I think I have finally broken through a case of what I call "spender's block". Think of it as "writer's block" but instead of not being able to write, you're not able to spend money.
For months I have been wearing the same UNCOMFORTABLE shoes to work. They are awful. The toes are so narrow that I feel like I am doing permanent damage to my feet by wearing them by disfiguring them into an un-foot like shape. I keep wearing them because I don't want to spend the money to buy new shoes. I know I have to buy them eventually; I've looked at Target for cheap shoes that were comfortable from time to time but never find anything. Finally, yesterday I figured that since I had that $2.00 gift certificate to Mervyn's that I should try to look there.
I looked and looked for shoes that I thought were both stylish (because I am oh so stylish) and comfortable. There were these hideous looking shoes that I tried on that felt so good that I almost bought them despite the fact that I would look like I was 80 years old wearing them. There were also these shoes that were so-so but I couldn't bring myself to buy shoes that were so-so because I knew I would be wanting to buy another pair in a couple of months becauase I hated the so-so shoes.
So I crossed shoes off of my list and thought that perhaps I could spend my $2.00 on something for the new apartment. I looked at towels. I looked at dishes. I looked at appliances. But I just couldn't buy anything. The thing about Mervyn's that bugs me is that all of their prices are jacked up and then they say that everything is 40% off so that you feel like you are getting some fabulous deal. I wasn't going to play that game. In my head I kept thinking, I could probably get that at Target for cheaper. So, before I made any RASH decisions with my $2.00 I decided that I would think about it and shop around first.
So when I got home I went to Target to compare prices on things like dishes, pots and pans, silverware, etc. It got to be so frustrating because almost none of the products had all good/average reviews. It seemed inevitable that each product had a comment like "i put these in the dishwasher and they fell apart" or "this blowdryer burnt my hair and I found clumps of hair on the bathroom floor". Yikes! Sometimes I think that product reviews really help but at the same time makes it soooo much more difficult to choose.
So what do I do? Instead of making a decision, I head on over to Amazon to see what they have. Even more choices! And to make things even more complicated, Amazon is offering $25 off when you spend $125 in their Kitchen & Houseware or Bed & Bath departments. I could easily do that in this whole moving process (not that I want to).
What is a girl to do? Who knew that buying cutlery could be such a process. Why can't I just muster the courage to buy a toaster?
The good news is is that I at least found a cute, comfortable pair of shoes today. Bad news is that they cost $75. I'm o.k. with it though because shoes are the one thing that I would prefer to spend a little bit more on so that I know that they will be comfortable and will last longer (crossing my fingers on that one). Also, when I got home my neighbor had dropped off a nice toaster and some silverware that they no longer need. So maybe spender's block was a good thing!
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
I think I have finally broken through a case of what I call "spender's block". Think of it as "writer's block" but instead of not being able to write, you're not able to spend money.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Today I have been in clean up mode in preparation for the move. I've been trying to go through and get rid of stuff that I don't use or don't need any more so that it won't be such a chore when we have to pack up all of our stuff in boxes. Today, I turned my forces to the desk drawer, a virtual black hole apparently. I rarely use this desk drawer and things that get thrown in here are mostly forgotten...until I decide to do a major clean. I was shocked to find:
1) An expired $5 Borders gift certificate
2) An expired $2 Best Buy rebate
3) A valid $10 Barnes & Noble gift certificate
4) A valid Mervyn's gift certificate with a $2.87 balance
5) A Nordstrom's gift certificate with $0 (you must imagine how excited I was at the prospect that it still contained a balance)
6) An old photo that I thought I had lost and was glad I didn't
Wow! I guess that teaches me a lesson. I have a really bad habit of letting papers accumulate and pile up and telling myself that I will get to it later. Obviously I don't otherwise I would have not let that $7 go to waste. But I'm stoked about finding the gift certificates that are still valid! Ya!
