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If I Had A Million Dollars…

million dollars what to do

What would I do with a million dollar windfall?  While reviewing some blogs from the Yakezie network, I saw a question posed by Sandy from Yes I Am Cheap for a personal finance meme last week.

I found this to be a fun exercise and conversation for my husband and I. It gave us an opportunity to define what some of our goals are. I decided to join in and come up with a plan should a get a million dollars (after taxes).

Pay off Debts ($130,000)

Between our student loan and our mortgage balance, we have debt total of $130,000. The first part of our spending will be cleaning our slate and taking care of our financial obligations.

By not having debts in our budget, that frees up about $1,100/month. We can use that for other goals, like travel or exploring hobbies. Believe it or not, we won’t quit our jobs just yet – we love what we do. If anything, we’d try to adjust work location.

Long Term Income Stream ($400,000)

We’d take our time in deciding how we’ll use this money. We would hold off for a few months and speak with some financial advisers about viable options. I have a few ideas, but before committing the money, we’d have to sit down and work out a plan together. We both want the other to feel comfortable with how the money is invested for our family’s future.

I’m thinking of something along the lines of getting a rental property (a building with 4 apartments for example).

Take Care of My Family ($270,000)

I personally would not feel good if I didn’t help out my loved ones. First, I would top off my mother’s retirement accounts and finish paying off her small mortgage balance. My husband would want to finish off his parents’ mortgage as well.

For our siblings, we’d create a small family fund to help them as a safety net should they have an emergency. It’ll be set up as a no interest loan, so if they pay it back there’s money for any future crisis. If they spend it though, then it’s gone. We would keep tabs to make sure one person doesn’t clean out the pot.

Our hope is that siblings can create their own income streams to support their dreams. It’s our hope that once that occurs, we can transfer over that money into our charity fund.

Set Up a Charity Fund ($200,000)

I want to help others, but I feel like passing out lump sums would go too quickly and wouldn’t do much. I would set aside money to set up a charity to pass out a small amount of money perpetually.

This would be another area where we would work with a financial and legal professional to get this off the ground. We like to this project to continue for years down the line.

What Would You Do With a Million Dollars?

What about you? If you had a million dollars, how would use it? What would be the biggest challenge? What would be the most fun?

Sunday Morning Routine

relax on sundays

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is to catch up on books and articles. I watch some shows to check out the news and discuss current events with my husband. It’s one way for me to relax and recharge. My husband go out in the afternoon for worship and fun with friends.

How about you guys? What are favorite things to do on Sundays?

Today is definitely a laid back day, so this week’s links and review is shorter than normal.

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts. There are some handy tips this week to help you out.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have fun this weekend with your family!

Photo Credit: twicepix

3 Ways to Tour Cities for Free

city tour for free

When you’re in a new city a tour is a great way to visit the must-sees and orient yourself to an unknown environment. But hiring guides or taking bus tours can get quite pricey. Here are three ways to tour for free in cities around the world.

Walking Tours

Last year in the New Orleans Garden District, I was able to identify which home belonged to the Mannings of NFL fame versus John Goodman from Roseanne. My skill was not from being psychic or researching real estate records.

Instead I had printed a walking tour which listed 20 stops in this part of town along with pertinent background. My favorite source is Frommer’s which does include self-guided tours for many U.S. and foreign cities.

Google.com offers city tours. Just enter your starting location and a route will be created. Features include the ability to add or remove sights.

Audio Tours

Audio tours are narrated city routes. There are lots of free offerings for European cities but you can find downloadable tours out there for most major American cities.

Some even offer iTunes downloads for your iPod or iPhone. Others are good for any MP3 player or smartphone. Speaking of which, there are free or low-cost apps featuring audio tours for many cities in the App store or Market.

Guided Tours

No-cost guided walking tours are available all over North America and Europe. These can be sponsored by historical organizations, government agencies or just residents who want to share their city with visitors.

For example, the San Francisco city guides offer dozens of tours throughout the week ranging from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge and just about everywhere else you’d want to go.

Citizens in other countries often serve as goodwill guides providing free tours. It gives them an opportunity to practice their English and meet new people. My understanding is that paying any meal or entrance fees for the goodwill guide is customary.

Taking advantage of these types of tours will leave you wallet fuller and leave you more knowledgeable than the alternatives.

Have you taken advantage of any of these types of tours? How do you tour cities at no to low cost?

Photo: Some rights reserved by Dylan Passmore

Are You Staying with Netflix?

netflix subscription changes

Change to Netflix Subscription Plans

Netflix has been in the news lately because they are increasing their subscriptions. This week we received an email from Netflix about how the plan will affect us.

Here’s how the email from them described the changes:

We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

That means that our monthly bill will go up more than 50%. We’re so annoyed that another bill is going up. Before jumping ship, though, we wanted to examine how we use Netflix.

Our Netflix History

Netflix is a very popular choice for people who are looking for cable alternatives. We received a Netflix trial a few months back and fell in love with the service. The trial gave us 2 DVDs at a time with unlimited streaming. Once it was over we went ahead and switched it to 1 DVD and unlimited streaming. We use the PS3 and my laptop to watch our movies and I have to say the service has been great.

