Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Emergency Preparedness Must Have Items

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis etc. can occur at any time but are less likely to occur on the east coast. Hurricanes are one of the most destructive natural disasters that can occur. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and usually occurs in warm weather areas. On average 5-6 hurricanes occur during the hurricane season. Hurricanes are classified into 5 different categories:

Category 1 - winds 74-95 miles per hour
Category 2 - winds 96-110 miles per hour
Category 3 - winds 111-130 miles per hour
Category 4 - winds 131-155 miles per hour
Category 5 - winds greater than 155 miles per hour

Tropical storms have winds ranging from 39-73 miles per hour. A tropical depression has winds up to 38 miles per hour and look like individual thunderstorms grouped together. When a natural disaster transpires you can never be fully equipped for what materializes but there are some things you can do to help make the experience go smoother. The east coast has recently experienced multiple natural disasters it a short period of time. Here are 22 emergency preparedness tips to help when experiencing a natural disaster:

1. Relax. Don’t let your emotions overwhelm you. Don’t let media coverage, family or friends cause you to overreact.
2. Outside items. Bring in all outside furniture and items that can easily blow away or tie them down tightly.
3. Cover. Keep blinds, shades and curtains drawn. Avoid staring out the window.
4. Lighting. Use kerosene lights or keep candles and flashlights near in case your power goes out. Buy matches or lighters to light candles as needed.
5. Heating. Keep lots of blankets. Wear extra clothes to stay warm. Buy hot water heater insulators to keep the hot water warm even if the power goes out.
6. Cooking. If you don’t want to use your gas stove or have an electric stove, cook food outside on a grill and store leftovers on ice. If you have a gas stove, you can still cook by lighting the pilot manually.
7. Ice. Buy 1 - 5lb bag of ice per every 3 days to use if you want to drink your beverages cold. If you have an automatic ice maker, make several trays of ice and store in the freezer to use if the power goes out.
8. Drinks. Drink more water to help stay hydrated. Try drinking beverages at room temperature to save ice. Buy bottled water or fill water pitchers with filtered water and store in your refrigerator if you are unable to drink tap water.
9. Snacks. Buy snacks to eat in between meals.
10. Food. Buy canned fruits and vegetables and other non-perishable items such as nuts, powered milk, beef jerky, spam, tuna fish, dried fruit, crackers, peanut butter, granola or protein bars, juice boxes, etc.
11. Water. Fill your bath tub and use the water to flush your toilet or use to wash up if the power goes out.
12. Cleaning. Fill a large trash can full of water to use if you are unable to take a shower. Keep moist towelettes, alcohol pads and disposable bathing clothes or wash clothes on hand. Use bleach as a disinfectant.
13. Health. Make sure you have enough prescriptions, aspirin or pain reliever, anti-diarrheal medicine, and multiple first aid kits.
14. Power. Buy a generator or get batteries to use for portable tv’s, radios or dvd players. You can also charge cell phones or other electronic devices in your car. Make sure you have lots of batteries.
15. Fun. Pull out the board games to play with your family. Do fun activities such as tell stories, crossword puzzles, etc.
16. Leisure. Read books or play battery powered games. Catch up on activities and reconnect with family.
17. Breathing. When the disaster has ended, use dust masks if needed to filter contaminated air. If the air is not contaminated open windows to get fresh air.
18. Cell phones. Make sure cell phones are fully charged and minimize use prior to the natural disaster.
19. Babies. Keep plenty of baby formula, food and diapers on hand as well as medicine, and other supplies.
20. Money. Keep extra cash or travelers’ check on hand in case you need to make unexpected purchases.
21. Smoke detectors. Check to make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
22. Disposable. Keep disposable items on hand such as paper plates, cups, utensils, paper towels, toilet paper and other toiletries or recycled paper products.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What's Your Cell Phone Backup Plan

In 2006 Congress passed legislation under the Warning Alert and Response Network Act (WARN) allowing the Federal government access to private cell phones to issue emergency warnings and alerts which resulted in the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). WARN requires cell phone provides to activate PLAN technology by April 2012. Participants that will offer PLAN prior to the deadline include Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

PLAN allows authorized national, state or local government officials to send alerts via cell phone providers regarding public safety emergencies, such as a tornado or a terrorist threat. Cell phone providers push the alerts from cell towers to cell phones in the affected area. This technology ensures that emergency alerts do not get stuck in highly congested user areas.

