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Associate Money



“So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?”



Updated: 2010-11-29T02:11:58.834-08:00

 



Top 5 Online StartUps For Cyber Monday Shopping

2010-11-29T02:11:58.852-08:00

If you haven't had enough of Black Friday shopping or just wanted to avoid the crowds, you can scratch your retail itch by celebrating Cyber Monday!

Here are 5 top fashion online start-ups offering great Cyber Monday discounts.

1. Gilt
Each day at noon, Gilt offers its members a curated selection of merchandise, including apparel, accessories and lifestyle items across the women’s, men’s and children’s categories.

For Cyber Monday Gilt is offering free shipping on any purchase (from Gilt Women, Gilt Man, Gilt Home, and Gilt Kids) made on Monday, November 29 between 12 a.m. ET and 11:59 p.m. ET.

2. Rent the Runway
The site, like a “Netflix for dresses,” allows women to rent dresses from notable fashion designers.

3. Exclusively.In
A new e-commerce warehouse that sells Indian imported clothing, accessories and art like colorful dresses, saris and masala tees.

4. Of A Kind
The world’s first online Tumblr store, commissions designers to create limited-edition, exclusive “5, 10 or 50 of a kind” pieces.

5. StyleTrek
The site features an easy Facebook log-in and a crowdsourced e-commerce platform with the ability to “Like” products and share on Facebook, Twitter and via e-mail, which means StyleTrek designers receive real time consumer feedback at every stage of the design and production process.

[TheNextWeb]



Black Friday Shopping, A Good Time To Save Money

2010-11-27T02:51:19.286-08:00

I know a lot of people start their Christmas shopping on Black Friday. To be sure, there are some fantastic deals out there and it is easy to get carried away with all the store banners screaming "specials" and "bargains."

In order to save money, you should get to the stores early on Black Friday. Stores usually have their best sales in the early morning on Black Friday, so try to be out shopping before sunrise.

Make a list and stick to it, much like your grocery shopping. It's ok to deviate a little but not too much so that you are swiping your credit cards with abandon. If you don't have the discipline, just bring only cash to avoid credit card debts.

Doing your homework before hand helps too. Many stores entice you by advertising try to get you to enter by advertising a large sale when, in reality, the price is the same as weeks ago.

I have saved hundreds of dollars shopping on Black Friday compared to shopping near Christmas time but do watch out for your safety.

The savings may not be able to cover your injuries if you get trampled by the crowd while fighting for goodies. Here are some of the worst tramples on Black Friday.

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Save Money By Clearing Up Clutter In the House

2010-11-27T02:50:11.420-08:00

Clutter in the house, everyone has their struggles with it. With Thanksgiving and Christmas round the corner, the mess is going to get worse as people hit the stores and buy yet more stuff.

For us, we made a pact to remove clutter every couple of months. If not, it can be a nightmare... what with piles of papers in the kitchen and study room, worn out clothes in the wardrobe, magazines in the living room, old tools in the garage..

All these clutter isn't just an eyesore; it is expensive and continue to cost you money sitting in the house.

1. Buying Replacements

Say you are left with one half of your running shoes or earrings due to clutter. Thus, you have to spend money buying duplicates for stuff you own but just can’t find.

2. Damage to Good Stuff

When you have more stuff than space, storage becomes a problem. You end up stepping on stuff which become broken or stained. Some items just collect cobwebs or turn moldy due to moisture.

3. Missing deadlines

When your house is disorganized, you tend to forget about bills and end up paying overdue charges, extra bank fees, and tax penalties.

4. Renting Storage Space

Almost 10% of US families rent storage space for belongings that don’t fit in their homes. Some even bought bigger houses to accommodate their stuff. Well, such expenses and debts are unnecessary if you just manage clutter properly.

5. Health costs

Clutter can increase risk of falling and encourage growth of allergens like dust and mold. Treatments for those can get expensive. Clutter can also affect your mental health and the sign of neglect reflects badly on you.

6. Poor Efficiency

You can’t function at your optimum level if you’re disorganized. For example, time and energy are wasted looking for your car keys when you could be working, playing, relaxing or doing household tasks like preparing meals and paying bills.

7. Tying Up Your Cash

Stuff can tie up our earnings in rarely used sports equipment, video games, gadgets and clothes. Selling the unused stuff frees up cash and your energy.

With so much disadvantages of clutter, no wonder people struggle to save money. But eliminating clutter takes time. You will feel strange in an empty house if all your stuff are dumped overnight. And you may end up throwing things which you really need.

