Yesterday was pretty exhausting for everyone. So, today’s post focuses on the things we can do something about, like checking on our open enrollment periods and fighting back against commercials that assume American consumers are idiots.

Open Enrollment Reminder
Guardian Unlimited produced a video starring Mia Hamm about open enrollment. You might not want to check your 401K holdings this week, but you should make sure your health insurance still meets your needs.

Who is KFC Kidding?
I can’t find the commercial on YouTube yet, but last night I saw a horrifying KFC commercial. The “$10 Challenge” featured a family going into a grocery store with a calculator to try to make a fried chicken dinner for less than $10. The young daughter asked the butcher “Seven pieces of chicken cost how much?” Then a whole package of flour went into the cart. The  young son mentioned the 11 herbs and spices. Then the mom triumphantly held up her calculator and announced that KFC’s $10 meal was cheaper than cooking yourself.

Seriously? Are they kidding? Sure, if they had to buy every ingredient every night, eating out would be cheaper. Last time I checked, fried chicken doesn’t require five pounds of flour and a whole chicken can be had for around $7 (four pounds). Odds are pretty good that the average family already has most of the fried chicken ingredients on hand for their dinner. So, KFC’s target demographic is apparently customers who throw out all remaining ingredients after they make a single meal.

Even if I could eat KFC (which I can’t due to food intolerances), the insulting nature of this commercial would be enough to make me stop. But in case anyone doubted, yes, you can make dinner for four for $10. The fine Top Chef contestants managed to do it, and it was even gourmet. If you want a KFC-style dinner with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and homemade biscuits,  open your pantry. You probably already have the ingredients you need except for the chicken and potatoes. Go one better than the commercial and use real potatoes, not potato flakes. Maybe, if you’ve got a buck left after the “exorbitant” cost of fresh, whole ingredients, serve green beans or another fresh vegetable, too.

Who is Big Corn Trying to Fool?
And then there are the new high-fructose corn syrup commercials. Once again – really? Who are they kidding? Are they really trying to convince us that their product is natural? How dumb do they think we are?

So now you’ve done something productive and transferred your rage to something new. What’s, besides the Bailout/stock market/news/Wall Street has your blood boiling?

What have you decided to take control of in your life?

When I left work Thursday I had an account with Washington Mutual. By the time I got home, I had an account at JP Morgan Chase. The transition was smooth. No one waited in line. No accountholders lost a dime. Is that how a crisis unfolds?

I’m not an economist, but I do have common sense. I’ve listened to the politicians and I’ve listened to the economists. Although some agree with the bailout, most agree that it won’t solve the core problem, and may not have any effect at all. So is this crisis a true disaster or is it Wall Street’s panic over its own profits causing the rest of us pain? Is the current bailout plan the right solution?

First, a few quotes from the Telegraph:
“There is a kind of suggestion in the Paulson proposal that if only we provide enough money to financial markets, this problem will disappear. But that does nothing to address the fundamental problem of bleeding foreclosures and the holes in the balance sheets of banks.”
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist

“It’s more hype than real risk. A nasty recession is possible, but the bailout will not cure that. So it’s mainly relevant to the financial industry. My sense is it will delay a disaster, given that you only have three months left in this administration. But it will not cure the problem in the financial industry, or prevent the shakeout and downsizing of the industry.”
James K. Galbraith, University of Texas economist and son of the late economic historian John Kenneth Galbraith

“It will have no impact. They propose to give banks Treasury paper for illiquid assets, and suppose this will allow banks to start lending to the real economy again. What we have to do is get the bad banks out of the system. Once we do that, everything else is going to be fine – the financial system will start operating again and then we can start focusing on the economy.”
Christopher Whalen, MD of Institutional Risk Analytics

Those are only the quotes that don’t support the bailout. We’ve all seen the people supporting it on our television, but the above quotes from people who really do understand the economy have me concerned that borrowing more than $700 billion (or just printing it) won’t do a darn thing to fix this economy. I’m not completely convinced that it needs external forces to fix it, anyway.

Would the Banks Really Have Stopped ALL Lending Without a Bailout?
No. Banks will stop lending to people and companies who are bad risks, though. People will be forced to spend less and borrow less. People will be forced to save up larger down payments. People will be forced to drive their cars longer. Most people would not be living in tent cities and begging for food, as the people squawking for money would have us believe. Just Thursday of last week, Caterpillar was able to borrow a large sum of money.  They had to pay a higher interest rate, but they were able to borrow because they’re a financially sound company.

