Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't Go Overboard on Independence Day

Summer is here. The weather is beautiful and everyone wants to enjoy it. All of the advertisers have increased their advertisements and hope to lure you to the store to spend money that you may or may not have.

This holiday season resist the temptation. Many times items that are on sale or not really a bargain. Try buying items off-season and only when the item is 30% off or more. Sales for 10-20% off are not worth your time. Also, do comparison shopping to see if you can find the item for a cheaper price at another store on online. If you absolutely have to go shopping here are some tips to help you save money.

1. Don't wait until the day before the holiday to go shopping. Lines at the register are longer and the selection of items is limited. Try shopping a week in advance or early in the morning.

2. Create a budget or shopping list and only buy the things you absolutely need.

3. If you are having a picnic or cookout ask friends and family to bring a dish to help cut downs on costs.

4. Visit local vendors to purchase meats, fruits and vegetables which will be much cheaper than the department store.

5. Resist temptation. This holiday season try not to go to the department stores or malls. I know it will be hard but take time out to enjoy being with family and friends. Try finding some free events to attend instead of going shopping. Your pocketbook will be happy you did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Prepaid Credit Cards

Many Americans struggle with managing their finances either through credit cards, debits cards or bank accounts. Another option that is available for those who do not have bank accounts, have bad credit or who have a hard time managing their money is the prepaid credit card.

A prepaid credit card allows you to have your paycheck, unemployment or benefits loaded onto a credit card which can be used like a debit or checkcard. The credit cards work like prepaid telephone calling cards.

A prepaid credit card eliminates check cashing fees, checks lost in the mail and provide easy access to your money. You can add additional money to your card at various locations based on the company you signed up with. There is no credit check or other requirements to obtain a prepaid credit card.

Several companies such as Western Union, Account Now, Visa, MasterCard or the American Express Pass for teens offer prepaid credit cards. You can also comparison shop on sites like or to find the right prepaid credit card for you.

Your credit card cash balance works like a credit limit on a traditional credit card. You will not be charged a fee for overdrawing your account. There is no minimum balance and free direct deposit. Some companies also offer online banking and bill payment. You will never be charged late fees or interest. However, you may be charged registration fees or other charges for using the prepaid credit card. Extra fees may also be charged for adding additional money to the credit card outside of your regular deposits.

Prepaid credit cards help control your spending. You can control over your spending limits and are great option for teens or college students. Once you activate the card you are able to start using it. Each time you make a purchase the amount is automatically deducted from your credit card balance. This forces you to keep track of your balance so you will never go over your limit because you can only spend the money you have on your card.

Be sure the company reports your payment history on your credit report to help establish your credit history or improve your existing credit history.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Debit and ATM Cards Changes on July 1st

Under the CARD Act of 2009, for new accounts opened on or after July 1, 2010, your bank can no longer charge overdraft fees for debit and ATM transactions unless you opt-in. If you open a new account before July 1, 2010 your bank will consider you an existing customer and you will receive a notice about your bank's overdraft services.

You can grant permission by opting in to the overdraft notice your bank sends you. If you decide to opt-in you can cancel at any time. If you do not opt-in before the deadline you can opt-in in the future.

For existing accounts if you do not opt-in by August 15, 2010, your bank's standard overdraft services won't apply to your debit and ATM transactions and future transactions will be declined when you don't have enough money in your account, and you will not be charged an overdraft fee.

Currently, for standard overdraft services your bank will cover the transaction by charging a flat fee of $20-$35 each time you overdraw your account.

If you have an overdraft protection service your bank provides a line of credit that is linked to your savings account to cover transactions when you overdraw your account. Banks charge a fee each time you overdraw your account.

However, using the overdraft protection service may be less expensive than using the standard overdraft service. Keep in mind that some banks report overdrawn accounts on your credit report so it may be wise to sign up for overdraft protection.

The new ATM and debit card overdraft guidelines do not affect checks or automatic bill payments.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Save Money on Summer Vacation

We work hard all year long and we all live for summer vacation. Many Americans love to travel during the summer and family vacations usually begin during the Memorial Day holiday. The economy the past few years has made it difficult for many families to take a summer vacation.