Here are some solutions to put your space on a diet:

* Consider a household agreement to buy nothing new for one year. This should reduce incoming stuff to a trickle.

* To deal with existing stuff, go through one area at a time, instead of tackling the entire house. Choose a room, a closet, a desk, or even just a kitchen drawer. A good rule of thumb: Get rid of anything you don’t use or love.

* Throw clutter in bags, put them in the attic. As you need something, take it from the bag. After 6 months, donate the bags.

* Try to spend 15 minutes a day decluttering. This requires discipline and we are forcing ourselves to do it too.

It’s hard to grow or thrive when hemmed in by clutter. Try out the above tips and see if your house becomes neater and your cashflow improves..



How To Avoid Celebrities Debt Follies?

2010-10-09T22:21:44.550-07:00

The key to financial freedom is not to earn lots of money, else money machines like celebrities will never face bankruptcy. It is about controlling expenses!

In the latest example of celebrity excess, singer Toni Braxton has filed for bankruptcy and owes between $10 to $50 million. Her list of debtors includes AT&T, the Four Seasons, and Tiffany.

So why do celebrities fall on hard times financially? This is because of their unpredictable income expensive lifestyles, and enormous pressure from family and friends who want their money. We can avoid their spendthrift ways.

1. Control spending.

Celebrities love to spend money especially during their new-found financial success. They think their high earnings will continue, but in reality their careers are short. They actually need to spend modestly to make their money last.

2. Make a plan.

Make a plan and follow through when it comes to finances. You have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, such as disability or sudden loss of income.

Plan a rough estimate of your career, income and lifespan. Next, live off that amount and the rest should be saved.

3. Learn to manage an unpredictable income.

While it's OK to splurge a little when a big chunk of income comes in, it's important to remember that you still have to pay 40% of it on income taxes.

And because income might go down in the future, setting money aside for rainy days is essential. This advice applies to anyone who sees their income dip and dive, including people who work in sales, freelance, or consulting fields.

4. Pay off debt as soon as you can.

Celebrities should avoid mortgages and buy homes that they can afford to pay for with cash, since they often don't know when their next paycheck is coming.

5. Surround yourself with people you trust.

Celebrities and noncelebrities alike need to make sure they trust the people who work for them, including personal finance advisers.

The worst thing is to leave your finances and bank accounts in the hands of a rogue adviser who charges exorbitant fees or misappropriate your money. You should read your own monthly statements and regularly check up on savings and retirement accounts.

6. Save for retirement.

During good times, people should put at least 8% of their income toward retirement accounts. That's in addition to maintaining an emergency fund of six to nine months' worth of expenses.

7. Just say no.

Don't ask for money from friends or distant relatives. Having a financial adviser can help to monitor your spending habits.

If you have lots of money but became a bankrupt, don't worry as following the tips above will help you to come back into solvency.



Poverty To Riches Is Easy

2010-09-30T09:19:00.179-07:00

One of the least understood aspect of financial planning is that almost everyone can be well off just by following simple principles of money management.

I am not talking about attaining Warren Buffett's wealth. Most people are likely to be in this situation of starting from poverty, get a good education, good career and end up financially sound. It is doable, a little bit of luck but more of being disciplined.

You must be willing to spend less than what you earn over a long period of time. It explains how a person earning more than $30,000 a year can retire comfortably while another guy earning $1 million a year can retire broke.

That's really good news for all of us because cutting expenses/living below your means is much easier and more controllable than trying to increase your income.

However, once you generate excess cash by living below your means, you need to invest that surplus wisely to maximize its growth.

You don't have to be an accountant or receive an inheritance from your rich daddy.
All you need is the willingness to begin and learn. A commitment and perseverance to regular, small investments, like $50 or $100 a month, can be the start of a million-dollar retirement account.

The earlier you start, the easier it will be and the more money you'll actually accumulate. But if you're like me and put off investing until later in life, you still have the ability to achieve your goals. The idea is to start, but start now.

Time is best friend in compounding your wealth, ie. to multiply your savings over and over again to turn the little savings into a massive portfolio.

So the path to prosperity is quite simple:

1. Spend less than you earn.

2. Invest your surplus to make your money grow.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for many, many years.

Isn't the path from poverty to riches easy?



6 Tips To Financial Independence

2010-09-30T05:58:10.330-07:00

We all have dreams and resolutions, earn our first million dollars, lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, etc.

How about becoming debt free for a change? The average American has about $9000 of credit card debt and as a nation, consumer debt is approaching $2 trillion.

