Personal Finance Archives


canstockphoto16801980It seems that everyone is trying to separate consumers from their heard earned money nowadays. I’m not only talking about businesses. You should also be aware of scammers. One way they attempt to steal from people are through credit card scams.


There are  advantages to using credit cards. It is an easy way to make purchases and to build your credit. You also have the option to use debit cards. Banks issue debit cards with Visa and Mastercard logos so that you can easily make purchases from your checkings account whether you are shopping at your local stores or online. Although, this is  convenient you are responsible for keeping your credit cards safe.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to gain access to your accounts. They will use every trick in the book to steal your information without your knowledge, which will sometimes create problems when it comes time for you to clear the situation with the banks or credit card companies.


Try these Four Important Steps to Avoid Falling Victim to Credit Card Theft


Make Sure Your Credit Cards are in a Safe Place

Know where your credit cards are at all times. Whenever you make a purchase never place your credit card on the counter. If the clerk need to swipe your card, make sure the she give it back to you. Shopping during the holidays when it’s hectic poses the biggest threat when it comes to keeping your credit card safe.

You should always be aware of your surroundings. Pick pocketers can steal your wallet from your back pocket or an unzipped purse without your knowledge. You may think that you misplaced your credit cards until you either receive a telephone call from the credit card company about unusual transactions or when you receive your next statement.


Don’t Give Out Your Personal Information to a Stranger

Never give out your credit card number over the telephone. If someone ever contact you about a bill payment, ask for the website address or a place where you can pay locally. Better yet, you can simply tell them that the check is in the mail. Scammers will always find ways for people to give out their personal information by disguising themselves as a legitimate company.


Fill Out The Credit Card Slips Completely

If you ever used your credit cards at a restaurant, did you just sign the receipt? This is not recommended since someone else can easily fill it in and you will be charged more money. If you are leaving a tip on the table, you can take extra measures by writing the actual amount of the bill on the “total amount” line. Make sure to keep a copy to compare it to your next credit card statement.


Examine Your Credit Card Carefully When It’s Returned

When you give your credit card to a waitress or cashier, examine your card when you get it back. A few seconds is all it takes for them to do a bait and switch on your card. Be sure that it is your credit card and not a fake.


Keeping your credit cards in a safe place, filling out your credit cards slips completely, examining your credit cards when it’s returned and never giving your personal information to complete strangers are Four Important Steps to Avoid Falling Victim to Credit Card Theft. Credit card scammers are everywhere looking for their next victim. Use these methods to your advantage to protect your credit cards and keep your finances safe to avoid the headaches down the road.


canstockphoto15821602Determining How Long Should You Keep Your Financial Records and other important papers can be quite tricky. On one hand you want to make sure that you have all of your necessary paperwork in case you need it. However, you also shouldn’t clutter up your home with a lot of useless documents lying around.

Some people have trouble throwing away  seemingly important documents such as bills and receipts. It is not unusual to find receipts and bills piling up in their homes dating back ten years. This is unnecessary. I’m not saying that you should just get rid of everything, but you don’t need to keep everything either.

The benefits of getting rid of paper work can’t be underestimated. The mental freedom you get from having a clutter free home is priceless. You will be amazed at how clear you can think when everything is neat and organized in your home.

So the million dollar question is what documents should be kept and what should go? Below are the three time periods your documents should be kept for.


Under seven years

You should keep your bills, receipts, bank and credit card statements and anything else that tracks your spending records until the next statement is received. This will allow you to stay on top of your monthly spending and helps you to make sure you are staying on  budget.

Another thing you can do is to go paperless. Most banks and credit card companies give their customers an option to gain access to their account online. They even give you an option to go paperless. That way you don’t have to deal with papers at all.


Seven years 

Your W-2 and 1099 forms should be kept for seven years. You may also want to keep investment data.



There are some documents that you should not get rid of. These include birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, Medicaid, your will, insurance,  immigration and death certificates.

Also hang on to your non- deductible IRA contribution documents to show that you paid your taxes on it as well as your financial records.

