Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Have You Recovered Yet

The recession began in 2008 and many Americans are still feeling the effects and have not recovered. Some Americans are in denial about their financial situation, some refuse to take action, some don’t know what to do, some are paralyzed by fear and some believe that this is how life should be. Stop those negative feelings and take action to transform your life. If you have not recovered from the effects of the recession in 2008 ask yourself why by using the 5 why method. Ask yourself Why 5 times to find the real reason why your situation has not improved.

Don’t let people or situations prevent you from achieving your goals. You are the only one preventing you from being successful. To be successful you have to think as a successful person which means eliminating negative beliefs and reinforcing them with positive ones. There are several options available to achieve this; pray, mediate, take yoga, read motivational books, read affirmations or attend support groups.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 8.3%. According to US News Americans are saving 3.5% of their salary which is fair but we need to save more. In 1973, Americans saved 11% of their salary and in 2009 Americans saved 8% of their salary. If finances are a big part of your recovery you may need to downsize or downgrade your lifestyle. If you drive a luxury car that costs $30,000 or more you need to downsize. If pay a mortgage payment that will cause you to lose your home if you are behind 2 or more payments, you need to downsize. If you are living paycheck to paycheck you need to downsize. Trade in your car for a cheaper one. Sell your home for a cheaper one or refinance to lower the interest rate and monthly payment.

Here are 10 things you need to do to recover financially and survive any financial crisis. Create a financial kit or action plan that includes the following:

1. Do you have a list of all of your creditors, the total amount of debt owed to each, their contact information, your minimum monthly payment and the due date.
2. Do you have a savings account or emergency fund with enough to cover your monthly expenses for 9-12 months?
3. Do you have health, life and disability insurance?
4. Do you have adequate homeowner’s insurance? Does it include flood and earthquake damage?
5. Do you have adequate car insurance, full coverage if you have children or a family?
6. Do have a financial backup plan? How will you pay your bills if you: lose your job, get sick, lose a spouse to death, get divorced, have another child, lose your health benefits, get reduced work hours, lose your home, etc.
7. Do you have any assets? Create a list of all of your assets and determine their worth, you may be able to sell them if you have a financial setback.
8. Are you saving enough for retirement? You should have a minimum of $1,000,000 saved by retirement age. More if you want to maintain the same lifestyle you have now. Save at least 10% of your monthly income towards retirement.
9. Keep at least one credit card open with a balance of 10% or less of the credit limit. Get current on any late payments. Use your credit card for emergencies only.
10. Determine your net worth each year. Identify all of your debt and subtract any assets, any money left over is your net worth. If your net worth is a negative value that is a sign you are spending more money than you should.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

13 Products That Save You Money

The cost of buying everyday household items and groceries has increased.
Consumers are still feeling the effects of the recession and are looking for ways to reduce costs to make their dollar stretch longer. Two ways to make your dollar stretch farther is by using less and by buying products that save you money. Here are 13 products that can help you save money.

