As you may have heard on the news, the Federal Reserve released new rules restricting overdraft fees yesterday. Unfortunately, the rules aren’t quite as comprehensive as we would probably like. Congress is considering even stronger regulations, but there’s no telling when or if they will be passed. Here’s what you need to know about the current rules.

When Do the Overdraft Fee Rules Apply?
As with all Federal Reserve rules, there’s a lengthy waiting period for the new rules. They don’t take effect until July 1, so you can be sure the banks will be doing everything they can to maximize their overdraft fees in the meantime. Be extra vigilant and take steps to avoid overdraft protection in the first place.

Which Overdraft Fees Are Restricted?
Under the new rules, overdraft fees will still be fully permitted as an opt-out program for bounced checks and online bill pay. Overdraft fees will be made opt-in for ATM withdrawals and one-time debit card transactions/purchases.

What Does Opt-In Mean?
Currently, most banks automatically enroll their customers in overdraft protection. They claim it’s for your “convenience” so your purchases aren’t denied. Most customers say they’d prefer to have their purchases denied rather than pay an exorbitant fee so they can buy a pack of gum.

Under the new rules, all banks will have to ask their customers if they want overdraft protection for ATM and debit card transactions by July 1, 2010. If you don’t say yes, then they have to disenroll you from the protection. But watch your bank communications carefully – I’m sure they’ll try something squirrelly to get you to opt-in without you realizing what they’re doing.

What Should You Do?
Overdraft protection is a personal choice. My choice is not to have it – I’d rather manage my money myself. If you feel the same way, call your bank right now and ask to opt-out of all overdraft protection programs. Your payment will bounce or your purchase will be denied if you go over the limit, but it’s probably still cheaper than the overdraft fee. If they call or write to ask you if you want to opt-in to overdraft protection, say no and then also ask to opt-out of all other overdraft protection programs.

How Did This Problem Get So Bad?
In a word, profit. The banks rake in billions in overdraft fees every year, so they opted-in all their customers without their knowledge. In addition, they sort all of your deposits and payments in a manner that maximizes the bank’s potential for fees through bounced checks and overdrafts. As the economy slid and their other profit lines declined, they ramped up the fees.

Last month they attempted to head off the new rules by reducing their fees slightly, but it didn’t work. You’ve no doubt seen or experienced all the credit card shenanigans the banks have pulled ahead of the new credit card rules. Be just as vigilant when it comes to your bank accounts because the banks are not on your side.

Tis the season of the potluck. Potlucks are great if you want to save money and still have a feast, but they can also spell trouble if you don’t organize them properly. To save you from a meal starring ten liters of soda and no dessert, here are nine quick tips for organizing a potluck.

Set a Start Time and an End Time
Potlucks don’t work well as “drop-in” events, because your salad could arrive three hours after the dessert. By specifying a start time and an end time, people are more likely to arrive on time. If you’re really worried, let them know what time dinner starts, just like galas do. Cocktails at 7, dinner at 7:30.

Ask for Volunteers for Courses
If you don’t ask people to volunteer for specific courses in advance, you’re very likely to wind up with too many desserts and not enough sides. Send out a group email or Evite and ask people to choose a dish category in their RSVP. Keep it simple – appetizer, salad, side dish, dessert, or beverage. If too many people volunteer in any one category, ask them to choose something else.

Provide the Entrée Yourself
Just to be safe, assign the entrée to yourself. Then you’ll be sure your guests will leave with something substantial in their bellies.

Stock Up on Fill-In Items
Also to be safe, buy a container of fancy nuts, a bottle of wine, a bag of lettuce, and some fancy cookies. Choose things you like that you’ll be able to eat the rest of the week, but at least you’ll be able to throw something together in a flash if a guest is a no-show or forgets to bring something.

Consider a Theme
If you don’t want to deal with a whole dinner, consider a theme. Last year casserole parties were very popular. You could also do a specific color theme, where all the food has to be that color. If you have a favorite show or movie, focus the food around things you’d associate with it. Check out my ideas for entertaining at home for more themes.

Just Do Drinks and Dessert
People love dessert parties, so make your next potluck a drinks and dessert party. Ask some people to bring liquor and others to bring their best desserts. For this one, just set a start time – no one will mind if a new dessert shows up hours into the party.