You should also keep papers that show your immunizations, hospital records and prescriptions. In most cases the doctor’s office will keep these records on file. You should always have your own copy on hand in case something happens.

Make sure you keep your military papers. Although the military will retain their own copy, you want to have your own just in case should there be a disagreement about your service.

You should consider getting a safe for all of these documents to ensure they are not stolen or damaged. It’s important that you hang onto these things for the rest of your life.


How Long Should You Keep Your Financial Records? There are different lengths of time that these documents should be kept for. Follow these guidelines and you will have all of the information that you need while keeping a clear mind and a clutter free home.

For more budgeting tips, sign up for the 10 Part Mini Course.


canstockphoto6371452The cold weather have taken over much of the United States and abroad. Cold weather means high heating bills and fighting off the cold draft for many people. There are a few changes you can make in your home in order to save money on your heating bill. Here are ways you can begin Winterizing Your Home on a Budget in 5 Easy Steps.

1. The first step you can take to winterize your home is to seal off any cracks or draughty areas. These areas are going to  allow heat out and this is money going down the drain. Instead of paying someone to come out to your home to seal off the draughty areas, you can take a trip to your local hardware or  department store to buy some caulk and seal off those leaks yourself. Taking this step will save you a couple of hundred dollars on your heating bill.


2. Whenever you are looking for leaks, make sure to check in areas that are commonly overlooked. Let’s take dryer vents for example. Check your dryer since this is one of the commonly missed areas along with the windows in your attic or basement. Use plastic for other windows in your home, especially if they are draughty.


3. If you happen to find draughty windows in your home, replacing them may not be in your budget right now. If this is the case you can seal off the windows with plastic designed for your windows. The plastic will go on the inside of your home instead of outside. It is very easy to apply and you can seal off your entire home with less than a day’s work.


4. To apply the plastic, outline the windows with double sided tape. Apply the plastic and then blow dry the plastic to shrink it to the window size. This will seal out all of the cold air and keep the warm air inside.


5. Make sure that you cover any areas that have an AC unit. Remove the AC unit and seal up the area if it’s possible. If it is impossible to remove the AC, purchase a cover to keep the warm air from seeping in. Make sure you unplug the AC from the outlet. If anyone try to use it there is a good chance that toxic fumes will build up.  (Don’t forget to remove the cover before plugging the AC back into the outlet once the weather gets warmer).


The steps that’s mentioned above are relatively easy tasks. You may have to spend a weekend sealing up windows, cracks and vents, but the alternative is far worse. Each year many people are wasting hundreds of dollars trying to keep their houses warm. Please don’t make the same mistake. Taking these steps will get you on your way to saving hundreds of dollars to build your savings or to do the things you enjoy the most while keeping warm and cozy throughout the winter.

For more budgeting tips, sign up for the 10 Part Mini Course.


canstockphoto1890866Are you constantly going out to bars, clubs and restaurants with your friends? How Much is the Night Life Costing You? Chances are, you are spending more money than you think.

You may be shocked to know that the average cost can be anywhere from twenty five to fifty dollars. For instance, going out to the movies can cost more than you expect. The average ticket prices is ten to twelve dollars. If you add the popcorn and a drink that’ll come up to almost twenty dollars and we didn’t even have dinner yet. When you add dinner to the mix you are out of fifty dollars for just one night.

How about a night out with your friends? Many people are lead to believe that happy hour is an economical way to go out. This isn’t true. Three drinks at five dollars plus a few appetizers can set you back twenty five dollars very easily. Honestly, how many people can only have a few appetizers? In reality, restaurants hosts happy hour simply because it draws people in. Whenever the customers arrive, they will start having a great time and they will eat more. This means spending more money and you can easily spend between fifty to sixty dollars on one simple happy hour.

Well, is there a better way to spend your money? You bet there is.