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I know that the #1 cause for divorce is money problems. So I am kind of worried about moving in with my boyfried. We've never had any issues with money before because we've never really had to split bills before or make decisions together. Now that we are moving in together those days are over. He's already driving me crazy because he just doesn't get me. He is one of those people that would rather pay the extra money to avoid the additional effort while I am the total opposite. I would much rather get a better deal and incur a little bit more inconvenience.
He doesn't want to bother looking around for cheap/free furniture on Craigslist or at yard sales. He would rather spend a lot of money on furniture that looks nice and will last than search for a good deal. I really don't see the point in spending tons of money on furniture until you buy a house you are going to stay in for a while. Why? Because we may need to move again and I don't want to worry about having to find a place that will be perfect for our furniture or worry about trying to sell it if it doesn't fit or whatever. I would rather feel comfortable just getting rid of it if something did happen.
He doesn't think that a savings of $10 off of our cell phone bill is a lot of money and is not worth the effort of switching.
He wants to buy a brand new car instead of buying one that is 1 or 2 years old simply because he can't say that it's brand new. I don't understand why you would rather pay thousands of dollars in depreciation rather than own something that someone else has already driven.
When we go to the grocery store he will grab the first thing he sees instead of comparing brands to see which is cheapest or what is on sale.
Eventually I think it will drive ME insane that he doesn't care where his money goes and it will drive HIM insane that I am always looking for a way to save a buck here or there. Aye carumba! What am I getting myself into?
Friday, September 23, 2005
I randomly came across this article while searching for inspirational money quotes (per Donald Trump's advice of course). After reading it, I realize I still have a lot of work to do!
According to Al Jacobs, here are the 25 Signs That Show You Know How to Handle Money:
1. Your credit card bill is paid in full each month with never a penny in interest incurred.
We all know how I stack up on that one!
2. You understand that the variable annuity in which your neighbor just invested will prove to be a sad mistake.
What is variable annuity?
3. Despite orchestrated furor by the media, you recognize that the $30 it costs to fill your vehicle’s gas tank is cheaper in today’s dollar that the $15 it cost 20 years ago.
Ya! At least I get this one. Doesn't mean I like it (I'm not complaining either though).
4. You enjoy financial talk shows for their entertainment value while knowing that 95% of what’s said is nonsense.
I've never actually seen a financial talk show? They exist?
5. The only type of life insurance that you’d ever consider purchasing is a term policy.
No kids; haven't even thought about it yet but I vaguely remember that those terms you pay into that are same as cash after X amount of years are a rip-off.
6. You’re not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip you get from a friend or relative.
I'm not tempted to invest in anything yet!
7. You have serious doubts that the 3-unit course in basic English composition offered at Eleganté University for $900 is any better than a similar course conducted at Midtown Community College for $60.
Oh yes, I'm totally feeling him on this one.
8. You are sufficiently sophisticated in real estate to know that the worst house in the best neighborhood beats the best house in the worst neighborhood.
9. You owe nothing on the vehicle you drive.
Wellllll, technically I don't. But realistically, all the money on my credit card is actually my car loan.
10. You have a pretty good idea by mid-November how much your income tax obligation for the current year will be.
I'm all about the IRS tax witholding calculator.
11. When hearing that the S&P 500 Index just hit an all-time high, you are not inclined to call your broker with a buy order.
Nope, I'm really not inclined to call.
12. It’s beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane would purchase a timeshare property.
Ok, I see it.
13. Your checking account balance never drops below the minimum limit that triggers a monthly service charge.
Thank goodness this is true!
14. You’re aware that an option to pay your auto insurance premium in two installments, with a "modest convenience fee" instead of a single payment, probably works out as a loan at about a 25% interest rate.
What? wow, thats lame. I must rethink my car insurance payment...
15. Although you thoroughly enjoy the home in which you live, it’s considerably less expensive than you can afford.
I'm laughing at this one because I don't own a home and can't imagine the day I will be able to afford one (at least in southern California).
16. You know practically nothing about the option market—and intend to keep it that way.
I have no idea what he is talking about.
