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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 ... Struggling Retail Industry Causing Major Slips on Wall St. That optimistic stock report we brought you a couple weeks ago is now officially old news. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped for the sixth day in a row yesterday, with its 250 point loss pitting the Dow at its lowest point since December 1. The same can be said about Standard & Poors 500 index, which lost 3.4%. The Nasdaq composite dropped to its lowest point since December 4. The New York Times Jack Healy attributes the figures to a gloomy retail ... 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 ... 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 ... 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 ... Wells-Fargo Takes Control of Wachovia Wells-Fargo & Co. completed their $12.7 billion acquisition of Wachovia Corp. this past Friday. The California-based bank now heralds itself as one of the strongest financial companies in the nation and Americas #1 small business leader and can now lay claim to over $14 trillion in assets. The move puts Wells-Fargo in control of Wachovias 11,000 stores and 12,260 ATMs operating out of 39 states and does indeed make Wells-Fargo the nationwide leader in small business lending, agriculture lending, commercial real estate lending, ... 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 ... Wall Street on the Up and Up Good news coming from Wall Street today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 258 points, or 2.9%, to close above 9,000 for the first time since November. Standard & Poors 500 index gained 3.2%, and the Nasdaq composite rose 3.5%. Numbers have been rising since this past Wednesday but experts are remaining cautiously optimistic, according to CNN.coms David Goldman: Investors should brace for wild market swings as companies and the economy struggle to rebound. This past year was marred by horrid ... Milking the Declining Price of Dairy Products Like the auto industry in Detroit, Americas dairy industry is also taking a huge hit thats sure to affect your grocery shopping budget. The New York Times Andrew Martin reports: "In a warehouse that [Roger Van Groningens] company runs here, 8 to 20 trucks pull up every day to unload milk powder. Bags of the stuff surplus that nobody will buy, at least not at a price the dairy industry regards as acceptable are unloaded and stacked into ... 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 ... NASDAQs Tech Driven Trading Model Outsmarts the Competition Financially, 2008 was a year defined by the plummeting stock market, but Forbes Magazine still thought that no company was more impressive over the four quarters than market mogul NASDAQ OMX. The financial magazines Daniel Fisher praised the New York-headquartered company for adapting to recently introduced methods of new business better than competitors. It was CEO Robert Greifeld that caught Forbes' attention with his ability to transform the company from a typical trading floor institution into a company that... Drop in Holiday Spending Spells More Trouble for Retailers in 09 Described by industry analysts as one of the worst holiday season sales periods on record, Decembers retail sales figures plummeted 4% from last years numbers. Retailers are finally coming to grips with the fact that the American public has gone into a full-on savings mode that wasnt the norm in recent years. Original forecasts had widely predicted just a 1% drop in sales, though some analysts had actually predicted a 2.2% increase. It appears to have been wishful thinking ... Christmas Comes Early for the Auto Industry The debate of whether to bail out the auto industry seems to be coming to a close. President Bush announced this morning that he intends to enact a rescue plan for General Motors and Chrysler LLC that will make $13.4 billion in federal loans available to the two struggling automotive companies. Wondering where those billions will be coming from? The money will be pulled from the $700 billion fund put aside in October to bailout Wall Street firms and banks, and ... New York Enacts Digital Retail Tax - Is Your State Next? In New York this week, Governor David Patterson announced the state would begin charging a digital retail tax for online purchases. The tax will go into action along with similar plans from Paterson to raise taxes on movie tickets, soft drinks, sweets and snacks, and luxury clothing items among other items. Altogether, Paterson hopes to implement 88 new fees and taxes on what hes deemed superfluous items and purchases. The move to join the 17 other states and the District ... Wall Street Investor Bernard Madoff Confesses to Running Pyramid Scheme Longtime Wall Street investor Bernard Madoff confessed last week to running a years-long Ponzi scheme thats believed to have swindled up to $50 billion in investments from more than thirty high profile individuals and organizations. The New York City based Madoff first told his children that he was deeply involved in a fraud in which he was receiving artificially high returns using money originally put up by investors. Most morally concerning is that Madoff targeted a wide variety of ... Federal Reserve To Cut Interest Rates to Historic Low The Federal Reserve decided this afternoon to cut a key short-term interest rate to historic lows, making things clear that it will employ all available tools in its effort to save the country from its current economic crisis. The Fed announced that it would pull back its target for the federal funds rate to a figure between 0% and .25%, more than .75% lower than the 1% Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Reserve had previously planned to implement. Its the lowest interest ... Fannie Mae Foreclosures Wont Evict Renters Others Not So Lucky Fannie Mae announced Sunday that renters dont have to fear eviction if their landlords get foreclosed. The loan association has reworked policies to allow tenants that are up-to-date on their rent to remain in their homes even after the foreclosure is underway. Its a move that falls in line with Fannie Mae and Freddie Macs