Jul 31 2013

What’s More Important: A Small Waist or a Big Wallet?

By |July 31st, 2013|Blog, Life|11 Comments|

As many of you know I got engaged last year and will be getting married next May. There is a lot of planning, talking with vendors, signing contracts, and of course spending money when you are planning a wedding. There’s also a lot of dieting, exercising, and getting in shape for engagement photos, trying on dresses (Tag, not me), and looking great for your wedding.

Obviously my goal is to save up enough money to pay for the wedding without going into debt, while also eating healthy and exercising so I look good for my future wife. However, what if I could only pick one?

What if I had two choices?

Option 1: incur unplanned expenses that make me have to borrow money to pay for the wedding but I look like a GQ model.

Option 2: Pay for the whole wedding with money I’ve saved and continue to be debt free next June, but put on 20 pounds and be overweight.

I’ll Take Health over Money Any Day

It’s really not even a question for me. I would much rather look and feel great on my wedding, and then pay off the debt over time, than be overweight for it.

Wedding pictures are forever. My honeymoon (if we can afford one) only happens once. This is the one day of my life where all my closest friends and family are there to see me, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna look like a slob.

If I go into debt for this wedding, then I’ll pay it back. I’ll take a second job if I have to. I’ll sell my house and move into a smaller one. I’ll figure it out.

Debt can be fixed. Wedding pictures cannot.

And even if I didn’t have the wedding coming up, I would still value my health over money. I love that I can live an active lifestyle. I love that I can look in a mirror and feel good about myself. I love that my doctor doesn’t have to give me a hard time when I go get my annual physical.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “At least you’ve got your health.”? I think it’s a great saying, because no matter what situation you are in, you have time to make it better if you’re healthy enough to stick around for a while and find a solution!

Debt can be paid off. Heck, you can even rebound from bankruptcy. But if you mess up your health bad enough, you might not have a chance to fix it.

This post was inspired by a survey just released by Credit Karma. There is some interesting information about how people feel about their weight and their money. Check out the infographic below if you are interested.

Readers: What is more important to you: a small waist or a big wallet?

physical vs financial health

Jul 30 2013

Steer Clear of Debt by Avoiding These Bad Habits

By |July 30th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

Every day, people all over the world are using credit cards as a convenient way to pay for the things they need. So why is it some will get themselves in to financial difficulty when using them?

Here are a few of the common failings those who find themselves in financial difficulty might recognise and those who want to avoid such problems should take on board.

Buying on Impulse

Sometimes it can be tempting to buy something as soon as you’ve seen it, but if this happens often and you haven’t factored in these expenses they can soon mount up.

Therefore, it’s perhaps wise to come up with a budget and ensure anything you do buy is affordable – and needed in the first place. In other words, give yourself a bit of thinking time before handing over your plastic at the checkout.

Exceeding your Income

It’s important to have a good idea of what your income is each month in comparison to your average outgoings. Make a note of regular bills such as mortgage or rent payments, food shopping and household bills and find out how much you have left over for everything else.

Take a look at your statement to find out how much you spent last month overall – if it was more than you earned then you might soon find yourself in debt if you don’t change your habits.

Using Debt to Cover Debt

A sure fire way to put yourself at risk of spiralling debt is if you use credit cards to help you pay off existing balances. This is unlikely to resolve the issue in the long term as it’s simply passing the debt around, while interest rates cause it to grow. If you do want to give yourself a bit of breathing space then making a balance transfer could be the way to do it. Making a balance transfer credit card application could allow you to pay off your debts without having to worry about spiralling interest, as they offer a 0 per cent interest rate for a pre-defined period.

Spending Beyond your Means

Although a credit card gives you the opportunity to buy items you might not normally be able to afford in an instant, it’s still important to remember that you’ll need to pay for them eventually. If you can clear the full balance at the end of the month then all the better, as that way you won’t have to contend with interest.

Jul 24 2013

I’m Libertarian Because Unprovoked Violence is Wrong

By |July 24th, 2013|Blog, Economics / Politics|28 Comments|

When you are a politically active person in the United States who doesn’t identify with the Republican or Democrat party, those in one of the two main parties have a very hard time understanding you.

People have called me everything from idealistic or impractical to stupid or crazy. They don’t understand why I wouldn’t be willing to align myself with one of the two largest parties, just picking the one that is closest to my beliefs, and get behind it 100%. I certainly wish I could, but there is one platform that both parties support unequivocally and without reservation: violence against people who don’t agree with them.