PLAN enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas through cell towers which pushes the information to dedicated receivers in PLAN enabled cell phones. PLAN complements the existing Emergency Alert System implemented by the FCC and FEMA via media service providers.

Customers can opt out of the service but will still receive Presidential alerts even if their GPS locator is turned off. The PLAN technology will allow the messages to take precedence over regular phone calls or text messages so the alerts can get through. Messages will show up on the phone’s front screen, and arrive with a distinct ringtone or vibration. Three types of messages are included in PLAN: level 1 - messages from the President, level 2 - looming threats to safety, and level 3 - amber alerts about missing or abducted children. As of October 2010 the following cell phone providers participate in PLAN www.fcc.gov/pshs/docs/servcies/cmas/MasterCMASRegistry.xls

During a natural disaster cell phone networks quickly get jammed and subscribers are unable to make phone calls. This happened recently with the earthquake that struck the east coast. During a disaster many people rely on cell phones or the internet. If your power is out your only other option is your cell phone. Government agencies are urging subscribers to send text messages instead of making phone calls during a natural disaster.

Using social media and text messages cannot replace voice communications and does not address the cell phone network load problems. If everyone is sending text messages that causes another increase in load and can cause delays in sending and receiving text messages. For people who don’t use social media or cell phones or people who live in rural areas where cell phone coverage is not available there is no way other for them to communicate. The U.S. needs to invest more money in technology to compete with other countries. Japan is working to use renewable energy for its cellphone tower network s with solar, wind or biomass which protects against power grid outages. Japan has also created a cooking pot that can cook food over a campfire and charge a cell phone at the same time which costs $300.

If cell phone companies can provide their executives with million dollar salaries, bonus and perks each year, saved money by transferring their customer services departments to India and other countries, decreased their level of customer service, and made some staff reductions, why can’t they spend more money to upgrade their networks to provide better service to subscribers and handle increased loads during a natural disaster.

Here are 6 tips to prepare for phone interruptions during a natural disaster:
1. Disaster Plan. Create a disaster plan and test it periodically.
2. Don’t wait. Don’t wait until the last minute to take action. Prepare in advance and stay calm. Execute your disaster plan to minimize further damages and safety issues.
3. Communication Plan. Develop a communication plan to contact friends and family and test periodically.
4. Satellite phone. If you live areas that experience frequent natural disasters consider purchasing or renting a satellite phone which connects to satellites in space. They provide functionality similar to cell phones such as voice, paging alerts, messaging service and internet access. Coverage can include the world or specific regions. Prices ranges from $200 to $5,000 for the phone plus talk time ranging from $0.15 to $2.00 per minute.
5. Smartphones Apps. Use emergency communication smartphone applications such as Life360, Guardly, Emergency Distresss Beacon and Quake SOS to connect to family and friends or emergency service providers to identify your location and confirm your safety.
6. Emergency Alerts. Sign up to receive emergency alerts with your city or state government, local school or university, utility company or weather service. You can also sign up for the Emergency Email and Wireless Network to receive alerts from local, state and federal government agencies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes and Your Finances

Recently many states on the east coast experienced an earthquake ranging from 5.7 to 6.0. Aftershocks were felt in the Washington DC area of 4.6. Only minor injuries were reported, however many homes have cracks and other structural damages. When I arrived home from work small pieces of plaster were on my floors, cracks in various places in my home, my business phone fell on the floor and was off the hook, my office was a disaster, books and pieces of paper strewn all over the floor, and contents of my medicine cabinets and closets were on the floor.

