The Big Finale (or Finally)

March 2, 2017

You’ve just kicked the bucket.  You are six feet under, pushing up daisies.  You’re worm food.  You’ve entered the pearly gates (or that other place).  No turning back now.  It’s the only guarantee other than taxes.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Congratulations, you are dead.

Do I have your attention?  I’m not surprised.  Most of us at least have a healthy respect for death if not a flat out fear of it.  Thinking about it is something many people simply refuse to do.  Surely it can’t happen to them….. at least not yet.  Not for a long time yet.  But that is exactly what I want you to focus on for this blog post.  OK, maybe not so much your actual death, but what about all of the stuff you have when you do die? Read the rest of this entry »

4 Tips for When Life Isn’t Vanilla

September 15, 2016


Mmmm.  Vanilla ice cream.  Vanilla is the greatest flavoricecream-sunday-and-woman of ice cream ever.  I know, it’s plain, not overly stimulating in the flavor department, and easy to find.  But with that one flavor I can meet just about any mood I’m in.  Without clashing, I can add chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, fresh strawberries, peanuts, even crème de menthe.  Try that versatility with just about any other flavor and eventually you will have a bad, bad dessert that is anything but a treat.  Vanilla is definitely the way to go.

If only life were like ice cream.  It would be so easy, so predictable.  We would know exactly what is coming.  We would always know we were safe.  It would be perfect.

But life isn’t vanilla.  And that’s a GOOD thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Family! Can’t Live With Them, Can’t… Well, You Know…

July 28, 2016


I once had a conversation with a young lady that was buying her first home.  At least she thought she was.  But as the process continued, her lender called her to explain that she was going to have to sell her house in another state before she could qualify for the new loan.  She wasn’t aware she owned a home any where, but a little digging found that the home had been purchased in her name when she was only 6 months old.  The real buyer had even kept up the payments until recently. Read the rest of this entry »

Beat the Heat (and Cold)

July 22, 2016

Oppressing.  Overbearing.  Sweltering.  Crushing.  Roasting.  Torrid.  Fiery.  Scorching.  Searing.  Parching.  No, this isn’t the latest marketing blitz for a new action movie.  It’s our weather.  Simply put, it’s HOT.  We can find relief by shutting ourselves indoors, but that is going to give way to another set of adjectives when the electricity bill comes.

There was a news story the other day about a nearby town in Minnesota that, in a 6-month span, saw a temperature swing of 180 degrees between the coldest wind chill and the hottest heat index.  No figurative speech there.  It was literally 180 degrees difference in temperature between the two extremes.

So what do we do?  Are we just subject to the wild swings of utility bills as we alternate between seasons of gas bills and electric bills?  Let’s be honest, that can be a little scary.  The weather can be so wild that the trained meteorologists can’t even figure it out perfectly and we are just left to pay the bills necessary to make it tolerable.

Well, there may be relief in sight.  Not from the wild swings of weather, but from the wild swings of the utility bills.

Most gas and electric companies offer budget- or average usage-billing.  Whatever they choose to call it, they take anywhere from a 3- to 24-month usage history and calculate your average monthly usage.  There may be a little more math in there to calculate anticipated rate changes and whatnot, but you get the idea.

Some months you will use more of said utility than you pay for.  Other months you will use less than you pay for.  Just be aware that month 12 of your billing cycle is the adjustment month.  Used more than you have paid for?  Your bill will be higher.  Used less than you’ve paid for?  Bonus.

Some people admittedly struggle with paying for more than they are actually using in a month, but that is a fairly short-sighted perspective.  In the end, you will come out even.  And the two providers that I checked (my providers) both offer the program free of any additional fees.

So why would you want to go through the hassle of the change if it doesn’t give you any great discount?

The biggest reason I would give is stability.  You know what that bill isbills default going to be each and every month.  You know how much you need in the budget and how much to set aside so you are sure you can even keep the lights on.  This can greatly reduce stress associated with unknown variable bills.

The second reason I would recommend it is if you are vulnerable to counter-swings.  Perhaps in the winter months when the gas bill goes sky high, your job is subject to cuts in hours.  Now, on top of a higher utility bill, you have a significantly lower income.  A budgeted utility program won’t make the bill go away, but will help prevent the exaggerated extremes of these counter-swings.

This is only one aspect of budgets that can be quite complex.  If you are struggling  or would simply like a second, objective set of eyes to look over your budget, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources would be happy to help.  We all deal with utility bills of our own.  We understand.  You can either schedule an appointment online or call us at 605-330-2700 to set something up.

If the heat is getting to you, a little attention to your budget can keep the proverbial heat off of your neck.  But you’re stuck with the literal heat of the weather.  Sorry.  We’re not meteorologists.


written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

Home Inspections Gone Wild

June 9, 2016


A stranger walks through the house, checking out every little thing, at times taking pictures and at others just making notes.  It’s not a quick visit.  This will take upwards of 3 hours.  While it may sounds like the plot of some horror movie, it is real life that happens every day.  Whether or not it is a horror story depends on the house.  Read the rest of this entry »

10 Tips for Your Next Job Search

June 3, 2016


I don’t like what I do.  I don’t like the people I work with.  I don’t get paid nearly enough for what I do.  I need to live somewhere else.  I don’t like my schedule.  I need a new boss.  I just want something different.  Whatever the reason, people are always looking for a new job.  While the positions may be out there, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of landing that ‘something new’. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School NOW!!!

May 26, 2016


It’s the end of May.  Temps have just broken 80 degrees here.  Some schools are out for the summer and the rest are just about there.  There are evenings sweating it out at the ballpark (for a variety of reasons).  Vacation plans are being finalized.  And now I’m going to tell you it’s time to think about back to school.  Yes, NOW! Read the rest of this entry »

5 Ways Stupid Simple Really Does Work

May 9, 2016


K.I.S.S.  Most of us have heard the acronym.  And most people translate it as Keep It Simple Stupid.  But I don’t like calling people stupid (unless I’m behind the wheel and the driver ahead of me is being stupid), so I switch it up a little.  I translate it to Keep It Stupid Simple.  You know – concepts so simple that they sound absolutely stupid.  You might roll your eyes at them, BUT THEY WORK! Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Cleaning Financial Style

April 12, 2016

Depending on the day, spring is finally here.  Yes, there are still blustery days that start with scraping the windows on your car.  But there are also those nice days that get us all a little excited for the impending summer.  It gets us excited to get up and moving, get outside, and even get some spring cleaning done.

Aside from the psychological rewards of accomplishing a cleaner home, there are also financial benefits to taking care of that spring clean-up.  Let’s take a look at some of them: Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Credit Card Debt

March 11, 2016

“Credit cards – good, bad, or evil?”  I love asking that question in my classes.  I’m a certified consumer credit counselor.  I’ve seen a lot.  Of course I’m going to tell you credit cards are of the devil.  They are nasty, money stealing, credit destroying, freedom ending pieces of plastic.  They are ‘the man’ out to get you and if you have one you are nothing more than a minion of that system.  Right?  At least that’s what most people expect me to say. Read the rest of this entry »

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