Author Archives: jenscape

Happy? New Year

It’s January 4th and time for a fresh start.  I lost a very close friend right before the holidays and it’s caused me to take a deeper look at my life and how I want to live it.  Kevin’s business is growing, Jr. is about to graduate high school, but what am I doing for ME?

Back at work and just can’t seem to get going.  I’m sure there are a million things I need to do, but (probably due to the sadness over losing my friend) I just can’t seem to get started.  I need to find a purpose to my life and create the life that I want to live.  It’s way too easy these days to lay on the couch with my doggies and binge watch TV.  I know there’s more out there for me to do, contribute to, experience, but need to decide which way I want to go.  I’m kind of aimless at this point.

Time to find my motivation… stay tuned!

Re-DO!

Deja vu all over again?  I’ve started and stopped this post for a while. I need a re-start on the whole blog process.  I have been trying to find my motivation, and may have stumbled onto something while going through my own struggles. De-cluttering efforts went very well.  Had our home on the market, but took it off to let Jr. finish his senior year of high school in the same school.  Now we are just letting things ride until we are closer to graduation. In the mean time, we are working on our budget, dealing with some extra debt and expenses that we didn’t count on and trying to build Kevin’s tennis business.

I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles about finances, debt, money issues, etc.  And one thing that stands out is that there is not a lot of training done for our youth on how to handle money. They can’t take a class in high school, and frankly many parents don’t have a great handle on money either.  They may be ill equipped to pass along advice when they are in debt or not sure how to budget for themselves.

Since becoming a step parent, my goal has been to make sure Jr. is prepared for the world.  Having never been a parent before, and then getting a teenager (14 at the time) full time, I made a mental list of the things he needs to know before leaving the nest.  I had about 4 years to get these things done and now we are winding down with one year left to go before he’s off to college. How to iron a shirt, cook a meal, do laundry, clean a bathroom and balance a checkbook are just a few that came to mind immediately.  We’ve tackled these, and then some.  But in going through this process, I realized that many people don’t leave home knowing how to budget or deal with credit/credit cards, etc. This leads many kids to get into trouble during college or in their 20s. According to a recent report by the Department of Education, half of today’s 27 year olds are more than $10,000 in debt. While that may not sound like much, more than 80% of them say finances are at least somewhat stressful.

Queue the motivation.  I’m determined that Jr. will at least have a good foundation of understanding household finances from which to make decisions for his future. We are about to start college application season.  There is no college fund sitting out there to pay for all of the expenses.  We are fortunate to live in a state with a lottery funded state school “scholarship” for all residents who meet minimum requirements.  But even with that, a full year of a state school, including room and board, starts at $12,000 depending on the school. Jr. will have to get student loans to pay for his education.  Assuming he has to borrow all of this cost, he could graduate owing $50,000 or more!  That’s a heavy burden for a 22 year old.

We will be researching options including:

  • Living at home and commuting to school – at least to begin
  • Going to a community college (while living at home) to get some of the core classes completed. Besides, no one cares where you went, just where you graduated from!
  • Finding schools that will accept his lower AP scores so he has less classes to take
  • Looking into as many scholarships and grants as we can find

The other idea that came to me during this process is wondering whether or not I could develop a training plan for parents to assist them in preparing their kids for the world.  I’m going to try and document how we are doing and use that to develop a product for parents to use to break down teaching about money into short lessons. What do you think?

How did your parents teach you about money?  How do you teach your kids?

Why Use a Travel Agent?

I asked the same question myself.  After years of booking my own travel I wondered why anyone would use an agent for something that is so simply done online. So before agreeing to jump in to this business, I did some research. Below is an open letter from Joseph A. Watters, President of Crystal Cruises to newspaper and magazine travel editors:

Dear Travel Editor,

“Why should I use a travel agent?” As a veteran travel executive, that’s a question I’m often asked. Today, with the overwhelming number of sources for travel information (the Internet, cable television, newspapers, magazines, guidebooks, etc.), it’s no wonder the consumer is confused. Yet that’s precisely why the services of a professional travel consultant are more valuable than ever.