People whose personal economies are strong would be able to get mortgages if they chose to buy houses they could reasonably afford and can pay a solid down payment. To receive lower interest rates, they’s also have to qualify for a loan less than $417,000.

People would be able to get car loans if they chose to buy reasonably-priced cars they could reasonably afford and were willing to put down a few thousand dollars.

People would be able to get credit for purchases, just not as much as they might like. They might have to buy the $500 TV instead of the $1,000 TV. Or, maybe, they’d have to save their money to buy a new TV.

Most of our consumer banks are not on the verge of a collapse. Yes, credit is tighter and they are considering loans more carefully, but they are still conducting their basic business: collecting deposits and paying interest on them. Banks typically make loans at higher interest rates to earn the money to pay interest on those deposits. They can’t do one without doing the other.

Would Our Recession Have Extended Without the Bailout?
Yes, probably. Some people would lose jobs, especially those in the finance sector. The bailout won’t stop that. Some people would lose houses. The bailout won’t stop that. Some people would struggle to pay their massive personal debt. The bailout won’t stop that. No one can even say if the bailout will prevent the recession from continuing.

What Does the Bailout Do?
So what the heck is all this money for us and what does it get us?

It gets us a pretend cap on executive salaries.

It gets us an ownership stake in companies the government has no business owning.

It gives us the salve that participating companies may have to repay the loans issued by the Secretary in five years if there’s a shortfall on the return on our investment, but that assumes that those companies will still exist in five years.

It gives us a Treasury Secretary with the ability to encourage mortgage holders to modify them rather than foreclose. He may choose to modify the loans, as well, but how likely is that, really? Most of these mortgages are carved up into tiny pieces, not placed whole into a single mortgage-backed security. It’s unlikely the Treasury would be able to find all the pieces of those mortgages in order to make it whole and then reduce it.

There’s no doubt that this bill will pass. We can only hope it does some good.

Since I hosted the Carnival of Personal Finance this week, I’ve only got two additional carnivals to share.

First up, Money Hacks Carnival #31 hosted by Moolanomy. In addition to my post about saving money with Walgreens coupons, you might also like The Smarter Wallet’s tips for saving money with generic drugs.

Next, the Festival of Frugality #144 hosted by My Two Dollars.  In addition to my post about creating financial windfalls, you might also enjoy FruGal’s perspective on the new frugality. To me, frugality is a great way to create your own windfalls.

America was built on frugality. The original settlers were not wealthy, and they used as much of every resource as they could. Eventually they built a prosperous land, but again, the people were essentially frugal. Was there wasteful spending? Sure. Was there ridiculous wealth? Of course. But the economy wasn’t backed by spending. Then something changed and now we find ourselves mired in debt and struggling to climb out. Six months ago I asked if frugality was in the air.  It was and still is. It’s time to return to the fundamentals of frugality. Here’s why and how:

Frugality Can Be Sustained Long-Term
True, frugality doesn’t produce insane wealth, but it can be sustained over several decades. The same is true of our economy as a whole. Fantastic growth driven by spending and speculation can’t be sustained forever and is always followed by a crash. In contrast, slow and steady growth backed by fundamentals like hard work, patience, and prudence creates a stable economy that can withstand the small reversals that are part of any cycle. Yes, there will always be a cycle of boom and bust, but the highs and lows are gentler when rampant spending isn’t both the cause and the solution.

Frugality Shifts Wealth Rather than Debt to the Future
If you spend less than you earn, and save the difference, you’ll (hopefully) end this life with more money than you started it with. You can leave that to your heirs, to charity, to whomever. It doesn’t matter who you leave it to, just that prosperity is passed forward rather than debt. The same can be said of the government: a frugal government passes a surplus to future generations. A wasteful government passes a massive debt that our children must pay off.

Frugality Shifts Value to People Rather than Things
We’ve reached a point where the things define people rather than their character. Owning the latest gizmo doesn’t reflect your personal value, though. It doesn’t tell anyone else what you consider important. It just says that you have enough money (or enough credit) to buy that thing. If instead we focus on defining people by their character rather than their possessions, then we won’t need “stuff” to give us meaning.

Frugality Gives You Options
Eventually, every economic cycle ends. If you practice frugality, you have options during any economy. You don’t have to cling to a bad job in a failing company because you won’t be able to pay the bills without it. You don’t have to pull your kids out of private school or move into a trailer because the money dried up. You don’t have to start selling things to pay the bills. If the economy is doing well, you can take that dream trip or donate money to a cause you support and trust that your savings will continue to grow. When you’re frugal, your ability to make choices isn’t governed by the economy, it’s governed by your values.