Supply Cups, Plates, and Utensils
If you don’t mind dealing with paper and plastic, buy sturdy paper or plastic plates and cups for your potluck. It’s best to use your regular silverware – the plastic stuff is flimsy. If you don’t like paper or plastic plates, hit the dollar store, Ikea, or the thrift store to stock on real plates that you won’t mind breaking. I recommend plain white if you can find them, but a mish mash of different styles is fun for the kitsch factor.

Keep It Low-Key
Potlucks are not formal events. Rather than one large table, consider arranging a few seating areas with seats and small tables so people can mingle. Set out a buffet and let people eat what they want when they want. If you do want everyone to sit at the same table, then make the meal family style – no formal plating or presentation.

Keep the Guest List Reasonable
If you’ll have more than 15 people or so, the amount of food can quickly get out of hand. If you must host a large potluck, ask people to bring dishes that serve 8 or fewer – then you won’t be left to deal with a ton of leftovers in throw-away containers.

I attend at least 8 potlucks a year and they are always a success because we’ve come to know who will bring what. It’s informal, fun, and always a feast.

What’s your favorite tip for organizing a successful potluck?

This week we’re finally adding our auto policy to our home policy. We waited for our original auto policy to expire to avoid dealing with refunds, overlap, etc. Now it’s finally time to merge. I knew we’d receive a discount, but I didn’t realize just how much until I called our insurance agent.

Multi-Line Insurance Discount
They call it the multi-line discount. By adding two cars to our home policy, we’ll save nearly $600 a year on our combined insurance policies. Once our life insurance applications are approved, the savings will increase again, to around $850. In total, we’ll receive the following discounts:

  • 15% off auto for having a home policy
  • 15% off home for having an auto policy
  • 5% off each car for the life policy
  • 5% off home for the life policy.

If you have additional policies, like boat, RV, or motorcycle insurance, you may also receive additional discounts, but you get the most benefit from the home/auto combo.

Which Policies Don’t Qualify?
Two of our insurance policies don’t qualify us for additional discounts. Our earthquake insurance is through Farmer’s, but it’s funded and operated by the state of California. Farmer’s is merely a pass-through, so no discount there. Our flood insurance is funded and operated by the Federal government, so again no discount even though we purchased the policy through Farmer’s.

Shop for the Best Deal
When we were choosing our homeowners insurance company, we didn’t just get quotes for the home policy. We also got quotes for auto insurance. Even though we wouldn’t be switching for several months, we made the comparison up front so we could choose the one company that would handle all our policies. I also considered the agent who represented the insurance company. We chose Farmer’s because the insurance agent was easily reachable and very helpful. I didn’t have the same experience with the insurance company where we’ve had our auto policies (individually and jointly) for more than a decade.

Ultimately, Farmer’s cost $200 a year more for the combined policies, but we felt more comfortable choosing a company with a proven homeowners insurance track record. Our auto insurance company only recently moved into homeowners insurance and doesn’t offer life insurance at all.

When it comes to life insurance, you should shop around for a reliable company with good 30-year term life insurance prices (less if you have less time until retirement), but consider the multi-line discount before making your final decision about where to apply. For my insurance, I had a cheap policy through AAA, but it could increase annually. Even though the Farmer’s insurance was slightly higher, after the discount it was about the same. Factor in that it can’t increase for 30 years, and it was an excellent deal.

Last week my husband and I had an actual use for our emergency fund. We keep part of the fund as a cushion in our checking account and part in a savings account. Every month we transfer our excess income from the checking to the savings, but we wait until our paychecks, mortgage, and major bills have cleared. Last week was a perfect example of what could go wrong if you don’t have this type of system in place.

Paycheck Errors Do Happen
Last week, the payroll company dropped a digit from one of our paychecks, yet somehow withheld the tax for a full paycheck (nevermind that they’re not supposed to withhold tax at all.) The result was a very tiny paycheck. It was so small that when my husband went to the ATM to withdraw our weekly cash, we joked that we were living paycheck-to-paycheck because he’d just withdrawn more than the paycheck.

Obviously, the error is being fixed, but in the meantime we had a large credit card payment scheduled for payment and our mortgage had already gone through. Because we had the cushion in the account and hadn’t yet transferred the excess to savings, our bills were paid without a hitch.

The Case against Automatic Savings Withdrawals
Many personal finance experts recommend that you set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month to keep yourself from spending that money. If we had such a system in place, we could have been in big trouble because our large bill payments would have bounced before we’d had a chance to transfer sufficient money back from the savings account.