Many people tried to use their cell phones but the networks were jammed. Many others just sat in disbelief. A friend from LA told me she didn’t know the east coast had earthquakes. Washington DC had one last year which was approximately 3.6 but it is rare to have them on the east coast. After the initial shock and fear has worn off people want to know what do I do now? Some questions must be considered when experiencing a natural disaster. Here are 10 financial tips to help survive a natural disaster.

1. Insurance. If you are a homeowner review your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if you are covered for natural disasters such as an earthquake. Contact your insurance company and report any damage. Contact a lawyer to get legal advice and protection in the event your insurance company becomes difficult with reimbursing you for your loss.

2. Notify. Contact all of your family and friends and employer and let them know what happened and if you need any assistance.

3. Inventory. Make a list of all the companies you do business with. Include the name of the company, mailing address, payment address, phone number, type of account and website and keep in a dry water proof location such as a waterproof and fireproof safe.

4. Identification. Make duplicate copies of your driver’s license, SSN and passport and birth certificate and store in waterproof and fireproof safe.

5. Disaster Kit. Make sure you have enough dry and canned food for a week including bottled water. Have enough clean clothes for at least 2-3 days. Keep an emergency kit in your car to include bottled water, canned food, blankets, a radio, batteries, 2 flashlights and a first aid kit.

6. Supplies. Purchase batteries, a portable radio/tv radio, extra blankets if needed, pillows, candles, matches, fire extinguisher, smoke detectors, paper towels, paper plates and napkins, plastic utensils, disposable cups, toiletries, etc., and store in dry cool location.

7. Service Providers. Make a list of any other service providers that you do business with: mechanic, plumber, electrician, handyman, painter, roofing company, HVAC, drywall expert, home structural repair company, lawyer, psychologist, marriage counselor, plumber, lawn care professional, etc. Include the name of the company, mailing address, payment address, phone number, and website which you may need to use after the disaster.

8. Budget. Create a budget to determine how much money you earn after taxes, monthly bills and expenses and how much you will need to replace basic necessities and contents in your home if lost or damaged.

9. Spend Wisely. Replace damaged or missing items by shopping at discount or outlet stores, buying in bulk and buying items on sale.

10. Live for Tomorrow. Document what you learned from this experience and steps to take if you ever have this type of experience in the future.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Consumers Can Now Get Free Credit Score

Effective July 21, 2011, the Federal Trade Commission consumers can now receive free credit scores if they apply for a loan or credit and are denied as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Previously consumers could receive a free copy of their credit report but in some cases it is hard for consumers to determine if they had good or bad credit.

Loan providers and companies that offer credit must provide details of the credit score and why the consumer was denied. Bad credit and low credit scores mean consumers will get higher interest rates, possibly pay upfront fees and have less than favorable credit or loan terms. The credit score will include the factors that impacted the consumers’ credit score such as late payments or maxed out credit cards.

Under this new law, banks can no longer keep their in-house credit scoring models secret and must share these with consumers who are denied credit. The new law does not apply to telecommunication and insurance companies.

Allowing consumers to receive credit score will give them the ability to quickly see if they have good or bad credit and create a plan to increase their credit score.

Not all consumers can receive a free credit score. If you were approved for loan with less than favorable terms or if your loan or credit application is rejected you can get a copy of your credit score. If you have good credit you may not get a copy of your credit score. Here are 7 tips to increase your credit score:

1. Get current. Pay delinquent accounts such as judgments, tax liens, foreclosures, repossessions and collection accounts first. Then pay all other late accounts such as medical bills.
2. Pay down debt. Keep balances at 10-20% or less of the credit limit. Having credit cards with balances of 30% or more of the limit decreases your credit score.
3. Pay on time. Pay bills at least 7-10 days before the due date to avoid late fees and penalties.
4. New accounts. Opening more than one new account per year will lower your credit score.
5. Avoid closing accounts. Closing accounts that have been open for 2 years or more can decrease your credit score.
6. Negotiate. Setup payment plans to pay down debt if you cannot pay the full amount owed. Stick to the agreement until the account is paid in full.
7. Avoid risky solutions. Avoid filing for bankruptcy. Use bankruptcy, debt consolidation, credit repair counseling or debt settlement as a last resort. These are reported on your credit report and lower your credit score.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

General Retirement Advice

It is estimated you will need a minimum of $1,000,000 to cover your monthly expenses during your retirement years. The average Americans live 10-20 years after retirement. You will need at least 80% of your income during retirement.

