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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 ... Quick Exchange Rate Tip for Foreign Travelers If youre financially stable enough to have trips to foreign countries planned in the coming months you might want to be keeping an eye on the foreign exchange rates. The value of the American dollar has been in steady decline for the past few years, and current figures put the U.S. dollar in a very unfavorable spot. When stacked against the euro, the dollar was valued at $1.324 on Friday, $1.332 on Wednesday, and $1.318 on Tuesday. Against the pound, ... 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 Questions to Ask If Youre Unemployed Those who werent working in 2008 should check out CNN Moneys Tax Tips for the Unemployed, a brief FAQ intended to help the aforementioned as we head into tax season. The six-part write up does a lot to answer any questions and concerns you may have about your taxable finances. CNN Money staff writer Jessica Dickler answers the following: Do I still have to pay tax if I was out of work in 2008? Do I have to pay ... Managing Your Credit Card Account Online Managing Your Credit Card In order to make full use of your credit card, you need to manage it well and don't spend more than what you can afford to buy. You need to file up all your credit card statements that are sent monthly, so that should there be any dispute, you have the proof in black and white. The purpose of the credit card is to make life easier and more convenient for you, not to tie ... 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 ... The Delicate Balance If you have multiple credit cards and you are carrying unpaid balances on them, using a balance transfer has probably crossed your mind. More than likely, you have received offers for pre-approved balance transfers in your own mailbox and they sound like a great deal. If you read the ads, you may figure you would be crazy NOT to move your money to another card! Before moving anything, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the ... Spending The Stimulus SLOWLY For the last 2 or 3 months, we have been bombarded with talk about the economic stimulus package (i.e. tax rebates). Since the legislation was passed to actually fund the rebates, the economy has gotten significantly worse. Finally, the money is actually rolling into bank accounts and it seems that the government (and the retailers) want us to spend the money as quickly as possible! Never mind that we have heard nothing but hype, political and otherwise, surrounding the rebate ... 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 ... Online Financial Tools Make Money Management Easier Since telephone banking transitioned to online banking, millions and millions of consumers have become comfortable and even dependent on technology to manage many of their daily activities, personal information and money. As part of that transition, the number of online financial tools has increased. Likewise, usage of those tools has increased rapidly in the last 3-5 years. Customers are no longer limited to online bank statements and bill pay options to make financial management easy and convenient. If you ... Marrying Money, Part 2 In Marrying Money, Part 1, I presented 7 ways for couples to be more effective in their money management. All of those ideas deal with things that can be addressed before money is combined. After the ceremony, though, there is still plenty of work to be done. In fact, much of learning to manage money within a marriage is "on the job" training. Before the honeymoon ends, these tips will help you make the transition from single to married without too ... Marrying Money, Part 1 It's wedding season. As nuptials draw near, lots of time and attention has been paid to the weddings and all the details that accompany such a significant event. But what about money? Have the brides and grooms-to-be spent time learning how to manage their money as partners? If so, the marriage stands a better chance of making it. If not, these tips will help all couples (newlywed or not) manage money more effectively together. Understand your own ideas and ... Will This Be Separate Checks? If you are getting a tax refund, you need to do everything possible to use it wisely. Believe it or not, how you receive the refund may be a key to where and when it will, ultimately, be spent. One of the best ways to keep more of your refund is to "split the check". It's not the only option, though. Before you sign, seal and send your completed tax return, investigate all the options available for receiving your ... Wait Until The Check Is Actually In The Mail Based on news reports from Washington, D.C., there is reason to think that millions of Americans will receive tax "rebates" before the end of this year. The 2008 Economic Stimulus Plan will send $600 - $1200 to approximately 117 million American families. Regardless of the final details of the legislation, this money is intended to boost the diminishing U.S. economy. If it does its job, it will keep America from falling into a recession this year. In spite of the potential ... Online Banking: 8 Reasons To Love It! When midnight struck and calendars were flipped from December 31, 1999, there was great concern about whether or not banking systems and computers would make the transition to the new century. Thoughts of widespread use of online banking were definitely few and far between. Today, just 8 short years later, online banking is used, in some form, by the majority of bank customers in America. Online banking options are necessary for banks to grow and compete. Not to mention, there are lots ... 