Instead of setting up an automatic system, we include the deposit in our monthly cash flow chart and schedule the transfer once we’re sure both of our paychecks have cleared and our bills are paid. (Note, the chart in this earlier post has debt payments rather than savings transfers, but we’re out of debt now.) If you can’t trust yourself to do that, allow a five-day lag between your pay day and your automatic transfer to give yourself time to stop it if something does go wrong.

The Case for the Cushion
In addition to implementing a lag, I recommend keeping at least a $500 cushion in your checking account. It’s not there in case you decide to spend extra. It’s there in case you receive unexpected bills or one of your payments goes through twice. This also happened to us several months ago. One of our credit cards somehow got paid twice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because they accidentally applied our single payment twice. The money came out of our checking account twice, resulting in a large negative balance on the credit card. We could have asked for a refund of the overpayment, but we knew we had a big purchase coming up, so we used the card for it. However, if we hadn’t had our checking account cushion, the second payment could have racked up overdraft fees.

With direct deposit, it’s easy to forget to check your paystubs, but you should always check your online bank balance to make sure you were paid and paid the correct amount. If not, use your cushion or emergency fund until the error is corrected. It’s better than racking up late fees and overdraft fees. And always make sure that everything is in order before you transfer your money to savings. The piddling interest you’ll earn from those extra two days won’t match the time you save not dealing with the bounced payments and fees.

Getting engaged is exciting and frightening, and it’s easy to get carried away in the moment. Hopefully you and your intended have already laid everything on the table before you even considered taking the next step, but if you haven’t, take some time to ask yourself and your intended these five questions before a ring is in the mix.

Do You Want Kids? How Many and When?
So many couples go into marriage with the vague idea that they’ll start a family “eventually.” For some men, that means in five years. For some women, that means the wedding night. To avoid surprises and ensure that you’re financially prepared for a child when it happens, you should discuss when you think the appropriate time to start a family is before you get engaged. Life happens and there may well be a “surprise baby,” but don’t operate on the assumption that “it will happen when it’s meant to.”

What Are Your Career Goals?
At this point, you probably both have jobs, so it’s easy to skip over questions about career goals. Don’t. It’s important to know whether one or both of you expects to attend graduate school, start a business, or quit working in the future. Again, plans and goals can change, but it’s important to agree on what’s best for your family before you start a family.

Do You Have Debt? How Much?
When I was planning my wedding, there was a quick poll on the Knot asking how many couples had discussed their debts. I was startled to see that over 70% of couples had not discussed their debts. If you’re getting married, you NEED to know how much debt your partner has. Even if your partner doesn’t expect you to help pay it off, the fact is that debt may prevent you from working toward joint financial goals, or prevent you from enjoying vacations and other activities. All debts, whether they’re school, credit card, or even family loans, should be discussed and you should agree on the approach to paying them off.

What’s Your Financial Picture Right Now?
If you’re getting married, there shouldn’t be any financial secrets. Bad things happen when couples keep money secrets from each other. Discuss your income, investments, savings, and other holdings.

What Are Your Financial Goals?
Although your goals may change, you should be aware of each other’s current financial goals. If one of you wants to buy a house in five years and the other wants to quit working and circle the globe on a yacht in five years, there could be a problem. Once again, your plans may change, but you have to change them together.

When you have this discussion, you should also include your retirement goals. If one of you wants to retire at 55 and the other plans to keep working until they die, you’re going to have a basic conflict. You don’t have to stick to your targeted retirement date, but you should both have an idea of how you picture the later stages of your marriage.

What’s Your Spending Style?
Want to start your marriage fighting? Don’t ask this question. It’s very important that you both understand and be comfortable with each other’s spending styles. If one of you is a spender and one is a saver, you should agree on who will manage which portions of your finances and how you will manage your spending. Maybe you’ll need separate accounts, or maybe you need a spending limit. Whatever you choose, discuss it before you get engaged.

I can already hear people saying, “Why should we talk about this before we get engaged? Shouldn’t we know we’ll be spending our lives together first?” There are three simple reasons you should talk about these things first:

  1. Once you get engaged, your life becomes a flurry of non-stop activity and stress. It’s hard to slow down and have these important discussions when you’re already too busy and stressed out.
  2. There’s a financial cost to getting engaged and planning a wedding. If you discover you don’t agree on major points, you may lose money on rings, vendor deposits, etc. If you’ve received gifts and then split up over these questions, you’ll have to figure out how to return the gifts.
  3. It’s easier to explain a breakup before you get engaged.