Unlike Hulu, Netflix doesn’t include ads on their streaming videos. The DVDs do have some ads, but you can just get your food ready while they run. While I don’t consider it a huge disadvantage, some of the movies and shows I want to watch on Netflix aren’t available streaming.

Keeping Netflix, But Changing Plans

After chatting with my husband, I think starting September, we’ll go to streaming only for our Netflix service and see how that works out.  Like I mentioned, I really wish they have more options for streaming. We use the 1 DVD at a time to fill in the gaps in streaming shows and movies.

How about you? If you’re currently a Netflix member, are you going to keep the DVDs and the streaming or will you choose one service?

Photo Credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Find Deals on Diapers

content baby with diapers

This week for the Baby Expense Series, two guest posts are tackling the big costs of raising your baby. Today Jesse shares his take on handling diapers. If you have any suggestions, please leave your tips on the comments.

First off, congrats on the upcoming baby Elle! That’s such an exciting and amazing time in a family. We just had our third and while it doesn’t get any easier, it only gets more rewarding with each one. It’s such a wonder how your love can continue to grow with each new family member.

Now, after the baby comes, there is a lot of stuff that you have to start doing. The first being the doctors appointments that are surprisingly frequent. You see, the doctor wants to monitor the baby early in her growth to make sure she is growing at the proper rate and to catch any problems early. The baby is in such a fragile state at this time, even the slightest problem could become anything but slight, very quickly.

One thing they’ll ask you at the doctors is how often your little bundle of joy…poops. Yep, that’s a medical term, poop. And at our last such appointment, my wife answered the doctor; 12 or so times a day.

What the?…I was shocked. This is our first boy and I guess that may be why, but that is far more poopy diapers than our first two kids who seem to be the exception. Most babies really do poop or need a diaper change for one reason or another ten to twenty times a day! That’s pretty crazy, and if you think about it, pretty expensive. Diapers are not cheap!!

So, I’m here to share some tips on keeping diaper costs down.

Cloth diapers

Ah, the old standby. The cloth diaper has been around for ages. It’s made of cloth and thus reusable. The baby poops in it and you wash it. It can’t be much simpler than that.

My only problem with the cloth diaper is that it’s inconvenient, messier than a disposable diaper and just not practical. If you can manage using cloth diapers, they will be your biggest cost saver in parenthood but in case you want a more practical option, read on. Who cares about the landfills nowadays anyway, right? :)

Coupons and discounts

As a new parent, my wife and I were pretty silly about things like diapers. We instantly went for the brands we knew from TV commercials, the brands that told us they wouldn’t leak and would keep our baby drier longer. We’ll get to how silly this is in the next section, but if we didn’t look for coupons and discounts at this stage, we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford a second child!

Parents and baby products are a huge market and we discovered that every news circular we found had a coupon for baby wipes and diapers. Each coupon was $1 off or so, but many of them were manufacture coupons and stackable, meaning we could use multiple coupons together. That saved us a bundle and all we had to do was open our eyes.

Another way to get discounts on diapers is go to places you wouldn’t expect to even sell diapers or baby products like CVS, Walgreens and even Target. It seems more people than you’d expect don’t realize these places carry diapers, so they go on huge discounts every once in a while. My sister-in-law recently got 1,200 diapers for $200 which is nearly half price, at Walgreens in a weekend diaper sale.

Generics

The reason I say we were silly new parents for buying name brands is because even in the baby product world, generics exist.

In a lot of cases, generics meet or surpass my expectations of products. Diapers are no different. We have used generic diapers with all of our kids. Sure, they leak sometimes and there is a little mess to clean up or outfit to change, but guess what? We’ve used the name brand diapers too.

We have also found that some diaper brands fit different babies in different ways. Different brands leaked more than others, but on our next kid it was just the opposite. Just like one pair of jeans will fit your friend differently than it does you, you should try all of your diaper options and see which one you like best and which one keeps your baby dry.

Subscribe and Save

And here’s a tip for the geeks out there who buy everything online. Amazon.com has a new program called Subscribe and Save that can save you heaps on diapers (and other products you buy on a regular basis). Essentially, you can set up a purchase schedule on Amazon and they will automatically ship your purchase on a schedule. You can set this up to ship as frequently as every month, or infrequently as every six months.

The beauty of the subscribe and save, aside from having what you need delivered to your door when you need it, is that Amazon offers you up to a 30% discount on products that you use the Subscribe and Save program for.

Using Subscribe and Save for diapers can save you loads during the first year or two of your kids life.

Babies bring so much joy to life, I mean, what’s cuter than a baby? Not much! But the cost of becoming a new parent can be scary. Using these tips can help make the cost of becoming a new parent manageable and let you enjoy every minute of it.

Jesse Michelsen is a father of three who founded Personal Finance Firewall, a site dedicated to managing money well so you don’t have to worry about it when life happens. He is also the Community Manager for Money Crashers and can always be found on Twitter.

Image by paparutzi