Greetings, true believers!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to read these exciting tales of adventure from your favorite financial superheroes. Ninety-two people submitted money tales to astonish even the bravest reader. Not all of them survived.

Gape as Lulugal faces down the monster of debt! Thrill as the Savvy Steward creates a budget! Tremble as the Money Tortoise explores the mysteries of behavioral finance! Marvel as the Super Saver takes apart a retirement calculator! Smile as Quicken-Head, well, uses Quicken.

Thrills, chills, spills, and laughs are all here at the 82nd edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance. Let’s not waste any time. Let’s leap right in. And remember: only you have the power to control your debt.

The All-Star Squadron

Last September, blogger Lane Hudson posted improper e-mails sent by Mark Foley to a Congressional page. Dubbed the Washington Whistle-Blogger in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue, Lane experienced moments of fame, but struggles financially today because of it. Queercents asked him to share his thoughts about money, politics and the price tag of activism.

Jen at Toddlerspit (“the droolest parenting blog around”) has a fantastic piece on the cost of having kids. “Kids cost money, even when you do things on the cheap.” This is a great article, and it’s proof that you don’t have to be a personal finance blogger to write about the subject.

Tricia at Blogging Away Debt writes about the nightmare of survival debt, the type of debt some people incur just to meet basic needs. She’s been there before, and she writes about her experiences.

The Savvy Steward has some advice for creating a budget for newly married couples. He’ll be getting married in the spring, and has been working to plan for combined finances, and to make sure he and his fiancée are on the same page.

Utterly Clueless Jim has a l-o-n-g but excellent post covering the basics of financial advice: know your money, love your money, track your money, get everyone involved, create a budget, prioritize, set concrete goals, spend less, earn more, get out of debt, establish an emergency fund, stay on top of things, and read what others are doing. Jim covers a lot in this entry, but it’s great reading.


Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The Money Tortoise has a nice piece on behavioral finance, which is a subject I’ve been intending to research. “It’s your behavior that makes all the difference in investing — not the investments themselves.”

What would you do if a cashier gave you too much change? One Frugal Girl looks at this question, which is an interesting one, with implications with regards to social capital as well as to personal finance.

At My Financial Awareness, Pete looks at resistance and how it keeps you in the struggle. He writes about how stress over finances can be a never-ending cycle, and why we need to overcome it to meet our goals.

InsureBlog‘s Henry Stern has the story of a client who didn’t tell the truth, the whole truth, and could be in big trouble come claim time.

Secret Lairs

At Binary Dollar, Henry explores the advantages and disadvantages of FHA loans when financing a new home. This is a good introduction to the subject.

Sam from Smart at Money explains how he speculated in the real estate budget and made a tidy sum.

If you’re in the U.K. and looking to buy a home, check out Rob Thomas’ article on Off-Plan Investing, buying a stock house from a builder long before it’s built.

If you live in Canada, FrugalTrader at Million Dollar Journey has an article that describing the Smith Manoeuvre — a method to make your Canadian mortgage tax deducible.

Discounting the value of your home could keep you out of financial trouble, according to Ben at Money Smart Life. By doing this, “your net worth will reflect the financial value you’re building while also setting the realistic expectation you can actually turn your home into that amount of cash.”

The Coin Jar worries that there’s a red storm rising for many homeowners — “The predictions are coming true. And faster than many financial experts expected. People are losing their homes. In droves.”

Searchlight Crusade has another warning for home-buyers: don’t let cash make you stupid about real estate. “There are many ways of suckering real estate consumers, and cash as an inducement to get people to swallow a raw deal is one of the most common.”

If home-ownership has you scared, Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity plays devil’s advocate, and suggests that you may want to rent forever — don’t buy a home. “The general rule of ‘buy a house, stop renting’ is probably the most strongly believed but most weakly defensible of the common sense personal finance advice concepts out there.” [I think he's right!]

If you’re considering renting, then The King of Debt at We’re in Debt has done some work for you. He spent some time reviewing rent vs. buy calculators. Which one was best? You’ll have to go read his reviews to find out!

Paul at One-Year Exit Plan warns about the dangers of the room of excess. Do you have one? You know, a room where you put your junk, the stuff you don’t know what to do with, the stuff you don’t really need? If so, then it’s time to change your priorities.

Satellite Headquarters

Should you buy a new car or an old car? Paul at Extreme Perspecive argues that there is never a reason to buy a new one.