How America Can Learn to Be Frugal
For a lot of people, a continued spending spree is simply not an option. While our government throws money at a problem a few of us created but all of us are paying for, we have to tighten our belts. Rather than make this a temporary change until things loosen up, take this as an opportunity to say no.

Say no to the clamor for the new iPod.
Say no to trading in your three-year-old car for a new lease.
Say no to buying new clothes just because fashions changed a little.
Say no to expensive convenience foods.
Say no to higher student loan debt.

Say yes to using the stuff you already own until it’s worn out.
Say yes to cooking at home.
Say yes to quality time with friends and family.
Say yes to spending less than what you earn.
Say yes to choosing a more affordable college.

Some people worry that the economy would go into a tailspin if people suddenly stopped spending. Guess what? If you believe our leaders, it already has. The answer is not for us to spend more; it’s for all of us to save more. Start with 1% of your income. Then next month, go to 2%. If you get a raise, put the whole thing into savings right away.

There was a time not too long ago when people saved more than 10% of their income, and yet they lived perfectly comfortable lives. We can do that again. The government isn’t going to take the lead here. It’s up to us, the people, the show our government and our children the kind of world we want to live in.

We start by just spending a little less and saving a little more. I promise, that never hurt anyone.

The best financial advice I ever got, and frankly the vast majority of my financial advice, came from my dad. He’s a former CFO, financially successful, and a good parent. Who better to look to for advice about taxes, my retirement portfolio, saving for a house, and day-to-day money management.

Most of the lessons I learned from him weren’t really spoken. Instead I learned my good financial habits from watching him and my mom. And also because I’m generally level-headed about money. My sister didn’t seem to learn quite the same lessons, or at least hasn’t chosen to employ them as well (sorry for picking on you, sis.) I’ll share the best actual piece of advice he gave me, as well as several of the lessons I learned by watching him.

His Best Financial Advice
When it came time to pick a college major, I chose communications. Although not an entirely useless degree, it’s one of those catch-all degrees that can be good for anything. My emphasis was TV production, which is less general. My dad advised me to minor in business, and I’m glad he did. I’ve relied on those six classes much more than I did anything I learned in TV production (even when I was working in TV.) Those classes included: economics, accounting, management, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Economics taught me the importance of supply and demand and Adam Smith (the invisible hand.)
Accounting taught me to read a balance sheet and understand credits and debits.
Management taught me how to work with people.
Entrepreneurship taught me to take creative risks and challenge myself.
Marketing taught me the basics of loss leaders, cash cows, early adopters, and other marketing tricks that are used to part me from my money.

Even though I’m not a “businessperson” in the traditional sense, the knowledge I gained from my minor serves me every day in myriad ways.

Best Advice by Example
My family runs strongly toward the frugal, and some might even say a few of us are cheap. Because of that, I picked up a lot of good lessons about money management and the value of the dollar while I was growing up. The lessons my dad taught me by example are:

Be willing to spend a little more to buy high-quality goods that will last a long time.
Stretch a little to buy a house, but not too much.
Remodel your house over time (decades) rather than all at once.
Start saving for retirement early.
Balance the checkbook.
File taxes early.
Learn the tax rules to use them to your best advantage.
Always pay credit cards in full and on-time.

If you can’t afford it right now, it can probably wait.
Sometimes student loans aren’t the best deal.
Negotiate the price on large appliances. Offer to buy those that are slightly dinged or take the floor model at a discount.
Research high-end purchases carefully before making a purchase.
Don’t buy on impulse.
Shopping is not therapy or entertainment. Shop with a purpose and a goal.
Enjoy life – travel, eat good food, and don’t be cheap with the tip.
Provide your children with what they need and sometimes what they want, but don’t spoil them.

Ensure that you always have health insurance.
Ensure that you have enough auto and homeowners insurance.
Work hard to find a job.
If you’re out of work for a long time, be willing to take a menial job that will pay the bills while you look.
Don’t accept the first job offer if it’s not the right job offer.
Be reliable and doors will open for you.
Over time, stock investments will increase your assets, but don’t panic if they lose value in the near term.
Work hard and you will succeed.
Follow your dreams, but do it smartly.
Money is a tool to help you enjoy life, not a goal in itself.

In addition to the above, my dad gave me a subscription to Money Magazine for several years. I pay for the subscription now, and I read it every month. He’s still around, and I still go to him for advice, but sometimes the magazine tells me everything he would have, and a little more.