17. You feel instinctively that every dollar you contribute in FICA taxes to the Social Security system is a dollar lost to you forever.
Yeah, and it really pisses me off.
18. Whenever you’re negotiating a purchase and qualify to receive a discount, you do not hesitate to ask for it.
Sadly, I'm really bad at this.
19. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held.
Trust no one.
20. You make the maximum possible contribution to your retirement funds.
Nope, not yet.
21. Whether your choice of wristwatch is a top-of-the-line Rolex, a fashionable Cartier, a respectable Bulova, or an economy Timex, you recognize that all are battery-operated, with a similar quartz movement, and none fail to keep excellent time.
22. You find it baffling why anyone would buy a lottery ticket.
The lottery is lame.
23. You cannot remember when you last borrowed money for an unexpected emergency.
Does a credit card count? I'm going to say that it does.
24. The newspaper advertisement offering a half-pound silver commemorative medallion from The Perfidious Mint, at the "special advance price of only 139 dollars," forces you to suppress a laugh.
Yeah, who buys that stuff?
25. You have no confidence in the concept of "Investor Confidence."
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I made a decision when I started aggressively paying off my debt that the credit cards would come before the student loans. It made sense at the time because I was paying more every month in interest towards my credit card than I was towards my student loans. Right now though, I find that I am paying more interest towards my government subsidized student loans than I am towards my credit card. I started mulling over in my head the different approaches I could take to this situation and decided I needed to consider all of the pros/cons of each different scenario.
Here is the current situation:
Student loans: $9,717.02 5.125% APR $41.49/month
Credit Cards: $12,999 3.5% APR $37.91/month
Scenario 1: Stay the course
I could continue paying each separately, making the minimum payment to the student loans while paying any additional income towards the credit card. Once the credit card is paid off, focus all additional income towards paying off the student loans.
Scenario 2: Split the bill
I could continue paying each off separately but focus an equal level of aggressiveness towards both loans.
Scenario 3: Consolidate
I could transfer the entire balance of the student loans to the credit card, using a low APR promotional balance transfer. I would pay a one-time fee of $50 and reduce the APR to 2.99%. The lower APR rate would save $200/year.
After juggling each possible scenario in my head, I’m thinking that the best route of action would be to stay the course. Why?
1) Student loan interest can be used as a tax write-off. Essentially, any interest (up to $2,500) that is being paid towards your student loans can be deducted from your taxes. You cannot do this with credit cards! Ultimately, for me, the tax benefits would be $90 off of my taxes but for some people it can be up to $350.
2) Credit card companies are evil. They are in business to make money off of you. Thus, having debt with credit card companies is a much riskier business. The federal government will be more forgiving of you if you miss a payment or are late on a payment. With the credit card company, if you are ever late on a payment they can jack up your interest rate to as high as it can go. If that ever happened to me I would be screwed because at 24% APR on the amount of debt I have right now I would be paying $273 every month in interest.
3) If I transferred the balance of my student loans to my credit cards my debt to credit limit ration would jump back up to nearly 100%. This would ruin my credit rating.
4) Not to mention the fact that it would be so depressing to see the credit card debt go back up so high after making such an effort to pay it down.
But why oh why is my interest rate on my student loans so high?!?
Monday, September 19, 2005
Savings are at an all time low!
Yeah, we reached a new record for the lowest savings rate in history (well at least since 1959). Awesome! Apparently, Americans save on average a big, fat NEGATIVE 0.6%. That means that Americans on average spend consistently 100.6% of their income and save absolutely nothing. My goodness, what is wrong with us? Not that I am one to talk or anything, but there is something seriously wrong with this picture.
I think I know what the problem is though. As I was driving home from filling up my gas tank before gas prices shot back up, I heard an astounding fact on NPR. Did you know that those silly infomercials that they play in the middle of the night generate an astounding $350 billion every year? That works out to $1,000 spent by each man, woman and child in America on worthless crap. I apologize, but I have not been able to find a link to substantiate it but even if it is remotely true, it is very disturbing.
