Yellow's Green

The Adventures of Money Blog.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I've been Hacked!

Welcome Parent Hackers. This blog is simply where our family is publicly sharing our financial adventures. Sometime I write about frugal tips, sometimes I try to sort out how to handle our money (like if we should save for our son's college, or if I should self-publish my book or not), and I try to remember to review finance related books I've read (The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need, and All Your Worth are favorites).
Thanks for stopping by!

Should I Self Publish?

An old co-worker was trying to explain to me why he would be upset if his future wife did not take his last name. I never could make sense of his argument (although I did choose to take my husband's last name) but one thing he said has stuck with me. He said, "You have to do a cost benefit analysis for everything, right?"

I'd never thought of it before, doing a cost benefit analysis for everything? I'd always sorta kept the concept work related, but everyday life related CBA makes sense!

So, I have a picture book story in the works. The illustrator is drawing, a content editor is reviewing, and I have some decisions to make. There's the find and agent and get published route, and there's the publish yourself route. If I'm looking at publishing from the financial angle, which would benefit me more? I've been reading self-publishing guide books and I'm still not sure.

With an agent and publisher, my cut of the income from the book is diminished. If I go through a Print-On-Demand place like Amazon's Book Surge, it's higher. If I go at it alone, it's 100%

An established publisher would have access to marketing and placing my book in places far beyond my reach. Although, if it doesn't do well off the bat, it may not stay in print long, cutting out long-term gains. I've read that you still need to market your own book heavily even if a known publisher gets it out there.

Marketing is NOT my strong point. I'm hesitant about selling myself. I don't know why. I mean, I do have self confidence, and I don't mind others' praise at all - but selling something by singing my own praises makes me uncomfortable.

Self publishing sounds like a lot of work, investing a lot of time and my own money up-front. However, I wouldn't have to worry about losing control of my work. I still choose the title, the illustrator, and how long it stays in print. I really like the idea of having the final word on my own creative work.

I don't have to decide today, but the ideas are stirring... any advice would be appreciated.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Frugal Photos

We have a five month old son, and of course, we're very proud parents. This leads naturally to LOTS of photos.

It goes without saying that digi-cams are the way to go. No buying film, no processing any paying for the ones that don't turn out. With Flickr, photo sharing is also easy. We have family spread throughout the country, and my parents are in Germany right now. It would get pretty spendy printing up and sending pics all the time. We HEART Flickr.

But, sometimes you really do want hardcopies. Picture frames need prints. Printing your own is ok, but the cost of ink *really* adds up, and the quality just isn't the same. Many online photo printing places have introductory deals. I got 20 free prints on my first order with both Shutterfly and Snapfish. Shutterfly often sends out emails with great deals, and I'm about to cash in on another round of 20 free prints. This is a good deal.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Road Trips

Three money lessons I've learned on road trips...
From a comment I left on J.D.'s Get Rich Slowly today (he just learned about paying parking fees at his hotel):

Personally, I have to be careful what snacks I pack for road trips. (Too many snacks = too much eating, and feeling icky from all the junk.) Buying something when you stop to use a bathroom is like a tip - and after I visited Italy where you DO tip to use a toilet, I though 'Nobody deserves a tip more than the person who cleans the toilet!' (I usually expect to eat out while on the road, so I just budget for it. It's part of the vacation for me.)

I had a question about tipping my first time in New Jersey. I‚’d never lived in a state where you don't pump your own gas, which means if someone else pumps, you tip. I drove by every gas station looking for a self-serve station, and finally gave up. (Learned later it's like Oregon, you don't pump your own anywhere.) I tipped the guy, but I had no idea if it was the right thing to do, or how much was right. (Noted: no need to tip in states where full-serve is state law.)

I also had trouble on a road trip finding a place to camp overnight where there was no fee. A traveling "hick" (sorta) myself, I'd never paid to camp before. We finally did find a free place, but I was nervous because I wasn't sure camping was even legal there.

