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A blown tire doesn’t have to blow your budget

We all need an emergency fund just in case something unexpected happens. Trust me, the unexpected will happen.

If you don’t have the funds saved up for a rainy day, you’ll be getting wet.

I’ll be starting a list of reasons why you need an emergency fund.

If you have ideas please send them to my Twitter @ontargetcoach

Why You Need an Emergency Fund Reason #1: Blown Tire

As I was driving to work recently on my morning commute, I felt my tire blow.

I kinda expected to have some sort of car trouble on our 97 Civic with 179K miles on it, especially since I’ve been putting 120 miles on a day.

Now, I’m an urban kinda guy, so I’ve never changed a tire by myself–Never.

I could have called AAA, but it would have taken them 30 minutes to get there and then I would have to be embarrassed to ask some other dude to change my tire and put on the spare.

This is Oklahoma after all where people still grow their own food and raise cows. You won’t hear an Okie saying they can’t do something.

Don’t say ‘can’t’ in the earshot of an Oklahoman–they’ll just angry at you for not figuring out how to MacGyver a way to do it.

I digress.

How to make a tire iron

My Blow Tire

I had a full sized spare [TIP: When you buy a new set of tires, keep the best of the old set and use it for your spare tire], so I didn’t have to worry.

After locating the cheap little jack and tools, I finally figured out a way to make the jack go up. It was difficult and I didn’t have room to turn the jack’s mechanism in a circle.

When I was done I figured out the two pieces went together to form a T in which I could jack the car up.

You knew how to do that already huh? Yeah, my first time-dumb.

After an hour the job was complete and spare tire on. I felt like a stud.

I changed a tire without help looking up how to do it on YouTube. I was a man. I was all grown up.

A State trooper slid up behind me.

“Shows over”, I said.

He saw my black covered hands and brought me an industrial wipe to clean my hands.

Emergency Funds and Car Repairs

Cars break. Especially if you drive them like a chuck wagon on a long journey across hard terrain.

My car crisis, could have turned into a budget crisis and caused much stress in our lives and marriage.

But I can buy a new tire, since I have an emergency fund. In fact, we even have a fund saved up for car repairs for when they happen.

Keep saving and drive safe.

Wagons Ho!

Do you save for car repairs or have a plan for when your car breaks? 

Buying in bulk as an investment? Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Buying in bulk as an investment? Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

On my drive home from work I heard about an interesting alternative investing strategy that even Mark Cuban (billionaire) endorses.

“The money you save by investing in bulk will provide a better return on investment than any investment vehicle on the planet.”- Mark Cuban from NPR article

Buying in Bulk as an Investment Strategy

We can all agree that there aren’t many investments that are paying decent rates. Heck, savings rats (not mis-spelled) are at all time lows along with their money market cousins. More rats!

What can we do, but put it all in the stock market to hopefully keep up with inflation? You can forget about trying to keeping up with college inflation rates of 7%+.

Inflation is the pace car investors are trying to beat.- @ontargetcoach

Buying in bulk can unleash the current purchasing power of your dollar in anticipation of higher rates of common products.

Buying in Bulk: Smart Shopping or an Investment?

We already know buying in bulk from places like Costco and Sam’s Club will save us money on common items like bags of ice.

That’s just smart shopping, but could buying in bulk be considered an investment? Perhaps.

In the interview, economist Russ Roberts suggest buying items that will likely increase in price and that you’ll end up using like trash bags, laundry detergent, undershirts, toothpaste, etc.

Non-perishable items are best. [Random Thought: That would stink to have 50 gallons of shampoo in the basement and then go bald.]

If you already have a firm handle on your debt with an emergency fund in place AND inflation rates continue to outpace savings rates and money market funds, then buying in bulk could be a place to put some of your investments dollars.

For now, I’ll keep buying in bulk just for the cost savings and not an investment.

Though if I had an extra few hundred and came across a good deal, I might be convinced to “invest” in a socks and underwear for the next decade.

What do you think about buying in bulk as a viable alternative investment strategy? 