Nothing they sell on TV is worth the money you pay for it. For instance, let's consider the Suck Kut. Seems like a good idea right? It sucks, as it cuts!
Wrong! Take it from Garth, it definitely does suck!
Ok, I know that was a shameless throwback to Wayne's World but I just couldn't help it. When I think of infomercials that is the first thing that comes into my head.
Anyways, Americans need to get a reality check. I fear that the combination of personal debt and national governmental debt will be our downfall. This is a particularly scary article:
Experts warn that heavy debt threatens American economy
Wars, nation building and natural disasters coupled with tax cuts are forcing us as a nation to borrow more and more and more and more....
How can we be so rich but be so poor?
I feel more than ever that it is my patriotic responsibility (o.k. don't laugh) to get out of debt. Just one more reason to add to the long list of reasons why my debt sucks so eternally bad.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Well I guess they did end up turning off my internet for a week...they were just a week late. I was totally unprepared for it and was not as productive as I thought I would be. We finally got it up and working again. I am still trying to overcome the trauma but hope to have lots to post in the days to come.
We found the apartment that we are going to move in to and have already given our holding deposit for the apartment. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Excited because I will finally be a real "grown-up" with my own space and I will be living really close to work which will be maximum 10 minutes commute everyday. Nervous because rent is pretty steep and we have no furniture and will have to buy tons of crap for the apartment. Also, if anything happens, like one of us loses our jobs, we will be a much tougher situation with having rent to pay.
I have been scouring Craigslist for any free stuff that we could furnish our apartment with. I was sooo close to getting a free washer and dryer but was too slow (the lady had barely posted it 40 minutes before and someone had already called). We won't be moving in for a little over a month so we have some time to find some good deals, free stuff from the site. Wish me luck!
I finally got the second half of my referral bonus in my paycheck yesterday! After taxes I was only left with about $500 out of the $1000 but that will definitely help with the debt reduction/move out effort. I'm torn between saving the money for moving expenses vs. using it to pay down the debt, so for a while I will have to pay down a little bit more conservatively. I did make a payment to bring the debt to under $13,000 so that is exciting. By the way, if anyone knows a qualified candidate for a sales manager in the real estate industry (L.A. area) send them my way! My company is offering an $8,000 referral bonus for referring someone they hire into the position. $8,000 would pulverize my debt level!
Friday, September 16, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
That's right. I've reached the end of my rope. It's time for me to leave the nest for good. I know what you are thinking. How will you ever pay back all of your debt within your set goal? Don't fret. It's still possible. I won't be able to pay it back in 9 months like I had dreamed, but I will still be able to pay it off within 2 years of starting this blog. All is not lost!
We have an appointment to view an apartment tomorrow. It is quite a bargain at $1,200 for a one bedroom. It pains me to think about how much rent will cost but normal people do it all the time, right? I'm hoping that this place will be nice; at 850 sq. ft. it is the biggest and most affordable 1 bedroom in the area. Water, trash and CABLE is included, so those are some added bonuses. Cross your fingers for me!
This apartment is only 4 miles away from where I work and according to Streets and Trips it will take me 6 minutes to get to work and cost me a whoppin' 39 cents to drive one way to work. This will greatly enhance my quality of life and save me money on gas and depreciation/maintenance on my car. With all of that extra spare time I hope to be able to take up some sort of hobby that will generate income....for example...jewelry making.
I am officially now a "professional" jewelry maker. A while back I thought it would be fun to do but never got to good at it but did manage to make one bracelet. I didn't think anyone would really want to buy it but it had just been sitting around in my closet so I decided to list it on Etsy. I figured there was nothing to lose by listing it since Etsy is not charging listing fees until November 1st. Well, I posted it last night with a price of $5.99 (I really just wanted to get rid of it) and by the next morning someone had already bought it. Woohoo. Perhaps I will have to make more. Wanna see?