In January, the television news magazine, 20/20, reported the results of a test in which travel agents beat consumers at uncovering the best airfares. However, it is much more than the “lowest fare” that provides the compelling argument for a good travel agent.

The best thing an agent can do is to match up a traveler with the vacation that’s right for them. The professional travel consultant builds relationships with their clients to learn their interests and lifestyles, as well as their dispositions.

Below is a list of some of the important services, which are either provided free or for a nominal charge, by travel agents:

1. Distilling the product information: Through an on-going and time-consuming process of familiarization, continuing education and customer feedback, the agent becomes a travel expert.

2. Investigating and supplying competitive information: No single supplier is going to advise a consumer that a better route or a better fare is available on a competing carrier.

3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Via daily faxes, agent-only e-mail transmissions, and their relationships with their district sales managers, agents are obtaining the most current promotional information.

4. Analyzing the current promotions: The cheapest is not always the best.

5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions: Again, the benefits of a professional’s experience can save a traveler money . . . and headaches.

6. Making recommendations for travel-related options: Travel agents share the to pack for different travel options.

7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction: Like a personal shopper, agents can provide one-stop shopping for travelers who require air arrangements, rental cars, cruise accommodations and hotel stays – with suggestions that are in the best interest of the client, not the supplier.

8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: Agents can add to the client’s experience by sending a bottle of wine, providing a special land package, a specific escort or other customer amenities.

9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations: Whether it’s airline seats, hotel rooms or cruise space, the travel agent has more buying power than the consumer.

10. Getting problems resolved: The agent serves as the consumer’s advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong.

The use of outside service providers for many transactions, such as tax preparation, isn’t questioned. Similarly, if one is going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well as a good chunk of valuable leisure time, it makes great sense to use a professional.

I hope you’ll consider sharing this information in future consumer interest columns.

Sincerely,
JOSEPH A. WATTERS
President

Have You ever used a Travel Agent?  What was your experience?

We won a cruise!

Well, it’s kind of been my lucky week.  I got to work on Monday and found out I had won a Carnival Cruise! Carnival was running some sort of promotion for cruise week and I registered, and won!  Probably lots of travel agents will win this because you still have to pay taxes, port charges and gratuities (so it isn’t exactly FREE), but I’ll take it!  We had been discussing what to do for Thanksgiving, so I got on the phone and booked a 7 night cruise for Thanksgiving week!  We will be spending Thanksgiving day in Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos. Jealous??

Second lucky thing that happened is that we had a contest at work to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar.

1024 Jellybeans in the Jar.  I guessed 1003.

1024 Jellybeans in the Jar. I guessed 1003.

The guesses were $2 to raise money for breast cancer.  I was the closest without going over, so I won the jar of jelly beans plus a $15 iTunes gift card!  Might have to download some new tunes to take on the cruise!

Now, to go out and buy a lottery ticket…

Previously, I won a trip to Ireland and took my hubby and my mom.  We had only been dating about a month when we went, but I figured if he could last for 8 days in Ireland with me AND my mom he was a keeper!  And funny enough, we left on Thanksgiving day three years ago!  So it must be a tradition we will have to continue.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever won?  Where is the strangest place you have spent Thanksgiving? 

New Adventures

It’s been a busy couple of months.  I’ve effectively been out of town for five of the last ten weeks.  And playing catch-up when I was home.  So the blog has taken a back seat.  Don’t want to make that a habit!

Half way through the year and I feel very good about where I am with the de-clutter mission.  Not only have I cleaned out and sold a lot of stuff, but I’ve also changed my philosophy on acquiring more stuff.  A lot more thought goes in to any purchases I make.  Just today I returned a set of cosmetic/toiletry bags that I had ordered.  I looked at them and thought they weren’t any more functional than anything else I already owned.  Maybe not worth the $6.95 in extra shipping but a great lesson and better than having it sit in my closet for 2 years before selling in a garage sale for $5.