How do you spend your commuting time? Photo Credit: neoporcupine via Compfight cc

How do you spend your commute? Photo Credit: neoporcupine via Compfight cc

I’m quickly becoming a seasoned road warrior with my new day job and driving nearly 120 miles round trip per day.

I figure that I’ll spend around 10-15 hours per week in the car, so I better make this time productive or at least keep me sane–you can only listen to the top 40 for only so long right?

I bet you have a commute of some sort too since the national average is around 23 minutes according to Forbes.

Now what will we do with all this time trapped in the car?

5 Activities for a Productive Commute to Work

Below are a few ideas of how you can maximize your commute.

Keep in mind, your main task is to drive and to do it safely (Don’t Text and Drive) If these tasks distract you from being a safe driver, please don’t engage them (This was my disclaimer).

1. Memorize inspirational quotes- Have a quote on a 3 x 5 card and review it. Pick quotes by business leaders, quotes from the Bible, or other religious texts.

Just think–by the end of the year you’ll have memorized around 50 quotes!

2. Listen to Podcasts- Podcasts are replacing the radio as way to consume information and as a form of entertainment. Listen via Stitcher or other player of choice.

3. Audio Books- No longer do you have to carry that huge plastic box of books on tape. With one simple click, you can purchase a book straight to your smart phone. Audible.com is a great place to start.

Many libraries also offer free audio books and yes–even the old CD of books if you’re not into all that techie mumbo jumbo. 

4. Pray/Meditate/Reflect- This is an awesome opportunity to engage in a little prayer and meditation.

5. Sit in silence- Turn off the stimulus devices and let your mind wander; just don’t let the steering wheel drift. When else can you have peace and quiet?

Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at audible.com!

Don’t Squander Your Commute

Believe me I realize that commuting to work is tough!  The traffic is terrible, your back hurts, and that guy in front of you won’t turn off his blinker, yet a commute is a valuable gift.

Don’t squander the time you’ve been given listening to top 40 drivel.

What do you do to make the most of your commute to work?

OK is HomeHas it been a week already that the tornadoes ravaged central Oklahoma near Shawnee on Sunday and devastated Moore, OK (south of OKC) on Monday?

It has been a long week in Oklahoma. Yet, truly amazing to see the outpouring of of love, prayer, and generosity by locals and those from far away.

Thank you, but realize the recovery has only just begun.

Sunday: Shawnee, OK

I remember just last Sunday evening when we took shelter in the basement of church as the tornado sirens wailed.

I actually had family members speaking in front of the congregation when everyone’s smart phones warned everyone to take cover immediately.

Church service quickly came to a close.

Kids were in the inner closets, while adults huddled around smart phones deciphering where the storm would turn.

In the end the tornado hit just a few miles from the church and where I pass everyday going to my day job.

Monday: Moore, OK

The promise of fresh storms for Monday were being echoed on the news by all the local stations. Their prophecy came true.

An F-5/EF5 tornado hit north of Norman and south of Oklahoma City.

Moore, Oklahoma will never be the same.

The stories of loss and heroism continue to be told as families begin to piece back their new lives. They now have a “new normal”.

A normal without loved ones, without homes, without possessions. A new normal that will always have a twinge of fear when those sires begin to blair.

Their new normal will also include a memory of love, care, and humanity as thousands gave and continue to give to this community.

By God’s grace I pray the community of Moore, OK will again have joyous times in the future.

A Long Road Ahead for Tornado Victims in Oklahoma

It will take years for Moore, Oklahoma to rebuild.

Just look at Joplin, Missouri in which a devastating tornado killed 161 and destroyed 8,000 buildings. Their community is still under construction 2 years later.

Oklahomans, of which I am now one, are thankful for your support, but the fact is Moore will still need it 6 months and 2 years from now.

Take a moment and set a reminder on your calendar for a date in the distant future for Moore, OK.

A reminder to check back with a task, a prayer, an action you could take that could make a difference down the road once the news vans all drive away and the real work begins.

If you’re like me, you’ll forget and do nothing. Decide today to do something when they will need it most: When everyone else forgets.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve set a reminder to do something for the Moore, OK tornado victims in the future (6 months-2 years from now). 

Bag of college savings

We all want our children and grandchildren to be successful in life. Often this translates to a college degree, but a degree doesn’t ensure success or even a job these days.