In a similar vein, Trent at The Simple Dollar looks at the number comparing paying cash vs. going into debt when purchasing a car (or anything else, for that matter). Obviously paying cash is the better deal — but how much better?

Tag at Everyday Money discusses budgeting for car insurance. “Doing the research this morning I also found out there are discounts that can lower the cost of auto insurance that I hadn’t thought of before.”

Super Powers

NCN at the No Credit Needed family of blogs has been following Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” in his quest to get his financial house in order. He reports that he’s done with the first three and is ready for the next baby step. (He shares part of that next step here.) NCN also notes that the next episode of his podcast is available. I find NCN’s story inspiring — he’s one of my personal finance heroes. Seriously. (For the record: I’m only on the second baby step, which I aim to have completed by March 2008.)

Estate-planning is one the most-overlooked aspects of personal finance. Few people realize how important it is. Nickel at Five Cent Nickel has a look at how his estate plan is structured.

Single Ma’s Fabulous Financials wonders: where are the millionaires in the personal finance blogosphere? This is a fabulous question.

I’m a Quicken-Head (“Quicken tips from a gal who loves Quicken”) has a tutorial on tracking your mortgage and escrow in Quicken.

Kirby on Finance looks at five ways to cut health care costs, and links to an article where you can five more.

At Getting Green, Matthew argues that The Holy Bible is the best guide to personal finance. “If you follow God’s principles when it comes to money, he will give you a lot more of it. This can never be proven true statistically, but it is true.”

At The Digerati Life, the Silicon Valley Blogger tries to compute what his net worth should be using a tool from CNN Money.

Turning a hobby into an income is an excellent way to make some spare cash, and Free Money Finance shares a little about how he did it.

Wallet Advice looks at some of the bad financial decisions from his past. “I have learned a lot from these bad financial decisions. I am very cautious before spending anything more than about $40 these days.”

Reduce the ‘monthlies’,” says Donna at Taking Control Over Money. Many monthly expenses can be reduced or eliminated with hardly a dent on your lifestyle.

English Major challenges the conventional wisdom on emergency funds. “I can sleep just fine without $5,000 in the bank.”

But Aimee is worried about surprise expenses. “If there is one thing that makes me the most nervous about being in debt, it is the fact that both my hubby and I have chronic illness.”

Super Saver at My Wealth Builder evaluates the Vanguard Retirement Calculator.

Penny Nickel from Money and Values looks at the idea of charging yourself a ‘luxury tax’ for charity. She concludes it’s not a bad idea, but isn’t for her.

Over at Financial Tips for WAHMs, Kristine writes about the best way to save money: don’t spend anything!

Gadgets and Tools

Note of the Living Deb makes its first contribution to the Carnival, looking at modern necessities. Deb analyzes a recent Pew study about which appliances consumers view as vital. This is fascinating stuff.

Joe at Penny Pinching urges you to compare the unit price when grocery shopping. (But don’t buy just on price, he says: look for quality first!)

Not Made of Money says that now is the time to plan for next Christmas — make an inventory list. She offers some tips on how to prepare now to save money in the future.

Scott on Money took a look at Bill Me Later, a new way to pay for things on the web. He details the pros and cons of the service.

Secret Identities

The Stubborn Capitalist has a four-part job-hunting guide with tips and advice for anyone considering a new career.

If you Ask Uncle Bill, the minimum wage is a popular but stupid idea.

Teamwork

Nagel at General Finance explains how to open a mutual fund. This is a handy piece of information for those of you who are preparing to invest for the first time.

The Finance Buff has a nice little piece on estimating your personal rate of return, a valuable skill for small investors.

Wilson at Reflections of a BizDrivenLife ponders the worth of financial advisers. He’s been consulting with one, and he is not impressed.

My pal JLP at All Financial Matters warns to watch out for this loaded question: “How much money can you afford to lose?”

Alan at Made to Be Great discusses what money is and how it is acquired. Is money good or is it bad?

The Mighty Bargain Hunter wonders where cynicism fits into your portfolio. “What you want to hear makes you feel good, but it usually isn’t in your best interest. What you need to hear, on the other hand, usually is.”

