One Of The Best Ways To Spend $79.95.

No one thinks it will happen to them – a complete computer crash. In fact, knock on wood, it has never happened to me…yet. But someday, it probably will. Years ago I started backing up my computers once a week, so if it did happen the most I could lose would be a single week’s worth of data. In the grand scheme of things, that wouldn’t be so bad. However, my mom had not been backing up her computer for the last 2 years…and it died on her. Everything she had on there, from family pictures to stories she was writing, were lost forever. She took it somewhere to see if they could recover anything, but it was a total loss. And it could have all been saved if she had only followed my instructions to back her stuff up often! There really isn’t any excuse anymore to not back up your computer, as external hard drives were way more expensive a few years ago but now a tiny, portable 320 GB drive is only about $79.95. 320 GB should be large enough for 99% of people, as it’s plenty for me and I have hours of video footage stored on my computer, which take up a ton of space.

I use a backup program that checks everything on the external drive against what is on the computer, and only updates the files that have changed. It normally takes about 15 minutes for it to run every Tuesday, and then I unplug the drive and store it in a drawer. I did try several of those off-site backup companies, but with the amount of data I have it was taking 12 hours to send a backup every week – not a very effective use of time. And while I could still lose my data if my house burned down, well, that would probably be the least of my problems at that point!

Anyway, after my mom lost everything on her computer, I have made it my priority to tell everyone I know to do backups and do them regularly. She was devastated at the loss, and hopefully people can learn from her mistake. It can happen at any time and without warning, so make sure you invest a little bit of cash in making sure your data is backed up and safe. I cannot recommend it enough!

Have you ever had a data loss because you didn’t back up? What kind of system do you use now? Let us know so we can all learn!


Announcing The Winner Of “˜The Difference’ By Jean Chatzky.

On Monday I started a giveaway for a copy of “The Difference” by Jean Chatzky, a really great personal finance book. The giveaway closed yesterday morning and it is now time to announce the winner, which is Kate, who left lucky comment #13. Congratulations! Kate, I will be emailing you for your mailing address so I can send this out to you right away, so please be sure to get back to me. To everyone who didn’t win, don’t fret – I have about 5 more books for upcoming giveaways, and I will do the first of them next week. Stay tuned and thanks for reading My Two Dollars.


Need Help Talking To Kids About Financial Literacy? Try These Free Classes.

This may be a surprise for some, but teens are listening and they are worried about the economy. Not only are they watching their parents and stories on the news, but teens are feeling the effects first hand, and they’re talking about it. Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation conducted a poll of U.S. teenagers to gauge their thoughts on the economy, with some surprising statistics:

  • More than 50 percent say they talk about the economy with their friends.
  • 53 percent of teens surveyed say they’re choosing activities that cost less money.
  • Nearly three-in-ten teens (29 percent) said that the economy is causing them anxiety.
  • One-third of all teens report less job availability.
  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) of the teens polled say that their parents are talking about the economy more than they used to.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) said their parents had discussed family finances with them as a result of the economy.

Since the state of the economy is on their minds, now is the perfect time for parents to seize the opportunity to talk to their children about money management. Sometimes broaching the topic of financial literacy is easier said than done, especially if you yourself are a little unsure of the basics of personal finance. With that in mind, Junior Achievement created a new series of free, downloadable teaching tools to help parents talk to their children about smart money management. The lessons, called Junior Achievement $ave, USA, are posted at www.ja.org, and cover such topics as budgeting, the importance of saving, understanding the cost of credit and how to use it, and planning how to pay for college. The lessons are sponsored by The Allstate Foundation and can serve as a great learning tool for children, teens and parents.

There’s no better time than the present to talk to your kids about personal finance. See what they’re learning in school, what they already know. They may surprise you. Once you open that dialogue with them and take away the taboo of talking about money, your whole family can benefit from a financial education.

Guest post from John M. Box, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Education, JA Worldwide. Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Today, 137 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional five million students served by operations in 123 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.ja.org.


I Have No Need Or Desire To Be Wealthy.

I have absolutely no need or want to be wealthy. There, I said it. Was that so bad? Many people would take issue with that statement, but not me. I honestly have no need to be wealthy in my life. Comfortable? Yes, absolutely. Do I want to go without? Nope. But do I need more than my fair share? Not at all. After all, you cannot take it with you when you go, and the less I take the more there might be for someone else less fortunate than I. All I want is to be happy, stable, and fed. Is that too much to ask?