Some of these questions are deeply personal and can make for an uncomfortable conversation, but let’s be honest, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about these things with your partner, you should NOT be getting engaged. Then continue having regular discussions about your finances and goals after you get married.

Mmm, candy. But I must focus.

First, the Carnival of Personal Finance #229 hostedy by The Centsible Life.  In addition to my post about my financial frights, I also recommend Chief Family Officer’s advise to not pay bills that aren’t yours. It seems obvious, but I guess some people just pay their bills without looking at them.

Second, the Festival of Frugality #202 hosted by  Frugal Homemaker Plus. In addition to my post about reducing packaging, I also recommend Pragmatic Environmentalists discussion of a birth control method with minimal packaging (and no hormones).

Congress passed legislation expanding and extending the homebuyer tax credit. The President is expected to sign it November 6, 2009. Here’s an update on how the credit works and how you can take advantage of it if you haven’t already bought a home.

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension
The original First-Time Buyer Tax Credit was set to expire November 30, 2009, which meant the sale had to close by that date. The credit has now been extended to purchases under contract by April 30, 2010 and closing by June 30, 2010.

Active members of the military who served at least 90 days outside the US have until June 30, 2011 to take advantage of the credit.

Homebuyer Tax Credit Expansion
Congress also expanded the tax credit in two important ways.

Higher Income Caps
Previously the credit started to phase out at $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for married couples. The new caps are $125,000 for singles and $225,000 for married couples. Don’t ask me why the joint cap isn’t double the single cap, that’s just Congress not understanding basic math again. The new cap applies for sales that close after November 6, 2009, so if you bought before then, the original cap still applies.

Additional Credit for Move-Up Buyers
The credit is still $8,000 for first-time buyers, or buyers who haven’t owned a home in the last three years. It now also offers $6,500 for move-up buyers who have lived in their home at least five consecutive years out of the last eight and are buying a primary residence worth less than $800,000. If you’ve been thinking about selling your current home and upgrading to a larger one (or I suppose downgrading, it doesn’t say your new home has to be worth more than the old one), this is a great opportunity to score a little bonus on the deal.

How to Claim the Credit
Contrary to what some scammers are doing, you have to actually close escrow on the house before you submit your claim for the credit. There’s no credit for thinking about buying a house, although some states and the FHA do offer programs that allow you to borrow the credit for your down payment and then repay it as soon as you get your refund.

You can file the credit on the current year’s tax return, or wait until next year’s return to file. If you need the money now and are below the cap, you can file an amended return for your 2008 taxes. The credit will arrive in 12 weeks or so, and include interest since April 15, 2009.

The other option is to wait and claim the credit on your 2009 taxes (if you bought in 2009). If you buy in 2010, and close before April 15, you can claim the credit on your 2009 taxes, or file an amended 2009 return after closing. Otherwise you can wait until your 2011 return to file the credit. Once again, check and see where you expect your income to be if you’re riding close to the cap. If you’re at the edge, try to delay bonuses to get yourself the maximum credit.

If you’ve been thinking about selling your home, call a real estate agent now. If you’re looking for a home, don’t stop now. And if you’re on the fence, take a hard look at your finances to figure out whether now is the right time for you to buy. If you can’t afford the mortgage, then don’t buy just because of the credit. An unaffordable home will cost you a lot more than the tax credit will save you.

A lot of people don’t like leftovers, but nearly everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m almost more excited about the leftovers I have planned than I am about the main meal. In fact, I’m planning to buy a turkey that’s way too big for six people so I can have enough to feed my houseguests for three days and still be able to freeze chili and soup for later. If you’re stumped for ideas, here are 20 ideas and tips for planning for them.