1. Use What You Have. Use products you already have in your home such as lemon juice to fight bacteria and baking soda to clean and deodorize. You can also use white vinegar to cut grease, eliminate odors, stains and remove mildew. Use borax to clean and disinfect and to clean walls and floors. Cornstarch can be used to clean windows, polish furniture and shampoo carpet.
2. Fresh Produce. Buy fresh produce from farmer’s markets or local farmers to save money.
3. Energy Efficient. Buy energy efficient products and appliances such as: florescent light bulbs, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, blender, toaster, microwave, hot water heater, furnace, computer, printer, fax machine, scanner or freezer. Look for the Energy Star symbol which indicates a product is energy efficient. You also get a tax credit when you purchase certain energy efficient appliances.
4. Laundry Detergent. Use the recommended amount and adjust as needed. Avoid using more than the recommended amount because this causes more soap buildup on your clothes and may clog up your washing machine. You may also end up having to rinse your clothes twice to remove the excess soap.
5. Generic. Buy generic brands for items such as: paper products, sugar, flour, butter, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and toiletries. Do research to verify which generic brands are the best. Compare ingredients to brand name versions to find the best product.
6. Drying Clothes. Purchase a clothes line or drying rack to dry clothes. When using a clothes dryer dry clothes slightly and then hang on a clothes line or drying rack.
7. Cooking. Make meals for one week, two weeks or a month at a time to reduce preparation time. Cook main dishes and freeze and prepare side dishes only. You can also prepare sides dishes and freeze them.
8. Dishwasher Detergent. Use the recommended amount and adjust as needed. Avoid using more than the recommended amount because this causes more soap buildup on your dishes and may clog up your dishwasher. You may also end up having to rinse your dishes twice to remove the excess soap.
9. Freezer. Buy a freezer to store frozen items and stock up on sale items.
10. Dryer Sheets. You can use dry sheets more than once or cut them in half to save money.
11. Deodorant. Follow the directions on the product to test it out. If you find that you need to use more do so. If you sweat a lot buy a deodorant made specifically for those who sweat more than normal.
12. Toothpaste. Based on most dentists’ recommendations you only need to use the size of a pea to brush your teeth. Don’t cover your toothbrush with toothpaste. If you need to use more repeat the process.
13. Other. Use the Fridge Smart System from Tupperware to make produce last longer. Use the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer to seal food which keeps food fresher longer than plastic wrap, foil or zipper bags.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

14 Reasons to Use Online Bill Payment

The average consumer pays 8 to 15 bills each month. The cost to mail a bill is $.44. If you mail 10 bills a month that costs $4.44 a month plus the cost of driving to the post office. In a year you spend $52.80.

One way to save money on paying bills is by using online bill payment. All banks offer online bill payment usually for free. A great benefit of paying bills online is you get do so while in your pajamas. Using online bill payment helps reduce paying late fees, helps pay down debt faster and reduces the burden and stress of paying bills by checks or by phone. Here are 14 benefits of using online bill payment.

1. Easier. Available 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
2. Saves time. Eliminates the manual payment process of paying with checks and making trips to the post office. The time required to pay bills can be done in the amount of time a commercial airs on TV.
3. Save Money. Eliminates postage fees which seem to increase every year. No fees are required for using online bill payment.
4. Centralized. All bills are located in one secure location and helps you stay organized. You may still receive paper bills or electronic bills.
5. Fees. Reduces late fee charges which can occur if a payment is mailed in time.
6. Schedule. Payments can be setup on a recurring schedule based on your paycheck date or other income received. Payments can be made on the due date or near the due date and will still be made on time.
7. Secure. Payments are secure and reduce chances of lost payments. Uses encrypted website and provides protection against identity theft.
8. Balance. View balances real-time.
9. Service. The service allows you to perform other transactions such as viewing account activity and online statements.
10. Green. Helps the environment by lowering the usage of paper, envelopes and stamps.
11. Organized. Reduces the amount of paper in your home.
12. Budget. Provides an easier way to create a budget and track your spending.
13. Alerts. Allow you to setup reminders when bills are due or when a check or payment has not been processed.
14. Search. Provides an easy way to search payment history and provides the ability to download payment history.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top Reasons to Give Your Child an Allowance

Many parents have struggled with the question, “Should I give my child an allowance?” This can be a difficult decision to make considering the economy, hit costs of gas, increased prices of food and utilities and other expenses. Many schools don’t teach children about finances. Studies have shown that even children who learn about finances in school are still not fully prepared to manage their finances as an adult. Most children don’t learn how to manage money until they become adults and some still struggle.

Most learn on their own through trial and error. What’s worse is that some parents don’t have good money management skills and therefore can’t pass on valuable knowledge to their child. Today children are smarter and more aware of various topics. Now children develop bad habits at an earlier age so it is even more important to make sure your child gets good advice on how to manage their money. That information will help them when they become adults.

Giving your child an allowance helps them make mistakes under your guidance allowing them to learn from their mistakes without the painful consequences of filing for foreclosure, having bad credit or filing for bankruptcy that many adults experienced who were not taught about money as a child. Here are some tips on how to give your child an allowance.