What’s the best financial advice you ever received? I’m tagging the Digerati Life, Mrs. Micah,  and Living Almost Large. If I didn’t tag you and you want to answer, tell me in the comments or post it on your own blog and post the link in the comments.

Living Almost Large shares financial advice from her mom.

The Digerati Life shares financial advice from her dad.

Free From Broke also received great financial advice from his dad. Are we sensing a trend?

Although it doesn’t get super cold in Los Angeles, it does get chilly (really, it does.) I don’t like to crank up the thermostat, so I’ve come up with a few other ways to keep warm in the fall and winter.

Check for Drafts
Check your doors and windows for cracks or drafts before it gets wet out. Seal them or repair them now so the warm air doesn’t escape and the cold air doesn’t blow through them. If you rent and live in a colder climate, either ask your landlord to do it or ask to be reimbursed for your repair costs.

Put on a Sweater, Socks, and a Hat
It doesn’t get cold enough inside to require a ski cap, but I do bundle up in a sweater and socks throughout the fall and winter. You lose the most heat through your feet and head, so simply covering them helps retain body heat.

Use a Blanket
Not just in bed, although I’ve been known to pile them on there, too. I keep two chenille throws on the sofa and bundle up in one while watching TV. It keeps me warm and sometimes entices my cats to share their body heat with me, too.

Use Space Heaters
I don’t like to turn up the heat in the middle of the day. Instead I keep a small space heater under my desk. I turn it on for just a few minutes to warm my tootsies up, and then turn it off again to save energy. Avoid using space heaters while you’re asleep, though. Every year the news reports the death of at least one family whose space heater caught fire during the night.

Clear the Vents
Remove the vent covers and vacuum the vents. If you have stuff piled on the vents or furniture placed over them, move both. The vents should have clear airflow throughout the room so they operate the most efficiently.

Replace the Filter
The filter in your heating/cooling unit should be replaced every six months, at least. We replace ours around the equinoxes, but you could also do it at New Year’s and July 4. Replacing or cleaning the filter improves the unit’s efficiency, especially if you have pets.

Call for Maintenance
Don’t wait until the dead of winter to call for maintenance. If you haven’t had your system checked out in a couple years, schedule a service call before the winter rush to stay warm and save money.

Cover the Floors
If you have hardwood floors, the cold wood can be really hard on your body first thing in the morning. Instead, lay area rugs around the bed or keep slippers nearby so at least your feet will be warm when you wake up.

Light a Fire
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, check Freecycle or Craigslist for free firewood, and then burn it all winter long. One warning: do not attempt to burn green wood or pine wood. Both are fire hazards. You also shouldn’t attempt to heat your living space with a gas-only fireplace (ceramic logs). Although they’re pretty, they’re very inefficient at heating a home.

Use the Drapes and Blinds Properly
In the morning, open drapes over south-facing windows to let in the light and warmth. Close all your drapes in the evening to trap the warmth inside.

Replace the Windows
If you have older, single-pane windows, hang storm windows to add insulation. You might also consider replacing all of your windows with new windows designed for your region. The right type will vary, but it can save you energy and money for years to come. New windows will also usually come with new frames, which will solve the draft problem. Depending on the windows you choose, you may also qualify for a tax deduction.

Replace the Heating/Cooling Unit
If you have an older home, you may also have an old heating/cooling system. Not only are these inefficient, they also cost more to run. These units are expensive to replace, but you may be qualify for local, state, and federal tax deductions to help cover the cost. You’ll also find that your energy bill drops when the old monster is replaced with a new Energy Star model. If your home uses heating oil, consider an alternative like a pellet stove or wood-burning stove.

Exercise
Really. Exercise gets your blood pumping and warms you from the inside out. Sure, you can’t exercise all night, but you should stay warm for at least an hour afterward. And you’ll stay in shape for spring.

Hopefully these tips will help you keep warm all fall and winter despite the rapidly rising cost of energy. Do you have additional tips? Share them in the comments.

These days, your emergency fund sources are dwindling quickly. Credit card interest rates are skyrocketing, home equity loans are being drastically cut, and personal loans are going the way of the Dodo. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one today. If you do have one, it’s important to spend the money properly to ensure that you don’t come up short when faced with a more serious situation.

What Is An Emergency?
Emergencies can be any number of things, so it’s almost easier to say what they’re not.

These things are not emergencies:

  • Routine home or auto maintenance
  • Expensive clothing/accessories
  • Personal care items
  • Cable TV, DSL, cable internet access
  • Entertainment (concerts, DVDs)
  • Online auctions
  • Collectibles

If your engine blows up, then that’s probably an emergency. If your tire goes out and it’s no longer under warranty, then you probably should have seen that coming and already built replacement tires into your budget.