Many airlines have increased prices and gas prices are high again this summer. If you can afford to take a vacation without hurting your budget and will still be able to pay all of your bills when you get back, then definitely take a vacation. Here are 5 ways to save money during summer vacation.

1. Plan ahead. Plan in advance to save money to go on vacation without using your credit card to pay for it.

2. Talk to others. Talk to friends and neighbors about their vacations and find out how they planned their vacation, i.e. ask about any discounts or sales they know about, inexpensive restaurants, shops, etc.

3. Act fast. When you see or hear about sales or discounts you have to move quickly to capitalize on the deal because they usually don't last long.

4. Shop around. Shop around to find the best deals. Visit websites like,, or to find cheap rates for hotel, airfare and cruises.

5. Shop before you leave. Buy traveler's checks which can quickly be replaced if lost. If your credit card is stolen you may not have another credit card available to purchase any necessities. Buy toiletries and other necessities before traveling.

If you want to take a vacation and cannot afford it, here are 5 simple things to do in the meantime:

1. Camp out in your backyard.

2. Take a road trip and go camping a few hours or at a local camp park.

3. Visit local caverns.

4. Spend the day at a water park or amusement park.

5. Go sightseeing in your local area.

Friday, June 18, 2010

You Can Still Find a Job

With the unemployment rate at 9.7% many Americans have still having trouble looking for employment. Many Americans are unable to find jobs for many jobs: bad credit, competition, decision to relocate and other factors. In addition, many companies have gone under, slashed staff and/or benefits and hours and others are hanging on by a thread. Well, there is hope.

Many companies have survived the recession and are hiring. If you are still looking for employment be sure to contact these companies as well as the federal and state and local governments. Some of the major companies that are hiring:

Wal-Mart which currently has 2 million employees
PepsiCo who also hire hourly and commission-based employees
Abbott Laboratories who employs almost 70,000 employees
Perrigo Company which is the world's largest manufacturer of over-the-counter drugs and generic prescription drugs

Here are 5 tips to help you get hired for these companies.

1. Update your resume. Be sure your resume is up-to-date and brief. Don't bring a 5-10 pages resume; it will be thrown in the trash. Highlight major accomplishments and ways you've helped your current and previous employers such as: saving money, gaining new customers, helping large volumes of users, etc.

2. Review your credit report. Get a copy of your credit report from and check for any errors or late payments. If you still owe debt on late payment accounts contact your creditors right away to setup payment arrangements and to get errors fixed. Many employers check your credit report when considering you for employment.

3. Update and practice your interview skills. Dress professionally, get a fresh haircut, and make sure your nails and clean and neat. Be prepared to respond to questions that ask how you would deal with difficult people or situations, provide examples of how you've overcome a difficult situation at work and examples of how you've helped your team or co-workers. Explain how you can use your skills to help them grow achieve their goals. Make sure you visit the company's website to learn about what they do. Also, bring a list of questions at least 3 to ask on the interview.

4. Follow instructions. If you are given any instructions prior to the interview make sure you follow the exactly. Don't be too eager and ruin your chance for an interview by failing to follow the instructions.

5. Bring supporting documentation. Along with your resume bring any documentation that lists you as the author of articles, technical reports, etc. to support your experience and skills. If you are a web developer bring your laptop and show some of the websites you have developed. If you are a technical writer or editor bring some writing samples.

Do whatever you can to give yourself an edge over the competition. Don't answer the questions too fast and don't provide information that you were not asked. After the interview send a thank note to all the persons you interviewed with. Don't be afraid to follow-up by email a week after the interview.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bad Credit May Not Affect Employment

The current unemployment rate is 9.7% and the economy gained 431,000 jobs in the month of May. This is promising although many Americans who are trying to find employment had to take drastic pay cuts or continue to remain unemployed. With the federal minimum wage at $7.25 any job looks promising right now.

The competition is stiff; those who made $100,000 or more are competing for entry or middle level jobs or jobs that are usually slated for college students accepting pay of $50,000 or less. Some Americans are working multiple low-paying jobs to try to make ends meet. Others have just given up looking for work altogether.

