Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Budget For The Future

Have you sat down and really thought about your financial future? I know people are busy these days and you think "well I'm young now and I'll have time to do it later." You're dead wrong. You are NEVER too young to start saving for retirement!

They say if a 25 year old puts in $2.00 a day into a savings account ($60.00 a month), buy the time he reaches 65 he'll have a million dollars. However, what is a million dollars these days - really? It's practically chump change with rising housing and cost of living expenses.

So you have to make a budget to save for the future. Don't expect Social Security to kick in, they're having problems already - much less when you get to be that age!

Here are some strategies to help you save for the future and your retirement:

1. Make a list of your monthly income. Include everything from your wages to gambling winnings, child support receive, alimony, and any other income you get every month.

2. Then make a list of your expenses. List everything you spend from your utilities to your cell phone bill. Also your child's violin lessons, pet expenses - everything.

3. Subtract your expenses from your income. Hopefully you are coming out ahead! If not, then you need to make smart decisions on which expenses are a necessity or a luxury. Do you really need a cell phone, or is it just convenient? Discipline yourself now and you'll thank yourself later!

4. Do this for several months. And then at the end of each month, figure out where your money went that was unnecessary. Did you go out to eat more than once a week? Did you buy your lunch instead of making a sandwich from home?

5. Put 10% of your income into a savings plan. This is the "rule of thumb" amongst investors on just how much you should be saving a month. If you make $3000/mo. then you should be saving $300. Pay yourself first!

6. Consider other options besides savings. Perhaps invest in a 401k or an IRA savings plan. Check with your banker to see which one would suit your needs and financial situation the best.

Really that's all there is to it! Never take money out of your savings for frivilous purchases like a new pair of shoes or to go to a movie. That is for your future! However if your car needs a new transmission, this nest egg is there for you!

It just takes a lot of self-discipline and the desire to want to have financial independence. Just apply these easy techniques and you'll be on your way!

Bankruptcy Forms: Having The Right Ones

Filling out bankruptcy forms can be one of the most difficult parts about filing for bankruptcy, although these forms are a necessary evil to complete the legal process. Unfortunately these legalities can add major emotional stress to an already difficult situation. Especially if you have decided to go about filing on your own, without the help of a lawyer or financial service company, you may find yourself overwhelmed with trying to understand which bankruptcy forms are right for which chapter.

If you are an individual who is filing for bankruptcy, most likely you will be filling out bankruptcy forms specifically dealing with either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Even as a business you may be filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, although you may be filing for Chapter 11 as well. In any case, there are separate forms that need to be filled out with each particular chapter stating the intention to file bankruptcy under that chapter.

The individual or business may also have other special bankruptcy forms that go along with a particular chapter. For instance, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 are reorganization chapters and will require a form that discusses how and when creditors will gather to meet and discuss the finances of the individual or business for repayment plans. If the individual is filing for a complete liquidation, Chapter 7, forms for possible exemption of assets will need to be filled out if the debtor plans to keep any of their personal belongings.

In all cases, the debtor will be required to file bankruptcy forms regarding a statement of petition, a list of creditors, personal income, personal property, and Declaration of penalty under perjury. These forms will simple let the courts know of the individual or business’ plan to file, the assets the debtor has available, the current available income, and the debtor’s knowledge that lying about finances will have legal consequences.

Of course the availability of the forms does not necessarily mean that all individuals or businesses will clearly understand which forms apply to them. If you are confused about which forms to fill out, don’t be afraid to ask the court system for help.

Unfortunately the court system may be overwhelmed with other cases they feel are more important making it difficult to find answers to bankruptcy form questions. In this case, you can always consult with a legal aide, a bankruptcy attorney or even a financial service organization that can help you understand the paperwork better.

Even if you don’t plan on hiring an attorney to handle the case for you, it may be worth the time and energy to consult them regarding the paperwork that goes along with the process. You may also want to consider a bankruptcy service organizations online, which can help answer questions and guide debtors through the process.

Keep in mind that each state court system has secretaries available who can type up the forms for you, although there will be an additional charge for this service. Most law firm or legal aide organizations have similar services that may be beneficial in helping debtors get through the process of filing bankruptcy forms.

Bad Ways To Save Money

Finding new ways to save money on almost anything you buy is almost like getting a raise. Maybe it's even better. When you save twenty dollars on a coat you get to keep the whole twenty dollars. When you make twenty dollars more on your paycheck, you lose five dollars or more of it to taxes.