late November announcement that they would place a holiday moratorium on owner-occupied homes until January 9. Until recently, foreclosures across the country ... The Recession Moves Into the Realm of Sports With their multi-million dollar corporate sponsorships, state-of-the-art stadiums, and record-breaking contracts, its easy to understand why theres the misconception that the major sports leagues of America namely Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football Association have built up a sort of immunity towards the recession thats affecting so many other industries. It may not be as apparent on the surface, since the business side of major sports gets masked by its mass ... Obama Plans a Roadblock to Stop Unemployment Rate Escalation CNN Money has published reports that the national unemployment rate continues to climb. Currently the figure stands at 6.7%, and theres no sign of greener pastures in the coming months. The announced loss of 553,000 jobs in the month of November alone comes along just as America faces the longest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and estimates have this particular recession extending far longer with effects far greater than that of the 1980s. Global Insight has predicted ... Deflation - What is it and Why Its Not as Good as it Sounds What is Deflation? Deflation, as defined within the study of economics, is a general decrease in the price level of goods and services below zero percent. The below zero percent qualifier is important because it indicates that prices are actually decreasing as opposed to increasing to a lower degree than in previous periods. In other words, a decrease in price levels from +5% to +4% from one period to the next is not considered to be deflation -- it's called disinflation, ... How the Dollar Compares to Other Currency Everyone has to have money in order to live. We use money as trade for services that we receive, and purchases that we make. What happens if our currency becomes worthless? It'll never happen, right? Well, it is a possibility for our currency to loose it's value. As a matter of fact, other countries currencies don't have the same value as the all mighty dollar now! The value of the dollar is measured by it's exchange rate. This means ... The Dow Jones Industrial Average The Dow Jones Industrial Average is one of the most important economic indexes in the world and has been that since its inception in 1896. This index is especially important not only because of its age and heritage, but also because of the fact that it is easily one of the most highly recognizable financial indicators in both the United States and around the world. When economic pundits on television talk about The Dow, they are usually referring to the ... A Second Stimulus Package to Help the Economy Although the complete economic effects of the first American stimulus package remain to be seen, some economists are arguing that a second stimulus package would further protect the American economy from lapsing into a full recession. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 provided $158 billion in tax refunds to the American public, with an estimated $124 billion being returned into the economy in the 10 years to follow. A second stimulus package would provide American consumers, who have been hit hard during the ... 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 ... Borrowing Cash Through Credit Cards If you have ever been in a pinch and needed immediate cash, in a hurry, and wanted to do so without any applications or loan interviews, you may consider borrowing cash through credit cards. You can withdraw cash from any ATM, at a bank or credit union, or via a paper convenience checks from your credit card company. There is no waiting and you have cash in hand for yourself, or emergency expenses, immediately. Borrowing cash through credit cards ... 6 Reasons To Pay Off Debt Sooner Rather Than Later Debt (and plenty of it) is the predominant way of life for millions and millions of Americans. Good, bad or indifferent, it is the mode of operation for most of us. That simple fact is the primary reason why the current "credit crisis" is as severe and wide-reaching as it is. Whether you are carrying a little bit of debt or so much that you are struggling to make the payments, there are some good reasons for paying it ... Save It Before You See It Could you benefit by saving money you don't see each month? I suspect that there are plenty of people that treat their money the way I do - whatever is left gets spent (and then some)! For people like me, figuring out a way to save money "automatically" can make a huge difference in your bottom line. If you need to save, save it before you see the NET each month. If you need to invest, send it straight ... Keeping “Zombie” Debt D.E.A.D The spread of "zombie debt" means that millions of dollars of debt long forgotten may come back to haunt the people that owed it in the first place. A distant relative of much hated debt collectors, 3rd party collectors buy bad debts for very low prices. Whatever money is collected yields a large profit margin with little, if any overhead. Like any collection process, there is a danger of collectors going too far and using questionable, if not overtly ... Instead of Foreclosure There are many reasons why record numbers of homeowners are facing foreclosure. Some got caught up in mortgages that didn't match their incomes; others got behind when interest rates adjusted upward; still others didn't know options other than foreclosure were possible when cash ran short. Coupled with the other economic problems (high gas prices, increasing food costs, possible recession) facing the nation, losing a home can be devastating. If you have already or think you might fall behind on ... 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 ... 