That’s right. Republicans and Democrats both believe that if you aren’t willing to do what they think is “right”, they will initiate violence against you. If you disobey them enough, you will literally find yourself with a gun aimed directly at you for disobeying them.

This isn’t some secret conspiracy or some grand revelation; this is the life we live in today. Republicans and Democrats believe in physical aggression against anyone who doesn’t abide by their laws. A libertarian believes physically aggression is never appropriate unless it is in defense of life, liberty, or property.

Is The Government Really Aggressive?

This is where I’m going to get disagreement from any non-libertarian. The government does a lot of stuff, and you do not get to choose if you agree with it or not. They decide something should be done and then force you to pay for it (through taxes).

As a libertarian, I believe in the non-aggression principle (that you should never harm another person or their property, unless you are acting in self defense).

Is the government truly “aggressive”? Well, what would happen if you didn’t pay your taxes?

First the IRS would call you and inform you of all the fines you owe for not paying. Continue to refuse to pay, and eventually the government will show up to your house with an arrest warrant and a bunch of guys with guns, coming to take you to jail for a felony charge of tax evasion.

If you resist arrest, they will do whatever it takes to get you. They will harm you physically, beat you, and they will certainly shoot you if you try to defend yourself with a firearm of your own.

Every law they pass, every program they create, and every tax they impose on you is enforceable through violent aggression.

“Good” Programs are No Excuse for Violence

As I stated before, the government will initiate violence against me if I refuse to pay taxes to support food stamps. This is not an opinion or conjecture; this is a fact.

Some might say, “Food stamps are a good cause, so you SHOULD be forced to pay for it.”

The government isn’t the only organization that helps hungry people eat. Food banks here in North Texas alone feed thousands of people with donations from individuals, corporations, and a heck of a lot of volunteers. They do a great job and feed a lot of people.

But what if their donations dried up? Should the North Texas Food Bank be able to show up at my door with guns and armor and demand that I “donate” money so they can continue their charitable work in the community? I doubt there’s a single person reading this who thinks the North Texas Food Bank should have that right, so why should the government?

Do I Agree With [insert law]?

I would encourage everyone to take a second look at certain laws or policies that you support at the federal level with the following question in mind:

peace on the wall

photo credit: jumpinjimmyjava

“Am I comfortable with the fact that the government will initiate violence against US citizens if they are unwilling to fund this program or abide by this law?”

When I ask myself this question, I am very comfortable with the government initiating violence against murders, burglars, and rapists. These people deny someone else’s right to life, liberty, or property.

But am I comfortable with the government initiating violence against someone who doesn’t want to buy poor people food, or someone who doesn’t want to prosecute and imprison non-violent drug users? Absolutely not.

Readers: What is your guiding principle that helps you determine if you whether you agree with a law?

Jul 11 2013

The Free Market Can Fix Healthcare

By |July 11th, 2013|Blog, Economics / Politics|12 Comments|

You may have read in the news that the Obama administration is delaying implementation of portions of Obamacare because they are too complicated and are simply not ready to go into practice on the timelines originally passed in the law.

While some portions are being delayed, other parts of the law are in full effect already. Now I’m just wondering; have you seen your health care costs decline? I know I haven’t. I tried to find data on the subject but it seems like liberal website are saying costs are declining (or at least increasing less than they were pre-Obamacare) and conservative websites are saying they are going up. Since I don’t know who to trust, I’ll just go with my individual experience.

My insurance costs jumped substantially last year, and everyone else I know had the same experience.

Maybe big government isn’t the solution to every problem. Maybe the free market can fix something, even as complicated as health care, better than government can.

Enter the free market.

A Free Market Approach to Health Care

In Oklahoma, a new surgery center posted prices online and refused to accept Medicare or Medicaid (not because they have anything against people that use those government programs, but because those programs do not reimburse hospitals if they post their prices online).

And guess what: these prices aren’t just a little cheaper than traditional hospitals. Take a look at some of the examples from this article:

  • Mercy Hospital charged $16, 244 for a breast biopsy; the procedure will cost $3,500 at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
  • OU Medical Center billed $20,456 for the open repair of a fracture; the procedure will cost $4,855 at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
  • OU Medical Center billed $21,556 for a gall bladder removal surgery; the procedure will cost $5,865 at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
  • OU Medical Center billed $23,934 for an ankle arthroscopy; the procedure will cost $3,740 at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
  • Integris Baptist billed $37,174 for a hysterectomy; the surgery costs $8,000 at Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
hospital

photo credit: Fotos GOVBA

This place is charging less than 25% of what other hospitals charge! Imagine how much wealthier we would be as a country (and how much wealthier you would be individually) if we could eliminate 75% of our nations health care costs.