You can change your life by aspiring to financial independence, instead of living paycheck to paycheck and getting further into debt each month.

Take a long look at how you're spending your time and money, and determine your financial priorities. Here are 6 easy tips to help you become financially independent:

1. Make a Commitment


Be responsible for your own actions as nobody will look out for your financial future. The best option is independence. Try to save up enough in your retirement account to last till the end of your life.

2. Prioritize Needs vs Wants

We want a lot of things but income is limited. By prioritizing wants and needs, you can create a monthly budget and save for the most important "wants" on your list, after meeting your needs.

Evaluate your wants to see what value they bring to you. You may be surprised that a lot of wants are useless!

3. Pay Yourself First, Then Forget About It

Before you pay a single monthly bill, including your mortgage, rent or insurance, pay yourself first, meaning your saving account. A simple rule of thumb is to have at least 10% of your gross income saved and invested for the long term.

Resist spending any of your savings. Time is your greatest asset, so the sooner you start saving and the longer you keep your savings in place, the more financially secure you'll be in retirement.

4. Practice Responsible Credit Card Use

Credit cards provide the convenience of not carrying cash in your wallet but the spending power comes from your future income. To become a responsible user, change your mindset.

Don't go for instant gratification by paying much more later. Start paying out of your pocket with cash or at least pay down the outstanding amount diligently so that you are not a lifelong prisoner of credit card debts.

5. Prepare for a Financial Emergency

Personal, property or business risks are inevitable. Thus, emergency fund is a good idea so that you don't turn to predatory schemes for help.

First, assess your current insurance coverage. Is it enough to cover your assets while allowing you to pay higher deductibles? Next, build an emergency reserve fund based on three to six months of living expenses. The reserve fund should remain readily available, safe and income-producing.

6. Get Your Money's Worth

Try keeping a record of every purchase for a month by listing exactly the item and the cost. At the end of the month, review the list and ask yourself whether you are getting your money's worth.

If you are not satisfied, then reassess the things bought. Your goal is to continuously refine the way you spend money until you are completely comfortable with your habits.

You cannot accomplish your goal of achieving financial independence by wishing. It takes being committed and acting on your desire. So start today!



Save Money Daily By Thinking On Micro Level

2010-09-30T05:52:15.755-07:00

Jen from Frugal, Freebies and Deals talks about her saving money experience and gives tips on how you can do it too.

Her family is still in debt but using Dave Ramsey Debt Reduction program, she is slowly chipping away and may take about 4 years to pay off everything. This revelation makes her debt reduction journey more credible.

The takeaway lesson from Jen is to break up seemingly insurmountable debts into small, manageable pieces that you can easily handle daily.

Check out her full article on micro level money saving.

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Don't Fall For 'Debt Elimination' Scams

2010-09-21T06:54:50.804-07:00

Everybody loves short cuts, be it getting rich, losing weight or reducing debts. This weakness in our human psyche makes us vulnerable to scams.

In the case of debt elimination, a lot of people don't want to give up their extravagant lifestyle nor face up to the consequences of mounting debts. They prefer to believe in the wonders of debt elimination scams.

Actually, there are no quick fixes for debt elimination which boils down to earning more income, spending less and using the surplus to pay down debt. A drastic approach like a crash diet where you don't eat for days is not productive. You either go back to your old habits or risk damaging your health.

Some debt elimination scams require you to pay a big upfront fee for secrets on dealing with your creditors but most of them are fake.

It is best to exercise caution when there are offers too good to be true. After spending like maniacs for years, no way can you pay someone a simple fee and make all the debts disappear.

Ignore those claims and work on getting yourself out of debt the old-fashioned way. Review your income and expenses and look for ways to either increase the income or decrease the expenses until you can lighten your debt load.



Save $500 A Month By Reducing Big Expenses

2010-09-30T05:53:55.563-07:00

Two years after the Great Recession, economic recovery is anemic at best. Though the stock market has managed a remarkable recovery, unemployment rate still hovers around 10%, home sales are languishing and consumer sentiment is low.

Let's not forget about basics of saving money which is to reduce our money expenses.
For those who saw a lower or even zero household income, reducing expenses is a necessary skill.

Here are some quick ways to save at least $500 by reducing some big expenses.

1. Reduce APR’s On Our Credit Cards

Call up your credit card company and ask for a rate reduction. If you have good credit with them, they will drop your interest rate by a few percentage points.

Don't feel shy about asking. If you are being charged an exorbitant 30% for an outstanding balance and in danger of default, the credit card company is actually more worried that you stop paying altogether.