Finding ways to save money can go too far, though. In a recent newsletter on how to save money, one contributor suggested getting free flowers for weddings by picking up the leftover flowers at a cemetery. She didn't say how you can tell which are "leftovers."

I thought I was cheap! The following are gleaned from real suggestions on ways to save money sent in to "frugality" websites and newsletters. Some cheapskates don't seem to notice that an extra hour at work might put them further ahead than many hours of penny-pinching.

<b>Ways To Save Money - Don't Try These At Home</b>

A mother confessed that she makes her kids stuff their pockets with the free ketchup, salt and other condiment packets every time they were in a fast food restaurant. Oh, if only that were all, but no. She has the kids squeeze the contents of the packets into regular jars of ketchup and mustard too. She says she hasn't bought these condiments in years. Pride is found in strange places.

One creative penny pincher found a way to save money on car washes. He washes his entire car using the squeegee at the gas station. Hmm... I wonder if he takes the toilet paper rolls home from their rest rooms too.

Would you like a free umbrella? One man suggests getting one at the lost and found department of any large public library. You just tell them you lost a black umbrella. They will almost certainly have several, from which you can pick the best one and claim it as your own. What if they have no black umbrellas? I guess we'll have to wait for this guy to publish a "lost umbrella color frequency chart," in order to know which color to try for the next day.

Several contributors to these newsletters know how to save on their long distance phone bills. The most common suggestion is to call people long-distance when you know they won't be home, and leave a message for them. Then they pay for it when they return your call. I suppose if your timing is off, and they answer when you call, you can quickly hang up on them and try again later.

I don't recommend any of these as ways to even the most frugal person. Apart from the ethical issues with some of them, they can be lumped in along with washing and re-using plastic wrap - a time wasting frugality. On the other hand, they are fun to read, and I suppose we could view such measures as cheap entertainment as well. Perhaps you can turn off the lights to save money on electricity and tell the kids it's a game of hide-and-seek, or train your dog to beg from the neighbors so you don't have to feed him.

I wonder how many people actually pay for magazines and newsletters that tell us ways to save money? Do these magazines advise that readers go to the library to read them, or stand reading them in the aisle at the bookstore for a hour? Those are some sure ways to save money.

Monday, 23 May 2011

9 Places You Can Save Money For Your Family

Most families are spending more and more money every year (and not just because the cost of living rose) while also saving less and less. One reason is that few household managers spend much time reviewing expenses and expenditures to find ways they can save money. However almost every family has places where costs can be cut and pennies can be pinched -- and if those freed up funds are then used to pay down debt and save for the future it could have a dramatic impact on their quality of life.

Food is one big area where many families could be more thrifty. Families spend an average of $2,434 on food away from home, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you (and your spouse and your children) eat lunch out every day of the week then try brown-bagging at least one of those days. If just one of you does it you may save up to $400 a year and if you can double or triple that savings you could finance a family vacation with it.

Another major expense is your home. When was the last time you looked at refinancing? Can you find a lower interest rate? Can you renegotiate to a shorter time frame? Even if you can't change your mortgage payment you may be able to pay a bit extra each month which over time will help pay down your mortgage faster. Also, don't overlook your utilities. There are ways to save in this area as well including updating your insulation and weather stripping, keeping up-to-date with maintenance and cleaning of your furnace and air conditioner or using a programmable thermostat to take advantage of those times when your house is empty or the family is asleep.

Transportation is another major expense for many families. Not only are vehicles expensive to buy but also to maintain and operate especially with gasoline prices at such high levels. Is carpooling an option for any members of the family on at least a part-time basis? Make sure to combine errands and trips to cut down on your travel and save money when buying gasoline by taking advantage of special programs and discounts and remaining vigilant about gas prices. In addition, following a regular maintenance schedule and proper tire inflation can also help you achieve maximum gas mileage for your vehicle.

Choosing your bank wisely can be another way to save money. Make sure the bank you use offers free (or at least low cost) checking as well as electronic bill-paying. Electronic bill-paying and a debit card can cut down on your need to use checks and postage which will save you in the long run as well as help you better manage payments so you will avoid fees, penalties, and higher interest rates.

Cutting your credit card costs can be another major savings. This means making sure you are using the best possible credit card with a low interest rate and low or no annual fee. Shop around until you find your perfect match and don't forget to cancel and cut up those rejected suitors.