You could spend the money by saving up for a new home, car, enjoying your favorite hobbies, taking a vacation and best of all, saving for your retirement. Take the time to think about what you want to spend your money on. Then make out a list of the items that you would like to save for. How much will it cost you? Now take a look at the amount that you are spending by going out. A simple comparison will give you an idea of how much money you will save by simply going out less and changing your habits. For example, if you’re saving money for a down payment on your dream home and you normally go out twice per week, not going out at all could save you more than five thousand dollars in a single year.


How about your social life?

There is a good chance that your friends are probably are in the same financial situation that you are. They will most likely be relieved to have you step up and say something. Just because you aren’t going out doesn’t mean that you can’t be social. There are a number of ways that you can still enjoy the night out with friends without spending a fortune.

Start by hosting a dinner party. Each week someone in your group  hosts the party and everyone will bring a dish or drink to pass.

Another thing you can do is to host a movie night. Each week someone will host a movie night at their home. Everyone will bring a snack to pass.

Get in Shape. Instead of going out to eat or have drinks, start working out together. You will be socializing and getting your body in shape at the same time.

Go out less. Instead of going out twice a week or four times a month, you can simply cut back. You can choose to go out one night a week or twice per month, which will add up quickly.

How Much is the Night Life Costing You? By simply taking a look at the numbers will tell you all that you need to know. Going out for a night on the town can get quite expensive. All you need to do is cut back, change your habits and start saving for your dream home, a new car or a much needed vacation. You’ll be glad you did.

canstockphoto9465505Are you looking for bargains? It is a great feeling when you can find a true deal that will save you money. It seems that some people have special skills when it comes to finding the best sales. This isn’t hard to do. Here are Five Easy Ways Find the Best Deals that will save you money.


Classified Section of Your Local Newspaper

The classified section of the local newspaper is one of the best places to find the best deals. People often place ads in the newspapers when they have garage and estate sales. You can even find brand new items at the Fleamarkets for a lot less than you will find them at retail stores. All you have to do is to check the local papers and classified ad websites such as

Buy the Products Off Season

If you pay close attention to the seasons, you will find these items at rock bottom prices. Take for example Black Friday and Cyber Monday which takes place after Thanksgiving. You can also find the best deals at After Christmas Sales. The retailers hold these sales to attract shoppers into their stores to boost their profits. However, don’t limit yourself to shopping at post-holiday sales. Back To School Shopping is another example. These sales usually occur in August and September. You will find back to school items on closeout in October since the stores will move on to Christmas promotions.

Shop at Specialty Stores

Many specialty stores prices fluctuate throughout the year. For example, a swim suit shop is going to make a lot of sales during the spring and summer months. Once the weather gets cooler around September, the amount of sales will plummet. This will allow you to find a great deal on these items.

Buy Items on Display

Buying display items can will save you money. Appliance and furniture stores as well as other high ticket item retailers will often have a floor model sale. You can purchase a brand new sofa for less than half of the retail price. You will find simlilar sales at appliance stores. Imagine getting a stainless steel refrigerator for half the price just because it was on display.

Bargain Hunters! Be on The Lookout  for the Greatest Deals.

The best bargain hunters are aware of when stores have the big clearance sales. For example, most brides take advantage of the Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides. This is an annual event where would be brides will find their dream wedding dress at bargain prices. If want to save save tens or even hundreds of dollars, start tracking when stores have their big sales. Gather the information and make sure you keep it organized. Get out there and be the first in line to take advantage of these sales when the doors open.

Searching the classified section of your local paper, purchasing items on display, shopping at specialty stores, buying your favorite items off season and keeping your eyes on the greatest deals are Five Easy Ways to Find the Best Deals. Bargain hunting is about patience, having a system in place and gathering information as you go. Thinking outside the box and being at the right place at the right time will potentially save you thousands of dollars down the line.


How to Survive a Job Layoff

canstockphoto3494698If you find yourself among millions of people that’s been recentlty laid off, you may not be prepared for the loss of your only source of income. Hopefully, you will be able to qualify for unemployment benefits to assist in covering your bills for the next few months until you are able to find another job. There is no guarantee that you will receive the amount of money that you’re accustomed to, but it will help to relieve the anxiety of not having an income at all. Here are some tips on how to survive a job layoff.

