNL Skit – Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

Here is a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin (as the host) about consumer debt.

“If you don’t have any money, you should not buy anything.” Classic. this! · digg this!

Textbooks for Sale

Scott and I have decided to liquidate one of our assets, namely our inventory of college textbooks. has revolutionized the way textbooks are bought. No longer are the students at the mercy of the university to buy their textbooks (new or used) at the university bookstore for a premium price. Student always had the option of selling their books back to said bookstore at the end of the semester, but the price paid to them was way below the books value, and the university turned around to sell those books to next semester’s students for three times what they paid last semester’s students to buy their book back. My university always touted how much money they had saved students with their buyback policy. What a boldfaced lie!…or is it baldfaced?

Enter Amazon, which connects you, last semester’s student, directly to next semester’s student. Since there’s no university ripping you off, you sell your books for a higher price than the university would give you and they buy them for lower than what the university offers. Ah, how I love Amazon!

Additionally, you can buy old editions on Amazon. They are usually less than five dollars plus shipping, and ye olde university bookstore would never ever even offer the old editions for sale. You’d never be able to find them. Scott and I decided to buy our textbooks back when and if we need them once they have become an outdated edition.

All in all, we’re still losing money by buying textbooks for our courses and later selling them for less than we bought them. However, by not letting them sit in our closet until they are outdated, we have minimized our losses. To us it seems like extra income, since we never planned to turn a profit on textbooks anyway. In just two months we’ve sold over $700 in textbooks. How cool is that?! this! · digg this!

I Finally Figured It Out

There have been many times in my life when I have thought, “if I could just go back and redo that with the knowledge and skills I have now, it would have been a lot easier.” I look at it as progress that I am making in my life, but usually I figure out how to do something really well right when it’s time to stop doing that thing.

In high school I refused to do an English assignment during my freshman year. It was to compare and contrast the written and movie versions of the story “A Man Called Horse.” I didn’t like the story, so I refused to do the assignment. Our teacher even gave us a chance at the end of the semester to make up any work we missed, and I still refused. Therefore, my first semester in high school I got a B+ in English. After that I never got less than an A-. I learned my lesson not to be stubborn, but it cost me the rank of valedictorian and the scholarship that went with that! Oh what I wouldn’t give to go back and write a compare and contrast essay of that dumb story.

As a missionary for my church I helped others to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ and helped them improve their lives in other ways. The people of Argentina were so kind to us, and even when they weren’t interested in learning about our church they often would continue to invite us into their homes. In the last two months of my mission I finally figured out how to teach those who wanted to know about Christ and how to recognize when others were just being nice to us. I was able to create great relationships with those who were content with their current religion or lack thereof and still move on to find those that really wanted us to help them find spirituality in their lives. Before I came home to the United States I would have loved to have the extra six months that the guys get (girls have 18-month missions in my church and guys have 24-month missions, I’m not sure why, but that’s the system) to put into practice everything that I had learned. Scott was coming home from his mission at that same time though and wanted to get married ASAP, so I knew I couldn’t torture him by staying out of the country for six more months!

After Scott and I got married I started to watch how he studied, because he always got nearly the best grades in his classes. As an undergrad, I had done well in school, but it was not without quite a few late night study sessions. Scott, on the other hand, was always able to go to sleep by 11pm at the latest. The two key things he did were: 1. He read the textbook before the lecture was given on the material, even in subjects like math (in high school I never had to read a math text, and in college I never figured out that it was useful), and 2. he started the homework the day it was assigned and finished it long before it was due (I had always planned around the due dates and struggled to finish the work). These two things allowed him to take advantage of the professors’ and TAs’ help during lecture and office hours. I started doing this as a grad student, and I blew everyone in my class away. I had the best grades in almost all my classes and always had the work done weeks before anyone else. Again, if only I could back and do that as an undergrad.

Now I find myself raising a son and running a business. I wonder what there is to know that I have not yet learned. I know I will look back on this time and think, “if I had only known this one thing, life would have been so much easier.” It just goes to show that life is meant to be an uphill battle. If I can just get over the next challenge I will be even more ready for future challenges.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do; not that the nature of the thing is changed, but our power to do is increased.” –Heber J. Grant this! · digg this!

Ace is Not Tide…In Argentina

I have been getting a ton of hits lately from people searching to find out if Ace laundry detergent is the same as Tide. As I have discussed at length, while I lived in Argentina, I was fooled into thinking that Ace and Tide were identical. This ended with me with a rash twice.

In all fairness, I repeat that I was living in Argentina at the time. They had Ace there and not Tide. Due to the increase in searches for Ace versus Tide, I must conclude that there is a version of Ace released in the US. I have no idea if Ace in the US is the same as Tide. I would be interested in finding out though. Leave a comment if you have any evidence that Ace is or is not Tide. this! · digg this!