Sometimes, they grant a reprieve period of say 6 months with low interest rates, which lowers your minimum monthly payment by as much as 2-3 times. Although it is temporary, you can always go back to negotiate for another rate reduction. That is easily worth $100-$300 of savings for most people.

2. Modification On Home Loans

Not everyone will be qualified for a home modification and the process is time consuming. The approval process may take up to 90 days, but it could be well worth it in the end. If you loan modification is approved, you can save at least $100 per month on your mortgage.

3. Cable, Phone and Internet

When you are jobless, you can do away with lots of entertainment, like cable and internet. Rather than staying home to watch TV or surfing the net, going for interviews will be more practical. And if you use mobile phones most of the time, just do away with the landline too.

Again you can easily save $50-$100 per month.

4. Consolidate Cell Phone Bills

Look around the internet for providers which allow you to consolidate cell phone bills. Of course, you got to sort out every month the bills and usage between your family members but it is easily $50-$100 savings for the household once you do that.

With the expenses reduced, say $500, you can put more food on the table, invest, pay down outstanding loan (especially credit card debts) or simply save the money for a rainy day.

I think every household can find areas of improvement when it comes to finances. You just have to look hard enough at where your money is going. It’s important though that the money you “save” is not used to purchase extravagant items, like flashy gadgets or fashionable accessories.



Ask the Experts: Kids and Money

2010-09-02T06:17:44.461-07:00

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Bank of Dad blogger Dan Kadlec joins Jill Schlesinger and Jack Otter to discuss raising financially-savvy kids.

I find it intriguing when he explains that poker is a great financial tool. Sure, mastering poker means learning risk management and statistical analysis but I won't take the risk of using poker to educate my kid about money management. I can't say I will be proud if he turns out to be a professional gambler.

In any case, it is great to get new ideas from other parents. Bringing money into conversations with kids is never the easiest task. Either they are plain not interested or they don't yet appreciate your intentions. And schools aren't doing enough about teaching personal finance.

No matter how difficult it is , parents have to try their best to jumpstart their kids' financial literacy. What have you done to educate your kids? Will you use poker as a tool?



Do You Spend Money Secretly?

2010-08-16T07:19:37.605-07:00

Are you one of those who aren't honest with your spouse? I am not talking about adultery here but rather expenses which you have been hiding.

The Wall Street Journal has a beautiful piece asking if you are a secret spender.

It seems many people qualify as secret spenders. According to a recent American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, 27% of respondents have “misrepresented the amount of a purchase” while 30% hide purchases from their partner.

The extent of them keeping spending under wraps is rather funny and incredulous too. Check out what they did:

•burying their purchase in the backyard
•pretending that goods came from Goodwill
•hiding purchases in grocery bags to bring them home
•arranging for items to arrive while their partner was away
•sneaking out and bought an item in the middle of the night

Though I don't go to the extent of asking permission from my wife for my unbudgeted purchases (mostly gadgets), I do let her know about it. This is to encourage honesty from both parties.

She is quite a spender herself on clothes and shoes and if both of us were to conceal our expenses, it will defeat the purpose of having a household budget.

In any case, our checkbook and credit cards are open to each other and she will find out. But to avoid ugly conflicts, I find the right timing to tell her and her mood will depend on the amount which I had spent without her knowledge.

Are you guys a secret spender too? And how do you tell her wife about it?



Can You Invest and Beat The Market Consistently?

2010-09-21T06:09:08.159-07:00

It is possible to beat the market. There are people, stock brokers, hedge fund managers, retail investors, or even your neighbor who reported fantastic gains from doing that.

But the real issue is whether one can do it consistently over the long run. When it comes to investing for retirement, you should not look at the market gyrations over a day, a month, a year, or even five years.

If you want to retire with a comfortable amount, you need to be able to beat the market for the entire time you invest, else you are just wasting your money, time and effort. The reason is simple, the financial crisis of 2008 has shown that a few missteps can wipe away all your gains and even make you bankrupt.

The fact is it is not easy to beat the market consistently. 80% of professional mutual fund managers fail to beat their benchmarks, what more an ordinary investor like us who do not have the skill or resources?

The professionals sift through news, analyze charts, research companies, and have networks that we cannot access or afford. Yet most of them could not beat the market. They are after all humans and are susceptible to mistakes.