PBS reports that the total average health care costs for each individual in the US is $8,233 per person. If we reduce that by 75%, that means every person in the country has another $6,000 to spend on something else.

Sure some hospitals and insurance companies would go out of business because they are inefficient and people would lose their jobs. But imagine how many other jobs would be created in different sectors if people had extra money to spend or invest elsewhere.

But They Are Just Servicing Rich People…

The main criticism of this type of medical facility is obvious. It would sound something like this:

“The difference between this place and other hospitals is that you’d be turned away if you couldn’t pay. At most hospitals, they overcharge the paying customers because they still service the people who can’t pay. If all hospitals did this, what would happen to poor people who can’t afford thousands of dollars for surgery?”

First: many working class people would be able to afford that kind of surgery if they weren’t paying so much for medical insurance. Instead of paying an insurance company $5,000 a year (who keeps the money if you stay healthy), people can save $5,000 a year and only use it if they need to.

Second: the more hospitals that do this, the lower prices would go. Hospitals would have to start competing for business (which has already started happening in Oklahoma) and everyone would lower their prices. Health care becomes even cheaper.

Third: for those who still can’t pay, there is charity. According to Wikipedia,

In 2012, the [Catholic] church operated 12.6% of hospitals in the USA, accounting for 15.6% of all admissions, and around 14.5% of hospital expenses (c. 98.6 billion dollars). Compared to the public system, the church provided greater financial assistance or free care to poor patients, and was a leading provider of various low-profit health services such as breast cancer screenings, nutrition programs, trauma, and care of the elderly.

When the nation is wealthier because we save hundred of billions of dollars on healthcare, people and churches can donate even more money to charitable hospitals.

Sticker Shock is Helpful

When people don’t see how much something costs, they don’t care what it costs. When I get my annual physical, I don’t care if my doctor charges my insurance $10 or $10,000, as long as I don’t pay anything out of pocket.

But when I have to pay for it myself, I care immensely. So does everyone else.

When consumers demand lower prices, businesses compete. Costs get lower.

When healthcare is cheaper, we all have more money to save for retirement, buy a new house, or whatever else we want to do to meet our financial goals.

Readers: Do you believe the free market can fix healthcare?

Jun 20 2013

I Love $2.50 Flights from Phoenix to Dallas

By |June 20th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|3 Comments|

Every year my fiancee’s parents do a big 3 weeks vacation in the western USA camping, hiking, and doing all kinds of fun outdoor activities. In the three previous summers I’ve been with Tag I’ve always wanted to go but never had the chance.

This year I’m going!

This trip is going to be a lot of fun because I’ll get to spend quality time with my fiancee and future in-laws, and I’ll also get to see parts of the country that I’ve never seen before.

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? I haven’t, but I will this summer! My family was never really big on camping and hiking so this will really be a great new experience for me.

And best of all it’s really cheap.

Travel and Accommodations are Super Cheap

When you travel two of your biggest expenses are your travel to and from your destination, and a place to sleep once you get there. On this trip, I won’t have to pay for either!

We are leaving Dallas with Tag’s parents. It will take two days to get from Dallas to Arizona, but I hear we have something exciting planned for our stop in New Mexico. Her parents are taking care of the gas, and while I’ll probably offer to fill up the tank I don’t know if they will let me. The bottom line: my transportation there is free.

Once we get there, we are staying in the camper. This isn’t some cheap little thing either. I’m not a camping expert so I don’t really know how to describe it. Let’s just say it looks a lot like this trailer, except newer and probably nicer.

camping trailer

photo credit: iluvcocacola

The trailer has a master bedroom and then a second bedroom with bunk beds. That means all we have to pay is the campsite fee (which is way cheaper than a hotel) and again, this is pretty much be covered by my future in-laws. Accommodations: free again.

So getting there is basically free and sleeping during the trip is basically free. But what about getting back? I can’t stay for the whole 3 weeks of vacation, I’ll need to fly home early. That could be expensive right?

I Have a $2.50 Flight from Phoenix to Dallas

Tag and I are saving up for a wedding. Even though most of this trip is free, we still don’t have the money to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight home. However, I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of taking this awesome vacation.

