For Questions and Orders, Call
Wal-Mart CEO: Recession Has Changed Consumers for the Better Suggesting that retailers are closer to working men and women than any other industry, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott addressed the public once more in his farewell address after ten years at the helm of the retail megastore. Scott offered a candid take on the country's current economy and where its going. Hes confident that the first half of 2009 will bring more of the same struggles for both retailers and consumers, and its his belief, as ... Princeton Review: Which Colleges Are the Most Affordable? Just because youre in a bind financially doesnt mean that youve got to settle your collegiate aspirations. The Princeton Reviews 2009 Best Value Colleges report suggests that there are a number of extremely reputable colleges and universities, both private and public, working hard to help qualifying students pay for their educations. The rating system starts with the sticker price of each colleges tuition, a figure that includes required fees and room and board, and then ... 5 Reasons to Buy a Home Now Theres a brief exchange I had a few years ago with a friends father that Ill never forget. We were sitting outside a Washington DC lunch spot talking about what I was going to do when I got out of college when I asked Mark, whos been a real estate developer in Maryland for years, whether or not real estate would forever exist as a lucrative business. His answer was short, but it explained every ... Recent Gas Price Hike Could Forecast the Future Gas prices rose for the sixth consecutive day Monday, putting the national average at $1.842 a gallon. Its a figure thats 3 full cents higher than Fridays figures. Gas Comparisons Over the Last Year Despite the temporary jump in prices, gas is still selling for 39% of what it sold for last January and 55% less than this summer when gas prices reached record national highs of $4.114 a gallon on July 17. Only Alaska, Hawaii, California and Washington currently have gas ... Maximize Your Annuity Payouts Before Its Too Late If you were planning on holding off on making a charitable donation until after February, it may be time to reconsider. The American Council on Gift Annuities, the organization that operates under an exemption from federal antitrust laws and sets rates on charitable gift annuities, announced recently that they plan on cutting payout rates by as much as 15% for all annuities arranged after February 1. So how does this affect you? Every time you make a contribution of cash or ... Giving Obamas Stimulus Package a Closer Look President-elect Barack Obamas proposed economic stimulus package has garnered a great deal of hope and optimism from those being directly affected by the recession, but that doesnt exactly mean our countrys financial tide will turn on January 20 when the Illinois senator is sworn into office. In fact, Obamas camp has been quite tentative recently in their willingness to offer up a specific estimate of how many jobs could be created in the next year. And, ... Tax Returns Get User-Friendly This Year In light of the messy economic situation and the hardships our government is expecting Americans to endure in the coming months, the IRS has loosened its generally tight grip on the way it does business. Taxpayers should expect a little more leeway when it comes to paying their taxes, among other accommodations. Read and rejoice: The IRS will offer added flexibility for those who need to miss payments If youve lost your job or are dealing with ... Can You Avoid Higher Roth IRA Taxes? Attn: Retirees Yes, You Can Did you know you can switch your assets back to a more traditional retirement account if your Roth IRA isnt holding value? Its true, and CNN Money Magazines Walter Updegrave suggests the oft-overlooked tactic can be a smart move as our country looks toward whats expected to be a long-winded recession complete with Presidentially-revamped taxes. For example, Updegrave points out that your Roth IRAs value could take a huge ... 2009 Senior Savings Get a Boost from Congress Senior citizens across the country got good news in December when reports out of Washington stated that Congress suspended the law that requires those 70 ½ or older to withdraw funds from their retirement plans in 2009, even if they dont need the money. Traditionally, senior citizens have had to withdraw whats known as required minimum distributions, or RMDs, every year, with the price tag based individually on the IRA owners age and IRA balance on December 31 of the ... Bigger 09 Paychecks Under Obamas Make Work Pay Tax Plan Americans making less than $75,000 annually should expect to see a slightly larger paycheck every two weeks when Barack Obama takes the presidential office on January 20. While he was once believed to be re-thinking the plan he touted during the election, the President-elect is in fact expected to implement a reduced tax plan. The plan would take effect almost immediately, which could increase individual earnings by $83-$166 per paycheck during the first quarter of the year. Its Obamas ... States Struggle to Support Their Unemployed As unemployment rates