If you see a really great collectible on eBay, that’s not an emergency. If you’re serious about collecting, then the cost of it should be built into your budget. If it’s not, you don’t need to buy it right now.

These events are emergencies:

  • Job loss
  • Major illness
  • Loss of housing
  • Natural disaster
  • Major housing repair
  • Major auto repair
  • Death

What to Spend Emergency Funds On
Once you experience an emergency, you still have to be careful spending your money. Depending on the length of the situation, you could need these funds for several months. Your first priorities should be:

  • Housing costs
  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Major automotive repair
  • Other transportation
  • Education/day care
  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Major home repair
  • Travel for family death or illness

Additional Sources of Emergency Funds
Alternative sources of funds depend on the type of emergency. For example, if it’s auto repairs and you have a Goodyear card, use that to spread the payments over a couple of months and hopefully fit them (or part of them) into your regular budget.

Sell Stuff: If you only need a little bit of money to get you by, consider selling some of your stuff like the refrigerator in the garage, your DVD or CD collection, old furniture you don’t need anymore. Not only will you get a little extra money, but you’ll reduce the clutter!

Credit Cards: You can use a credit card for travel, food, and education, but try to pay the bill with funds from your savings account, and then from your emergency fund. Avoid collecting interest if at all possible because those cards could be your saving grace in an extended situation. If you run through your savings completely, you can probably cover a few month’s most basic expenses with your cards by only paying the minimums. Develop a plan to replenish your savings and then pay off the cards as soon as the emergency is over.

Home Loans: Although home equity loans and HELOCs have been severely curtailed, you may still be able to tap some equity if you’ve built up a sizable stake in your house. Never borrow more than 90% of the current market value of your home, which is probably the most you can get now anyway. As soon as the emergency is over, make paying the loan back a priority. Yes, the interest is tax deductible, but it’s still interest.

Family Loans: Family loans can be tricky, but dire situations require dire solutions. If you’ve lost your home, you can’t work, and you’ve run through your savings, then it’s time to ask your parents or siblings for a loan or to consider moving in with them until you get back on your feet. Don’t live on the street or in a shelter because you’re too proud to ask for help. Once you’re on your feet, pay your family back first. Corporations can wait, family can’t.

We all hope an emergency won’t happen, but no one goes through life without at least one. People get sick, businesses close, disasters strike. It’s part of life. If you have an emergency fund and are prepared to spend it wisely, you can get through any situation.

Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #171. New readers, I invite you to check out my 10 most recent posts. If you like what you see, please subscribe to this feed with the RSS button at the top. I post Monday through Friday of a variety of personal finance and frugality topics.

Today is the Fall Equinox, which marks the official first day of fall. In addition to this week’s blog carnival submissions, you’ll find tips for celebrating the arrival of fall.

Editor’s Picks: Go Leaf-Peeping
Take a family drive to admire the changing leaves.

My Dollar Plan details the 29 Steps I Took to Leave the Workforce at Age 29.  Congratulations!

Living Almost Large wonders where you draw the line between frugality and overspending in Is Spending Wrong? It seems to me that some people are becoming militant in their views about frugality. It’s about choices, not about always spending as little as possible.

Free Money Finance shares The Test: Can You Handle a Troubled Economy? It’s a quick test, but one definitely worth taking.

Freedom from Broke explains Personal Finance In One Simple Equation. If anyone you know needs a quick lesson in money management send them this.

The Passive Dad shares 10 Ways To Make Your Stuff Feel New Again. Not just little stuff either. We’re talking diamond rings and cars.

Frugality: Jump in a Pile of Leaves
If you’ve got enough leaves on the ground, rake them into a pile and then jump in. It’s guaranteed to make you feel five again.

Fools and Sages offers one more reason not to trust WalMart: WalMart is Watching You so that they can sell you more stuff.

Hustler Money Blog reminds us that it’s the Time of the Year to make sure you’re not overpaying for your utilities and insurance.

My Money Blog has advice for Saving Money on Entertainment, including fun tips like having your “date night” during the day.

Blogciety offers detailed Ways to lower your power bill and save money.

FruGal wonders Would you ever move back home to save cash? I have to go with no, not just to save cash.

Art of the Coupon debates whether buying dollar store pregnancy tests is Frugal or Cheap.

Discover Debt Freedom tells you how to Cut Costs at the Grocery Store by 25% or More.

Amateur Asset Allocator lists his Top 5 Budget Date Ideas.

