Personal Finance Tips

Would You Pull A Lindsay Lohan?

This week, Lindsay Lohan’s nude pictures for New York Magazine crashed their web site and got lots of people talking. It doesn’t take a genius to know sex sells and naked pictures of the attractive and famous sell especially well.

Thinker The whole incident made me think of college. I took an art class, not knowing a nude art model would show up in class half way through the semester. When Naked Guy walked in with a robe that fateful day, I couldn’t believe it was going to happen. Of course, after staring at him naked those three hours, I began to notice him everywhere on campus. The uncomfortable feeling I had every time I saw Naked Guy made me glad I didn’t ever try nude modeling… Or did it?

A nude model for the art class was the highest paying job on campus. I could have made $15 an hour versus the $5 an hour I made driving the security van, working in the planetarium, and manning the front desk of the science building. I could have worked less than I did and had more money. Darn my inhibitions at the time!

The Dartmouth has a good article about the psychology behind being a nude art model, meaning that there’s more to it then being the type of person who can walk around naked and not care. Meanwhile, an online search doesn’t yield much information as far as how much money nude pictures go for, which I’m guessing means the whole practice is fairly subjective and sometimes sketchy.

Perhaps you are uninhibited enough to give this a shot. Most art classes are at least a couple hours long and the hours vary, making this lucrative part time work. If you are interested, start by contacting the art department or your local adult education center for contacts. A comprehensive list of things to bring with you on the job can be found at good ol’ wikiHow.

Meanwhile, would you ever pose nude for an art class (or have nude photos taken) for money? Also if you’ve ever made some nude money (ok, let me rephrase, legit nude money), do share.

Photo of Rodin’s La Penseur statue: www.garden-fountains.com/…/thinker.htm

A Free Budget Template And A Challenge

It occurred to me when I was putting my receipts into my monthly spreadsheet last night that I may not have said ever exactly how I figure out what I spend monthly on different items in my life.

You can go to the Microsoft web site for all the free budget planners you can think of. May I make a few suggestions:

  • You may not be able to update and analyze a budget weekly or bi-weekly but you can probably commit a couple times a month to your finances, right? Plus monthly is how your bills are probably set up anyway. You might as well get a monthly template. Here’s the one I use.

  • Decide on computer or pen and paper: For many things in my life, I am a paper and pencil kind of girl. Contrary to what you would think, you can do your budget this way with a template. Instead of filling it out on the computer, keep it tacked by your desk and fill it out in pencil. File them away when you are done, starting a fresh one every month. In budget instances, I prefer storing things on my computer.

  • Round up or down to the nearest dollar. That movie receipt for $24.49 becomes $24 while the cleaners receipt for $7.56 becomes $8. You will thank yourself when you are looking at a sheet of nice round numbers and in the end, it all evens out anyway.

  • Keep a Post it note stuck in your wallet and write down purchases for which you don’t get a receipt. Do it at the time of the purchase since there is usually a pen at the counter, otherwise you will forget. This may seem a little nuts but after a month, it will seem perfectly normal. Even the guy at my usual convenience store seems to think my writing “$1 coffee” on the paper in my wallet is perfectly normal now.

  • Set aside a time (me it’s Wednesday nights and when my wallet gets full) to input your transactions into your budget. Pick a time when you aren’t likely to get interrupted. Do something you enjoy while you are doing it, like drinking coffee or listening to music. It’ll make the task seem more meditative or perhaps even pleasurable. It usually takes me 20 minutes.

Budgetmoolah So pick your template, download it off Microsoft, and then fix it up really general for you. Put your income in (net, not gross), your expected costs for different things. Then save it as “mybudgettemplate” or something generic like that. This way, all your base info is already in there. Then your template becomes “budget-feb-2008”, “budget-march-2008”, etc.

I warn you this will seem pointless the first couple of months you do it but then patterns will emerge. Perhaps you will notice, as I did, that you are spending more money then is coming in and adjust. You may realize you spend a lot of money on coffee. I guarantee you an epiphany within three months. (I had both of the example epiphanies and in general learned a lot about my spending habits.)

Are you ready to take the Three Month Budget Challenge? If so, email me with “I am ready!” the subject line. We will have weekly check-ins and otherwise be supportive of each other’s budget journeys. We’ll set up how it will work together. Think of it as a virtual budget club.

Picture from: www.learn2dostuff.com/Articles/B_BudgetMoney

Taxes On Your Own And Why That’s Not A Bad Idea

I just finished an article from Smart Money Magazine called "10 Things Your Tax Preparer Won’t Tell You". Apparently there are a few reasons for people to do their taxes on their own:

1) Tax preparers make more and costlier mistakes than the average person doing their taxes. "According to a study of IRS data, 56% of professionally prepared returns showed significant errors, compared with 47% of those done by the taxpayer. And audited taxpayers who used preparers owed an average of $363, while those who filed themselves owed $185."

2) Tax preparers are way less likely to take new clients after Feb. 1, after which they are slammed until the tax deadline.

3) The person you hire may not be the person who does your taxes. It could be some temp employee or some random person overseas. (Not that either of these things are bad. I just doubt that this is ever stated outright, making me think if if a person or firm can be dishonest about who is doing my taxes they are probably capable of larger dishonesties).

While I may have gathered my paperwork in December, I have not gotten the party started with the taxes. But it looks like I’ll be doing them on my own for some good reasons besides saving some money. Meanwhile, have you started your taxes yet?

