Wednesday, May 30, 2012

23 Ways to Find a Summer Job

It’s warm outside but summer officially starts June 22, 2012.  Summer is a great time to enjoy the weather, spend time with family and friends and relax.  Unfortunately many Americans are still out of work, some college graduates are having a hard time finding jobs and teenagers are also looking for you.  This creates a huge demand for summer jobs. 

If you have computer skills or a trade it is easier to find a job.  If you are currently unemployed develop short and long term goals you want to achieve.  Develop an action plan and target date to ensure that you achieve those goals.   If you want to get employed you have to make opportunities happen.  If lack of finances are a major factor in your life you will have to think outside of the box and think of creative ways to make money.   Here are 12 tips to find a job:  
  1. Use social media and the internet to search for jobs
  2. Contact youth organizations
  3. Attend youth networking functions
  4. Go to youth job training centers to gain skills that are in demand
  5. Talk to your school counselor or former counselor to learn about possible job opportunities or job leads
  6. Look for college internship opportunities or fellowships
  7. Consider outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs
  8. Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. Search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.
  9. Sell your skills by starting on one block and going from business to business. Ask for an application and introduce yourself to build a relationship with the hiring manager.
  10. Call parents and relatives to get information on job leads. Contact friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.
  11. Wear your best outfit to interviews even if you are applying to do construction work. This ensures the focus is on you and your skills and not your hot pink lipstick, jeans, t-shirt and mohawk.
  12. A company that did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now due to the high turnover of seasonal employees.

Here are 11 tips to help you earn money.
  1. Cleaning.  Become a maid or janitor by cleaning houses or office buildings.
  2. Dog walker.  Walk dogs or offer to bathe dogs or cats.
  3. Part-time.  Look for part-time opportunities including those not in your field.  Some companies hire part-time employees later on as full-time employees or offer benefits.
  4. Volunteer.  Offer to become a volunteer at a company that is in the same field or a similar field you want to work in.  Some companies hire volunteers as permanent employees.
  5. Babysitter.  Offer to watch children during the week or on weekends when parents need to run errands or go for a night out.
  6. Seasonal Work.  Get hired during seasonal employment recruiting periods such as Christmas and during the summer. 
  7. Temp Agency.  Sign up with 5-10 temporary or staffing agencies that find part-time or full-time temporary jobs.  Some jobs are converted to permanent employment after 90 days.
  8. Service Industry.  If you have good customer service skills you can work as a customer service representative answering phone calls, serving as a hostess, waitress or receptionist.
  9. Secret Shopper.  You can become a secret shopper for a company or go shopping for elderly or sick individuals.
  10. Sell Items.  Sell new or unused items on eBay or Craigslist.
  11. Network.  Network with neighborhood workers to see if they need assistance with doing odd jobs such as lawn care, snow removal, tree removal, washing cars, etc.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

17 Ways to Save on Summer Energy Costs

A mild winter doesn’t necessarily mean a hot summer.  However, the weather is unpredictable and anything can happen at anytime.  The summer season has not started yet but it feels like it. People have already turned on their air conditioning.  

If it is a hot summer people will try everything possible to keep cool. If you have to use your air conditioner more often this summer there are still some ways to save on energy costs without hurting your wallet. Here are 17 ways to reduce energy costs this summer.

  1. Appliances.  Limit the use of the microwave.  Purchase a portable grill to cook food.  Dry clothes using full loads or air dry clothes to save money.  Buy energy efficient appliances and light bulbs.  Wash clothes in warm or cold water and rinse in cold water. 
  2. Computers.  Turn off your computer when not in use or leave it in standby mode.  Energy Star has free energy efficient programs for computers that will help reduce energy usage.
  3. Electronics.  Turn off all electronics and appliances when not in use.  If you have multiple televisions in your home this adds up in electricity costs when running them at the same time.  If you are out of a room for more than 20 minutes turn off all electronics. 
  4. Oven cooking.  Using the oven when it's hot outside will make it harder to keep your home cool.  Cook on top of the oven to save money. 
  5. Thermostat.   Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees F.  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.
  6. Fans. If you need additional cooling use a portable fan or ceiling fans.  You can increase the thermostat setting 4°F with sacrificing comfort. Turn on the fan when you are taking a shower or bath to reduce humidity and heat.
  7. Lights.  Don't turn lights on if your home gets natural sunlight.  Keeping lights off keeps your home cool.  Turn lights on only when necessary.
  8. Insulate.  Seal any cracks or leaks around and inside your home and insulate your attic floor.  Install storm windows to save on energy costs.
  9. Refrigerator.  Keep your refrigerator at 38 - 40 degrees F.  Keep your freezer at 5 degrees F.
  10. Install a metal roof. Aluminum reflects sunlight. Metal reflects up to 70% of the sun’s radiation and loses its heat easily which helps keep the roof cool.
  11. Fresh air.  If you live in an area where it is hot during the day and cool at night, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows to get fresh cool air. In the morning close the windows and blinds to retain the cool air.
  12. Cover windows.  Install window coverings to prevent heat gain through windows.
  13. Ventilation.  Make sure you home is well ventilated.  Make sure bathrooms and the kitchen have vents that lead outside.
  14. Maintenance.  Perform regular maintenance or air conditioning, heat pumps or other cooling devices.
  15. Vacuum. Vacuum dust from behind or underneath appliances and vent registers.
  16. Housework.  Run appliances and large electronics such as computers, appliances, electronics and other items that use a large amount of electricity after the sun goes down.
  17. Water Heater. Set the temperature of your water heater to 120°F.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