If you are stressed and anxious reduce your investments in stocks and bonds, however when the market returns you will lose money when moving your investments back to stocks and bonds because the prices will be higher. Investing in individual stocks on your own is risky. Consult a financial advisor to ensure you minimize losses and maximize gains. Here are some general retirement tips to ensure you enjoy your retirement.

Diversify at a minimum:
Pre-retirement invest 60% stocks, 40% bonds/cash; near retirement (5-10 years) invest 40% stocks, 60% bonds/cash; during retirement invest 20% stocks, 80% bonds/cash.

What to invest in:
1. Invest in emerging market funds (foreign markets)
2. Equities (mutual funds) or other items that return a dividend or capital gains
3. Pharmaceuticals
4. Oil and petroleum
5. Commodities (corn, soy, wheat, coffee beans, petroleum, copper, coal, salt, sugar, soy beans, aluminum, rice, gold, silver, palladium, platinum, electricity, gas, oil, etc.). However some commodities are overpriced right now and should only be invested in when the prices are low.
6. Bonds (corporate or treasury)
7. Real estate, however keep in mind if the price is low it can continue to decrease but over a long period of time you will gain equity and can make a profit
8. Defensive stocks (don’t depend on economic prosperity) - food and beverage industry, manufacturing companies such as Philip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, alcohol and tobacco
9. Under-priced stocks (offer price is lower than price of the first trade, however they carry a higher risk factor because they may not rise in the future) – IPO’s, airline stocks, small cap stocks, etc.
10. Money Market Accounts/CDs – use these for an emergency fund savings account for unexpected expenses
11. Utility stocks – water, gas, electric, telephone companies
12. Green technology and green energy stocks for long-term gains such as Canon, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Nike, Whole Foods, Google, etc.

How to Save:
1. CDs
2. Money Market Accounts (MMAs)
3. Bonds
4. Online Savings Accounts
a. CD current interest rates nationwide go up to 1.27% (AloStar Bank of Commerce NR for $1,000 minimum balance) and Money Market Accounts rates nationwide go up to 1.05% (First Trade Union Bank for $1,000 minimum balance). Online Savings account interest rates go up to 1.15% (Discover Bank High Yield Savings Account for $500 minimum balance).
5. Create an emergency fund to cover monthly bills and expenses for nine to twelve months.
6. Pay down debt
7. If you receive government benefits/checks think of at least 1 additional way to generate additional income if your check is last or does not arrive at all due to the debt ceiling
8. Contribute extra to your 401(k) or other retirement type account now. Money you invest now can buy more fund shares which will provide you with additional gains when the market goes back up

Monday, August 15, 2011

How the Verizon Strike Will Affect You

I found out about the Verizon strike when I called last week to ask a question about my landline bill. A message stated that the wait time could take up to 15 minutes due to the strike. I got tired of waiting and decided to call back later. I asked a few friends if they heard about the strike and they had not.

This is Verizon’s’ first strike in 11 years. The Verizon strike begun due to talks with union workers that failed on August 6, 2011. Verizon has 195,500 employees and approximately 135,000 are non-union employees.

Union employees do not pay for health insurance premiums. Verizon is proposing: union employees pay a portion of their health insurance premiums similar to the plan for non-union employees, tie pay increases to performance reviews, eliminate the sickness and death benefit program, cut in half the sickness disability benefits from 52 weeks to 26 weeks and reduce sick time.

Verizon is proposing the new terms for employees due to the continued decline in revenue in landline services and increased use of cell phones. Union employees state that Verizon wants to eliminate their pension plans, health insurance and reduce their pay.