Health care is not really an area where you can cut expenses but you can save money by taking advantage of special offers and programs. For example, many employers offer a Flexible Spending Account where you can save money before taxes for out-of-pocket medical expenses for prescription and nonprescription drugs, dental expenses, and eye care.

Tuning up your insurance policies can also help you save money. When did you last compare rates for your home, your vehicles, and yourself? Some other ways to cut costs are to raise your deductible level or using the same company for multiple coverage (your home and vehicles). When you are shopping around make sure to give your current company a shot at keeping you. Sometimes they can offer a better rate too.

Another major expense for many families is the cost of communication including local and long distance phone service, cell phones, cable or satellite television, and Internet access. Review your expenditures and cut out the services you don't need. Can some of these expenses be bundled to save money? Are there better plans for your needs?

When looking to save money it is important to become an aggressive shopper. The Internet makes it possible today to compare prices and product reviews while not spending a lot of time and money driving from store to store. Any big ticket item (and that includes your weekly groceries, cleaning products and health and beauty aids) deserves a closer study.

Over the next, month take time to review your family expenses and expenditures in each of these nine areas. Making a few alterations in your family's spending habits will soon make a difference in the overall household budget. You can raise your family's quality of life by making just a few changes in your monthly budget.

4 Tips For Managing Your Money Wisely

PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Treat yourself as your most important creditor. Determine an amount that can be saved weekly, fortnightly or monthly for long term purposes and emergencies and save it regardless. Somehow we manage to find the money for the phone bill, the rent etc so much decide to find the money for savings. This money management decision is life changing as over time it leads to financial independence.

AUTOMATE YOUR PAYMENTS. When things get stressful and we become overwhelmed with financial worries, our financial affairs can get out of control very quickly. Internet banking can solve a lot of this problem. If a part of your problem is that your income is inadequate, then automate some or most of your payments. Doing this, releases the stress of having to find the money for a lot of different payments. You may still be short one or two payments but it is easier to look for a solution for one or two payments as opposed to six or seven. Effectively, automating your payments saves you time and stress and helps you to take control of your financial affairs.

CONSOLIDATE DEBTS. If you are able to consolidate a number of debts into one loan at the lowest possible interest rate, your monthly expenditure will decrease, sometimes by a lot. If you own your own home, you will be able to get a home equity loan at comparatively low interest, which is a better option than a personal loan.

USE MONEY FOR THINGS OF LASTING VALUE. So much money is spent on items that have no lasting value and give no lasting pleasure. Many of this spending is at the expense of those things that actually do matter and will really benefit us in the long run such as owning property, funding retirement and paying for education.

These money management tips can improve the quality of your life by helping you take back control of your finances, reduce stress, increase savings and make better long term decisions regarding your spending.

5 Tips To Make More Money

Whether you are already a true believer or think the whole philosophy of Feng Shui is a hoax, it is worth the time and effort to implement the principles of this ancient Chinese practice to improve the quality of your life. Many people believe creating a Feng Shui home and/or office would be too hard or it's too complex to learn. This is far from the truth. Simple, gradual changes are all that are needed to begin to reap the benefits of Feng Shui. Taking the time to make decorating and arranging changes one at a time will result in a total Feng Shui home before you know it.

The whole philosophy behind Feng Shui is to create an environment in which the positive forces of chi can move consistently and easily through your home, and as such, through your life. It is used to promote balance and harmony in all aspects of your life. Everything from your career and financial status to your love and family life can be improved with the correct use of Feng Shui.

If you were to perform an opinion poll of everyone you know about what aspect of their life they would want to change, you would probably get a lot of different answers. However, there is a good chance you would hear a lot about wanting to make more money. Feng Shui can help even the most dead set non believer make the financial present and future they have always dreamed about. All it takes is following a few simple tips to encourage the flow of positive chi.

Tip 1. In Feng Shui, absolutely everything starts with cleanliness. Since you are looking for ways to make more money, this will apply to both your home and office. Clutter and disorganization is the bane of the flow of positive energy. In order to free it up and allow it to improve your financial situation, you must eliminate clutter from your life. This means to make a sweep of your entire home and office. Make a place for every object you need and want to keep. It is imperative that you make sure things are put away properly and tidiness is the rule of everyday. Not only will this step help promote the positive flow of energy you are looking for, it will also make your life simpler in terms of comfort and finding your things quickly and efficiently.