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 ... “Financial Fitness” For The New Year Financially speaking, are you better off than you were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 1 year ago? If so, what is your plan to keep from hitting a "financial plateau"? If not, what does your "financial fitness" plan look like for this year? Healthy bodies demand consistent, appropriate fitness activities to operate efficiently. Finances require the same thing and deserve nothing less. Go ahead and ring in the new year without a care in the world! Then, use this ... 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 "... 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 ... Will YOUR Account Be “In The Black” on Friday? If you have managed to miss any of the "Black Friday" marketing efforts aimed at getting people in stores early and often on Friday, count yourself lucky! That is not to say that their are not some good deals to be had but at what cost - dealing with crowds, sitting in traffic, searching for parking? All so that RETAILERS can get THEIR accounts "in the black" before the end of the year. What about YOUR accounts? Who is ... 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 ... Paperless Payments For Just About Anything! Most, if not all, of us are familiar and comfortable with some form of electronic payments, even if we don't always realize it. Credit and debit transactions are electronic payments and rarely a day goes by when we don't make at least one of those! In truth, ANY non-cash financial transaction is an electronic payment. From paychecks to pensions, electronic payments are replacing the traditional methods of paying with cash and checks and they affect anyone with a bank ... Go “Outside The Box” for Great Holiday Gifts Somewhere on almost every holiday shopping list, there is a name of someone that is difficult, if not impossible, to find appropriate gifts for. Maybe they already have "everything". Maybe they don't have hobbies or interests with associated gifts. For these people (and anyone else), a little creativity and imagination will go a long way when shopping for holiday gifts. Try these ideas for some great gifts that will definitely stay "outside the box"! GIVE YOUR TIME, SKILLS and/... 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 ... Carnival of Smart Money #3 Welcome to the October 19, 2007 edition of carnival of smart money. teaspoon presents Zen and The Art of Personal Finance in 4 Steps posted at www.TeaspoonFinance.com - Financial wisdom, one teaspoon at a time..., saying, "Explore applying some of the principles of Zen to personal finance." Katrina presents Cash vs Plastic: Which do YOU spend more with? posted at DebtFREE-Revolution, saying, "There is quite a debate over whether it is better to use cash or plastic." FitBuff presents Brain ... 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...... 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 ... Did you hear? Charging is Changing During the next few weeks, borrowers will start to see the effects of some significant changes in the credit industry. For people that are caught up in the mortgage mess and the real estate slow down, these changes may not seem important. For at least 60 million people, however, these changes will definitely have an impact on what they are carrying in their wallets. 1. FICO '08 IS ALMOST HERE The newest version of the Fair Isaac Corporation credit scoring formula ... The Identity Theft Alphabet Identity theft is a serious problem. Over 10 million Americans have already been victimized by this crime and there is the potential for millions more to fall victim to it. The terms and concepts listed below will help you become aware of some of the main components of this growing problem. A Adware - These programs are one way that ID Thieves are able to install programs that assist them with obtaining personal information. Annual Credit Report - The Fair ... America, We Are Eating Ourselves To Debt! The idea that a link exists between Americans shrinking wealth and bulging waistlines is not a new one. While the details of such a link have been difficult to prove, increasing numbers of Americans are classified as overweight or obese and the savings rate of Americans has hit negative numbers. Linked or not, both of these issues are serious. They can and should be addressed! WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY? In 2003-2004, 66% of American were classified as overweight or ... 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 ... DIY: 5 Steps to Becoming Your Own Financial Planner It seems that more and more people are talking about their financial planners these days. At times, it feels like not having a financial planner means that you are not serious about money or that you are just not serious about doing smart things with your money. I don't buy that idea! I think that it is possible to be VERY serious about your money without paying someone called a "financial planner" to give you advice that you can ... Why Money Matters Even if we don't always act like it, we know "money doesn't buy happiness". According to Jonathan Clements of The Wall Street Journal, "We think more money will make us happier and yet studies suggest Americans are no more satisfied than they were three decades ago, when the standard of living was much lower." Additionally, if we believe what we read in the papers, lottery winners are often in worse circumstances (personally and financially) after winning the lottery than ... 