So overall, I feel pretty good about where I am in the process.  There are still several areas that need additional attention, but great strides have been made.  Summer weekends are the worst time for me to try and accomplish anything.  I enjoy hanging at the pool too much.  So I will likely resume this in the fall.  Stay tuned for more updates on that.

Now, for the new adventures… Hubby and I were in Cancun a few weeks ago for a little anniversary celebration.  While we were there, we participated in The Newlywed Game at the resort where we were staying.  We won!! Three free nights at the resort (with a seven night stay, but oh well!) After the contest, we met a guy who is a travel agent.  He and I were chatting and he said that I should join their agency.  It’s very egalitarian.  He has hired stay at home mothers who make 6 figures.  So with my knowledge of the travel world, it’s a great fit.  I’m not quitting my day job, but it is something I can do on the side until I build up my client base.

That’s where YOU come in.  If you are reading this, please share my information with anyone who may be interested in a very knowledgeable travel agent.  I will be posting specials that we come across, as well as travel tips.  Let me know if you have any special interests.  I’ll be glad to research any destination that appeals to you.

My travel agency contact is jennifer@imaginetravelvacations.com.  Be on the lookout for specials!  I hope to be able to help you escape soon!!

Garage Sale Success!!

Garage Sale Setup

Garage Sale Setup

Last Friday and Saturday was our neighborhood garage sale.  We do this once a year and it was a great opportunity for me to get rid of a lot of the things I’ve been purging.  It gave me a deadline and a goal to accomplish the 60 day challenge that I had set for myself.

I spent a good deal of time over the past month or so gathering items to sell, and at the last minute, remembered that I had not gone into my storage area.  I quickly pulled a few items out of there on Friday morning and this bolstered my inventory. Forgot about the twin bed frame that was there (left over from when I redecorated my niece’s room). We also decided to get rid of most of our yard equipment, since we are hiring a lawn service this year.  And finally we decided to clear out some of the basement furniture to prepare for hopefully replacing our living room furniture and moving the current furniture down there.

I had read a few blogs and discussed some pricing strategies with friends who held regular garage sales and spent Thursday evening setting the items up on tables inside the garage and putting on price stickers.  We borrowed a clothing rack from a friend and I had another rack.  I put all those clothes that the consignment shop wouldn’t take on these racks and priced them all at $2 each or 3 for $5.  My goal was to make a little money, but more importantly GET RID OF STUFF!! I had a basket full of shoes also at $2 each.  I didn’t really set up a store front, but I did try to group items by category… sporting goods on one table,  household/kitchen items on another, etc.  It seemed to work because I had several comments on how organized it looked. I also decided (great advice from a friend) to hold my prices pretty firm on Friday on the good stuff, since I still had Saturday also to sell it at a lower price. This worked out very well.  And I even had one lady who offered a lower price on the twin bed and said if I didn’t get a better offer to call her and she would come back for it – I didn’t and she did!

Friday was a better day than Saturday.  The professionals come on Fridays to buy our trash and turn it into someone else’s treasures.  We also benefitted from 2 other neighborhoods nearby having their sales the same weekend.  We sold a LOT of stuff, but still had a lot left over.  Luckily for us, our neighborhood organizers arrange for a charity to come through the neighborhood on Saturday afternoon.  If you sign up, they will stop at your address and pick up anything that is left over that you still want to get rid of AND give you a receipt for your donation.  We ended up making around $700, but spent $150 on new bar stools that a neighbor was selling.  It was a lot of work, but I felt so great after purging all of this stuff!!  I met my 60 day challenge (well, most of it), made enough money to buy a new desk for the office and can actually see what a difference has been made.  I don’t enjoy holding a garage sale, but it was a pretty good experience over all.

