Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finance for the Free Spirit

These are the things I love: cats, writing, baking, chocolate, travel, adventure, running, and money.  Most of these obsessions interests don't lend themselves readily to a career. I'm not mentally tough enough to be a vet and I've never been fast enough to be a professional athlete.  But my interest in money has led me to get my M.S. in Finance (one class and a thesis to go!), so I thought I'd share some financial tips & thoughts you might find useful.

  • The place to go for a free credit report is, which offers you three free credit reports - one each from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian - per year.  But the best way to use this great service is to space out your credit checks to to catch accounts opened fraudulently. I like to check one each on January 1st, May 1st and September 1st, so you're checking every four months. Consider checking your credit report on September 1st or picking another "first day of the month" to make yourself a regular date for a credit check!
  • Budgeting doesn't work for me. Just like when I diet, I feel deprived, and I don't do deprivation.  But saving for retirement, vacays and a new car is crucial. I love David Bach's The Automatic Millionaire for a system I can live with. Each payday, money goes to bills, retirement accounts, and into savings automatically, what Bach calls "pay yourself first". Then the rest of the money? Mine to blow on whatever suits my fancy. If I have the sudden desire to splurge on a new bag or to spend $100 on random crap in Target (not that this happens on a regular basis, cough cough) and the money's in my account... I can.  Less discipline required than a budget, but the end result is the same as long as you a) pay yourself first faithfully, as automatically as possible, and b) only spend what you have!
  • Do sweat the small stuff.  I ask everywhere for a military discount, and have found I get 10% off at Lowe's, Home Depot, Wilson's, my cell phone provider, my massage studio... If you're a student, a teacher, a government employee, or just generally awesome, it's worth asking if you can have a discount! I also love Swagbucks and Ebates for spare change that adds up.  Here's the deal with these two things--
  • Swagbucks is a search engine that brings up some sponsored results as well, and as you search, you earn points. You also earn points for referring others to Swagbucks, for answering polls and surveys, and for taking special offers... although I'm not really into the latter options. I don't work very hard at Swagbucks, but I still recently cashed in $15 of Amazon gift cards earned through my points.  Free Amazon books? Yes please. If you're interested in signing up, I'd especially appreciate it if you used my link as I earn points for the referal... help me earn free books faster, and earn them yourself! ;)
  • Ebates is pretty neat. For any online purchases you'd make anyway from your favorite stores, you can earn cash back - anywhere from 1% up to 10%!  Just join Ebates, then visit B&N, Target, Borders, Old Navy, and tons of other stores to receive your cash back on your purchase!  Sign up from my link, and there's a possibility I can earn a iPad - and if you refer your friends and family, you could earn one too!
  • To save on mutual funds, consider using an ETF - an electronically traded fund eliminates the need for a market manager by buying & trading stocks automatically. A brilliant market manager is worth his or her share of the funds, but given how many fail to beat the S&P 500, you might be better off with a well-chosen ETF that follows that S&P 500!
I'd love to one day become a financial adviser, specifically working with artists and writers, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I'd be happy to share my amateur opinion!


Summer said...

My husband is getting his MBA in Finance right now too; I'll have to show him your post!

Lynn Colt said...

Ooh, thanks for the advice! And most writers/artists (oops, i'm going to generalize) can't make heads or tails of finances, so there's definitely a need there :)

Old Kitty said...

I wish I had your financial wizardry. I'm TERRIBLE with cash and such like. Terrible! And I so do not do maths.

So great tips here -thank you!

Take care

Carrie said...

Great tips. I put retirement money away automatically every month and have been for about six years and it is amazing how the small amount I put away every month has added up over the years.

Jen said...

Great post Guinevere!!! Man it's been awhile since I've stopped by (for that I apologize!)

I'm always up for some great advice! I need to have someone like you next door!

Shelley Sly said...

These are so helpful! I'm generally pretty careful with money, but I'm always looking for more ways to save, since the future will only get more expensive once I have kids. (Not soon... I don't think...) Anyway, thanks for sharing!

Meg said...

I'm a fan of the 'pay yourself first' idea. Works wonders. :)