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Yesterday, I filled my gas tank up for free! Well, o.k. it wasn't technically free but it still felt like free. How you may ask? I received $30 worth of gift cards to Mobil from My Points.
My Points is one of those pay-to-click sites that will give you "points" everytime you buy something from their site or read one of their emails. I have never technically bought anything through their site and earn all the points just from visiting sites from their emails. I get about 3-4 Bonus Points emails everyday and each one of them is worth 5 points. I think it took me about a year to get enough points to redeem the gift cards for $30 worth of gas.
Now, there are 2 ways you can look at this. You can think, "One year of clicking on emails and all you got was a $30 gift card for gas? That's not a great return for your time."
Or you can think (as I do), "Wow, $30 for gas just for turning your otherwise unproductive time into productive time. Great!"
They have lots of other gift cards for retailers like the Gap, Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, Home Depot, etc etc. but I figured if I was going to have this little My Points thing help me reduce my debt, I better redeem the points for something that I would have otherwise normally spent my money on, or an actual expense. So, that $30 will translate into an additional $30 I can put towards my debt. Yay!
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Well, the lady at the phone company lied to me. My phone line was cancelled on Tuesday but miraculously the internet never died. I was happy and sad about it at the same time. Happy because I could still check my email, my online bank statements and google search anytime I wanted. Sad because I didn't have the self-control to live without those things for a while. I did make an effort to spend way less time at the computer and was able to cut most of my consumption.
To fill the void of non-internet time I went to the library and picked up lots of financial-type books. Sometimes, when I go to the library I wonder what the person checking out my books must think as I am getting all these money books. But as Jerome would say BAH, who cares what they think. ;)
So here is what I have been reading lately:
Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey
Die Broke by Stephen M. Pollan
Think Like a Billionaire by Donald Trump
How to Get Rich by Donald Trump
I've been reading bits and pieces of all of them here and there. I find with books like these it's not necessary to sit down and read them front to cover. I definitely don't read every word of them because most of these books (except the Trump books) do a good job of getting their point across in the introduction and just use the rest of the book to ramble on and give support for their arguments (I guess thats what most books do, right?).
Anyways, all of these books have been entertaining and motivating. One thing that surprised me was that even the richest of the rich are "penny pinchers" too!
Monday, September 05, 2005
In my attempts to simplify life, we are getting rid of our extra phone line. I'm not sure why we even have it. We got the additional phone line years ago pre-cell phone and pre-DSL. Now that I make most of my calls from my cell phone and we don't have the crappy dial up 56K modem, the additional phone line is just a waste of money. Unfortunately, the DSL line is connected to the additional phone line that is going to be cancelled so I will have to transfer the DSL service to the main line. This wouldn't be so bad except that it will mean an interruption of DSL service for a week! So that means the only internet access I will have will be from work and I will have to find something else to do with my time at home other than surfing the internet.
People used to live without the internet for their whole lives; can I live without it for a week? We shall see. Maybe, I'll like it so much I'll get rid of it for good. :)
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Everyone has got to have some sort of motivation pushing them to do things. Saving money takes a lot of things (discipline, commitment, hard work) but without strong motivation I think most will fail in the face of temptation. There has got to be something bigger and better out there that will justify continually making sacrifices. For some, it is the desire for financial freedom, the freedom to quit their job, or a hatred of their creditors. For me, it is my dream of owning a chateau and living a simple and uncomplicated life.
I know that may sound like an oxymoron, "A simple life in a chateau," but I assure you it is not. The reason that I really want a chateau is so that I can run it as a sort of bed and breakfast, or a "gîte" as they call it in France. You can buy a chateau in France for probably about the same amount you can buy a nice house in southern California. The property that I am absolutely drooling over at the moment is "La Maison Verte" which has 16 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms PLUS 4 indepedent apartments on the grounds. Can you guess how much this would cost? Only $1.2 million! That may seem like a lot but I checked around to see what $1.2 million would buy you in my town. A nice 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house! So, the French property sounds like a great steal in comparison.
