Budget Spreadsheet picture

What is the oddest item in your budget?

The budget for your family will not look like your neighbor’s budget.

Why? You are different people with different values.

Every budget is unique and is a reflection of our values, goals, and dreams.

I’ll assume you have a budget and meet monthly with your spouse or accountability parter to hammer out the details of your spending plan. If not, I suggest reading How to Budget Like a Pro.

What is the Oddest Item in Your Budget?

All personal budgets have the same items like gas, insurance, food, and the like. But, what about those items you budget for that are unique?

I’ve seen a good number of budgets in my financial coaching career and I’ve never seen the same budget.

In fact, I’ve seen a good number of quirky items of which I’d love to disclose, but can’t due to confidentiality reasons.

Personally, our current odd items beyond the normal are:

  • Spending money for our toddler to learn about money.
  • Money to spend on gifts for each other. (Helps our marriage and avoid money fights)
  • Clothing–not crazy, but I’ve noticed not many people budget for clothing each month.

I know there is nothing too odd currently, but as our income increases I’m sure a few more exciting line items will appear–or at least the dollar amounts.

We budget what we value and what we plan to spend our money on before the month begins.

What do you budget for each month that is “odd”? What is the most unusual item in your monthly budget? 

Did you know that you can change the world?

Yep, it’s true. Your single decision to act can dramatically change the world for the better.

A few friends of ours had a crazy idea to build a house for someone.

Giving Big and Changing the World

Our friend Sam became involved in Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles on his days off from saving lives as a local fireman.

Though his involvement a small group of friends were challenged to build a house, which they couldn’t afford to do by themselves.

The video below tells the inspirational story. (Sorry, ladies Sam is a married man)

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

These couples are amazing! Their action is challenging my faith and humbling when I look at my selfish life.

I want to give big and change the world too.

If you want to give to this Habitat House, click this link to the Philippians House in Culver City. Or just find your own way to give big and change the world.

What if we all took on challenges like funding and building a house? What would the world look like?

Have you ever had a financial advisor who told you to NOT invest?

I did and I’m thankful for that guy who saw me as a person who needed wisdom and not as another monthly commission check.

An Honest Financial Advisor?

I was in grad school full time, working part time, and seriously dating my future wife.

Back then I was just learning about money and listening to Dave Ramsey while exercising or commuting.

I must have missed the whole baby step thing, because I had it in my mind that I needed to start investing.

You see I found my old retirement account from my day of being a teacher and thought I needed to do some investing with it.

One day I wandered into an Edward Jones office in one of the richest areas of San Francisco with the paperwork and intent of becoming a serious investor.

The main advisor happened to be in and agreed to meet with me there on the spot.

He proceeded to give me an hour long investing lesson using a white board, explaining load and no load funds, compound interest and more.

He talked to me like a person without condensation or judgement. This is an essential quality in choosing a financial advisor. 

At the end of his lesson his advice was for me to NOT invest my retirement in other funds, but to use a small amount to pay off my grad school loan and be debt free with a new degree and a bit of retirement saved.

I was astonished. Did he actually turn down my business? Did he tell me to not invest and do what I came in here to do.

He showed me the door and I was left to my own thoughts.

Not Investing Was a Great Decision

In retrospect, not moving my retirement around was a great decision that day. I had no idea what I was doing. Nor did my life situation warrant beginning to invest at the time.

I did end up cashing it out later to pay off my small graduate school bill, help pay for our wedding, and started our new married life with a little emergency fund.

I am thankful for the honesty and integrity of that financial advisor who told me “No”.

He chose to forego a quick commission check (though I’m sure small to what he was used to) in exchange for helping a misguided graduate student stay out of the market right before the great recession and market crash.

Had I invested, the money would have been reduced to 1/2 its value at the time I needed it most.

Thank you to honest financial advisors who understand their fiduciary responsibility and have their client’s best interest at heart.

How has your experience been with financial advisors?

It's patriotic to be frugal!

It’s patriotic to be frugal!

Happy 4th of July! While I’m shooting fireworks and doing some DIY projects this weekend, Melissa Schraiber of FatWallet.com is pitching in to help. And of course I was in no way compensated for this article–that would be against Google’s terms and agreements and my commitment to you

Stay safe my friends!

What’s More Patriotic Than Saving a Dollar? How Not to Overspend this Fourth of July 

If you’re like most people, you’ve got big plans for the July 4th holiday. Research from the National Retail Federation says nearly 90 percent of Americans will celebrate in some way – barbecues, fireworks, camping and travel are some of the more popular ways to recognize the holiday.