Tip 2. When you are looking to use Feng Shui to help you make more money, you are in essence asking your environment to help you with a growth process. What's the first thing you think of in regards to growth, besides children? Plants and blooming flowers are often the first answer. For obvious reasons, plants are used in Feng Shui to encourage growth. Place houseplants in both your home and work space to promote financial growth. Take excellent care of them and make sure they are always healthy. If you don’t have a green thumb, don't worry, just use artificial plants. In this case, make sure they are clean and free of dust.

Tip 3. Simply put, the practice of Feng Shui and making more money, involves keeping all of your things in good working order. It isn't enough to just keep it clean. Your things also must be working properly. In terms of making more money, it is also a good idea to focus any equipment you use in your job. Your computer, telephone, printer, etc., need to be clean and working well. Furniture is another item you should keep your eye on. If a chair or table is broken repair it or replace it as soon as possible. You don't want anything broken coming in contact with your money making endeavors.

Tip 4. We have already discussed the importance of eliminating clutter in your life. Another helpful aspect of this is making sure your decorations and furniture is dusted and free from any debris that could limit the positive flow of good chi. Don't forget to vacuum or sweep the floors on a regular basis either. Both are very important in using Feng Shui to promote greater money making potential. Especially at home, don't hesitate to encourage family members to help out with this. After all, the results will benefit them as well.

Tip 5. Now take everything mentioned above, with the exception of the plant thing and use those practices in your car. The Feng Shui principles operate on the belief that energy is always around us. For this reason, keeping your vehicle well maintained, free of clutter and debris, and dust free is important to using Feng Shui to make more money. Especially if potential or current clients are ever in your car, you want to be sure to be ready to make a good impression at any time.

These are just a few ways you can use Feng Shui to make more money and add balance to your life. None of them are hard or expensive, and they will all help you create the life you have always wanted.

3 Ways Renters Lose Money

Are you still renting a home or apartment for yourself or your family?

If so, you're losing money. Think about these three ways you lose money by renting:

1.  You're paying for someone else's mortgage payment. You're missing out on the appreciation that the property gives to the landlord. Appreciation is a term used in accounting relating to the increase in value of an asset, which means in real estate terms, added value to the property. Over the past five years, houses appreciated significantly, making many new real estate investor multimillionaires.

2.  Renters don't get to freeze their monthly housing expenses like home buyers can. Of course, many home buyers get mortgage payments with adjustable interest rates and their payments go up over time. However, these payments will not go up over the long term like rising rents. Just think about how much an apartment costs today compared to ten years ago. A two bedroom apartment in Lake Elsinore, California leases for $1,000 today. The exact same apartment rented for $325 in 1996, when it was brand new. Home buyers who had low monthly payments in 1996, who did not refinance their mortgage, enjoy low payments and don't have to worry about rising rents.

3.  Renters don't benefit from tax advantages. Home owners get income tax deductions. Tax deductions for interest costs, for instance, save tax payers thousands of dollars.

<b>Emotional Satisfaction of Home Ownership</b>

Besides losing out on making money with real estate, renters don't get the same satisfaction of home enjoyment that benefits home buyers. Many landlords won't allow you to paint your walls in colors that you desire. Also, you won't feel like fixing up the property with custom window coverings and you get little say in flooring materials. Because you can't make your personal statement, you won't feel like you're HOME as much as home owners who feel emotionally connected to their property.

<b>How to Buy Your First Home</b>

The biggest barrier to home ownership is often accumulating funds for a down payment. People think they have to have thousands of dollars for a down payment. However, if you have good credit and a decent job, you can get a mortgage for a home with zero down. And you can finance some of your closing costs as well as ask the seller to help you pay a good portion of your purchase costs. With today's mortgage finance plans, you may be surprised to find out how much of a home you can afford with payments similar to what you currently pay in rent.

You may have to go out of the major metropolitan areas to buy a home. That's why so many people commute in Southern California. Affordable housing costs much less in outlying areas. But so do the rents. If you're renting an apartment for $2,300 in Los Angeles, you could buy a $500,000 home in Wildomar. Our daughter just purchased a home in December 2005 and her mortgage payment, for a 3,000 square foot new home, costs less than $2,300. With her tax savings, she will pay even less than renting a small apartment closer to downtown L A.

If these amounts sound high to you, check your local area. Perhaps your monthly rent is only $1,000 and houses cost less than $200,000. Talk to a mortgage loan officer and see how much of a home you can afford.

If you're renting, make one of your priorities to buy your own home.