Happy travels! Even if driving ends up more expensive, a drive along the Pacific Coast is a must-do. The view is worth the money.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Baking Soda

So we are close to being out of our store bought toothpaste. Erik has used Cinnamon Crest (which I couldn't stand the smell of while I was pregnant, but it's fine otherwise) and I've been using Tom's of Maine's Silly Strawberry. (It was the only fluoride-free toothpaste I could find at the time... but that's a different story.)

I've been browsing around online, 'cause I know you can use Baking Soda (the household wonder-product) to make a toothpowder or paste. I made a trial toothpowder and boy is it salty! I added more baking soda to try and dull it down some, and it's slightly better. I have some fresh mint drying that I'll grind up and add for flavor once it's ready. So the verdict for me so far is "Wow, salty! But I'll keep trying." My teeth feel nice and clean, though.

Here's what I did:
A few spoonfuls of baking soda (for cleaning/whitening)
a spoonful of salt (for cleaning)
a few drops of hydrogen peroxide (for whitening)
a drop of tea tree oil (for disinfecting)
and some ground rosemary ('cause the plant that lived in my bathroom had dried out, and for flavor)

I put them in a small jam jar with a lid, wet my brush, and dip it in.

Cost in money: Oh I don't know, I already had all the stuff to make it
Cost in time: A few minutes

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Review - The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need

Andrew Tobias wrote a fantastic book, and says that in a weak moment he let the editors talk him into calling it "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need." This is one of the few books I passed on to Erik and said "read!" When he finished, he replied, "it just may be the only investment guide we'll ever need."

I read this book during a spell of reading other "investment guides;" A few of Suze Orman's, a few of the Motley Fool's, and another, I think. Suze Orman's were good, but felt a little too marketed for me. (Things like the recurring "log onto my website and type in this special password for more up-to-date... or "watch my tv show." Plus her makeup makes me nervous sometimes.) Not that she doesn't have good things to say, and she definitely have more substance than can be found in "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" but still heavy on the marketing. Motley Fool's books also hold up just fine in their brand of advice (they really really like dividend stock investing) and try really hard to add a twist of humor to what they say (throwing in Shakspeare humor whenever they can).

Oh Sorry, I'm supposed to be reviewing Tobias' book here. It's definitely BETTER than any other investment guide I've read. Sound advice. Simple advice. Natural humor. Loved it. With chapters with titles like "What to do if you inherit one million dollars; what to do otherwise" and "Choosing (to ignore) your Broker" you can already see a glimpse of his humor.

Thanks, J.D. at Get Rich Slowly for recommending this book to me. I'm glad to see he's also reading another favorite of mine, "All Your Worth."

I'd say read (or even own) "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need" for most investing advice and general finance guidelines.
Read "All Your Worth" to help you put a budget together (unless, of course, you already have a budget that you're sticking to and that is working fantastically for you).

In Short: One of, if not THE best money book I've read yet.

Procrastination is a Killer

Procrastinating getting that budget put together, getting out of debt, or beginning to save with really getcha in the long run.

I keep procrastinating book reviews I mean to do, and then wait to long so I can't do a quality review because I've forgotten the best parts and the details.

Procrastinating reading books I've gotten from the library leads to having to return them unread when someone else wants them and I can't renew them any longer.

I subscribe to several blogs through an RSS feeder at bloglines, and occasionally procrastinate reading entries that look interesting, but I just don't feel like reading at the time. I have a backlog of 35 posts to read.

Ok, so I guess I have to do low quality book reviews, 'cause I at least gotta say something about the books I've read. At the very least, you can look at the side bar... books in the + column are ones I read and liked. Books with a - mean I wouldn't suggest reading them, there are much better books to spend your time one. Ones without a + or - just mean I read them, and don't feel strongly either way.