So, whenever I start feeling the urge to spend some money or get disillusioned by my debt, I quickly start looking at pictures of nice chateaux for sale. The open countryside, the gardens, the beautiful buildings, all make me start fantasizing of my life in my chateau. A typical day: Waking up to make a nice breakfast for my guests. Having breakfast in my dining room with people from all over the world. Spending some time in the garden. Lounging by the pool. Making tea. Perhaps planning a trip to visit the Mediterranean Sea or the mountains nearby. Bike riding. Wine tasting. Reading a book by my fireplace.
Then I start getting even more pumped up to make my debt go away as fast as possilbe. I look around and think of what I can sell. I scrutinize my budget to see what expenses I can get rid of. And hopefully with all of this motivation, I can make my debt go away in just 9 months!
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I couldn't imagine having to go through what the people in Louisiana and Mississippi are going through right now. It is such a terrible tragedy and I hope that I will never have to go through it. Each of us can make a contribution so please, make a donation of money or blood to the Red Cross.
The fact is, it could happen to any of us so we need to make sure that we are all prepared. Every household or family should have both an emergency disaster kit and an emergency plan. Make sure you take care of this or else you may regret it later! Don't put it off as one of those things you'll eventually get around to. An emergency (earthquake, flood, hurricane, terrorist attack) can happen at any time and won't wait for you to get prepared.
Here are some tips for getting prepared taken from Department of Homeland Security.
What you should have in your emergency kit:
Water and Food
* One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
* Children, nursing mothers, and sick people may need more water.
* If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary.
* Store water tightly in clean plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
* Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person
* Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.
* Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.
* Pack a manual can opener and eating utensils.
Choose foods your family will eat.
o Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
o Protein or fruit bars
o Dry cereal or granola
o Peanut butter
o Dried fruit
o Canned juices
o Non-perishable pasteurized milk
o High energy foods
o Food for infants
o Comfort/stress foods
First Aid Kit
In any emergency a family member or you yourself may be cut, burned or suffer other injuries. If you have these basic supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt. Remember, many injuries are not life threatening and do not require immediate medical attention. Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. Consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in decontamination.
Things you should have:
* Two pairs of Latex, or other sterile gloves (if you are allergic to Latex).
* Sterile dressings to stop bleeding.
* Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect.
* Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
* Burn ointment to prevent infection.
* Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes.
* Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant.
* Thermometer (Read more: Biological Threat)
* Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. You should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates.
* Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies.
Clothing and Bedding
If you live in a cold weather climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that the power will be out and you will not have heat. Rethink your clothing and bedding supplies to account for growing children and other family changes. · One complete change of warm clothing and shoes per person, including:
* A jacket or coat
* A long sleeve shirt
*A hat and gloves
*A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
Things it may be good to have:
* Cell Phone
* Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
* Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
* Anti-diarrhea medication
* Antacid (for upset stomach)
* Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* Whistle to signal for help
* Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
* Moist towelettes for sanitation
* Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
* Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
* Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
* Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications, infant formula or diapers, and important family documents
* Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
* Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or a print out of this information
* Rain gear
* Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
* Cash or traveler's checks, change
* Paper towels
* Fire Extinguisher
* Matches in a waterproof container
* Signal flare
* Paper, pencil
* Medicine dropper
* Feminine supplies
* Personal hygiene items
* Household chlorine bleach
You can use bleach as a disinfectant (diluted nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
Having an Emergency Plan
Probably the worst part about a disaster is not knowing if your loved ones are o.k. You could be anywhere when a disaster strikes, at work, at home, at school, in a mall (hopefully not in a mall, because that would mean you are spending money, hehe). Here are some good things to have in place just in case you and your family are separated:
* It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
* Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact.
* You may have trouble getting through, or the telephone system may be down altogether, but be patient.
As is illustrated by the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, you can't always rely on government officials and aid agencies to help you out in a disaster. Make sure you have done all you can to take care of yourself and your family in a disaster.