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 ... $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 ... Finding A Fix: 10 Tips For Resolving Financial Disputes Account and billing mistakes are a reality of personal finances. From the cable bill to the credit card statement, at some point, errors will occur. These errors, even the small ones, become financial disputes that must be resolved. Handling these financial disputes effectively is a skill that can and should be learned. Certainly, each dispute is unique and it must be handled accordingly. These tips, however, will provide some general guidelines for getting a satisfactory result, no matter what ... 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 ... Get interested in “getting” interest Are you one of those people that is not interested in interest? If so, you might want to get interested. Not just in earning interest but in "getting" (understanding) it also! Whether you realize it or not, you have an interest in interest. It affects your mortgage, your car loan, your unsecured debt and your investments. Interest affects your cash flow and, thus, your daily life. The concept of interest is not a difficult one to understand. The application ... 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 ... OSAs are MVPs In spite of a number of "doom and gloom" reports regarding the poor savings habits (or lack thereof) of Americans, consumers cannot complain about the availability of high-yield savings options. The majority of those high-yield accounts are provided via the Internet in online (or "virtual") banks. Online banking has origins that go back three decades. Telephone banking was the 1st option for customer controlled, at home management of bank accounts. The beginning of online banking, as we recognize it ... 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 ... Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation Debt consolidation has become a popular way to reduce interest rates and monthly payments for people that owe money to several different creditors each month. In spite of its popularity, debt consolidation is NOT the best solution for everyone. Before you agree to a debt consolidation process, analyze the pros and cons of this tool. DEBT CONSOLIDATION PROS: Money or credit for debt consolidation is relatively easy to obtain. Often, homeowners can use the equity built up in their ... Debt Consolidation: Considerations Before You Commit How many different "monthly payments" do you make each month? With credit cards, car loans, and mortgages, the average American household has 7 credit accounts. That translates to large amounts of monthly interest charges and minimum payments. Increasingly, Americans struggle with the number of accounts they have AND with making those monthly payments. People are looking for ways to lighten that monthly load. One way to "lighten" the load is debt consolidation. Debt consolidation is the process of grouping a ... 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 ... Money Up Front: 5 Tools for Paying Right Now In her recent article, "Many In U.S. Don't Have Bank Accounts", Jeannine Aversa indicates that "As many as 28 million people in the United States are forgoing traditional financial institutions..." More than likely, those people are living, working, and buying without plastic! In today's society, there are very few things that cannot be bought with some form of plastic. Since Americans are accumulating more and more debt, perhaps we would be better off if we were forced to pay ... Having Money to Make Money Unless you are very unusual, you have loose change around your house, car, purse, etc. By some estimates, there is as much as $10 billion is loose change sitting in American homes right now. That's a lot of money to be gathering dust instead of earning interest! Before you get too busy looking for your share of that money, you need to keep this in mind... If a coin is not in circulation, it is not doing its job. If ... 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 ... From the Fine Print: A Closer Look At Credit Card User Agreements Every credit card that you have includes pages and pages of "fine print" known as the CREDIT CARD USER AGREEMENT (CCUA). This printed agreement spells out specific details between the credit card issuer (CCI) and the card account holder. Each card agreement is different. The best way for you to use credit responsibly is to be aware of what is contained in the written agreement(s) for the card(s) you carry. More than likely, that means you will ... 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 ... 5 Reasons to reduce or eliminate debt 1. TO RAISE YOUR CREDIT SCORE One component of your FICO score is based on your debt load. Debt load is calculated by looking at the #number of credits accounts you own and the proportion of revolving debt to the amount of credit available. Reducing or eliminating debt will increase the amount of credit AVAILABLE to you and, thus, lower your debt ratio. 2. TO LOWER YOUR INTEREST RATES ON MONEY YOU BORROW Lenders will loan money at lower interest rates ... 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 ... First Money Thinks Welcome to my financial world! On paper, there is no reason why anyone should listen to what I have to say about money. I hold two college degrees and not one single financial credential. Wait! Please dont leave yet! That doesnt mean that I dont know anything about money; it just means that what I know cannot always be presented on paper. Not to worry. I AM able to balance a checkbook, even if I do ...