Encourage your child to really understand the costs and benefits of a BA or BS. There are alternative to college to consider

How Much Does College Cost?

The cost of attending a traditional 4 year college is increasing every year, making saving for college a priority for many parents. [Don't forget to fund your retirement before funding your kid's college.]

Just how much does it cost to attend college? A lot! Use this handy college search tool to determine the cost of tuition, books, room & board for your school of choice.

I did a search for my alma mater Auburn University.

Cost of college: Auburn University 2012

You can also adjust the tab to your appropriate income level.

According to FinAid, the inflation rate for college tuition is double the general inflation rate of around 2%-4% of recent years.

Use this guide to determine how much you’ll need to earn on your college savings fund:

  • Conservative: 3%-5%
  • Moderate 5%-7%
  • Aggressive 7%-9%
  • Very Aggressive 9%-12%+

In order to keep up with inflation and the rising costs of college, you’ll need to at least be in the moderate earnings range to break even. If college inflation rates are 8% and you earn 8%, you’ve only broken even.

Paying  for college without scholarships, grants, and loans is difficult if not impossible.

[We'd need to save $277,553.00 for my son to attend in-state tuition+ room and board to my alma mater.--Are you kidding me?]

It is recommended for parents to save 1/3 of the costs, cash flow 1/3 of the costs, and fund the other 1/3 alternatively (student work, loans, scholarships, grants, –go to the  bottom for more ideas).

Use the calculators below to estimate how much you’ll need to save.

10 Free College Savings Calculators

If you’re trying to figure out how much to save for your kid’s college fund, look no further. These savings calculators will help guide you to saving for the college education for your children.

I’ll also rate the calculators with a maximum of 5 stars for 1) usability 2) graphics 3) functionally. Yes, this will be subjective.

1. The College Board has a handy calculator that allows you to adjust for several variables including how much % to save, earning %, inflation %.  3 Stars

2. FinAid has several savings calculators, but I found it hard to know which to use and they where just clunky, but the numbers seemed legit.  2 Stars

3. Saving for College offers their World’s Simplest College Cost Calculator   You only input your kids age and adjust the variables afterwards. Easy. 4 Stars

4. FINRA College Savings Calculator has basic input options, chart is difficult to understand and it doesn’t break down how much I need to save per month.  1 Star

5. Bankrate  Their College Calculator has easy input, gives me monthly savings goal–no graphs, but it does the job. 3 Stars

6. ING- College Funding Calculator I expected more fun from ING. It was fairly plain, but got the job done. 3 Stars

7. MSN Money College Savings Calculator  does a good job, color charts and graphs, and allows for tax rate 4 Stars

8. Vanguard- Of course they have great College Savings Planner. Interactive & colorful, can plan up to 5 kids, change variables, search for your school of choice and it will plug in the numbers automatically. When you finish, you can print out a report to save or print out. 5 Stars

9. T. Rowe Price has a College Investment Calculator I don’t like the fact that I have to figure out the year each child will enter college. I should be able to enter their current age instead. I’m also forced to choose one of their 529 plans before I’m given an amount. This tool isn’t about education, but about sales. 2 Stars

10. Charles Schwab- College Savings Calculator Easy to input, easy to understand, interactive, and gives an action plan with monthly savings goals. 4 Stars

What Now?

So if you’re like me, you’re flabbergasted by how much you’ll need to save for just 1 child’s college! If you’ve got several kids, plan on some of these other options.

  • I’m considering not sending my kids to college. I’m saving of course, but there are alternatives to college.
  • Your child can attend community college and transfer to a four year and cut their cost almost in half.
  • Pick a college that gives you a good bang for your buck. Check out the Best Values in Public Colleges from Kiplinger.
  • Work. Work. Work. Your child can work during the summers and during school to help offset the living costs during the school year.
  • Grants and Scholarship- Their senior year can be spent applying for grants and scholarships as a part time job.
  • 17 more ways to pay for college without loans.
  • Loans should be a last alternative and only taken out if all the above alternatives have been exhausted.
How are you dealing with paying for your children’s education?
Photo Credit 401K