featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications.

Today, along with telling us about her newest release, Karen brings us some money-saving tips. She’s not a financial adviser, nor has she played one on television. She’s culled these tips from a lifetime of struggling with her own finances. The advice she presents here has worked for her, and she’s happy to share it with our readers today.

Read more about Karen and her books at her website and blog.

Five Practical Hints to Make Managing Your Money Easier

1.  Carry a small notepad in your pocket or purse and each time you use your debit card or write a check during the day note down the amount on the pad.  At the end of the day, give it a quick glance to check the total and mentally compare it to the cash available in your account.

2. Use a program like Quicken to track your financial situation.  I update it once a week, entering all the transactions from the previous week.  By doing that, I know how much I have in the bank and therefore how much I can afford to spend the coming week.  It's made it much easier for me to keep up with what I have.  I also keep up with my credit card expenditures as well.  You can even set it up to download transactions from your bank, so you don't have to enter them yourself.  You just have to be sure your notes match what the bank says.

3. Use Quicken or some other program to track all your accounts -- savings, investment, etc.  You can keep up with your mortgage and other loans as well, so you can quickly get a look at your net worth.  I know it can be a bit depressing (believe me, I KNOW!), but ignorance is not bliss.  Ignorance can mean ugly surprises. And knowledge can both help you plan for the future and provide incentive to improve your situation.

4. Sign up for electronic bill pay if you haven't already. Your bank doesn't support it?  Find a new bank. Seriously.  This is such a time and money saver it's worth the effort involved in changing banks.

5. Okay, this one is going to be a bit more controversial.  You know all those articles that say you can save xxx amount of money by not stopping for that latte every morning or taking your lunch to work in a bag instead of going out and buying it?  I say the heck with most of those.  The savings are small potatoes and probably largely offset by the irritation of doing without a treat that helps make the rest of your day bearable.

Instead, look at the bigger picture.  Can you have ten or fifteen or even twenty dollars a month transferred automatically from your checking account to savings the day after your paycheck is deposited or once a month on a specific day?  It's so much easier if the money goes out before you ever see it.  Find trade-offs: things you maybe don't need as much that you can sacrifice.

The Wizard's Shield
To solve a murder and retrieve a stolen magical shield, a pair of wizards journey into a dangerous, magical underworld, where the weapons of choice might be guns... or lightning bolts.

A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death. The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it. When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it. Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.


www.raynegolay.com said...

Yep, these are all great ways of living withing your means. Being an impulsive shopper, buying something because I fell in love with the color, I'm training myself to walk away from the tempting article. If at the end of the day, I still think I want it, I go back. Most of the time I discover it's not as attractive as I thought.

Karen McCullough said...

HI Rayne -- That's a great suggestion. It's so hard to resist the impulse sometimes, but giving yourself an option sounds like a good way to deal with it.

Melissa Keir said...

Great ideas Karen. I also kept track of my cash on hand with a notebook to see where it was going. Sometimes I was shocked how fast it left my wallet but once I kept track I didn't have a surprise anymore!

Best of luck with your book. I love the cover!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I use Quicken too and keep track of everything in a notebook. I don't like to shop, but if I go into Kohl's with coupons I always seem to find things I want/need. Best thing for me is to not go in there. Don't have the same problem at any other store.