Feminist engages in a bit of Nuptial Hindsight to figure out which part of the wedding is really important.

Are You Going To Be This Way the Rest of the Time I Know You? shares her view of frugality in Dinner or a Coffee Table…what’s your choice?

Fiscal Zen offers Tips for Saving Money on Contact Lenses.

Retired at 47 discusses When What you Really Want Costs More: Is the Price Ratio Worth It?

Student Scrooge explains the new trend toward Cash “Discounts” At Gas Stations.

Budgeting: Pick a Pumpkin
Save this one for later in the season (like Halloween), then head down to the pumpkin patch to choose your pumpkin and carve it up.

Insure Blog debates whether mandated insurance is good for your wallet in Mandated Missteps.

Cash on the Barrelhead describes the best way she found to budget her money to meet her goals. The 60 Percent Solution and Mint.com.

I’ve Paid Twice for This Already also explains why budgeting frees up guilt-free money for the important things in I Want My Fun To Be Fun – So I Budget

Saving Advice takes the contrarian view in Throw Out The Budget.

My Daily Dollars decides it’s better to marry for love than money in Money and Marriage.

Investing: Bake an Apple Pie
If you eat seasonally, then you probably started to really miss apples. They’re back! Now’s the time to bake apple pies. I love apple-cranberry with a pecan crumble topping, but plain apple and apple-rhubarb are delicious, too.

8 Stock Portfolio suggests Learning from the Market Meltdown even if you lost money.

The Dividend Growth Adviser advises Which candidate is better for dividend investors – McCain or Obama?

Dividends 4 Life presents 7 Stocks Priced For Buying.

Distilled Rose provides a Prosper Lending Update. As both a borrower and a lender, she’s got some insight into whether it really works.

Everyday Finance finds the good in the current market in Profiting from Market Volatility with VIX/ETF Pairs Trades.

Frugal Babe shares her story of leaping into the market with Bought My Exchange Traded Funds.

The Financial Blogger answers the question How Can Some Mutual Funds Offer A Guaranteed 7% Return As A Retirement Income Solution?

New Money explains How Kraft’s Entry Affects the Dow.

Funny About Money calms investor fears by sharing an email exchange with his financial advisor in Financial Advisor to Investor: Don’t Panic!

FIRE Finance looks back at 9/11 and how it changed their financial attitudes. Sep 11, 2001 (9 / 11) – Hindsight And Investment Gains 

The Dividend Guy advises us to Invest When It Feels Like the End of the World.

Greener Pastures updates The Legendary Stocks to Watch Worksheet.

Value Investing and Entrepreneurship by Qovax takes the contrarian view in Index Funds – What You Don’t Know.

Uncommon Cents answers the question: Is There Anything Positive in This Market?

My Simple Trading System introduces a new term: Lehman, Merril Lynch, and AIG Lead to The “Unbubble.”

Tough Money Love shares Your Best Tactics for Tuesday After Market Mania on Monday.

Own the Dollar explains How to Make Money Buying a Stock at its 52 Week High – A Short Squeeze.

The Sun’s Financial Diary tells us why Money-Market Funds May not Be As Safe As You Think.

Penny Jobs argues that Sound Money Management Practices May No Longer Be Practical.

Smart Money Life explains 401k Rollovers – Transferring Your Retirement Investments When Changing Jobs.

Finance: Bake a Pumpkin Pie
Did your pumpkin hold up past Halloween? Bake it into a pie. Even better, buy a sugar pumpkin (which are grown for pie) or a butternut squash to craft your delicious treat.

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity shares the 2009 Federal Income Tax Brackets (Projected). Geez, I’m not done worrying about my 2008 taxes yet!

The Digerati Life reviews various types of insurance in Get The Right Coverage! Insurance Policies You Need and Those To Avoid. I still disagree about the wedding insurance.

MoneyNing demonstrates how small savings add up in Fixing True Life Finances.

The Dough Roller offers a quick quiz so you can answer this question yourself: Are You a Millionaire in the Making?

American Consumer News answers the question: Should You Take Cash Back or Low APR Financing on A New Car?

Economy: Build a Fire
If you have a fireplace or backyard fire pit, it’s time to enjoy it. Toast marshmallows, serve fondue, or just listen to the crackle while reading a good book.

Not the Jet Set tries to answer the question on everyone’s minds: Who Killed the Economy? Government, Corporate or Consumers?

The Happy Rock considers becoming concerned in State of the US Economy – Scary Stuff or Nothing to Worry About?