6 Ways to Save Money on Memorial Day

Many advertisers take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday as another way to make money.  Unfortunately they rarely or never say anything about the real reason for Memorial Day.  Advertisers should provide extra discounts for those who have served in the military or are currently still serving in the military.  If someone fights for our country, why can’t you give them a discount on a purchase?     

Memorial Day is usually the official start of the summer season when pools are opened, families begin cooking on the grill, summer clothes are pulled out and people start heading to the beaches.  Many families and friends get together during this weekend.  Many people also go to the mall to see what sales they can find.  If you have to go shopping or spend money this Memorial Day weekend here are 6 tips to save money. 
  1. Budget. Create a budget or shopping list and only buy the things you absolutely need for the holiday.  Visit local vendors, food co-ops or discount stores to purchase meats, fruits and vegetables which will be much cheaper than the department store.
  2. Food.  If you are having family or friends at your home keep the menu simple but provide variety.  Use different sauces, toppings and marinades to provide flavor and variety. Ask everyone to bring a dish or dessert to help save money. 
  3. Free.  Check your local newspaper or listen to your local news station to find free events to attend during the holiday weekend.
  4. Save money on gas. With the cost of gas prices I have cut back on driving here and there and take into consideration the distance I have to drive.  Create a traveling zone when driving.  When considering driving use MapQuest to map the address and see how many miles it is from your home or office.  If the distance is more than the maximum number of miles you are willing to drive do not attend the event. My maximum is 30 miles one way from my home or work. 
  5. Fun.  Skip going to the movies or amusement parks and play games outside such as volleyball, soccer, cricket, horse shoes, sack races etc. to save money and spend more time with your family and friends.
  6. Skip the mall.  Don't let the media or advertisements trick you into buying something this Memorial Day weekend simply because it is on sale. Most prices during holiday sales are marked up and a discount is given on the marked up price.  If you have to buy something at the mall comparison shop and determine which store is offering the best holiday sale. Check online sites to see if you can get a better deal.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Use Mobile Banking With Caution

Over 220 million Americans use smartphones everyday, however many are unaware of the dangers of using mobile banking. Smartphones have the potential to pose a real security threat. All smartphones should include good security software to allow users to block malware and locate a phone if lost. 

Users who access personal information or download applications are at greater risk. Mobile banking also known as M-banking, mbanking or SMS banking allow customers to check balances, and perform account transactions using their smartphones.  Some experts feel that Wells Fargo and Bank of America’s mobile banking services provide strong security and offer multiple downloadable applications. Mobile banking services vary based on the type of phone you are using, the cell phone plan and technology the bank is using.

There are several advantages to using mobile banking such as:  easy access, many applications for smartphones, easy control of your money, availability 24/7 anywhere, anytime and no fees.  Disadvantages to mobile banking is that mobile banking provides fewer services that internet banking and increases security risks.

BlackBerry software and core applications are digitally signed to ensure integrity preventing the smartphone functionality from being directly accessed by other applications.  However, this does not mean that blackberry is immune to viruses or security risks.

iPhones do not provide security software because the iPhone does not share applications; the risk of spreading a virus from phone to phone is very low.  If an iPhone has been altered or changed in any way this increases the chance of a security risk.  This can cause the iPhone to download and run unauthorized software which can slow your system down and may lead to identity theft. However, this does not mean that iPhones are immune to viruses or security risks.