Ramit at loves to post about getting up and DOING something.
Age old advice, always wise.
The War of Art talks about HOW to fight those inner battles that keep you from getting up and DOING something.
Joe's Goals is helping me DO some of the things I want to do. My latest goal: Do as well or better than yesterday. (Joe's Goals gives points for getting your goals done, so it's easy to track "how well" I've done.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Investing in My Own Ideas

It may not cost as much as I originally thought it would to invest in publishing my picture book. I had a nice phone consultation with Nina from BookSurge, Amazon's self-publishing company.
I'm feeling good about it.

As of now I need to:
*find a professional content editor that specializes in picture books to give me feedback on the story
*save up the money to do the publishing
*continue researching avenues for publishing and marketing
*wait for the artwork and decide if I have enough skills and tools to do the layout myself or to pay a professional to do it.

I think a time frame of one year will be good for me to save up the money, and have a product I can submit to a printer somewhere and get crackin. Sound possible, Dalyn [the illustrator]?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Big Changes Ahead?

Notice the title of this blog is YELLOW's Green. Yellow does not mean we are chicken. Yellow is what both Erik and I score on Dr. Hartman's Color Code Personality Test. On the front page of his website, you'll find that Yellows "are the fun lovers. Fun, or the joy of doing something just for the sake of doing it, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of enthusiasm and optimism and are generally charismatic, spontaneous, and sociable."

Of course he's going to say only positive attributes on the front page. In the book, you'll also read that in the career/financial world, Yellow's are the least likely to succeed. It's a result of being a fun-seeker. In college, I studied music composition because it's what I enjoyed doing. (No surprise, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much once it became something I had to do.) I even knew I didn't want to be a movie/tv score writer - because then I'd still be at the mercy of creating something to fit what someone else wants. I didn't want to be a teacher, or a professor, so really composing as a career was out. So why did I do it? For fun. When it was no longer fun (due to a piano faculty that attempted to vampire my musical soul) I got out. I like to think of my General Studies degree a certificate of creative problem solving. (Problem = how to still get a degree after five years of ever-more-expensive college while circumventing the wrath of the nasty professor.)

Erik has a degree in German Language. He's fluent in both French and German, and has a working knowledge of Spanish. He LOVES languages. To him, they're fun. He was smart to get in some great travel time while he was young. (Read the "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" series on what to do while you're young.) Erik has also been through auto mechanic's school, but isn't interested in being an auto mechanic as a career, because it fixing cars all day doesn't sound like fun. Buying cars, fixing them, and selling them did sound like fun, though, and he was self-employed doing just that. (The largest non-cash portion of our net worth is our cars.)

I've mentioned my changing thoughts on being a teacher. From any teaching experience I've had, I now think that as far as careers go, it would be fun. But I'm not certified, and I'd have to go back to college to do so. As we're in the "start your family" stage of our lives, and I highly value stay-at-home motherhood, NOW is not the time for me to go back.

Erik, has the natural skills to make an excellent engineer. Especially with the usual salary attached, it sounds like a fun career to him. Unfortunately, a degree in German does not an engineer make.

He has to take same college courses for work anyway, to acquire a journeyman's license and move up the current pay ladder. So, he's been looking into what kinds of engineering careers he could pursue, and what it would take to go back to school part-time while still working to support our family. He figured it will take about ten years to do it. Would we be better off if he instead just worked an extra job now? Is it just for the money, or really the desire for a fulfilling career? What does that mean for the next ten years?

In any case, it looks like our education savings fund is about to earn a bigger allocation...
Wish us luck in whatever we decide!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Networth IQ

I found NetworthIQ through a badge on another money blog. (See our new badge on the sidebar.) You can track your progress, and compare to other users. We are pretty low ranked in our net worth relative to the comparisons I've looked up, but what matters more is how we're doing since we've started working on it...

The dip is in March, when our son Jasper was born. But because we planned well, it didn't take long before we were doing even better than before.

(Side note: United Health Insurance has still not paid for his birth. We did meet someone this weekend who finally did manage to get United Health to pay for her delivery at Alma Birth Center, the place Jasper was born, after almost six months.)