If you have bad credit it is a major factor that will determine if you get hired for a job or not. Having bad credit makes it difficult to get a job nowadays. If you know you have bad credit it is best to be upfront and let the potential employer know. Also, let them know the reason why you have bad credit and how you plan to fix your bad credit.

Many employers are no longer looking at just your resume, your interpersonal skills or your attire, if you have good credit and do go on the interview you have a better chance of getting hired than someone with the same qualifications and bad credit.

Previously when looking for a job, credit history was not a factor but recently due to the recession employers are scrutinizing candidates even more using credit as a factor for employment. Many industries are looking at your credit history including government agencies, police, fire department, banking industries. Many candidates do not realize that their bad credit will prevent them from getting a job or in some cases get them fired from a job.

It seems unfair that a company would simply disregard your experience, personality and interview skills simply because you have bad credit. Companies should focus on what you have to offer and not the mistakes you made or circumstances that affected your personal life and credit history. Employers see having a bad credit score as a reason to commit fraud or take bribes. In a few minor instances this may be the case, but overall Americans just want to work and pay their bills.

Since hiring can be discriminatory, one way companies can discriminate is by using credit scores. However, employers cannot refuse hiring you simply because of your credit but that is not always the case. Federal law prohibits this practice but there are really no protections in place to help candidates who have proof of companies who violate this law and usually can't afford to hire a lawyer to help them win their case in court.

Many Americans have complained about this practice and their complaints were heard. Nineteen states 19 states including Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Washington, Ohio, California, and the District of Columbia and South Carolina are considering passing legislation to prevent companies from using credit as a factor in hiring candidates for employment. Only two state legislatures Oregon and Illinois passed the law.

However, a win for consumers is that many credit card companies are banks are not weighing credit scores as much as before because the FICO score can make a mistake and classify a consumer as a bad risk when they are a good risk. Companies are now realizing what consumers knew all along, that the FICO score system is flawed and needs to be revised to accommodate the new credit card laws and current economic situation. Contact your congressman to demand states stop this unfair practice

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Checks vs Money Orders

Approximately 17 million Americans are unbanked or do not have a bank account. This numbers includes those who use check cashing retailers, liquors stores to cash checks or use money orders. Many of these Americans have bad credit, little to no savings or just don’t trust the banking industry.

I used to write checks to pay my bills but after electronic check processing became available I was very uneasy using checks to pay my bills. After becoming a victim of identity theft by check in July 2009 I decided to begin paying my bills using money orders. I still use checks to make some payments but will switch to paying bills 100% by money orders until my the industry forces me to do otherwise.

Choosing to pay by money order is a personal choice since I bank with a local credit union. I have been a customer of the credit union for several years and am happy with the service I receive; however, I am very uneasy with someone accessing my checking account electronically. This can increase errors made on your account, increase your chances of being a victim of identity theft. Until more security measures are put in place in the banking industry for consumers I will continue to use money orders.

On average I would spend $3.90 on postage for each check written per month. If I write ten checks I would spend $3.90 per month in postage. If I use money orders to pay my bills the cost of each money order is $.39 so it would cost me $7.80 ($3.90 + $3.90) to pay 10 bills each month. Using money orders have advantages and disadvantages:

1. Reduces my chances of becoming a victim of identity theft by limiting exposure to my checking account.
2. If you frequently use a credit card to pay bills or frequently pay overdraft charges you will save money by using money orders.
3. You may become more disciplined in your spending habits because you will limit your use of your credit card, check card or debit card to make purchases which allow you to spend more money than you have.
4. Is the best option if you do not have a bank account.
5. If you have a checking account your bank may allow you to get a money order for no fee.
6. Purchasing a money order from the US Postal Services provides security protections such as the Ben Franklin images on the left side and the amount of the money order listed in two locations.

