Archive for June 2011

Is it time to ditch the dollar bill?

I recently read an article on NPR illuminating a surplus of unused dollar coins in the Federal Reserve that has now topped over a billion dollars. The banks keep returning the coins to the FED because they do not want them! This got me thinking about our fiat currency once again. I love coins because they can stand the test of time – the oldest coins in the world are thousands of years old. I love coins because they have touched so much history, so many places, and so many people. The introduction of dollar coins in America brought these feelings to life for me once again.

When I first saw the Sacagawea gold coins I was really excited, but my excitement quickly faded. Not only was it difficult to use them in vending machines, but I can count the number I have received during my entire life, through day to day transactions, on one hand. Sure, I can go to my bank and exchange a $10 bill for 10 dollar coins, but it nevertheless it remains unlikely that I will ever receive one back when buying goods or services.

I am lucky enough to have traveled to Europe many times in my life. Their one and two Euro coins, or alternatively British one and two pound coins, work well and no one thinks the wiser! Something funny (and a hidden cost) is that people in countries with heavier coins require their pant pockets to be fixed considerably more often than their American counterparts.

What do you think? Is it time to stop printing dollar bills?

Financial Beginnings Receives $15,500 Grant from the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest

Media Contact
Casey Boggs

PORTLAND, Ore., June 23, 2011—Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free financial education to children and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest, recently received a grant for $15,500 from the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest. The grant allowed Financial Beginnings to provide financial education programs to 650 students at six schools in the Portland Public School district this spring and will support Mayor Sam Adams’ Summer Youth Connect Program.

The Association selected Financial Beginnings as a grant recipient due to their commitment to teaching students how to responsibly manage personal finances and their experience in educating the functions of the banking, credit and insurance industries. Financial Beginnings was one of three local nonprofits to receive a grant from the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest.

“As a group comprised of credit industry professionals, the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest recognizes the importance of providing early education on how to use credit responsibly,” said Board Chairman Gina Whitlow. “Supporting educational programs for children and young adults is typically far more cost-effective than dealing with the resulting economic issues that a person or community may face as a result of bad credit and bankruptcy. Financial Beginnings’ education model is effective, has a prolonged impact and we are proud to provide our support.”

About Financial Beginnings
Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides multi-session courses, free of charge, to students and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest through visits to their individual schools or community groups. The courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at

About the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest
The Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest brings together local credit workers to share ideas, support the industry movement and educate the community in the proper use of credit. More information is available at

The cost of being a disposable society

Remember my blog a few months ago toting about all of the money I am saving by getting rid of cable and just using Hulu and Netflix? Well it’s a good thing I have created the savings in my budget because I ended up having a huge expense on my TV last week. A couple of weeks ago we heard the dreaded POP while we were watching TV. It was immediately apparent that the picture bulb blew out on the TV.

I purchased this TV in 2006 and was told that the bulbs usually go out about every two years. They encouraged me to purchase the few hundred dollar warranty because I was bound to need to replace a bulb within the three year warranty period. Well either the salesman severally underestimated the average bulb life or I watch less TV than most people. Quite honestly both are plausible reasons.

Josh’s asked his friend who repairs TV if he’d be willing to help. Within five minutes sitting in my inbox was a link to where to purchase the bulb and a copy of the owner’s manual. The bad thing was that the part was almost $200 dollars. Josh said that my husband or he could easily install it, but that since it was so old maybe I should just go buy a new TV. Old? It’s only six years old! I remember a few years ago I gave away a TV that was over 20 years old and still working perfectly fine (well except that it didn’t have a remote). How could I even consider buying a new TV?

The following Sunday when I was sitting down looking at the advertisements in the Sunday Oregonian I understood why Josh suggested I buy a new TV. The TV that I purchased six years ago could be replaced by a newer, thinner, clearer (all together better) model for about a third of the cost that I paid for my current TV. So I was faced with either spending $200 to repair my existing TV or spend about $800 for a totally new one that was way better. Tempting right?