Taxes On Your Own And Why That's Not A Bad Idea

I just finished an article from Smart Money Magazine called “10 Things Your Tax Preparer Won’t Tell You“. Apparently there are a few reasons for people to do their taxes on their own:

1) Tax preparers make more and costlier mistakes than the average person doing their taxes. “According to a study of IRS data, 56% of professionally prepared returns showed significant errors, compared with 47% of those done by the taxpayer. And audited taxpayers who used preparers owed an average of $363, while those who filed themselves owed $185.”

2) Tax preparers are way less likely to take new clients after Feb. 1, after which they are slammed until the tax deadline.

3) The person you hire may not be the person who does your taxes. It could be some temp employee or some random person overseas. (Not that either of these things are bad. I just doubt that this is ever stated outright, making me think if if a person or firm can be dishonest about who is doing my taxes they are probably capable of larger dishonesties).

While I may have gathered my paperwork in December, I have not gotten the party started with the taxes. But it looks like I’ll be doing them on my own for some good reasons besides saving some money. Meanwhile, have you started your taxes yet?

Winter Sports: Retro And Cheap

It is winter and I do live in Maine so there is lots of snow and ice. I’m sure other people live in places like this. It’s either hibernate until spring or pull on your boots and head outside. The daylight is short so getting out there even a few minutes can do wonders for your brain chemistry.

Not So Cheap: Skiing

There are several sports one can do that are quite expensive but the main one I think of is skiing. I know this first hand because I was on my high school ski team. You need boots, poles, bindings, skis, long underwear (ok maybe only I need that), snow attire, and some kind of pass to a ski place to partake in the sport. My boots were around $150 (bought new) and I got some used cross country skis and bindings at a local ski sale for $60. I bought the poles for $30 and a pass for the season even at an inexpensive place like Snowrada in Auburn (Maine) or 10th Mountain Ski Club in Fort Kent will run you at least $25. A little less than $300 and I haven’t even put on clothes yet. Don’t get my wrong, I love to ski but it is far from being an affordable sport. Of course, if you take care of the equipment, you can have it for ten years like I have.
Find cross country ski trails (only bigger places though): Cross Country Ski Areas Association

Skatergirl Cheap: Ice Skating

Ice skating is a little cheaper. For $50-$100, you can get a decent pair of skates that are comfortable. And then you just pile on a bunch of clothes and find the nearest pond or rink. We have one in Ellsworth that seems loosely affiliated with the YMCA which is free. The rink I went to as a kid charged a whopping $2 for a day of ice skating and $1 a day for rentals. My friends and I got to skate to blaring 80s music and live our 10-year-old dramas all afternoon for the price of half a movie ticket today. (I think they made their money on the $1 hot chocolates but I digress.) My parents bought me really cool ice skates when it seems like I had stopped growing and, other than sharpening them occasionally, they have been maintenance free since. Yup, I’m still wearing them, even if they are a little retro-looking.

Find your local skating rink (very comprehensive): Arena Maps

Supercheap: Sledding

By far the cheapest winter sport is sledding. A carpet sled is about $1 but you can invest in a real high tech sled for more. You can also use cookie sheets, trays from your college lunchroom, or your butt in a slippery pair of ski pants. There may be some effort required to scout out a hill

Invest in a snow sled (I had no idea there was such a range): Sleds.com

Of course, I’m ignoring other great winter sports, like snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and curling. I’ll leave those to others who know more about them. Whatever you decide to do, get out there and get some exercise. It’s only winter a few months a year…

By the way, did I mention I’m down four and a half pounds? (That’s right, I’m counting every half!)

Photo: Me pretending I’m good at the local rink

A Pedestal Sink: Further Proof That The Classifieds Aren’t Dead

I think there are two types of people in the world: those who look at the classifieds and those who don’t. I’ve always thought it was kind of fun. I think the same people who look at classifieds may also buy the latest copy of Uncle Henrys or shop eBay regularly but that’s a whole other story.

SinkSean and I both saw the same classified ad in this week’s The Ellsworth American for a pedestal sink: "like new", $35. It was in a town about 45 minutes away that we’ve never been to and yesterday was one of those sunny, cool winter Saturdays perfect for a drive.

There’s always these moments when you are embarking on these adventures where you wonder, will it be what I expect? How can I say no nicely if it isn’t? Am I giving up my Saturday afternoon for nothing?

Turns out Brooklin is a beautiful town with gorgeous ocean views and lots of boat builders. E.B. White used to live there apparently. My digital camera has had issues lately otherwise I would have loved to upload some pictures for you. It would have been worth a drive to see the town whether we got our sink or not.

But in our case, it turns out you can get something good in the classifieds. The older couple was nice and the American Standard pedestal sink was in perfect condition. They gave us all the little parts to go with it which I wouldn’t have thought to ask for and some tips of how to put it in.

I guess those of us who have had this kind of experience continue to look at the classifieds just in case something like this comes around.

Of course there have been disappointments. There was the snowblower that turned out to be an electric shovel that Sean bought out of guilt this winter. But as my friend Stacy says, the easiest was to get out of buying something you have gone over to someone’s house to see is to say "Sorry, this isn’t what I was expecting. Thanks anyway." A polite and vague exit I may have to use someday.

Now the question is do we attempt to put this in? I mean it isn’t like electricity that can kill you. The worse we can do is flood. Anyway I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, what have your experiences been with the classifieds? Any favorite stories, web sites, or small, slightly obscure publications?

Picture from: http://common.csnstores.com/common/products/ASD/ASD5837_s.jpg