rise nationally, individual states are now facing the challenge of generating enough funds to pay for jobless benefits. The National Association of State Workforce Agency reported this week there are thirty states across the country turning to the federal government for federal aid to solve a crisis thats seemingly feeding upon itself less people in the workforce means less state-generated money, which in turn means less funding for the unemployed. When the economy is going ... Super Secrets for Selective Spending According to a recent research study conducted by Visa USA, Americans are just NOT paying attention to where they are spending their money! There is no question that they are spending it, but things get fuzzy when they start trying to quantify where and how much cash they actually spend. According to the study, the people that "lose" cash each year (almost 1/2 of Americans), manage to lose more than $2000 during the course of a year. Without a doubt, the ... Check Your (IM)Pulse If you are one of the millions of shoppers that enter Target (or Wal Mart, Dollar General, etc.) for milk and trash bags and leave $75-$100 later, you are a victim of "impulse" marketing. In other words, lots of people get paid to think about where to put things and how to arrange the store (and any number of other specific tactics) so that you will buy things you didn't come for to start with! More time, energy and ... Honey, I Blew The Budget If you have managed money for more than 37 minutes, you have dealt with some form of a "blown budget". Maybe you blew it because you keep your budget "in your head". Maybe you blew it because you bounced a check or made a late payment (or both) and had to pay lots of fees. Maybe, you blew it because you splurged on an outfit or a vacation or a spa that you "deserve" because you work so hard. Or ... Boost Bucks With Budget Billing One good thing about the current economic news is that even a little bit of extra cash can have a significant impact on your monthly budget. If you've already cut back on entertainment and non-essential expenses and still don't see any breathing room, consider "budget billing" as a way to manage bills that vary from month to month. Budget billing is the process of dividing the total yearly cost into 12 equal (or close to equal) payments. It is most ... Making It Through Money Emergencies Money emergencies are inevitable! They occur at inconvenient times; they cause frustration and anxiety; and they are detrimental to budgets, especially tight ones. Unfortunately, many people are unprepared to handle money emergencies without accumulating additional debt and/or risking long-term investments. While it is impossible to stop money emergencies from happening, it is very possible to minimize their effects. An "emergency fund", sometimes referred to as "rainy day funds" or "non-retirement savings", will provide peace of mind, time and ... Make It Your “Best Budget Month” February is a great month for dealing with financial issues because money doesn't have to stretch as far. It's not quite time to panic about taxes yet so there is plenty of time to get records together and make appointments with tax professionals. The holidays and football season are over. There are not any good excuses for not turning your attention toward your money. Even if you have NEVER paid any attention to your finances or the budgeting process ... The Beginning of a Budget Without question, a written budget is one of the most useful tools available for managing healthy finances. Creating a budget is a process, however, that demands patience and flexibility. Budgets are extremely personal and unique documents. Their creation and management is only effective when they contain accurate information about the specific finances they relate to. If you are creating a budget for the first time (or re-creating a budget after having let your last one slide), take time to ... While we are waiting… As January comes to a close, there is still no definite word about if or when the proposed tax rebate checks might be on the way to mailboxes and bank accounts across the country. While we are waiting, it would make sense to focus our time and attention on something that we can actually control. Specifically, this is a great time to think about creating and using a budget. After all, February is a short month so the money ... Finding and Fixing “Cash Leaks” When reviewing your bank account, do you find that more money is gone than you thought? Do you struggle to remember where and when the money was spent? If so, chances are good that you are leaking money. Not, literally, leaking money. Leaking money, rather, in ways that can be changed. If you find that your cash is leaking, these are some areas that you can evaluate quickly and easily fix. Late payments - Payments that are late, even ... Discovering The Danger In A Debit Card According to the Federal Reserve, the number of debit card transactions is increasing by more than 20% each year. Debit cards seem to be the ideal balance between carrying cash and using credit cards (i.e. increased debt and interest charges). After all, don't debit cards look, act and get accepted like