  1. Thanksgiving dinner again (just serve the same meal you did on Thanksgiving, but in smaller portions)
  2. Turkey sandwiches
  3. Turkey quesadillas (add crumbled bacon and scallions for extra zing)
  4. Turkey and black bean soup  (I’m making a double batch this year. It’s simply amazing and freezes well.)
  5. Turkey chili (Any recipe will do. Use your favorite and freeze half for later.)
  6. Turkey casserole (substitute turkey for chicken or tuna)
  7. Turkey pot pie (Another good freezer meal. Cut the uncooked crusts to size and freeze with the pot pie filling.)
  8. Shepherd’s pie (For all those mashed potatoes, but you can also use turkey in place of the beef)
  9. Egg “McMuffins” (use up those leftover biscuits)
  10. Turkey stock  (great use for the carcass)
  11. Turkey enchiladas
  12. Curried turkey on rice
  13. Turkey burritos
  14. Turkey tortilla soup (So easy!)
  15. Sweet potato butter (Martha recommends serving it over biscuits)
  16. Melted cranberry sauce over ice cream
  17. Cranberry sauce on bagels and toast
  18. Turkey tetrazzini
  19. Turkey lo mein (Just replace the chicken and substitute the veggies for whatever raw veggies you have on hand.)
  20. Turkey fried rice (Again, replace chicken with turkey and throw in your green beans from Thanksgiving.)

Planning for Leftovers
If you want to make a few dishes that you can freeze and serve again later, plan to have the ingredients on hand and figure out how much turkey you need leftover before you buy the turkey. The Butterball calculator recommends a 9 pound turkey for my dinner for 6, with leftovers, but I’m thinking I might go for 12-15 pounds to ensure I have at least 4 pounds of turkey leftover for sandwiches, soup, chili, quesadillas, and maybe pot pie.

As I suggested before, decide in advance which main leftovers you plan to cook and add the ingredients to your Thanksgiving grocery list so you don’t have to run out the day after Thanksgiving. You’ll also be able to spend the next three weeks shopping the sales for those ingredients if you plan ahead.

Then, if you have more turkey than planned, you can throw together a few of the simpler dishes listed above with whatever you have on hand.

What If You Don’t Have Leftovers?
If you don’t serve a Thanksgiving dinner, you might not have leftovers, or might not be able to take home enough for all your ideas. So, create your own leftovers! Buy a turkey breast and roast it. Serve some for dinner, then use the rest just like you would regular Thanksgiving turkey.

First, let me say I don’t drink coffee. Can’t stand the stuff. Not even coffee ice cream. I will buy an iced latte once every few months, but it took me nine months to use the last coffee gift card I received. (That leads me to another question: why do my friends, who know my husband and I don’t drink coffee, give us coffee gift cards?) Anyway, I’ve been seeing a coffee commercial for the last two days that makes me stabby: the Keurig K-Cups.

Cheaper than the Coffee Shop, but Still Expensive
One person in my office campaigned for us to buy a Keurig and the single-serve cups to go with them, but was overruled by HR when they discovered that these K-cups cost at least 50 cents each. Fifty cents to brew coffee yourself using an expensive machine.

The High Price of Convenience
True, fifty cents could be more economical than brewing a whole pot if you only drink one cup of coffee a day, but there are cheaper options. If you’re that person, just pour yourself a cup at the office. In most offices, coffee is free. If you drink 2-4 cups and coffee isn’t free at work, invest in a cheap French press and brew it yourself for less than ten cents a cup. It takes slightly more work than popping the K-cup into the brewer, but a French press is a lot cheaper.

Oh My Goodness, the Waste!
This is the part that really got me stabby: the waste. Each of those single-serve cups is also a single-use cup. When you’re done brewing your one cup of coffee, you throw it out. That cup is made of plastic with a plastic and foil lid. Then the cup also contains a filter. So, you throw out a filter and plastic. According to various sources, that plastic isn’t recyclable. Coffee filters are at least a natural fiber.

Are We Really that Lazy?
Frankly, these K-cups make me sad for us as a country. Are we really so lazy that we can’t brew a pot of coffee the old-fashioned way? Is it too much effort to find a solution that will let you brew a small pot without a lot of plastic waste? Here, I’ve solved it for you. Buy one of these small French presses. I do actually own one of these. It was a gift from my mom because she likes to drink coffee when she visits. It’s easy to use and pretty quick. If I, a non-coffee drinker, can go to this slight effort to save money and the planet, surely those of you who consume a lot of coffee can do the same.

Let’s end the madness of the single-serve packets of coffee of anything else. Stop buying 100-calorie packs – make your own with zipper bags. Stop buying travel sizes unless you’re planning to travel. These small steps toward reducing packaging are the start of saving the planet, and it will be pretty nice to your wallet, too.