It seems we have become a disposable society. When it almost costs as much to replace an item as it does to repair it then people are not motivated to keep it and repair it and then we are left with disposing of the old item. What a waste.

So I sucked up the $200 cost of the bulb and it took a whopping 5 minutes for my husband to replace it and hopefully I am good for another six years. Do you think it was the right decision?

Financing Graduate School

After college graduation I decided I wanted to apply for a Master’s program in Statistics. I began preparations for this program almost immediately after graduating from Willamette University. My focus in college was economics; as such I was required to take five math classes at Portland Community College and one math class at Portland State University to have all the pre-requisites from the MS Stats program.

One morning in mid-April I received a welcome letter from UCLA. All my hard work paid off and I quickly began to celebrate. As I reviewed the details of the cost, my celebration was halted. I realized it would be twice as expensive to attend graduate school at UCLA since I no longer lived in California.

The next step was figuring out how I could get in state tuition. I filled out my intent to register and claimed I was a California resident for tuition purposes. My logic was, I grew up in California, and while I have been living in Oregon for the past six years, I was in college most of the time, I still paid most of my taxes in California, and my permanent address was in California. The university rejected my claim. This meant an extra $22,000 a year for out of state tuition.

Luckily, with the rejection notice, came another letter that indicated I may be eligible for tuition exemption based on the fact that I attended high school in California for more than three years. This was music to my ears, I hastily sent in all the required paperwork. Last week I received news that I had been approved for instate tuition; this is a glorious victory that is going to save me over $45,000 over the course of the program.

Thank you exemption program :)! I still need to come up with the rest of the money, stay tuned to find out how.

Is it worth it to buy discounts?

A few weeks ago Josh talked about the web and social discounts available and I thought I’d expend on it with my own personal experience. Yesterday I realized that I had six deals that I had purchased through Groupon, Living Social and Travel Zoo that I had not yet used. I was determined to utilize these deals which I had purchased over the last several months.

So yesterday I:
• ordered $40 of personalized stationary which I purchased for $20,
• ordered five bottles of wine which I had purchased a $75 certificate for $25, but I ended up paying an additional $20 because of shipping and the cost of the wine, and
• Went out to a 4 course meal with wine which I had paid $50 for. I left a $20 tip.

I still have yet to use:
• 3 sessions of kickboxing which I purchased for $15,
• 20 fitness sessions at a women’s gym, and
• $60 of ceramic painting which I paid $30 for

There have been numerous other deals which I have purchased over the last several months like lodging, golf, yoga accessories, tea, hot yoga, and the list goes on and on. But now I’m wondering was it worth it? It has been great trying out new businesses and experiences, but am I really getting a good deal? Many times yes, but many times no.

For example with the work out sessions, many times they only give a short period of time to use the sessions. Over Christmas I purchased 20 sessions of Bikram yoga for $25, the only caveat to that was that they had to be used within 60 days which meant that I would have had to go 2-3 times per week. Do you know how hot it is in there? It took me a good week just to get up the nerve to go again so I ended up only going about 4 times. Still, a reasonable deal averaging just over $6 per session, but still I may have stuck with it had I more time to get use to the excruciating experience.

I’ve also been burned by some of the online retailers because of the shipping. I purchased $25 worth of yoga accessories for $12. I figured this was good because I could purchase a new yoga mat which I was in need of. Well, what I did not know was that the shipping was going to be over $10 so I likely ended up paying the same price as I would have if I had just gone to a shop here locally.

The thing that is important to pay attention to with these deals is that we are still spending money out of our budget. Most of the deals I have purchased are extras in my budget. Some do give me good deals on things that I would have purchased anyway like the wine, or golfing. But many just sound fun and like a good deal so I purchase them, like the ceramic painting.

So now the questions is do I purchase the $20 certificate for $10 to Old Navy which is on Groupon today?