10 Ways To Improve YOUR Economy Unless you rush out to spend your tax rebate check as soon as it arrives, there isn't much you can do to help the U.S. economy. We just have to hope that, eventually, the government efforts will work. Until they do, we'll be stuck "waiting it out". While we are waiting, there may be hope for improving our personal economies. Regardless of what happens to the nation's economy, here are 10 things you can do to improve yours now! ... Do I Have To File A Tax Return? If you find yourself asking this question, you are not alone. In strictly technical terms, U.S. income tax is "voluntary". That does not, however, mean that it's NOT mandatory! It allows taxpayers some flexibility in structuring their finances to limit tax liability. Make no mistake, though. Having options about how much tax you owe doesn't in any way mean that you have the option about whether or not to file. Everyone should file a return every year. Paying ... 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 ... Need Help Saving Money? Try “America Saves” Week Where is "saving money"on your list of financial priorities? If it is a low or non-existent priority, you are not alone. Millions of Americans live "paycheck to paycheck" with no financial cushion. For the last couple of years, the personal savings rate in America has been negative. Obviously, saving little or nothing has become a way of life. Fortunately, living on the financial edge doesn't have to stay a way of life! February 24 - March 2, 2008 is the 2nd ... Will We Sabotage the Stimulus? The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 is official. Tax rebate checks will be on the way to millions of Americans as soon as the majority of the tax filing season is over. While the arguing over details about who gets how much money has ended, the debate over the pros, cons and ultimate wisdom of the stimulus continues to be debated. On paper, the rebates are a "gift" from the government - cold, hard cash for taxpayers (i.e. consumers) ... Getting Professional Help: Answer These 9 Questions Before Choosing a Tax Preparer By all accounts, the U.S. Tax Code is long, extremely detailed and confusing. It's no wonder that millions of taxpayers employ professionals when "tax time" rolls around each year. Even when professionals are used, individual taxpayers are held liable for any and all information contained in their personal returns. Before paying anyone, getting the answers to these 9 questions will help all taxpayers get the professional tax help that is best for them. 1. What designation(s) does the tax ... 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 ... 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 ... Nothing Else Is Quite The “Same As Cash” It is virtually impossible to watch television or read newspapers without seeing ads for "same as cash" financing options. On first look, those options seem very appealing, especially for large purchases. In fact, there doesn't SEEM to be a downside to "same as cash" promotions. What's not to like about no down payment, 0% interest, and deferred payments? Maybe nothing. Before you sign one of these great deals, however, be sure to understand all aspects of the agreement. Once you ... How much are you worth? If someone put an actual "price tag" on you, what would it read? In other words, how much, in dollars and cents, are you actually worth? If you don't know the answer to that question, there is a way you can find out. A "personal balance sheet" is a financial document that defines the actual bottom line. Creating a personal balance sheet is not a difficult process. Here's 3 quick steps that will help you put one together today!A ... 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 ... 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 ... Q & A: Is “cashless” really where we want to go? I admit it. Since debit cards have become readily accepted, I rarely have cash. I like the fact that I can use a debit card for $3.51 or $351, whatever the situation calls for. And I like NOT having to think about whether or not I need to go to the bank before I go somewhere to purchase something. I stop short, though, when I hear talk of conversion to a "cashless" society. There is something about that idea that just ... 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 ... “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 ... Many Happy Returns? Picture this...It's bright and early on Christmas morning. Santa has left bright, shining new bikes with matching coordinated helmets for the children. The Christmas tree lights are glowing and soft, holiday music is playing in the background. (It really could be a scene from a movie!) As the excited children are inspecting the new bikes and preparing to take them outside for a "test drive", they attempt to put the helmets on and find that they are the ... Priceless One way or another, Christmas shopping will come to an end today. The last store will close; the last delivery truck will run; and the family gatherings will begin. As the shopping ends and the giving begins, the "damage" to your wallet will have been done. Before you start dealing with the financial fallout from your Christmas shopping, enjoy the next few days. There are LOTS of things about Christmas that are, truly, priceless! children's bikes and helmets - $175.00 ... 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 ... 8 Great Money Gifts for Kids Money is a great gift for any occasion! It appeals to people of all ages and "fits" everyone. There are times, however, when giving money to young people can be a little bit tricky. Until kids are old enough to understand money, it may be better to give something other than "cold, hard cash". Even so, there are great ways to give money and money related items to children. These 8 ideas are excellent ways to share your generosity with ... 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 ... Gift or Gaffe? Interesting Gift Card Facts On more Christmas mornings than not, everyone in my family opened a gift from my grandparents. It always contained a money holder envelope from the bank and crisp, new bills. Even though we knew the gift was coming, it was always fun to get it. It was free money and we could use it for whatever we wanted! Today, gift cards are the more common way to give "free money". Unfortunately, gift cards are not always "free" and they ... 