Bill Miller of Legg Mason Value fund is a good example. He beat the S&P 500 from 1991 to 2005, but lost to the market in 2006 and bombed in 2008. That failure resulted in the S&P 500 outperforming his Legg Mason Value fund from 1991 to present. Thus, a pro with an illustrious track record can also make mistakes and lose his hard-earned reputation.

Since the odds are against amateurs and selecting the few professionals who outperform is difficult, why not just benchmark your investment to the market by investing in a diversified portfolio of index funds?

Can't Go Wrong Investing In Index Funds


Index funds remain the best choice for investors because of their simplicity, low-cost, and reliability. Picking a good index fund only require some understanding of the underlying components, expense ratio, and other hidden cost.

Since index funds don't require active trading, you enjoy lower costs and taxes - which will help improve your investment results.

Index funds may be boring (just buy and forget) but they work and will give you consistent results compared to the market. When you track the market (minus cost), you no longer worry about human mistakes erasing all your past gains.



Has the New Credit Card Law Benefited You?

2010-09-02T05:49:24.863-07:00

Has credit cards become safer with new legislation in place? Do you know what are the safeguards that have been implemented to prevent predatory policies of the credit card companies?

1. Retroactive rate increased

Credit card issuers should not increase rates until the promotional rate expires. According to the universal default clauses, you are not accountable to any penalty charges for late payment on unrelated account.

If you are late by 60days in the repayment plan, then you may be exposed to the costly default rate. But if you provide evidence of 6 months of consecutive timely payment, the bank can lower your rates.

2. Advance notice on rate hikes

According to Lending Act, only 15 days notice is given to the card holder before the implementation of any plan. If there is any change in the terms of the contract which includes the hike in the rate that needs to be notified before 45days. However, the bank does not need to give advance notice for adjustment of credit card limit.

3. Restriction on charges

An over-limit fee would be charged on the approval by your creditor. Banks cannot levy any charges to settle credit card debt but they can contact you for repayment through telephone or internet. A penalty can be charged on your outstanding balance just to quicken the repayment process.

If the bank fails to accept the payment by mail, then they might not levy additional charges for it. If the payment is made in the local branch office then it would be advisable to pay off the amount before the due date. Any delay in the payment in this process is charged with a late fee.

4. Restrain Youngsters From Credit Cards

For those below 21 years old, you need to show that you are financially stable before applying for a credit card. Else, a co signer above the age of 21 years is required.

Since most youngsters are not savvy enough to use credit cards responsibly, the law will prevent them from getting into debt too early.

5. End of double cycle billing

The new law banned the double cycle billing. In the past, the credit card issuer can charge interest rate on the amount that had been paid off the previous month which is very unfair.

Overall, I think the changes will definitely benefit consumers. But even with some evil practices curbed, you can rest assured that bankers/credit card companies will still be able to fleece, erm, make money from consumers through other means.



Manage Your Own Money For Retirement

2010-07-13T00:08:00.523-07:00

Most companies will match a percentage of their employee’s contribution to their retirement accounts. This is a nice benefit as it encourages the employee to save money because they are being given an additional sum on top of their base salary.

This additional sum in your retirement account can be quite substantial as it cannot be withdrawn until you hit retirement.

Brokerage firms will also allow you to set up a direct retirement fund, called a Roth IRA. If you have the time and enjoy doing financial research, giving yourself control over your retirement savings might be a good idea.

You don't have to pay sales commissions and management fees to incompetent money managers who make money regardless of your portfolio performance. You also have destiny in your own hands by investing in your desired asset classes and executing the buy and sell orders.

However, managing your own retirement account is not without risks. The market is very volatile and you are not guaranteed to make profits from stocks. This approach is recommended if you buy risk free assets like Certificates of Deposit or Money Market short term paper. In such cases, engaging a financial planner is a waste of money.

It is only when you don't have the time or expertise in exotic investments, that you seek professional money managers. They can help you to diversify your portfolio into stocks, bonds or complex assets like options, forex, commodities.

You have speak to a real person about your financial goals, and work on a strategy that fits your needs. But remember that money managers do not always make money, so entrusting your money to them might not give you the best return.

To ensure a secure retirement, it is important to find a money management professional who has been in business for years. Check their track record and expertise in negotiating the volatility of the market.

Also check out red flags like your money being tied up for a significant period of time. Make sure that you can always gain access to your funds at any time as most fraudulent companies require you to lock up your money for years.