Start giving allowance
1. In elementary school around first grade or age 7 when children really become aware of money and start asking you to buy them expensive items, ask for fad items or ask for build-on name brand items (iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.), etc.
2. Give an allowance once every two weeks which coincides with when most adults get a paycheck
3. Explain the rules for the allowance – the money can be used for them to buy whatever they want and they cannot ask you for additional money or ask you to buy them something other than basic necessities unless it is a school related expense.
4. Remember to teach children about giving and saving. You can use the rule 70-20-10. Spend seventy percent, give 20 percent and save 10 percent.

How much at each stage
1. If you already give your children money, add up the money you give them in two weeks and give that to them for an allowance. Let them learn on their own how to manage their money. After they make some mistakes then gently guide them on how to make good financial decisions with their money.
2. Elementary - Give up to $1 a week for each year, i.e. if the child is 10 give $10 for an allowance.
3. Junior High – Give up to $2 a week for each year, i.e. if the child is 13 give $26 for an allowance.
4. High School – Give up to $3 a week for each year, i.e. if the child is 16 give $48 for an allowance.

How to earn it
1. Tying allowance to chores teaches children good work ethics which will mimic real life when they go to work for an employer. If they do extra work and do a really good job it teaches them initiative and that they can recognition or get rewarded.
2. Explain how the allowance is earned. Allowance should be given for doing something extra.
3. Ask for ways they can earn money (babysit siblings, help parents, go to work with parents and help them at work, etc.). Give an allowance for doing additional chores beyond what is expected or other than what they already do, etc.
4. If you have a business children can earn an allowance by doing work tasks (mailings, filing, placing phone calls, organizing your office, etc.) This also helps them to learn about what is required to run a business which will help them when they become adults.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Suze Orman and the Approved Card

The Approved Card is a prepaid MasterCard created by Suze Orman for everyone no matter what your credit score. The Approved Card has several fees that include but are not limited to: a $3 activation fee, a $3 monthly fee, $2 fee to speak to a customer support representative, $2 fee for non-network and network ATM withdrawals, $1 fee per transaction for ATM balance inquiries, $2 per transaction for over the counter cash withdrawal, $2 ATM declined fee, $2 fee per statement for paper statements, $1 fee per bill for paper bill check payment.

A $30 per transaction fee for bill payment inquiry is charged and there is a fee to reload cash on the card at a retailer but is free if you have direct deposit . With one visit to an ATM you can spend up to $6. During one month you could spend up to $20 in fees.

The Approved Card can be used to pay bills or make purchases and provides unlimited access to your credit report and credit scores from TransUnion. You also get unlimited free use of Allpoint ATMs across the country each month, if you make a direct deposit or bank transfer to the card of $20 or more.

The card has no interest rate and is FDIC insured. Other features of the card include identity theft protection, ATM withdrawals, free electronic bill payment, and you can keep track of spending through text alerts.

A prepaid card is a good tool to use to teach children and college students about how to use a credit card responsibly or if you have repeatedly overdrawn your bank account and need time to reestablish your payment history with the bank.

However, using this type of card keeps the 26% of Americans who are unbanked and the 34% of Americans who are underbanked in the same statue because it does not require having a bank account. Although you are not penalized if you have a bank account and use direct deposit.

A prepaid card prevents Americans from learning how to balance a checkbook, manage their bank accounts and tracking their spending. It also prevents Americans from getting additional perks that can be obtained when using a traditional bank such as rewards points, discounts on fees and interest rates, notifications about special offers, etc.

There are tons of prepaid card available with lower fees such as the American Express Prepaid Card, Perk Street Financial MasterCard Prepaid Debit Card, SilverCard Prepaid MasterCard, Readydebit Select Visa Prepaid Card with Path2Credit or Bank Freedom Prepaid MasterCard.

The Approved Card cannot be used to help increase your credit score because payment history is not reported to the credit bureaus. The disadvantages of using a prepaid debit card are: you pay additional fees; it may or may not be FDIC insured, you do not get rewards points, there are stricter guidelines regarding fraud protection, liability costs can increase quickly if the theft is not reported immediately and there are certain transactions that do not allow you to use a prepaid card such as pre-authorized charges where the full cost of the purchase is not known upfront.