Personal Finance Analyst convicts Bear Stearns in EMC Mortgage: Guilty As Charged!

Credit and Debt: Pick Apples
Head to a u-pick farm to pick your own apples. Take them home to make fresh applesauce, pie, or caramel apples, sauté them with cinnamon, or just crunch into a whole apple.

Taking Charge now knows that you are your own best credit repair company.

Accumulating Money explains How to Make the Most of Credit Card Balance Transfers.

The Smarter Wallet explains the various auto-financing options in Buying A Car? Get Your Financing First.

Nine Reasons lists Nine Reasons Credit Cards Are Evil.

Ask Mr. Credit Card answers a reader question: How to Lower the APR On Your Credit Card?

Bridging the Gap explains What Is A Credit Card Cash Advance?

No Debt Plan defends his credit card use in Credit Card “Victims” Don’t Pay for 100% of My Credit Card Rewards.

Money Management: Make Soup
Soup is filling on a day with a bit of a snap to it. Chicken, pumpkin, cream of mushroom, minestrone, no matter what you like, make it fresh and serve it hot with crusty bread. Mmmm, delicious.

Gather Little by Little teaches you How to Sell a Used Car.

Debit vs. Credit shares The 3 Dumbest Financial Decisions I’ve Made. If you’ve been regretting your dumb moves, at least you can be glad you didn’t buy six vending machines.

The Simple Dollar advises you to cancel your Least Important Bill use the money to get closer to your goals.

Budgets Are Sexy shares his experience buying life insurance in All about the life insurance today.

Harvesting Dollars breaks down a new method for determining your retirement savings target in The N Factor.

Money and Fitness Blog debates the eternal question: Spend less or earn more: Which is the better route to follow?

One Snarky Chica with Issues explores Free accounting software for Mac users.

The Money Answer Guy answers the question: How Can I Be Sure My Loved Ones Know What to Do in Case of the Unexpected?

Green Panda Treehouse walks through their process of Cleaning Up Bank Accounts And Renewing Our Rental Lease.

Saving: Pull Out the Sweaters
It’s finally sweater season! Take your favorites out now and air them out so they’re ready to go on that first crisp day.

Joshua’s Best explains why he calls his emergency fund the Fire Escape and explains how to build one with a CD ladder.

Saving to Invest explains why he changed savings account types in Making the Move: Vanguard Money Market to ING Direct.

My Family’s Money shares the belief that teaching kids to be rich is about more than making money. How to Make Your Child A Millionare!

Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck answers the question What should I do with my raise?

Online Savings Blog announces E-Loan Intros Savings Plus High-Yield Online Account.

Career: Have a Mulling Party
Mull wine or hard cider for the adults, and apple cider for the kids. Serve lots of good bread, cheeses, and chocolate to accompany it. At the end of the night, send everyone home with a bottle of cider (ask them to bring an empty bottle and a cork) or a bag of mulling spices.

The Financial Wellness Project shows us how to determine whether a craft can be a source of income.

Mighty Bargain Hunter reminds us that in this market Earning power trumps return on investment.

Money and Such has this advice about Asking for a Raise – Consider the Context.

The Personal Financier compares the trade-offs in Coming To Terms with Never Getting Rich – A Look at the Pre-Requirements.

One Girl’s Quest has this advice: Don’t burn through your emergency fund! How to find a job in this rough economy.

Real Estate: Photograph Leaves
While you’re out leaf-peeping, bring your camera. Be mindful of good images as you drive. Stop to take pictures of long, multi-colored lanes and close-ups of piles of leaves. Print the best one and frame it as a cheap fall decoration.

Searchlight Crusade explains how you can pay down your mortgage faster without gimmicks in Mortgage Accelerators, Money Merge, and Paying Your Mortgage Down.

Other: Attend a Harvest Festival
Octoberfast, Fall Fest, Harvest Festival, whatever it’s called, you can probably find one in your area. Take a picnic, but make to buy at least one candy apple or bag of toasted nuts to really enjoy the festivities.

Christian Personal Finance is disappointed by FauxPlomas and the watering down of college degrees. As someone who worked hard for her Masters while others buy them on the internet, I totally agree.

Socal Savvy has tips for you if you want to start your own PF blog in Martha + technology = a good thing!

Cash Money Life explains How to File A FEMA Claim.

Passive Family Income tells us how to create passive income from writing.

Moolonamy also has advice if you’re considering turning a hobby into income in Visualize Your Income Potential.

Happiness is Better reveals 6.1 Key Steps to Success.

Broke Grad Student shares a rather unique way to pay back student loans in Girl Selling Her Virginity To Pay For College.