If you are currently renting and you’ve come to realize that you may not be able to have enough money to cover the rent, you can contact your landlord and ask for a short-term reduction. You also have the option to search for another location that’s more affordable. If you are a homeowner and find yourself in a similar situation, you may be able to refinance if your spouse is still employed.

Reducing the cost of your monthly bills can go a long way when it comes to saving money. If you currently do not have a programmable thermostat in your home, you may want to purchase one as soon as you can. It will pay for itself in the first month. You can significantly reduce your electric bill by lowering your thermostat before you go to bed or before you leave for work if no one is going to be at home. You can reduce the bills even more by turning off the lights if no one is in the room, taking shorter showers and lowering the temperature on the hot water heater.

If your monthly cable bill is more than you can afford, contact the customer service department of the cable company to remove some of the channels or go with a less expensive package. You may want to go with the basic plan until you return to work.

Another bill that you can reduce is your cellular phone. Find out if you are able to reduce your monthly minutes and cancel any added features until you are more able to afford it. There is also an option to go for a prepaid or pay as you go plan.

Always check your junk mail for the weekly sales. You should always plan your meals in advance so you can write out your shopping list and always stick to it. Generic store brand products are a great way to save money on some of the products that you regularly purchase. Budget your shopping to the bare minimum.

Reducing your cable, cellular phone and household bills as well as negotiating your lease with your landlord are some of the ways you can survive a job layoff. Many of us make the mistake of living beyond our means and don’t think about managing our finances before it’s too late. By learning how to save money on your monthly expenses, you will be able to survive until you find another job.

For more Budgeting Tips sign up for the 10 Part Mini Course. If you like what you’ve read share this with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

Budgeting Tips: What is Your Net Worth?

dreamstime_s_7685239Whether you are curious about your finances or have a specific reason for calculating your net worth, there are many factors that you will have to take into consideration. Becoming knowledgeable about your net worth will allow you to prepare for events such as retirement or setting up your will. Calculating your personal net worth doesn’t have to be difficult.

To determine your net worth, you will need to make a list of all of your assets. Your biggest assets include any homes or rental property that you may own.  You must include any homes and properties that are under mortgage since they will count toward your equity. Your vehicles will also count as assets and should be listed after your home or land.

Liquid assets are your property that you can easily convert into cash. Liquid assets include cash, checking and savings accounts, retirement account, certificate of deposits CDs, and any other investment account. These assets must be calculated after your equity.

Your personal belongings and antiques should also be included on the list. Typically, the items that carry more than $500 in value should be listed as an asset.

After you calculate your assets, you will need to calculate your liabilities. Liabilities include all of the debts that’s owed. Examples of debts  include credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and student loans. These liabilities should be deducted from the amount of your total assets. The remaining balance will be your net worth.

If you would like to take charge of your finances you should treat it like a business. One way you can do this is by using a personal balance sheet. It  can be downloaded for free online or you can use Microsoft Excel software.

There are separate columns for the assets, liabilities, and the total is usually calculated at the bottom of the page. You will need to list all of your assets and liabilities in the appropriate columns. Then you will subtract from the assets. This will estimate the total amount of your net worth.

Don’t get discouraged if you find that your  net worth is a negative number. As years go by, you will see that negative number become positive once you pay off all of your liabilities. If you don’t see any improvement  after comparing it for several years, you may need to speak to a financial planner and determine the best method to increase your bottom line.

Keep in mind that overinflating your assets will look good on paper, but it will not give an accurate amount of your finances.

Calculating your net worth should be done on a regular basis, at least once a year. It is important to do your calculations for several reasons, which mainly is preparing for retirement. If you are not seeing any changes in your bottom line over the course of a few years, take a look at the bigger picture and search for a way to eliminate debts.

For more budgeting tips, sign up for the 10 Part MiniCourse or you may share this with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

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