You have to ask yourself why do celebrities offer prepaid cards. Is it because they really want to help their fans or they really want to help themselves. Comparison shop and read the terms and conditions before deciding to apply for a card. Decide for yourself if the Approved Card or any prepaid card is right for you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

12 Savings Tips for Singles

According to Forbes, millions of unmarried women over 65 are struggling to survive on social security payments. A single person forfeits social security benefits, and in some plans also forfeits pension benefits, when he or she dies. Singles standard of living decreases due to the economy, changes in health or marital status. The majority of minimum-wage workers are single.

Married couples usually do better financially than singles. Singles: pay more in taxes, pay more in interest rates and fees and it is harder to receive government and social assistance if you do not have children. Singles also have fewer employment benefits, higher levels of unemployment and, lower wages and unemployment benefits. Singles are more likely to face poverty, have increased health costs and bad credit.

The financial disadvantages of being single are: you are the sole provider and usually don’t have many options if you need financial assistance, spend more of your income towards housing, spend more on entertainment or fun activities such as movies, traveling, gym, etc. and wait longer to begin saving for retirement. Here are 12 ways to save money living as a single person.

1. Discounts. In some cases couples are offered discounts or better rates than singles because singles are more of a risk. Couples have double incomes and are more favorable to lenders and other companies. Ask what discounts are offered to save money.
2. Utilities. Do business with non-mainstream utility companies that offer a flat fee, that don’t charge fees on top on your usage such as distribution and transmission services, or that offer budget or payment plans. Compare well water or sewer rates versus standard water meter rates.
3. Insurance. Some insurance companies penalize single drivers by charging more for insurance. Lower premiums by including another person on your policy such as a parent.
4. Housing. Unexpected expenses can occur such as repairs, appliance replacement costs, homeowners insurance, property taxes, etc. In some cases renting may be more affordable than owning a home. Ensure you purchase a home warranty.
5. Reduce spending. Reduce spending by 30-50% each month to save money. Turn off lights when you are out of a room for 20 minutes or more. Use a programmable thermostat. Rinse clothes in warm or cold water. Turn off water if you are not using it.
6. Furnishings. Save money when buying appliances and furniture by buying used, from yard sales or discount websites such as overstock.com or amazon.com. Avoid buying rental furnishings.
7. Cook at home. Make meals that require easy to find ingredients that don’t cost a lot of money such as casseroles, soups, pasta dishes or stir-fry. Cook enough for a few days and eat leftovers. Eat breakfast at home, take your lunch to work at least twice a week and cook at home at least twice a week to save money.
8. Create a budget. Record how much you earn and how much you spend. Look for areas where you can reduce spending. Create an emergency fund. Save enough money to cover your monthly expenses for 9-12 months. Try to reduce spending by 30-50%.
9. Transportation. Consider buying a compact or hybrid car which is cheaper in price and has better gas mileage.
10. Food. Buy produce from local farmers. Shop at discount stores such as Sam’s Club or Costco or at co-ops. Buy items on sale or regular used items in bulk to save money.
11. Entertainment. Look for free activities, rent DVD’s and CD’s from the library. Cancel your cable service and use Netflix.
12. Avoid getting a pet. Pets can be a huge expense. Avoid getting a pet until you live in a dual-income household.

Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Sensible Money Savings Tips for 2012

Unemployment is 8.4% but many Americans are still struggling to make ends money. There are tons of ways to save money and make your dollar stretch farther. Here are 12 sensible money savings tips for 2012.