It’s easy to go overboard and blow your budget when you’re looking forward to blowing off some steam and relaxing while you’ve got several days off work. Rest assured, you can have fun, celebrate our nation’s independence and still have some money in the bank if you use these tips.

Food and Drink

Cookouts and barbecues are one of the most popular ways to celebrate Independence Day. And food gets pricey. Check out these statistics from the National Retail Federation that show how much Americans will spend during the July 4th holiday:

  • $92 million on chips
  • $60 million on dip
  • $194 million on hamburger patties
  • $70 million on buns
  • $86 million on cheese
  • $341 million on beer

While your spending will account for only a fraction of the total, hosting your family and friends for a cookout can get pricey. Instead of providing all the food and beverages, ask your guests to pitch in. You provide the meats, buns and toppings and ask your guests to bring side dishes and desserts.

For beverages, set up a small, inflatable pool in the yard or on the patio. Ask your guests to bring a six-pack of their favorite beer or soft drink. Dump the drinks in the pool and cover with them ice. Everyone gets to share in the wealth and try some new varieties. Plus, you’ll save on the overall cost.


According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spent $645 million on fireworks in 2012. But don’t break the bank by shelling out hundreds of dollars on fireworks that you might not even get to use. Go in with a few neighbors and split the cost so you can have a brief display on your street. Practice fire safety while putting on your show too. It’s certainly not cheap to go to the emergency room!


Getting back to nature is a fantastic way to enjoy the July 4th holiday. Save money on camping supplies by looking for deals online and using Kohls coupons for tents, canopies, sleeping bags, grills and other necessities to make your outdoor adventure memorable.


According to AAA, 40.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend. That’s slightly down from last year, probably due to July 4th falling on a Thursday. More people tend to travel when the holiday falls on a Wednesday and they have more time off from work.

Despite high gas prices, most people will travel by car. To reduce your gas usage, make sure your vehicle is in top working order. Change the oil and check the air in the tires. Using cruise control will also help you save gas on longer trips. And obey the speed limit, as this will also help you cut down on the amount of gas you use.

Don’t shell out too much cash over the long weekend. Using our tips, you can enjoy the traditional July 4th festivities and activities without burning a hole in your wallet.

How will you be frugal on the 4th of July? 

Melissa Schraiber tries her best to be as frugal as possible and helps others to do the same. With big life changes in her near future, it is more important now more than ever to save money.

Hipster Cable

What is Hipster cable? Photo Credit: chantel beam photography via Compfight cc

Do you still own a TV? I haven’t owned one in a while and it seems like the trend to owning a T.V. and paying for traditional cable are going the way of the gas powered car.

There is a new breed of media watchers who consume their media through Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Mobile ???.

Many of them don’t even pay for it. It’s called Hipster Cable.

What is Hipster Cable?

The term hipster is now used for any young urban person who dresses cool and thinks differently (doesn’t every generation do that?)

Hipster cable is way to consume media without paying for it directly–yet you might exchange an intangible currency.

An example of hipster cable:

If you give me your Hulu plus password, I’ll share my NetFlix longin with you.


Now, multiply that scenario across a whole hipster generation and you’ve got hundreds of thousands, if not millions of free loading Arrested Development binge watchers.

Hipster Cable: Ethically Wrong or Savvy Consumers?

So this begs the question, is sharing your password to these online services ethically wrong or does it just show a smart frugalness by the consumer?

Have you ever shared your Hulu Plus login or borrowed your brother in law’s HBO account to catch up on an episode of Thrones?

What constitutes “family” in family plan? Does a “household” include your roommate’s friend sleeping on the couch?

I’m sure advertisers don’t mind more eyeballs viewing their ads, yet shareholders could have concerns their product is being viewed for “free”.

Netflix and others could crackdown on sharing, yet at what cost? Do you really want to anger your viewing base–even if they are viewing for free?

Hipster Cable: Final Thoughts

I believe all artists deserve their dues and even those involved in making a production from mixers and composers to those chopping film minutes before the release deadline.

When you engage in hipster cable, you’re not just stealing from Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO, you’re also stealing from all those involved in making a production–especially those who earn royalties.

Pony up the money if you want to watch a show, or if you’re cheap–crash your buddies house when it’s time to watch the next Game of Thrones.

Great movies and shows are more fun to watch in community.

What are your thoughts on Hipster Cable?

Also read: Budget Like a Hipster