Leftovers donated to charity

Leftovers donated to charity

Bonus – since we weren’t very busy on Saturday, I used the time to sweep out and sort of organize the garage.  That felt great too!

 

Update on Financial Training for a Teenager

A few weeks ago, I posted about an idea we had for teaching our 16 year old son about money.  (Read it here) He is very smart, but has no clue what things cost. One of the things I was really concerned with when I became a step parent was what things he needs to learn before he is on his own.  I began teaching things like how to brown hamburger meat, cook simple meals (follow the directions on a taco kit or box of Hamburger Helper), how to iron a shirt, etc.  Money was another thing on that list.

I have had a job since I was 15 and babysat before that.  My mom was a single parent when I was a kid, so if I wanted anything I had to buy it (school clothes, cheerleading expenses, year books, etc.)  I have excellent credit and have been very fortunate.  I’m in my 7th home (5th that I purchased by myself). I’m by no means perfect and have let the credit cards get out of hand more than once.  But we are on the right track now and working to get out of debt. I want my SS to benefit from my experience and start off on the right foot. Many college kids get a credit card and think it is free money.  We have all learned the hard way that this isn’t true.

We are pretty generous with the SS, and he doesn’t ask for much.  Mainly we suggest that he could use some new jeans, shoes, etc.  But he has no idea what goes in to making enough money to live comfortably. He has lofty education and career ambitions, but needs to know how to manage his money once he gets it.

So back to the plan… We started out on the right foot.  I took him down to the local credit union (in our neighborhood) and opened up a checking account.  The idea was that he will get an allowance every two weeks.  The original plan was for him to pay for all of his expenses including snacks and eating out (teaching how to tip was another on the list).  However, that has proven to not be feasible.  I do most of the grocery shopping and it just makes more sense to combine that stuff.  Eating out is still a grey area.  But we haven’t been out much lately anyway. The checking account idea was working fine until the debit card came in.  First day, he texted a picture of the card to some of his friends (palm to forehead).  So we explained why that was not a good idea, cut up the card and ordered a new one.  The new one is in now and we will be setting up auto pay for his cell phone bill, lunch account at school and gym membership.  So far, he hasn’t spent much money.  We will go through his account – maybe next weekend.

Summer is right around the corner, so now he must find a job.  He’s not too eager about that just yet.  I’m hoping that he will start wanting to drive and wanting a car and will see the benefit of having a job to enjoy that freedom.  We sure did at that age.

Anyone else have a teenager that doesn’t want to work?  Any strategies for teaching about handling money? Would love to hear your feedback.

De-Clutter Mission Continues

Well, yesterday was a “comp” day from work, since I worked all weekend out of town.  I  spent most of it cleaning out my home office.  This was one of my three main goals to get done before I go away for two weeks in May.  The other two were the kitchen/pantry (done read my post about it) and our master bedroom (closet has had a major purge, but wouldn’t call it “done”).

My main goal was to move around the furniture and make room for a desk for me, since my hubby has pretty much taken over the other desk.  I don’t work from home very often, but when I do, it’s nice to have a place to put my laptop and what ever else I’m working on.  A couple of months ago, my mom was here and helped me purge a lot of paperwork from the large file cabinet that is kept in a closet.  Still have to shred a bunch of papers, but recently discovered that we have a commercial shredder at work! At least those papers are contained in one spot.  Yesterday, I moved enough stuff around to move the book shelves and make room for my new (soon to be purchased) desk.  It feels so great to recycle two bags of papers that are just trash!

Today’s mission is to take the clothes that I purged from my closet (and shoes…and purses) to a consignment shop Clothes Mentor and see what I can get for them.  What doesn’t sell will go in our garage sale in two weeks.  Between consignment and the garage sale, I hope to be able to earn enough extra money to purchase a desk from Ballard Designs (or really Ballard’s Backroom  – their outlet in Roswell) that will match the other desk that I already own from there. The outlet has much of the same stuff from the catalog, but usually scratched or damaged.  The desk I have now has some scratches on the top, but I sanded them and painted it and just refer to it as “distressed”.  For about 20% of the original price, I can live with distressed!!