Mystic Manuals

Madame X at My Open Wallet offers a sneak peek at the new personal finance books for 2007. Think I’ll be reading any of these? You bet! I’ve got a couple to put on reserve at the public library…

Alex, the Wealth Junkie, has a few thoughts on the book Wealth by Stuart Lucas. This is an honest review, the likes of which you don’t often see in the personal finance blogosphere.

Super Villains

Verve Coaching writes about debt-free living: transforming the debt mindset. What is it that pulls people toward financially overextending themselves? Why does it seem like the world around us is organized to pull us into debt and keep us in debt for the rest of our lives?

The meditation at Living Large is interesting. “Is life passing me by?“, the author wonders. “Do people in credit card debt regret it? Or do you have great memories to recall and experiences you treasure? Did you enjoy life to the fullest? Am I planning for a future I may not have?”

If credit card debt has you down, then check out Make Your Nut where you can read how to lawfully reset your credit history.

Better yet, attack that debt head on. ISPF at Personal Finance for Students and Fresh Grads details the seven steps that made him debt-free.

Ask Mr. Credit Card looks at charity credit cards, cards that donate a portion of everything you spend to noble causes. Is this a good way to put your charity giving on auto-pilot?

Free the Drones asks, “Is your 401(k) insured against electronic theft?” This entry provides excellent common-sense advice for protecting your assets and identity on-line.

Lulugal at Save Money is wrestling with credit card debt, and says that it’s time ot get that debt snowball rolling the other way.

Romantic Interests

Wanda at Well-Heeled discusses toned-down (and cheaper) skincare. “Now spending less on skincare is professionally sanctioned.”

San Francisco Money Gal has some tips on stocking up on cheap cosmetics and beauty products. “Right around mid-January all the drugstores start discounting cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers and other beauty products.”

Cliffhangers

At Generation X Finance, Jeremy advises that you start 2007 off right by reviewing your W-4 exemptions. If you’ve had any major life changes, you may need to change your exemptions.

Making Our Way has an analysis of personal net worth changes for December 2006. This may be a useful introduction to why it’s useful to track every penny you spend.

Nancy at Your Money By Design writes about the January Bill Blues. “It’s particularly easy to mess up financially at certain times of year.” Christmas is one of those times, and it can lead to hard times.

Tax-time is approaching. Do you know which income you need to report? Flexo at Consumerism Commentary answers the question, “Do I need to report this income?” (See the second part of his answer here.)

The 100 by 30 Project takes a look at the deadweight loss of Christmas gifts. “A deadweight loss is created when you spend eighty dollars to give me a sweater that I would spend only sixty-five dollars to buy myself.”

David at Worldwide Success writes: “You blew your budget? Congratulations!” He says, “The beginning of the year is the best time to review how we did against our budget in the previous year and to put together a budget for the current year. Unfortunately, many times what we find is that we blew our budget. Getting your spending under control is absolutely critical to your financial success! So, why in the world am I congratulating you for blowing your budget? I’ll explain in the article.”

Have you broken your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Sagar at Debt Consolidation Lowdown encourages you to maintain your willpower.

The Travelin’ Man believes that health care reimbursement accounts were a smart move for 2006. At Stuff You Oughta Know, he goes over his new plan.

Golbguru at Money, Matter, and More Musings had a pricey December and has some thoughts on ‘debt sentence’.

Sidekicks

Have you ever had problems with PayPal? Corey at My Opinion On Everything writes about his battle with PayPal. It’s not a pretty sight. (Read more about his trouble here.)

What are the advantages of shopping at Mom and Pop stores vs. shopping at big box stores? David at My Two Dollars offers a thoughtful comparison.

William at A Financial Revolution offers a real-world look at cost-benefit analysis — what is it and why should you care?

The authors at Fire Finance upgrade their cellphones every year. They wait for a good deal to come their way. Their patience was rewarded when their cell provider promoted their loyalty and perseverance.

Sun at Sun’s Financial Diary compares four on-line banks looking for the best rates and incentives.

Blunt Money is taking the eating out challenge, trying to eat out less this month, and spending less while doing so!

At the Time and Money Group, Michael notes that investing in gold is all about supply and demand.

Lazy Man and Money has a new business plan, but he can’t tell us what it is!

Oseas Adelso writes about his experience with PayPerPost.

Tune in Next Week!

The 83rd edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance will be hosted by Amanda at Young and Broke. Visit her in seven days to read more exciting tales of adventure from your favorite personal finance superheroes!

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more.