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 ... Handling Debt Collection Harassment Have you ever been harassed by debt collection agencies? If you have, you know that being behind on debt payments adds stress and late charges to bills that, for whatever reason, are not current. No one WANTS to be in that situation. Debt collection agencies use a variety of methods and tactics to collect money owed to the creditors that hire them. If you are behind on payments, you are still obligated to pay the debt but you do ... 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 ... 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 ... Carnival of Smart Money #2 Welcome to the September 29th, 2007 edition of carnival of smart money. We had over 50 article submissions this month, I selected 24 of the quality articles to make the cut. Happy reading! Sagar Satapathy presents All You Need is Love and a Good Financial Plan: 17 Finance Tips from the Beatles posted at Credit Card Lowdown , saying, "When youre in need of a little financial pick-me-up, who do you turn to? Someone you trust, someone who has experience dealing with money, ... 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 ... 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 ... DIAGNOSIS: ARM "Mr. Gage? Dr. Banks is ready for you." DR. BANKS: What seems to be the problem today? M. GAGE: I am worried about losing my house. My house payment is going up - a lot! DR. BANKS: Tell me about that. M. GAGE: Well, when I bought my house a couple of years ago, I got a mortgage with a really low monthly payment. Before I applied for the loan, I remember being worried about being accepted. I had ... $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 ... Carnival of Smart Money #1 Welcome to the August 28, 2007 edition of carnival of smart money. This is the first edition, and we had a great response. We have selected 45 articles from over 80 submissions. Thanks all, see you next round! Moneywalks presents 6 Ways to get Rich posted at moneywalks. Sagar Satapathy presents All You Need is Love and a Good Financial Plan: 17 Finance Tips from the Beatles posted at Credit Card Lowdown, saying, "When youre in need of a little financial pick-me-up, who do ... 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 ... The End of the Paper Check Path (a financial fairy tale) Once upon at time in the United States of America, there were small rectangular pieces of paper called checks. Officially, a check was "A negotiable instrument drawn against deposited funds, to pay a specified amount of money to a specific person upon demand." Paper checks were numbered, bound in books and issued by banks. Before issuing checks, banks required customers to set up a checking account and deposit money in it. Many citizens used checking accounts as the primary ... BOOK REVIEW: Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash By Liz Perle www.moneyamemoir.com For many people, money is about the bottom line - nothing more, nothing less. For Liz Perle, money was about acceptance and security. In her latest book, Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions and Cash, Perle describes her personal relationship to money and relates her experiences to the money relationships of women in general. Starting in her childhood, Perle takes the reader through her "money" life and ... Where should children save money? NOTE: This post addresses general savings options, NOT educational savings options. Educational savings options will be covered in a later post. Parents are responsible for teaching their children LOTS of things! One of the major things children have to learn and understand is FINANCES. In particular, children need to understand the importance of saving and "growing" money. Not growing it on a tree, mind you, but growing it through budgeting and making wise choices. Before parents can teach their ... 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 ... 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 ... 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 ... Banking Basics How much do you really know about banking? Not YOUR bank, necessarily, but the banking process in general. Do you know how banks operate the way they do? I confess that banks are one of those things that I have thought were just there because they had always been there. I decided to educate myself a little more thoroughly about banking. Actually, it is pretty interesting not to mention that it helps what I know about money make a ... 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 ... Creating a Financial Organizer Document: What do you have and where do you keep it? A couple of years ago, my husband had some serious health problems. After that experience, we spent some time re-evaluating our finances, wills and insurance to make sure everything was current. Part of that process was the creation of a document called a "financial organizer". It is a word processing document that lists pertinent information about our financial, legal, property and insurance records. It specifies what we have and where it is kept. When something happens to one or ... What’s really in a credit report anyway? If you have ever paid ANY attention to your finances, you have heard the term credit report. Have you ever actually seen a credit report? Have you seen YOUR credit report? Do you know what information is contained in a credit report and where it comes from? What follows is an analysis of credit reports from each of the 3 main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. What is a credit report? According to the Federal Trade Commission, a ... 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 ... My Life (In Credit Card Years) Recently, I pulled my credit reports from all 3 of the credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). As I looked through the information in those reports, I was struck by the parallel between my credit card life (financial) and my real life (personal). I was in college from August, 1985 until May, 1989. During those years, I had a couple of summer jobs and a couple of on-campus jobs. I lived on campus and all my expenses were paid by my ... 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 ... 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 ...