I was born into a very normal, middle-class family. My mom stayed home and my dad went to work every day as a finance guy for a giant company. I never wanted for much of anything, we took family vacations, we always had food on the table and a roof over our head. My parents bought regular family sedans every 6 years or so, with cash, and my first job was not because I needed money but rather because they wanted me to learn responsibility. So I became a paperboy, which I did for 5 years. Up every morning at 4am, lugging 45 papers around the neighborhood come rain or snow, and collecting payments every Wednesday evening from my customers. I learned quite a lot about both hard work and financial responsibility from that job, things that I have carried with me to this day. My parents paid for most of my college education, and they would have paid for all of it had my father not died when I was a freshman away at school. All in all, I had a pretty easy and stable upbringing – one that I want to emulate for my adult life, especially if I ever have children. But my parents showed me one very important thing through my childhood, and that is that you do not need to be rich in order to have a full and happy life. And I fully agree.

My grandparents, one of which is still alive and living on her own today at 97, lived and worked through the Great Depression. My grandfather was about 18 years old when it started, and he went to work supporting his mother and 4 sisters. He continued to work hard as an electrician his entire life, until he retired with his pension to a comfortable life with my grandmother. He worked in the yard, took care of the house, and spent a ton of time with my brother and I. They had a regular house, in a regular neighborhood, and drove late-model American cars. Average, middle-class folks they were. And they were incredibly happy about being middle-class, as they had no desire to be rich. They just wanted to be comfortable and to be able to live a stable life, as wealth had no meaning to them after living through the Depression. To be able to eat and have a roof over their head was of the upmost importance.

Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised, or the way my grandparents were, or because of my own internal workings, but I have no need to be financially wealthy. In a lot of ways I already have wealth, albeit a different kind – I have my health, I have my family, I do work that I love, and I don’t want for much of anything. I can afford a nice place to live, to put food on the table, to drive a car that doesn’t break down every day. A lot of people around the world don’t even have one of those three things, so I should consider myself lucky. I have everything I need in life. What could wealth buy me that I don’t already have (or even want)? A bigger house? Don’t need a bigger house. A private jet? Why can’t I fly coach like everyone else? I can already afford the stuff I need and want – I don’t need more than that. There have been studies that show that higher income and net worth does not mean more happiness, and I could not agree more. Besides, if I spend my entire life chasing more money and more stuff, what could I be missing out on? Personally, I don’t want to find out. I am happy with what I have and where I am. It’s much easier to be satisfied and content when you are not perpetually chasing more…Trust me on that one.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you think being wealthy can make you happy? If so, why? Or do you think that you don’t need wealth to have a content life? What are your thoughts on this? Let me know, I am looking forward to hearing them!


Book Review & Giveaway: ‘The Difference’ By Jean Chatzky.

This giveaway has ended. This giveaway is for a copy of the book “The Difference” by Jean Chatzky. Her name may be familiar to some of you, as she is the financial editor for the Today show as well as a regular guest on Oprah when talking about all things money. The Difference is her newest book, which explores why and how some people have secured their financial futures and why others’ haven’t yet, and what those in the “know” are doing differently than those who are struggling. In fact, right on the cover of the book it says “How Anyone Can Prosper In Even The Toughest Times“… and if that isn’t a tagline we all need right now, then I am not sure what is! One of the biggest parts of this book, that speaks volumes to me (and is often left out of financial self-help books) is that happiness leads to money and success, and not necessarily the other way around. I am a big believer in doing what makes you happy rather than doing something just to make money, but Chatzky lays out how those who have succeeded in being financially secure have mostly managed to do both at the same time – something I think is entirely possible and necessary.

From learning to silence your internal critic, to acknowledging your mistakes, to knowing when to take a break, “The Difference” is full of great advice for those of us wanting to be both happy and financially stable. In fact, there are a few pages on what I consider one of the biggest downfalls that people suffer from – the “Keeping Up With The Joneses” issue. This kind of thinking leads so many people down the wrong path that I am glad to see it mentioned here. This book is not all about getting rich – it’s about working hard at what you choose to work at in order to become financially secure. 2.5 years ago I gave up a nice corporate gig that I loathed in exchange for happiness…and it was the best decision I ever made. I have mostly made up the difference in pay, but my quality of life is way better now. And that is what this book wants you to do – think for yourself, do what you need to do, your way, and be smart about your financial life. It’s a great resource and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for ways to become more secure financially and emotionally.

And now for the good part – the giveaway. All you have to do is a leave a comment on this post (with a legit email address, so I can contact you if you win), letting me know why you would like to read this book. The giveaway closes Wednesday morning, April 22, at 7am MST, and at that time I will use a random number generator to pick the winning comment. Giveaway is open to US residents only, and the book will be shipped by media mail via the USPS. Only one entry per email address/IP address is allowed. Good luck to everyone, and be on the lookout for another giveaway in a week or two!This giveaway has ended.