credit cards? Yes, but it does not change the fact that they are NOT credit cards! There are some very significant differences, even potentially dangerous ones, between credit ... Deal With Debt Differently It's the time of year when DEBT becomes a "four letter" word. Consumers that spent more than they should have for Christmas gifts are dreading the arrival of the next credit card bills. This dread and a promise to not get into this financial situation "ever again" has become an annual event, just like decorating the tree and finding full stockings on Christmas morning. What if there was no "holiday debt dread" to deal with at the beginning of ... We Spend What We Want to Spend! For several weeks, there have been lots of "doom and gloom" press reports regarding the state of the U.S. economy and consumers holiday spending...predictions of desperate retailers "hoping" that holiday sales will get and/or keep them in the "black" for the year; stories of mortgage troubles; evaluations of the subprime bailout; and laments of high gas prices. According to the media, these numbers all but guarantee consumers won't be able to spend what they want to ... Money Motivation for the Middle of the Month Living on a budget is not nearly as difficult at the beginning and end of the month as it is in the middle. The days between the 10th and the 20th can be the most challenging for maintaining focus and discipline toward financial goals. These 5 strategies will help you stay motivated during the middle of the month when it can be the most difficult. 1. Update your records Budgets are powerful tools because they are right in front of you "... Give Freely One of the worst things that can happen to a holiday budget is "last minute" shopping. As the number of shopping days dwindle, credit card balances grow! Despite the commercial emphasis that has become Christmas, you don't have to go to the extreme (like not giving gifts AT ALL) to give gifts within your budget. The gifts below are things you can give freely. Some of them are actually FREE and others are very close to it! If you ... YES, it is possible to save money on utility bills! With gas and grocery prices on the way up, it seems that all the necessities are costing more with each passing day. Even if we have no control over prices, there are things we can do to lower our bills in other ways. Use these ideas to start saving money today! USE LESS Install programmable thermostats to control temperature settings. This is particularly helpful during times when your house is empty. There is no need to heat and cool ... Don’t Waste “Budget Leftovers”! Thanksgiving is over and the end of the budget month has come again. The refrigerator holds remnants of last weeks feast while the bank contains what little remains of your last paycheck. Its a shame to throw the "leftovers" away but what choice is there? Whats left is enough to keep but not enough to go very far. Big or small, there are definitely ways to use "leftovers" without wasting them. These questions will help you ... Setting a Holiday Budget For longer than I would like to admit, my holiday budgets have consisted of buying gifts now and figuring out how to pay for them later! I have always STARTED my holiday shopping with specific spending limits in mind but I have not stayed within those limits very well. Even the most disciplined and conscientious money managers can fall behind during the holiday season. Let's face it, the period between mid-November and the New Year is full of holiday ... It’s All Cash For Christmas! For the first time in our 10 year marriage, my husband and I will purchase all of our Christmas gifts this year with cash. There will not be any huge credit cards bills arriving in January and we will not have regrets about spending too much money (that we didn't really have to start with) on gifts that our friends and family don't really need. An "ALL CASH CHRISTMAS" is a goal that we have been working toward for a ... Q & A: Does Your Budget Have Breathing Room? Just having a written budget does not guarantee that all financial issues will be easily controlled. Even with a well-built budget, stretching those last dollars until the next paycheck can be a struggle. These questions and answers highlight effective techniques for creating a little "breathing room" in any budget. 1. Is it possible to organize a budget so that it is not "fragmented" into too many spending areas? If so, how? An effective budget is a "financial snapshot". In other ... What Losing Weight Can Teach Us About Managing Money During the summer, my husband and I got serious about losing weight and paying off our debt. We have specific plans for each area and we are working together to make each other accountable in both departments. So far, we are making progress. As I think about these areas, I see lots of parallels. There are plenty of things that one area can teach us about the other. Enjoy these few lessons that I have learned about money management...... 