The strike affects all landline customers, FIOS and internet customers but does not affect its wireless customers. Verizon makes some of its revenue from its non-wireless customers since landlines are still largely used throughout the country. To compensate for the strike, Verizon may raise rates for existing customers to offset any losses. Local phone service is still one of the most profitable services in America. Verizon overall is performing well and earns a profit every year.

Verizon has not addressed the continued decline in customer service over the past few years. Verizon has reduced spending in construction, networks and staff but has not increased funding in customer service. However, Verizon has continued to pay high compensation to executive staff who are paid hundreds of millions of dollars each year plus perks.

In some states Verizon offices are closed on Sundays. Verizon uses a third party company to accept customer credit card payments. FIOS and DSL are not available to every customer that requests it, although Verizon promised the government that it would upgrade all of its customers to fiber optic service.

The reduced spending affects Verizon’s network, maintenance needs, work orders and monitoring of existing customer services and infrastructure. The reduced spending affects customers by:

1. Possible network outages to public safety services such as 911 and local non-emergency services such as 311, 511 or 611. This would result in delays for public health, safety and security requests and customer services.

2. Decline in the quality of phone and internet services provided to customers.

3. Decrease in competition and revenue for Verizon competitors and resellers.

4. Possible reduction in community outreach efforts and initiatives to help low-income customers and small businesses.

5. Delays in fulfilling work orders due to reduced staff and aging infrastructure.

Verizon is pitting non-union employees against union employees causing a rift. According to union workers, some non-union employees tried to run their cars over union employees protesting. Some employees picketing stated the strike could last months.

Customers should demand that service for Verizon customers in America should be provided by Americans workers, demand upgrades to Verizon networks, improve customer service, provide cost effective services for individuals and businesses, stop increasing rates, hire additional staff, eliminate deregulation to allow competition with other companies and provide 24 x 7 service.

It appears that Verizon does not have the ability to remain competitive and reinvest itself by revising its company business model like McDonalds, Nike, Apple and other companies who saw the market changing and were able to adjust.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who Will Cry for the Poor


Who will cry for the poor?

Lost and all alone.

Who will cry for the poor?

Abandoned and confused.

Who will cry for the poor?

They have no food to eat.

They cried for relief but none came.

Who will cry for the poor?

They are hungry.

They have no clothes.

Who will cry for the poor?

They are cold and abandoned.

They just need a little help.

Who will cry for the poor?

They did the best they could.

They worked hard for a few dollars.

Who will cry for the poor?

They are hurting and afraid.

They don’t know what to do.

Can anybody help them?

Who will cry for the poor in America?

Will you?

 @ Copyright 2011 Harrine Freeman

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

10 Financial Tips for Sexy Consumers

Being sexy can be summarized in 3 main areas: attitude, confidence and image. Attitude relates to your views on life, usually an optimistic person who can take criticism well and always remains positive. Confidence is how you feel about yourself no matter what someone else says about you or does to you. Image is the physical appearance of a person, their smile, their teeth, their hair, their walk, their laugh, their face, their body, how they dress, how they smell.

According to a study by ING 61% of the men that participated in the survey feel that women who are frugal are smart and sexy. Cash is king and having a savings account makes you more attractive and appealing. When you are in debt and have bad credit it is hard to focus on anything else and if you do, you can’t give it your all because of your financial problems especially when it comes to relationships.  Saving is smart. Investing is smarter. Good credit is smart and sexy. Saving the environment is sexy. Saving is sexy. Here are 10 financial tips for sexy consumers.

1.     Being debt free is fantastic. Save money on interest by paying more than the minimum monthly credit card or loan payment which helps pay your balance down faster so you can get out of debt. Keep debt balances at than 10% of your monthly income.

2.     Pay down debt as fast as twista rhymes. Pay ½ the balance with the 1st paycheck then pay the remaining balance with the 2nd paycheck or pay the minimum monthly payment when you get the bill, then each week pay as much as you can toward the balance.

3.     Act like a celebrity and go green. Help save the environment by filing your taxes electronically and get your refund in 2 weeks from the date of filing. Use tax preparation software like Turbo Tax or Tax Cut to help with the tax filing process.