Today’s guest post is by Bradd, who’s come up with an ingenious way to save a lot of money.

Like many people, I’ve been trying over the past year to cut unnecessary expenses as much as possible.  Switching off lights when they’re not needed.  Replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescents (bought on sale 2 for the price of 1).  And cooking on the coalstove or in the fireplace, rather than the electric range.  Through all my efforts I’ve managed to cut my monthly electric bill from about $100 down to about $90.

The Lightbulb Moment
Thanks to the power of exponential growth, I know that every little bit helps.  That extra $120 a year will add up to a significant sum over the course of many years.  But it occurred to me as I’ve been making these efforts that, if I want to achieve financial independence, I’ve been going about all wrong.  I shouldn’t be scrimping to cut an expense by 10% – on the contrary, I should double my expenses.  Rather than spend $100 a month, I should be spending $200 instead.

The moment of clarity came when I checked the stock price and financial summary of my local electric company and realized that they are paying about a 7% dividend.  I moved out of my parents house 15 years ago and have since lived in a dorm room for a year, a series of apartments, a tent and, more recently, my own house.  In that time, my electric bills have been anywhere from $200 a month to $0, averaging perhaps $100.

So, over the past 15 years I’d estimate I’ve given various electric companies about $1,200 per year, for a total of about $18,000.  Unfortunately I didn’t actually do this, but imagine that over those past 15 years, every time I paid my electric bill I had put aside an equal amount of money in a big envelope.  $100 electric bill?  $100 into the envelope.  $200 bill?  $200 to the envelope.  Had I done that, right now I’d have an envelope with $18,000 dollars in it.

Increase Your Money Further with Good Investments
What could I do with that money?  Replace my fridge, water heater, clothes washer and dryer and cut my electric bill by another $10 perhaps.  Or send it all in a lump sum to the electric company with a note that says “Don’t send me another bill until 2025, thank you very much”.

Or, here’s another idea: Buy $18,000 in electric company stock.  Paying a 7% annual dividend, this much stock would generate about $1200 per year – about the same amount I’m currently sending the electric company.  In other words, if I had doubled my expenses every month for the past 15 years, sending half to the electric company and buying an equal amount in electric company stock, right now I’d be receiving enough in dividends to pay my electric bill every month into the future…forever.

Now I know what many people might be thinking: I was barely scraping by most of those months as a college student, working stiff, grad student and so forth.  How in the world could I possibly have set aside an extra $100 or $200 month?  Well, maybe I couldn’t have, but all I can say now is, Try it for a month.  Each time you see a price tag, just mentally double it.  Imagine that $5 beer with dinner costs $10.  That $15 pizza costs $30.  $3 a gallon for gas is now $6 a gallon.  That new or used car costs twice as much.

I used to live in Norway, where $10 beers, $30 (personal-sized!) pizzas and $6 a gallon for gas would be considered cheap, and where they actually do have a 100% sales tax on cars.

How to Start the Strategy
Try it for a few months for just one expense, like electricity, phone, or food.  Every time you put $40 in gas into the tank, put $40 into a jar or envelope.  At the end of 3 months, buy that much value in a dividend-paying stock.

Lots of $1B+ market cap energy and utility companies are paying healthy dividends: Verizon and AT&T are paying over 6%.  Shell and BP over 5%.  Same with Duke Energy and ConEd.  Even Altria Group and Diageo.

I’ve found it’s far easier to stick to this plan than you might think.  First of all, it’s much easier to double an expense than to cut one by even 10%.  And second, it’s much more effective.  If you’re like me, you’ll think twice when ordering off a menu, or bring a lunch an extra few days a month.  You’ll buy cheaper products,  drive less, opt for a meat-free dish once a week if you tell yourself that prices are twice as high as they used to be.

Do this every month for 15 years for your electric bill and then get free electricity for the rest of your life after that.  Do it for about 20 years for gasoline and get free gas forever after that.  I admit, some expenses are a doozy to double – the mortgage payment, for example.  So you don’t have to do that one – you’ll only be paying it for 30 years anyhow, so no need to have mortgage payments available forever.  Same with taxes.  Or childrens’ needs. (Hopefully, the kids will have moved out 30 years from now).  For basic recurring expenses – starting with just one expense, but building up to as many as possible – try doubling your expenses and you might be pleasantly surprised to find yourself on the path to financial independence.

Bradd sells traditional-style birth announcement cards at

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