1. Obtaining a single money order has limits in some cases up to $1,000 depending on the issuer. To get money order for larger amounts may require an id and will require purchasing multiple money orders.
2. Increases the time to process your payment if the money order is mailed out of state which on average can take anywhere from 2-15 business days to process.
3. Your account cannot be credited immediately once payment is received (because your checking account is not accessed).
4. If you lose your cash your bank will not replace it.
5. You will incur more expenses by using money orders.
6. If will be more difficult to dispute your payment history and you won't have a receipt of payment because the money order stub does not list who the money order was payable to.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Move Over Netflix There's a New Sheriff in Town

Many Americans have found dozens of ways to save money and reduce their expenses. One expense for many families is going to the movies. For a family of 4, a movie night can cost anywhere from $50-$80. Many Americans have resorted to renting DVD's instead of going to the movie theater.

Netflix has dominated the market in DVD rentals putting other retail stores out of business. Netflix has a larger inventory of movies and pays postage for each DVD rental.

A new company called Redbox owned by Coinstar has emerged to give Netflix some competition. You get a free rental when you open an account with Redbox. Redbox has over 20,000 locations nationwide where you can rent and return movies. You can rent a movie online or pick it up at a Redbox location for just $1.

There is a catch. There are limits on the number of rentals you can get at one time. If you are using a credit card for the first time you can rent 2 DVDs, existing customers can rent or purchase up to 5 DVDs.

You have to return the DVD rental by 9:00pm the same day but if you want to rent a movie longer you will pay an additional fee plus tax. The inventory of movies includes releases that are completed.

The Redbox is a tall red kiosk and can can be found at various McDonald’s restaurants as well as Wal-Mart stores, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other locations.

New DVD releases are added to the Redbox kiosks each Tuesday.
Redbox is now the largest operator of DVD rental kiosks and carries about 700 movies in each kiosk. Check out Redbox and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Another Way to Save Money Online

Many consumers nowadays are trying to find more ways to save money. One way consumers save money is by shopping online. There are also many comparison shopping websites such as Nextag and Bizrate. Well the latest trend in online shopping is penny auctions. Penny auctions allow consumers to shop for products for pennies on the dollar. The most popular penny auction website is

QuiBids works similar to eBay and auctions off brand new items such as HDTVs, digital cameras, iPads, and more for discounts up to 85% off the retail price. But, there is a catch. Users of the website have to pay to participate in these auctions.

Users pay $.60 to place a bid which runs by a clock timer. Each time a bid is placed time is added to the clock so users can determine if they would like to continue bidding. This fee allows QuiBids to sell their products at a cheaper price like digital cameras for under $60.

Users also have a "buy it now" option which allows all of the money paid towards bids they did not win to go towards the item they wish to purchase with the "buy it now" option.

The website allow consumers to buy products that they normally wouldn't be able to afford in this economy. The website is gaining popularity by word-of-mouth advertising.

Registering for a bid is rather easy. Once you register you choose the auction you want to participate in, place your bid and see what happens.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Findings Deal May Be Possible At Walmart

I used to shop at Target faithfully and then I heard about WalMart and how they slash prices. Over the past few years Walmart stopped slashing prices altogether or reduced the amount of price cuts they offered customers.

When that happened I went back to shopping at Target and so did other consumers. Well, WalMart must have noticed because they are going back to slashing their prices, but don't get too excited, it's not on all items, just a select few.
WalMart has slashed prices on ketchup and Coke soda.

They are now selling ketchup for $1 per bottle and cases of Coke soda for $4. The price slashes began just before the Memorial Day weekend and more price slashes are expected through the summer on 22 foods and other products which should provide consumers with an average savings of 30 percent.

This is a risky move for a nationwide chain in this economy when many businesses are raising prices to stay afloat. WalMart hopes the price slashes will bring customers in droves to their stores.

Consumers have also complained about products that are now discontinued. WalMart heard your cry. They are now restoring hundreds of discontinued items such as soups and laundry detergent. WalMart is also focusing advertising basic items such as underwear and socks.

Previous and current WalMart customers are now comparison shopping to see which stores or online website has the best deal which is hurting stores like WalMart and Target.

Wherever you shop look for the best bargain and the best quality. You may be able to find the item you are looking for at WalMart or one of their competitors but at least you have the option of shopping around.