6 Money Mistakes You DON’T Have to Make Where money is concerned, there are lots of areas that affect your finances that you cannot control - the stock market, interest rates, real estate values, etc. Likewise, it is easy to make mistakes with your money and trying to manage it successfully. No matter what your income, financial circumstances and goals, YOU have complete and total control over how YOU spend and manage YOUR money. Before spending it, read about these money mistakes that you don't have to ... Cutting Costs By Clipping Coupons Month after month, one of the most expensive spending categories in our budget is FOOD. One of the ways we try to control our food costs is by using coupons. Without questions, coupons can save money. Even casual coupon usage can add up to significant savings over time. If you use coupons, you are not alone. According to the Promotion Marketing Association, "coupon clippers represent 86% of the overall U.S. population." Additionally, "manufacturers offered over $300 billion in coupon savings ... Helpful Hints for Happy Holiday Shopping It's 82 days until Christmas. Have you started your shopping yet? If you have, you are not alone. According to the 2006 Holiday Shopping Trends survey conducted by Pricegrabber.com, almost 60% of the people surveyed started their holiday shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving. I admit that I don't like to wait until the last minute to buy holiday gifts, but I have trouble letting myself go straight from the 4th of July to pulling out my Nativity scene! As for the stores, the ... 7 Super Secrets for Spending Money Deliberately If you are like me, the beginning of the month is a great time, financially speaking. It seems that every month, I resolve anew to make my budget work by living within it! I cannot say that I know where all the budget busters and money leaks are in my finances. What I can say, however, is that being more deliberate about all aspects of my spending does help make my budget more successful. Read on to learn more ... You’ve definitely lost control of your budget when… you operate your PERSONAL finances at a deficit (the same way the government operates our nation's finances) you record all your financial transactions in the MISCELLANEOUS category you can fit your "written budget" on the palm of your hand your idea of a monthly allowance is "whatever is left" you cannot identify $5, $10, or $20 bills when you see them in circulation you think, because of the free t-shirts, filling out credit card applications is a good way to beef up ... Working (and solving) the Educational Savings Puzzle "The main difference between real-life puzzles and artificially constructed ones is that the former have no identifiably correct solutions, while the latter always do." - Will Shortz Many parents would argue that the puzzle of saving for education is the most challenging one they face. As with any puzzle, it can be worked in more than one way. Treating this issue like a jigsaw puzzle may help. It can be addressed systematically and, no matter the order in which ... $100 Until Payday! 8 days until payday... OK. The checking account is pretty low! With any luck at all, I won't have to go back to the grocery store before pay day. Who am I kidding? Of course, I'll have to go back to the store. At least I have paid everything that I HAVE to pay this month. I'll just have to be extra careful with what's left. checking account balance = $124.31 7 days until payday... The truth? I didn't even make it until ... Breaking the Book Budget: 5 Ways to Spend Less for College Textbooks In today's college environment, planning and budgeting for textbooks is a major part of the financial equation that college students must solve. Some estimates indicate that, on average, students will spend as much as $5000 for textbooks and supplies during a 4 year period. Additionally, the GAO (Governmental Accountability Office) reports that, since 1987, college textbook prices have risen at twice the rate of inflation. With the right information and appropriate timing, there are ways to reduce the cost of college textbooks ... Saving money without calling names During the 1970's, an interesting experiment began in the consumer goods industry. Generic products were sold as an alternative to more well-known, more expensive "branded" products. Early generic products were EASILY recognized by their plain packaging and limited availability. The American Heritage Dictionary definition of generic read "general; not having a trademark or brand name". To some people, generic simply meant boring! Regardless of their packaging (or lack thereof), the idea of selling products comparable to the national brands ... Put your article here… If you have an article that you would like to have featured on My Money Thinks, submit it for our blog carnival consideration. We are accepting articles related to all areas of personal finance and we want to read what you have written. SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Saturday, August 25, 2007 Links to accepted articles will be posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 ALL submissions should be sent to http://blogcarnival.com/bc/cprof_2240.html We cannot wait to hear from ... Money can be flexible If you knew that you could reduce your tax burden legally and simply would you? If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account as part of your benefit package, you can do just that! Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are also referred to as "reimbursement accounts" or "flexible spending arrangements". These accounts allow employees to deposit money from their paychecks into a spending account that is used to pay for out of pocket medical expenses. FSAs are governed by the ... 5 Strategies for “Sales Tax Holiday” Shopping If you are lucky, you live in a state (and a city) that offers a "sales tax holiday" for back to school shopping. Slowly but surely, more states legislatures across the country are passing laws that suspend, albeit temporarily, the collection of sales tax for a few days during back to school shopping season. No sales tax CAN lead to significant savings but even this "holiday" has limitations. Make sure you get all the information you need before loading ... Save $10 Next Week Here are 10 easy ways to save AT LEAST $1. Try them next week and see just how much "extra" money you find! 1. PAY CASH - Research shows that you WILL SPEND MORE when you pay for your purchases with plastic (debit or credit). Depending on which estimate you read, purchases made using plastic will be 30-47% GREATER than purchases made with cash. If you pay cash for just 2 or 3 purchases that you would normally pay for with plastic, you will ... What you need to know to write a budget It's one thing to admit that you need a budget but it's quite another to actually write one down! It can be intmidating to organize financial information in a usable format. If you are trying to create a budget with someone else, there are decisions that need to be made about philosphy and structure. The truth? Setting up a budget is hard work! Make it a little easier by finding out what you need to know before you start ... Is your wallet ready to go back to school? The National Retail Federation estimates that American consumers will spend more than $18 billion for "back to school" shopping in 2007. More than likely, money from your wallet will be part of that number by the time September rolls around. Back to school expenses are the kinds of expenses that can break your budget if you are not paying attention. With a little creativity and planning, however, you don't have to go broke just to get your kids settled into a ... The Envelope Please: A Guide to Hands On Money Management How much cash is in your wallet or purse RIGHT NOW? If the answer is little to none, you are not alone. Increasingly, Americans rely on plastic (debit or credit) for their day to day financial transactions, even the small ones. I cannot prove it, scientifically, but it occurs to me that, as we have become more and more physically separated from our money, we have gone further and further into debt. If that is true, establishing (or re-establishing) ... Simple Supermarket Savings One of the largest categories in our monthly budget is FOOD. Here are just a few ideas that save me money at the store without costing me a lot of time in preparation! 1. SHOP REGULARLY - When you shop on a regular basis, you begin to get a feel for what things cost. Consequently, when you run across a bargain, you will know it and you can take advantage of it. 2. PLAN YOUR MEALS AHEAD OF TIME - Trying ... What’s Breaking YOUR Budget? I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that, if your budget is broken, you are the person that broke it. The good news, however, is that your budget doesn't have to stay broken! Whether you have it organized and written down or not, you have a budget that is dictated by your income. Living within your budget requires that you spend less than you make in income. Your budget is "broken" anytime your ... “Consider It Spent!” Early in their marriage, my father served in the U.S. Air Force and my parents lived on a small miltary salary. They had 4 short military assignments in just 2 and 1/2 years. These assignments were at bases far from their homes and families in Alabama. During one of their stops, my mother got money ($5.00) from my father to get some things for their apartment. She went shopping and got the things she needed. Additionally, she was able to get some ... 14 Tips To Help Manage Summer Money Challenges CHALLENGE #1: HIGH GAS PRICES In the last couple of weeks, gas prices have risen to their highest levels in history. There are some reports that indicate prices have peaked and that they will be going down. There are no guarantees, however, about if or when that will happen. In spite of the high prices, people across the country will be embarking on driving vacation during the coming weeks of summer. While you and I have no control over the ... 7 Tips for Creating A Budget You Won’t Break The biggest problem with a budget is not establishing the spending boundaries. Its living within the boundaries you have set! Here are 7 things you can do to make your budget an invaluable tool. 1. ORGANIZE YOUR FINANCIAL RECORDS The success of your budget will depend on the accuracy of the information that it contains. In order to achieve and maintain accuracy, you need to be able to put your hands on all records that relate to your finances in ...