10 Effortless Saving Money Tips, No More Budget Woes

2010-06-27T03:21:00.132-07:00

Saving money is by no means glamorous but don't be put off by the coupon clipping or money pinching just to save a buck. You have to sacrifice a luxurious lifestyle to reach your financial goals but when you see a balanced household budget and observe that you are making headway in setting up a retirement nest, you will feel all the sweat is worth it. I am not a very motivated person by nature. My wife has called me lazy at times. So when it comes to saving money, it is a wonder I persevered for so long. Here are some effortless saving money tips which any lazy person can implement before going for tougher measures. These methods are set-and-forget and you can keep more cash in your pocket without depriving yourself: 1. Get dining and shopping rewardsIf you use credit and debit cards regularly, remember to get cash back or rebates for eating at participating restaurants. No coupons or gift certificates necessary. When you go shopping, use a rewards card that pays you back, preferably in cash. Then shop and reap the rewards. You can compare cards online at such sites as CardRatings.com and LowCards.com.2. Join a credit unionYes, you love to spend beyond your means but that doesn't mean you must pay exorbitant interest rates. Almost everybody qualifies for a credit union, and they usually have lower fees and loan rates than traditional banks. 3. Use retail loyalty cardsSign up for a card at frequently visited supermarkets and retailers. Then shop as usual and watch the savings and goodies pile up. Often you don't need to carry the card. Cashiers can usually look it up by phone number. Or, combine loyalty-card bar codes with such tools as CardStar, mycardstar.com, which has smart phone apps and a wallet-size card via a partnership with KeyRing Thing.com. 4. Buy store brandsReach for the house brands. They're so much better than they used to be; no coupons or comparison-shopping needed. Or peruse the weekly supermarket specials. 5. Get browser add-onsSeveral Web browser toolbars and plug-ins can help you save money shopping online. An example is GetInvisibleHand.com. Its toolbar is hidden until you visit a product page. Then it appears and tells you whether this is the best price or where you can get it cheaper. It doesn't include shipping, but it's passive price comparison for the truly lazy. 6. Pay online and automaticallyOnline and auto-pay options can save money, especially by preventing late fees. Buy fewer stamps and envelopes, which is a hassle and expense. You might get a discount through online payment or automatic bank withdrawals. 7. Raise your retirement contribution when you get payraise.You won't notice the difference. And if you do it online, it might take one minute. Repeat every time you get a raise. 8. Raise your thermostat 1 degreeUp in the summer, down in the winter. You won't notice the difference, but over time your wallet will. 9. Use energy saving bulbsReplace your five most-used nondimmable lights with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and save 75 percent in energy costs. Lazy people will appreciate CFLs as you won't have to replace them as often as incandescent bulbs due to 10 times longer lifespan. 10. Shrink your spendingBillshrink.com is a good comparison site for wireless phone service, credit cards and savings account rates, but it's also convenient for tracking gas prices. It will send you an e-mail alerting you to the lowest-price gas on your commute.[...]



Saving Money On Family Road Trips

2010-06-21T06:52:00.174-07:00

Summer is that time of the year when our family either go on vacations, camping or road trips.

It is an exciting time for the kids where they put their schoolwork and computer games behind and just have fun outdoors.

However, having fun and memorable experiences on a family vacation doesn't mean spending money recklessly. We are very conscious about saving money from hotels, airfares, souvenirs and food. All these expenses can add up to a hefty bill.

Instead of flying to Europe or visiting a theme park, why not stay closer to home by taking a road trip? Now, with rising gas prices, planning an affordable road trip may be more challenging but it is not daunting either.

Here are five easy ways to save money on a family vacation, without skimping on the fun:

1. Pack Your Lunch and Avoid Restaurants

Eating out at restaurants can be expensive, especially when you are with the entire family. You can save money by skipping the fast food joints and restaurants. Just bring food for the car ride instead.

This way you are not only eating healthier, you can also use the money you save to enjoy the local grub once you arrive at your destination.

2. Shop in Advance for Vacation Items

Don't wait till the day before your road trip before you start shopping. Try to purchase items in advance you browsing newspapers to find the best deals on items such as sunscreen, beach bags, GPS devices and bug spray.

Large grocery chains sometimes offer “Catalina” deals where you can earn gift cards for purchasing items for family vacations.

3. Travel during off-peak hours

If your work schedule is flexible and can take a few days off, consider leaving on a Sunday and returning on a Wednesday. This way, you avoid the weekend rush of tourists and get cheaper prices for hotels too.

Consider visiting sites such as Expedia.com, HotWire.com and Kayak.com before you book your hotel.

4. Find Free Ways to Entertain Your Kids

You have to keep your kids entertained in the car to make the road trip fun for them.