1. Bundle Services. If you have multiple services with different companies, combine services with the same company to save money.
2. Budget. Create a budget to help save money and ensure that your money goes the furthest to buy wisely.
3. Use coupons. Use coupons found in your local newspaper or use online sites such as groupon.com, coupons.com, couponmom.com to find coupons. Shop at stores that double coupons to save even more money.
4. Compare. Comparison shop to see which stores have the best sale each week and shop at that store for the items you need. Don’t spend a lot of time and gas shopping at multiple stores to find bargains especially with the increasing gas prices.
5. Generic. Buy generic instead of name brand to save money. Most generic brands and just as good as the name brands.
6. Needs vs. Wants. Buy more needs vs. wants. Avoid impulse shopping.
7. Reduce spending. Reduce spending by 30-50%. Buy in bulk, on sale, at discount stores or online. Try websites such as freecycle.org, ebay.com or craigslist.com to find bargains.
8. 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.
9. Cash. Pay for everything with cash; don’t use your credit card except for emergencies.
10. Groceries. Buy fruits and vegetables from Omish markets or local farmers to save money. Buy packaged foods, canned goods, household goods or paper products from discount stores such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart or Target.
11. Utilities. Adjust thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off electronics and lights if you are out of the room for 20 minutes or more. Buy energy efficient appliances.
12. Taxes. Review tax laws and find ways to reduce your tax bill.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Say No To Rapid Refund Loans

Say No to Rapid Refund Loans, RALS, Tax Refund Advances, and Refund Anticipation. Rapid refunds have very high interest rates starting around 40% up to 500% or more. Tax preparation companies don’t guarantee that you will get your money from the IRS before the normal wait time.

Save yourself some money by being patient and waiting the normal wait time. If you are not sure if you will get a tax refund you can use an estimator calculator from www.1040.com/site/tax-tools/tax-estimator. Sometimes things that look too good to be true are. Do your research before signing up for a product or service. Here are 4 tips to say no to rapid refund loans and get your tax refund faster.

1. File Online. File your tax online by using a free tax preparation site with the IRS or a tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax or Tax Cut that can file your taxes electronically to reduce processing time. You can get your check within 14 days from the IRS or your local state taxing agency.
2. Deposit. Deposit your tax refund check into your bank account and skip using a check cashing store or liquor store to cash your check. If you don’t have a bank account open one to get your refund faster.
3. File early. If you expect to get a refund file your taxes as soon as you get your W-2. Early filers receive their tax refund quicker than those who wait closer to the April 15th deadline.
4. Assistance. Use a tax preparation software or get professional assistance from a licensed tax preparer or accountant to prepare your taxes. This will minimize your chances of getting audited or having errors on your tax returns. Many tax preparation software programs now guarantee that you will not be audited and that your tax returns are correct.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

10 Ways to Organize Your Home Office for Less

January is the start of a new year and the start of new beginnings. One new start is getting organized. Some people need help with organizing in many areas of the lives such as their office. Sometimes we get so busy with work, family and friends we forget about or are too tired to maintain our household.

Organizing helps you easily find things, helps you evaluate what you have and prevents buying duplicate items. Being organized is a sign of hard work, discipline, dedication and attention to detail. These characteristics can carry over into others aspects of your life. Some people find it hard to start organizing. The thoughts of trying to get organized can be overwhelming and frustrating because you don’t know where to start.

Clean. Put similar items together in one location to help assess what you have.

Start with a small room or area. Identify the steps you want to achieve, know what you want to do, when and how you will do it.

List. Make a list of what you have and the quantity, and make a list of what you need and the quantity needed.

Put it together. Throw away worn out items that can no longer be used. Donate items in good condition to charity. If you have not used an item in the past 6 months give it away. Put Items you are going to keep in a storage container.

Categorize. Categorize your items either in alphabetical, numerical, color-coded. Put smaller items at the bottom, larger or heavier items at the top.

Assistance. Ask for help when organizing. Show the person how you want tasks done. Don’t get frustrated if the person doesn’t get it right the first time.

Time. Save time by multi-tasking.

Space. Efficiently utilize as much space as possible and leave extra space for future needs.

Usage. After you finish using an item put in back in its proper place to help keep clutter to a minimum.

Storage. Use items you already have as storage (crates, cardboard boxes, storage bins, Ziploc bags, etc.)

Schedule. Schedule a set time when you will organize and clean.