4.     Stay cozy and keep money in your pocket. Do an annual check on your heating system. Insulate your attic. Automate thermostat settings and use the lowest setting. Seal drafts and cover floors to retain heat. Open blinds during the day to let heat in.

5.     Social media can be your enemy. Many debt collectors and some state taxing authorities are searching for consumers on social media networks who owe debt. If you owe debt, hide your profile from public access or just be responsible and pay your debt.

6.     Plan for the unexpected. Create an emergency savings fund to cover all of your monthly bills and expenses for 9-12 months. Create a backup plan if some financial crisis occurs and you need extra money. Have a plan A, B, C and D.

7.     Shop like the rich. Set a budget and find bargains online, use coupons or shop at holiday sales. Mix and match basic pieces with fashionable accessories such as belts, earrings, bracelets, shoes and purses. Buy knockoff pieces for extra style. Shop at discount stores and outlets for name brand pieces for less.

8.     Cut back. See what areas you can reduce spending by creating a balanced budget to stay out of debt. Thirty-five percent should go towards housing, 15% towards debt, 25% towards transportation, 10% towards savings, and 15% towards other expenses.

9.     Plan for the future. Open a retirement account and save at least 10% towards your retirement each month. You will need 60-80% of your pre-retirement salary for a minimum of 20 years to have enough money during retirement or at least $1,000,000. 

10.  Don’t be a question mark.  Know your net worth (assets - liabilities). Verify your net worth annually. Know how much you earn, how much you owe and how many assets you have. Use the figure as a baseline to increase your net worth on a yearly basis. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What is Your Debt Ceiling

The US debt ceiling is a limit that is set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can borrow. The debt ceiling cap applies to debt owed. The debt ceiling is similar to the total debt a person owes to their creditors.
Every day the federal government spends more money than it takes in and makes up the difference by borrowing money. As a result, every day, the government’s debt increases. Every day Americans spend more money than they earn and make up the difference by using credit cards, lines of credit, and home equity loans (HELOC) or other loans. As a result, their total debt owed increases. The government needs to balance the budget which will require reductions in spending. Americans need to create their own personal budget or spending plan and make reductions in their daily spending. An individual balanced budget consists of: 35% for housing (rent/mortgage and housing related costs), 15% transportation (car payment, maintenance/repairs, insurance), 15% debt (excluding mortgage), 10% savings, and 25% remaining expenses (entertainment, food, cable tv, internet, etc.)

A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive. Stars and athletes have budgets; they hire accountants to keep track of their money so why shouldn't you keep track of yours? Seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and forty percent live above their means. When your budget is out of balance you go into debt which can lead to serious financial problems such as foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc.

Creating a budget shows accountability for your spending and identifies your SEO – what you spend, what you earn, and what you owe and reduces credit card usage. Make your budget flexible so you have additional money to pay for unexpected expenses. You budget should include savings. Here are 7 tips to creating a budget.
1. Subtract monthly expenses from your monthly income after taxes. If the total is negative or less than 5% of your total monthly income this is a red flag that you need to make some major adjustments to your budget.

2. Track daily, weekly or monthly.

3. Keep all your receipts and reconcile your bank accounts.

4. Use automated software tool, pen and paper or the envelope method.

5. Create short and long term financial goals.

6. Use money left over in budget to create a savings account and pay down debt.

7. Use automatic paycheck deduction or online bill payment.

8. Verify your bank statements with your monthly receipts.

Here are 12 tips to get out of debt:

1. Stop using your credit cards. Pay cash for all purchases until you pay off all of your debt.

2. Downgrade or downsize. Move into a smaller and less expensive home or apartment. Trade in your luxury car for a car with no note or a cheaper car payment.

3. Compare. Comparison shop before making a purchase to get the best deal. Use sites like www.bizrate.com, www.pricegrabber.com, craigslist.com to find bargains.

4. Insurance. Buy insurance for health, life, disability insurance. Buy bundled services to save money with the same company and ask about discounts.