There are coloring books, crosswords and games you can purchase or print out online to save money. Consider visiting Printable Coloring Pages which have many coloring pages for kids.

5. Adjust Your Driving Habits

Stopping and accelerating suddenly and speeding are not only dangerous driving habits, they can also affect your car’s gas mileage.

According to a Consumer Reports study, these types of habits can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency by two to three miles per gallon. Smooth driving can also help you extend the life of your car’s engine, transmission, brakes and tires.



Protect Your Retirement Savings From Shady Money Managers

2010-06-16T23:48:00.714-07:00

As you approach retirement, it is inevitable that you worry about sufficient savings to tide over your needs when you no longer have income. This is a scary moment, especially for those who have little savings to continue their lifestyles.

Fretting over the issue is a bit late by then and you should really squirrel away as much of your retirement account in your youth. However, even if you have fat savings, it is no guarantee of a comfortable retirement when you don't protect your savings.

In the past few years, many people lost their savings due to fraud (Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford ponzi scams). There are many financial professionals that offer advice on money management but ended up cheating their client’s money or just collect fees without increasing your retirement portfolio.

Some hedge funds will promise you big returns, but do your research and ask around before you commit any of your retirement saving to them. As can be seen, the Securities and Exchange Commission is not always watching over average investors and they do their work on hindsight.

In order to sleep better at night, knowing you have enough savings to last through retirement and the money is safe from vampire suckers, you must research every company that you plan to entrust your money.

In conclusion, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is...



Guess Who Has A Poorer Reputation Than BP?

2010-06-12T22:30:00.103-07:00

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You may think that with the unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, everybody will be hating BP to the core and BP's reputation has hit rock bottom.

Well, it seems that BP is not the most hateful company... just yet. Goldman Sachs has that top honor.

Morale of the story: sucking investors' and taxpayers' money dry is definitely worse than damaging the environment.

[Reuters ]



The Debt Diet - Part 2

2010-06-12T22:45:03.206-07:00

This summer debt diet that transformed thousands of families is BACK AGAIN! Top experts reveal a step-by-step action plan!

Here is part 2 of the debt diet...

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9 Tips To Instill Saving Money Habit In Family Members

2010-06-05T01:41:00.372-07:00

Saving money is a tough process, what living a restrictive life, without much entertainment and being calculative over pennies to ensure that your household budget is not in deficit.

It is easier to reach your financial goals if your family members stand by your belief in the virtues of putting money aside for a rainy day. Getting them to participate in your endeavours can also foster closer family bonding and stronger balance sheet at the end of the day.

Here are 10 tips to instill saving money habit in family members:

1. Ask your family members to compare prices during shopping trips. This will enhance their ability to sift out good deals and save extra money each month. Give them a reward to make this bargain hunting a fun activity.

2. Your family can collect coupons for certain products that everyone enjoys. Get them to clip and arrange coupons in an organizer every Sunday. This is a good opportunity for them to learn about saving money using coupons and to organize coupons in different categories for easier tracking.

3. Instead of driving, why not walk with your family to grocery stores? They will enjoy the nice weather and feel better knowing that they are doing something for the environment and saving money in the process.

4. Encourage home cooking and eating at home so that you can reduce expensive trips to restaurants. The food is more healthy too.

5. If your children insist on eating at restaurants occasionally, make sure you go during lunch as dinner menus are often more costly. It is a compromise where they enjoy gourment food but you do not splash out too much money.

6. Try to buy clothes at thrift stores or even yard sales instead of paying full retail prices. Your family members can get better clothes while paying less. On the surface, they may be wearing "branded clothes" but nobody knows that it is actually second hand products.

7. Go shopping only when there is a sale. Of course, the products should be useful rather than to shop for the sake of it. Your family will be amazed at how much money is saved by just changing the way they shop for items.

8. At the grocery store, always try to buy in bulk which saves money in the long run. Just make sure the food or items are not wasted and end up in the trash bins.

9. Make it a game or contest to see how much money that the whole family can save each month.



Americans Not Prepared For Cost Of Retirement

2010-06-12T22:20:24.933-07:00

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Retirement planning for Americans is a sad story. Looking at this chart from Kiplinger, it is no wonder most Americans are in a precarious position during their golden years.

The $1,000,000 retirement figure may seem high, even by most conservative estimates. However, with inflation, higher taxes and health/insurance cost soaring in the next few years, I don't think it is a wild estimate.

Growing our retirement nest will prove tricky though. For those who find stocks too volatile, they can sit on cash or invest in fixed income assets. However, you can't get rich or attain that $1 million target with the pathetically low interest rates on fixed income investments.