I have a bunch of British Airways Avios miles saved up from the British Airways credit card. Luckily British Airways is a partner with American Airlines and I can use the miles to fly domestically on American. It would have cost me over $450 to pay for two plane tickets from Dallas to Phoenix without using rewards.

With my miles, it costs me $5 and 15,000 points for two plane tickets from Phoenix to Dallas. That’s $2.50 per person. Check it out:

Phoenix to Dallas AviosThat’s the proof that I’m saving over $450, and that each Avios point is worth over 3 cents! That’s a killer deal!

I Love Cheap Vacations

There’s nothing better than a cheap vacation. I can get away from work, spend some time in nature, and all the while not have to worry about how much money it’s going to cost me.

If you want to save money on vacations and earn more rewards, you should really check out my new site Reward Boost, which helps you maximize your credit card rewards. If you earn rewards like I do, then you might be able to take free vacations like me too!

Readers: How do you save money when you go on vacation?

 

Jun 4 2013

Find the Best Rewards Credit Cards with Reward Boost

By |June 4th, 2013|Blog|1 Comment|

Have you ever wondered if you were missing out on credit card rewards by not having the right cards in your wallet? Maybe you have a few cards in your wallet and you don’t know which one gives you the most rewards at each different store.

You don’t have to wonder anymore because I’ve built Reward Boost which will answer all those questions for you!

I am what you would call obsessive over my rewards points. I have four different rewards credit cards that I carry with me at all times: one for gas, one for groceries, one for restaurants, and one for everything else. This helps me to average about 3% cash back on all of my purchases.

That’s why me and a partner built Reward Boost to help anyone maximize their reward points and earn more cash back!

I launched Reward Boost last year with a few blog posts and reviews of cards, but that was just the beginning. Now Reward Boost is a fully featured web application that helps people pick the best rewards credit cards! Watch this video and in 90 seconds you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about!

I have been working on this website for well over a year now and I’m REALLY EXCITED to finally have a live product that can help people earn more rewards!

Rewards Are More Than Just Free Money

Rewards are very important to me. This is not just about putting a few extra bucks in my wallet.

Over a year ago I used credit card rewards on a plane ticket to visit my mother before she went into cancer surgery.

And if that wasn’t enough, earlier this year I used rewards to visit my father and spend time with him before he passed away from cancer.

I was able to be with my mother before the biggest surgery of her life (from which she has recovered wonderfully, thank God!) and spend time with my father before he died without seriously hurting my budget thanks to my credit card rewards.

The next big thing I’m hoping to use rewards on is a honeymoon for me and Tag when we get married next May. I already have over $700 saved up and it’s growing every month. If I’m lucky my rewards will buy us some plane tickets and allow us to go on a honeymoon even after paying for the wedding ourselves.

I Want To Help YOU Maximize Your Rewards

Rewards are near and dear to my heart. It kills me to see people spending hundreds or even over a thousand dollars a month on their credit cards and not taking advantage of these reward programs.

Best Rewards Credit CardsHere are some great things about Reward Boost:

  • It’s 100% free
  • We don’t ask for credit card numbers or login information, so you have ZERO identity theft risk
  • It can help almost anyone increase their rewards

I’m embarrassed to say that I’m a rewards nut and even I wasn’t fully maximizing my credit card rewards. After building the tool, I found that I was using a card at 2.4% back for groceries when I had another card in my wallet that would give me 3% back.

It’s not much, but every little bit helps when you are trying to take a vacation or buy things for your house.

Give It a Try!

I’ve been blogging on this site for years and I know I’ve helped a few people learn about Roth IRAs or creating a budget, and I certainly hope that I’ve helped people earn or save more money. However, I’ve never done anything on this site that has the potential to save lots of people hundreds of dollars a year until starting Reward Boost.

Please take a moment and check out Reward Boost to see if I can help you save some money. The tool is free to use, and you can sign up with email, facebook, or twitter if you want to keep track of your cards and spending and make changes at any point.

I would also love to get feedback from you, my incredible readers. If you do check out the site, please let me know how you liked it and give me as much feedback as possible. Whether you hate it or love it, please let me know why. You can post in the comments here or email me at kevin [at] thousandaire . com

Thank you so much, and I hope I can help you earn lots of free money!

Readers: Please give Reward Boost a try and let me know what you think! Thanks!