5. Setup a debt payment plan with your creditors. Setup a debt payoff plan to prioritize your bills. By using the debt snowball method you will be able to quickly pay off some of your debts. Start by paying off the smallest bills first, then use the money paid towards a previous bill and apply it to the next bill and continue this process until all your debts are paid.

6. Sell Items. Sell items not used within the past 3 months or more on eBay or Craigslist.

7. Get current on late payments. Pay off collection accounts, tax liens and judgments as soon as possible.

8. Pay on time. Pay balance in full each month prior to the due date or as soon as you receive the bill which helps to avoid paying finance charges.

9. Negotiate. Contact the companies to negotiate a lower interest rate, get fees waived or change terms if your account is in good standing.

10. Pay more than minimum. If pay the minimum monthly payment your payment may not cover the cost of interest and finance charges that accrue on the balance. Send more than the minimum monthly payment each month to help your balance will go down faster.

11. Clothing. Shop at discount stores, buy clothes in off-season, check out discount racks at stores and ask if stores if they honor competitor coupons. Buy a few jackets and mix and match pieces to stretch your wardrobe.

12. Helping Others. Don't open joint accounts or co-sign for loans. If they don’t pay you are responsible for the debt.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How to Save Money on A/C Costs

This has been a hot summer and many people have become dehydrated and overheated due to lack of air-conditioning in their homes. Many homeowners incur lots of money during the summer to keep their homes cool. Refrigerators and air conditioners are the largest consumers of energy. Air conditioning contributes to approximately 16% of the average household’s annual electricity bill. The amount of air conditioning you use depends on where you live and how many days a year you need to use your air conditioner. The average costs spent on an air conditioning per year is $2,643 and the average home air-conditioning unit costs $280 per year.

There are several alternatives to using air conditioning such as whole-house fans and evaporative coolers; however, they do not perform well in all climates. If you live in a state that has a lot of humidity, evaporative coolers are not a good option. If you don't have an attic a whole-house fan is a good option. If you have a hot attic an evaporative coolers is a good option.
Saving on air conditioning costs can also help the environment. Cutting back on your air conditioning reduces your CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by 5.4 lbs a week. The more electricity you use, the more carbon dioxide gets released into Earth’s atmosphere. An average household central air conditioner uses enough electricity each year to release of over 2 tons of CO2 into the air. Here are 9 tips to reduce air conditioning costs and CO2 emissions.
1. Turn up the thermostat. Each degree higher you turn up your thermostat allows it to use 1-3% less electricity. Set your thermostat at 76 or 78 degrees F during the day.

2. Turn it off. If you aren’t home during the day turn the air conditioner off. Program the thermostat to turn the air conditioner on an hour before you get home.

3. Room a/c. Turn the room air conditioner to a warmer/cooler setting during the day when you are not at home. Put room air conditioners in windows that are facing north or that are in the shade. A room air conditioner that sits in direct sunlight uses 5% more electricity.

4. Clean. Clean or replace your air conditioner’s air filter every month when it’s in use. The harder the air conditioner has to work pulling air through the filter, the longer it runs and the more electricity it uses.

5. Usage. If the temperatures outside is cool at night turn your air conditioner off and open the windows or turn it down to a lower setting.

6. Fans. A ceiling fan provides added air circulation and can help keep your air conditioner set at higher temperatures. Make sure the ceiling fan is reversible and that it blows air down in the summer. Window fans and floor fans can provide cooling by getting the air moving or by helping move cooler outside air into the house at night.

7. Tax Credit. The Residential Energy Property tax credit is eligible to homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their existing homes. The credit is 30% of the cost of all improvements. The credit applies to improvements such as energy efficient windows, insulation, and energy-efficient air conditioning.

8. Solar window film. Replace plastic window film with solar window film to help keep your home cooler by reducing utility costs. The film prevents the sun’s rays from entering your home and reduces the need for air conditioning.

9. Electrical Devices. Don't place lamps, televisions or computers near your thermostat. The thermostat can sense the heating coming from the appliances and will run longer than necessary.