Anyone else doing some spring cleaning?

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award!

Wow! This is starting off kind of fast.  I have been nominated for a Liebster Award by http://simpleighorganized.com.  Thanks Leigh!

If you are not aware, a Liebster Award is a way of getting other bloggers known,
shared and generally getting the word out about them, if they have under 500 followers.
 – A few simple rules apply –
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you
3. Nominate 11 other followers with less than 500 followers
4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer
5.Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them

My Questions:

  1. Why did you decide to start blogging? I was trying to de clutter my world and wanted a way to keep myself accountable.
  2. Where do you enjoy vacationing? Mostly beaches.  But to me, there is a big difference between vacationing and traveling.  I love to travel – all over the world.  Vacationing is more of a time to relax and regroup.
  3. What is the title of the last book you’ve read? Last book that I can remember the title to was “Sycamore Row” by John Grisham
  4. What sports do you enjoy playing or watching? I have recently taken up tennis.  I LOVE watching college football.
  5. What’s your favorite food? Mexican
  6. List 3 hobbies. Reading, traveling, photography
  7. What is your favorite season and why? I’m a summer person!  I like being outside and near (or in) water.
  8. If you could learn another language, what would it be? Probably Spanish.  I tend to travel to areas where that is the native language. 
  9. Are you a saver or a spender? Both.
  10. What’s your favorite type of music? Top 40’s pop or 80’s music
  11. What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekend? Go to the pool or beach (If I’m close by it…)

My Nominations – (I don’t have 11 and I’m not sure how to tell how many followers they have, but these are some that I follow on a regular basis… check them out!)

1. Vreeland Road

2. Kelli Price Photography

3. A Slob Comes Clean

4. Photography Awesomesauce

5. Kristy Dickerson

6.  The Ace of Space

7. Making Sense of Cents

8. Living Well Spending Less

My Questions:

1. How long have you been blogging?
2. Where do/did you learn about all of the technical aspects of blogging (creating links, adding pics, etc.)?
3. Do you make money from your blog?
4. How do you advertise your blog?
5. What is your main topic?
6. How many hours a week do you dedicate to blogging?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. Where was your favorite vacation?
9. Do you belong to any networking groups to share ideas on your business?
10. What is your favorite food?
11. Do you or your spouse primarily manage the finances for your family?

Ok… I think that’s all I’m supposed to do. Really new to this, so please bare with me. Thanks!

Lent

I’m not Catholic, nor am I religious at all, but each year I try to give up something for Lent.  I started this when one of my friends was joining a church and was giving up chocolate for Lent.  I joined in to support her.  Now each year I look for some way to test myself by imposing this 40 day ritual.

Since I’m in the de-clutter mode, I decided to give up shopping this year.  Nothing coming into the house that isn’t essential to make it through the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  Boy, does email and social media make this hard!  I’m a regular email subscriber to several stores and flash sale sites.  It’s very hard not to click on Rue La La to see what is on sale today. (If you want an invite, click http://www.ruelala.com/invite/jenscape) “Only 3 days left in the Old Navy jeans sale!”  But I’m not shopping… The list goes on and on.

The only downside to this is that I didn’t purchase some of the organizing tools I was eyeing  before imposing this restriction.  Technically a pot lid rack isn’t essential.  It can wait.  But it sure would make my cabinet look more organized!  I guess I’ll have to keep a list of the things that would be nice to have and see if I still want them after Easter.

I’m hoping this will also help with my debt control.  Along with de cluttering, I’m also working on reducing my debt this year.  Consolidation and low or no interest offers are my method right now.  Anyone have a story about becoming debt free?  I’m open to suggestions!