Bumblefucked offers solutions for the out-of-work in Unemployed? Make some quick extra money around your home.

The Frugal Duchess outlines gift card protections consumer groups are lobbying for in Bankruptcy and Gift Cards– Seeking Protection for Consumers.

Before we get into this week’s carnivals, I want to remind you that I will be hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance on Monday. Use their submissions form to submit your favorite post from the last week or so.

And now on to this week’s carnivals. First, the Carnival of Personal Finance #170 hosted by The Personal Financier. In addition to my post about planning ahead for Christmas, In Debt Because I Like Nice Things reminds us to plan ahead for winter heating costs.

Next, On a Quest to be Debt Free hosted the Money Hacks Carnival #30. In addition to my post about  what you shouldn’t buy generic, you might also like FreebeeznDealz’ post about getting free makeup samples – so you never have to buy, let alone make the generic choice.

Finally, the Festival of Frugality #143 at Living Almost Large. If you liked my post about frugal fall foods, check out My Daily Dollars’ long-term meal plan, which is based on incorporating seaonal foods into a basic structure.

My husband and I have received several thousand dollars in windfalls during the last few months and expect a few more in the coming months. While it may seem like we’re extraordinarily lucky, the truth is we created situations that made them possible, and then did our best to ensure we received them. Here’s what you can do to attract a windfall your way.

Research Possible Sources of Windfalls
I don’t mean that you should prey on elderly relatives hoping to be added to their wills. Instead, look to potential windfall sources in your career and hobbies. Your employer might offer bonuses for overtime, attracting new clients, or referring new employees. If you have a hobby, see if there are lucrative contests or a potential to turn your hobby into a small business.

Network to Develop Your Windfall Potential
Whether you want your windfall to come from your job or a small business, you then need to put yourself in a position to receive it. Start by expanding your social and business network:

  • Join LinkedIn to expand business contacts
  • Join Yahoogroups associated with your field or hobby
  • Participate in industry forums, networking meetings, and MeetUps
  • Join online hobby groups
  • Join local hobby groups
  • Join church groups and other local social networks
  • Attend local hobby fairs and meetings
  • Develop a hobby website
  • Start a hobby blog
  • Start an industry blog

Be Aware of Opportunities
Ask co-workers to let you know if they hear of hiring opportunities you can refer someone for. If a friend, relative, or co-worker mentions an interest in your business or a potential referral opportunity, offer yourself as a business resource. If you receive an email from someone about a potential opportunity, reply promptly.

Demonstrate Your Value
I’ve received two windfalls in the $8-10,000 range through a website I own and a Yahoogroup I belong to. I responded to both opportunities promptly, provided the required proposals quickly, and developed a good reputation for meeting deadlines early or on-time and being easy to work with.

Once your known as someone with a reliable product, service, or network, people will come to you for additional products, services, or referrals. That makes it possible to receive “regular windfalls” throughout the year, or build your hobby into a small business that provides a steady stream of additional income.

Be Prepared to Work Hard
If you do invite windfalls into your life, be prepared to work for them. If your company offers overtime bonuses, you have to be willing to work overtime. Networking and hobby meetings usually take place outside of work hours, so you have to make room for them in your life. If you offer a service, you have to be willing to give up free time to provide it.

Be Prepared for Additional Taxes
If you receive a large windfall, you may need to report that as income, so plan early for the extra tax hit. It’s worth it. Even if you have to give away 25% to Uncle Sam, you still have 75% of it that you didn’t have before.

Be Grateful and Return the Favor
Be grateful for every windfall you receive. Thank the person who requested your service, bought your product, or hired your referral. If possible, return the favor by referring business to him or her at some other time.

Don’t Blow It
Finally, don’t blow your windfall when you receive it. Rather than taking yourself on a shopping spree, know what you want to spend it on beforehand. For us, that was debt payoff, then taxes, and then our emergency fund. Sure, you can enjoy a small sum of it by going out to a nice dinner, treating yourself to a massage, or buying an affordable item of clothing, but don’t spend it all. Let the universe know you value the windfall, and it will continue to offer them to you. Show the universe that all you’ll do is waste it, and your opportunities may dry up.

So far this year, my husband and I have received over $20,000 in windfalls. Although our debt has paid off, we have new goals and are still actively making room for new windfalls to come into our lives. We’re also doing the work necessary to produce them. Best of all, no one we love has to suffer for our financial benefit. We’re not counting on inheritances or generous relatives to rescue us. Instead we rescued ourselves with a little elbow grease.

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