The situation becomes even more dire if lower wages become the norm and our homes, the most valuable assets, cannot recover from the housing market downturn.

Currently, the money market fund is paying less than 1%, and municipal bonds are in low single digits. By holding interest rates low and ramping up money supply, the Federal Reserve is actually punishing savers and retirees while rewarding risk takers.

The banks borrowed money from the Fed via the TARP program for close to 0%, and invest it in risk free Treasuries, proprietary trading, mortgage loans, as well as charging taxpayers sky high interest on their credit cards!

If we can get 8-10% interest on our savings account, we may require less than a million dollars to retire. Unfortunately, savers like us do not have access to TARP money to speculate.

What we can do is to save as much of our income during our working life. Living a high life with borrowed funds, just to keep up with the Joneses is a no-no. And get used to the idea of retiring later.

Source: Kiplingers




Washington Bankrupting America?

2010-06-13T00:56:36.403-07:00

A recent poll reveals that 74% of voters are extremely concerned about the current level of government spending and 58% feels it is unsustainable.

Is Washington bankrupting America? The public is clearly concerned.. and we are talking only about past spending…

The US government owes $106 trillion in future spending commitments, don't ask me where or how they are gonna get the funding..

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The interest payment on debts are going to reach dizzying heights and raise the possibility of America defaulting on its debts.

Politicians and Americans will have to make tough choices about debt reduction. Increasing taxes to pay for government irresponsibility is not a solution.

Real spending reform is needed. Household spending has risen 40% in the last decade and the trend will continue in the next 10 years. Returning to the 1990s spending level would help to balance the budget and reduce debts.

[Bankrupting America]



Asians Love Saving Money On Groceries

2010-06-12T23:22:14.271-07:00

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Next time you go shopping for groceries, why not drop by an Asian supermarket? Seems like there are very cheap prices for fruits available.



Extreme Saving Money Approach Does More Harm Than Good

2010-05-16T06:13:58.279-07:00

Going to extremes in saving money actually do you more harm than good. It is similar to adopting a crash diet where you suffer from yo-yo weight gain and loss.

Your life also becomes miserable when you cut every non-essential cost from monthly expenses. This means eating instant noodles and leftovers, no entertainment, no socialising, wearing tattered clothes, etc.

I don't know how you can sustain such a miserly and boring lifestyle... I can't and it defeats the objective of saving money and building a retirement nest over the long term.

Worse still, such extreme saving may drive people back to their old spending habits with a vengeance. Just temptation of juicy steak and wild parties after eating beans or staying home for a month.

A successful money saving plan involves a healthy and balanced approach where you review your spending, identify areas of high expenditure and find ways to make savings, without necessarily having to cut back completely on everything.

You can go out with your friends twice a month, rather than every week or supplementing some expensive dinners with cheaper dinners in your weekly shopping.

By balancing your savings against your spending, you do not then deprive yourself completely, making it much easier to continue saving in the long-term.



4 Eco-friendly Tips To Save Money On Printing

2010-05-17T07:14:00.899-07:00

Don't you just hate it when your ink catridges run dry when you are in the midst of churning out an important report? The disappearing ink gets even more "farcical" when you have kids at home doing school projects (all the colorful pages) and your wife runs a home business.

If you are like me, you probably have to replace ink cartridges frequently and needless to say, it is an expensive affair. There is a report which reveals that nearly 300 million ink cartridges wind up in landfills annually.

You can work out how much printer companies are profiting from ink catridges. However, there are several tips you can use to reduce the landfill and save money in the long run.

1. Use refillable ink cartridges

During printing, streaking is an indicator that the cartridge is running out of ink. This is the perfect time for a refill, instead of waiting till the cartridge is wasted entirely.

Refilling ink cartridges can be messy but well worth the effort. If you don't know how to do it, a number of stores (Walgreens, Office Max or your local photo retail) will refill them for you.

However, not all ink cartridges are refillable. When buying printers, check if the ink cartridges can be refilled.

2. Recycle finished cartridges

Many libraries, scouting programs, schools and office supply stores facilitate the recycling of ink cartridges. Don’t trash them; recycle.

3. Print Preview

By simply previewing your document before printing, you can catch formatting errors and typos that will eliminate the need to reprint documents later. Do not skip this simple process if you want to save paper, ink and money.

4. Printing limits

If unsupervised, most kids will make endless prints from their favorite sites. Set a clear limit on the number of pages your children are allowed to print each day.