The Android software has less virus attacks because most of the viruses are written to attack Windows based programs.  However Android is not immune to viruses.  Here are the top 9 virus protection software for smartphones:
  1. ESET Mobile Antivirus is only available for the Windows Mobile platform.
  2. BullGuard Mobile Antivirus is available for pocket PCs and smartphones.
  3. F-Secure Mobile Security Business is available on Windows Mobile and Symbian platforms.
  4. Kapersky Mobile Security provides the same level of protection you would get on a computer.
  5. McAfee Mobile Security for Enterprise antivirus anti-spyware software operates on any Windows Mobile based device.
  6. Trend Micro Mobile Security is a package of Windows Mobile and Symbian antivirus software.
  7. Norton Smartphone Security provides the same level of protection you would get on a computer.  Norton Mobile Security Lite offers virus protection for smartphones and blackberries.
  8. McAfee offer virus protection for smartphones and blackberries.
  9. AVG offers virus protection for Androids.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Old Alternative to Checks

Approximately 17 million Americans do not have a bank account. This number includes consumers who use check cashing retailers or liquor stores to cash checks or use money orders. Many of these Americans have bad credit, little or no savings.

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. In 2010, I switched bank to writing checks, however with the continue risks of identity theft, I am reconsidering using money orders.

Choosing to pay by money order is a personal choice because I am very uneasy with someone accessing my checking account electronically. This can increase errors made on your account and increase your chances of being a victim of identity theft.

On average I would spend $4.40 on for postage for checks written per month. If I purchase ten money orders I would spend $4.40 per month in postage plus the cost of each money order is $.39 so it would cost me $8.30 ($4.40 + $3.90) to pay 10 bills each month. Using money orders have advantages and disadvantages:


1. This is the best option if you do not have a bank account.

2. If you have a checking account your bank may allow you to purchase a money order for free.

3. Reduces my chances of becoming a victim of identity theft by limiting exposure to your checking account.

4. Provides security protections such as the Ben Franklin images on the left side and the amount of the money order listed in two locations.

5. Helps to save money by using money orders if you frequently get charged overdraft fees on your checking account.

6. Will become more disciplined in your spending because you will limit your use of your credit card, check card or debit card.


1. Purchasing a money order has limits in some cases up to $1,000 depending on the issuer. To get money order for larger amounts may require purchasing multiple money orders.

2. Increases the time to process your payment if mailed out of state which can take anywhere from 2-15 business days.

3. If you lose your cash your bank will not replace it.

4. You may incur more expenses by using money orders.

5. Limits your transactions and is usually used for paying bills, most retailers will not accept a money order for payment.

6. You cannot make payments by phone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7 Ways to Survive a Tax Audit

Once risk of filing taxes on your own is getting audited.  If you get a letter from the IRS notifying you that you will be audited don’t panic.  Stay calm.  All audits are not bad and may not result in you owing the IRS money.   If you prepare your taxes yourself with tax preparation software like Tax Cut or Turbo Tax the software provides audit checks on your return before sending them to the IRS and alerts you about possible items that could trigger an audit.  If you go to a tax preparation company find out what the process is if a customer is audited.  Here are 7 tips to help you through an IRS audit.

1.     Notice.  If you receive a notice in the mail from the IRS stating that you will be audited read the notice carefully to fully understand what is required.  An audit can be for one year or for multiple years.  An audit can simply be resolved by sending documentation via postal mail or may require a meeting with an IRS agent. 
2.     Act Promptly.  You must act promptly when you receive an audit notice to ensure your chances of the audit going smoothly.  Gather all of your financial statements including canceled checks, bank statements, 401K statements, charity donations, credit card statements, monthly debt statements, taxes for the past 3 years, W-2’s/W-4’s, previous tax refund statements, your 1098 statements if you are a homeowner, etc.  If you do not have a copy of past tax returns complete a Form 4506 to request an official copy. 
3.     Document.  Make a list of all documents that you currently have in your possession that are required in the audit letter.  Make a list of all documents that you don’t have and the status of obtaining those documents, i.e. you requested a copy with an estimated receipt date, you will request a copy or you are unable to get a copy.
4.     Professional Assistance.  Contact a tax accountant or tax lawyer to get advice on how to prepare for the tax audit and how they can help you successfully get through the audit including fees, services provided, years of experience, worse cast scenario, etc.
5.     Response.  If you are required to respond by mail, work with a tax lawyer or tax accountant to ensure you have all the required documentation.  Send copies of all required documentation and responses to any questions via certified mail and return receipt.  If you are required to respond in person, you can attend the meeting with your tax lawyer or tax accountant or they can represent you on your behalf.  I recommend you attend the meeting with your tax lawyer or tax accountant to ensure you fully understand the information provided and to minimize chances of misunderstanding the information presented.
6.     Resolution.  After the audit the IRS may require you to pay additional money or you may receive a refund.  If you have to pay work with your tax lawyer or tax accountant to setup a payment plan.
7.     Dispute.  If you are not happy with the findings of the audit, you can appeal the findings to the IRS agent’s supervisor or the IRS Appeal Division.  You also have the option of taking your case to your state tax clinic or filing a petition with the U.S. Tax Court.