Here are 10 ways to organize your home office for less.
1. Use accordion folders or a storage box instead of a file cabinet to store important documents and files.
2. Conceal cables and wires to save space.
3. Stack office equipment and use separators to keep air flowing between equipment that has vents.
4. Buy adjustable office organizers to allow expansion for additional space.
5. Name computer files an easily identifiable name so you know the purpose of the file. Categorize files into subfolders.
6. Categorize emails into subfolders.
7. Make to-do lists and post in your office where you can readily see them on a daily basis.
8. Store business cards in a shoe box and create dividers using cardboard or manila folders.
9. Use CD/DVD cover (round cover for multi-package of CDs) to store paperclips, rubber bands, binder clips, etc.
10. Use day planner to keep track of appointments and other important dates instead of buying a blackberry or smartphone.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Prodigious Financial Tips for 2012

Set financial goals that you know you will be able to achieve. Make a promise to yourself that every year you will do at least one thing to become a better person which including becoming better at managing your finances.

Finances can destroy relationships; result in divorce, arguments, sadness, depression, anxiety and fear. Finances can be used to generate wealth or can be used to generate debt. Finances have to be properly managed.

If you don't meet all of your goals by the end of the year develop smaller goals that can be easily achieved. Once you achieve those, develop larger goals and develop a course of action to achieve them. Track your progress.

Make sure your goals are positive statements that will improve your life. A goal should be similar to an affirmation, i.e. I will pay off my Visa bill by March 2012 instead of an uncertain or negative goal such as, I hope I can pay off my Visa bill by March 2012 or I will try to pay off my Visa bill by March 2012.

Eradicate those bad spending habits. The best way to change your financial habits is to create a checklist of what you what to accomplish regarding your finances. Here are 15 prodigious financial tips to improve your finances in 2012.

1. Change Your Mindset. Change the way you think about money. If you are determined to get out of debt and believe you will get out of debt, you will. Throw away bad spending habits and recycle good ones that have been successful in helping you, your family and others.
2. Set financial goals for the year. Plan how to accomplish each financial goal. Identify what is required to accomplish each goal.
3. Make adjustments. Make necessary lifestyle adjustments to help reach your financial goals.
4. Get insured. Make sure you have adequate health, auto, life, disability and business insurance.
5. Save Money. Create an emergency fund with enough money to cover at least 9-12 months’ worth of monthly expenses. This will prevent you from getting into debt.
6. Get Out of Debt. Get current on any late payments. Negotiate with creditors to setup payment plans and pay off old debts. This will help increase your credit score.
7. Trim Spending. Don’t spend more than you earn. Buy needs more often than wants. Find ways to reduce expenses. Reduce spending by 30-50% each month.
8. Limit Credit Card Usage. Use your credit card for emergencies only and avoid using your credit card regular purchases such as groceries and gas. Keep credit card balances at 20% or less of the credit limit. Pay balances off at the end of each month.
9. Develop a Financial Plan (Budget). Write a list of your entire total monthly expenses including debt and write down your total monthly income after taxes. If you have any money left over use that to pay down your debts. If you do not have any money left over (at least 10% of your monthly income) look at the areas where you can reduce spending.
10. Develop What If Scenarios. List different scenarios that could happen and how you would deal with each one, i.e. job loss, sickness, death, new baby, loss of health insurance or other benefits, car repair, etc.
11. Have a Backup Plan. Have a Plan A, B, C, D and E. Many people never plan for the unexpected. Always have multiple options to solve a problem or deal with a crisis.
12. Go past retirement. Don't just plan for your retirement, plan for your children's retirement. Sometimes when planning for retirement retirees do not save enough money to cover all of their monthly expenses and end up going back to work after retirement. If you plan for your children's retirement or your grandchildren's college education this will ensure you have more than enough money to retire and enjoy your golden years.
13. Do better than your parents. If you parents retired at 65 or had to work until they were 70 and had nothing to show for it, do better than your parents. If you retire at 55 be sure you have enough money to live on for at least 20 years.
14. Consult a professional. Contact a financial advisor or financial planner to help you determine and achieve your financial goals, where you want to live, the age you want to retire and the lifestyle you would like to have when you retire.