Bad Money Habits We All Need to Break

Bad Money Habits We All Need to Break

We all know the news. We are in a recession. Times are tough. We need to buckle up our wallets and learn new money and finance habits. But it can be hard to break the normal spending cycle.

Here is a listing of all money habits we all need to break, starting today and some tips on how to do just that.

Living without a budget.

You have heard all about budgets for years now, probably. But have you ever wrote up one for yourself?

It really isn’t that hard to do. You just gather your bills, estimate how much you need a month or week for things like food, gas, clothing, misc items and get to work. Of course, if you are self employed or have an unsteady job, this can be harder to work out than the person with the normal weekly pay check.

Having a budget can show the difference between shelling out $1,500 for a new television, or instead going with a far less expensive projector. Coincidentally, here are some of the best projector under 300 dollars.

Learn to buy without plastic

Credit cards are bad. Well, actually it is those interest payments on those credit cards that are bad. How can we break the habit of not using them? It is simple. Leave them at home.

Yet, do remember if you can, it is nice to have an open credit card account in case of an emergency. Just don’t carry the card around with you or you may talk yourself into thinking that cool pair of spring jeans is an emergency, a fashion emergency.

Saving only at a set time

Some people will tell themselves that they will set a budget and spend only what is listed. Then whatever amount is left over is what they will save for that month. What happens? Most months nothing is left over and nothing is saved.

A cute trick some people have been using is by saving their change or even their one dollar bills (if their budget will allow) and keeping it in a jar. Weekly, they will take this amount to the bank. How do they acquire change? If a purchase is $3.12, they will give the clerk a $5.00 and put the remainder in their pocket. That night the change goes into their savings jar. The next tip is to leave the jar alone, as well as the savings account and allow the amount to grow.

Skip the ATM visit

Okay, you say but I am doing it smart. I am going to the ATM’s where I don’t have to pay a fee. Yet, are you really playing it smart? You are taking money from your savings or checking account, not allowing it grow.

Skip those trips as much as you can. You may be able to do this if you planned that budget, stick to it and no emergencies occur.

Read your credit reports

Make this a habit that you do three times a year. Go to annualcreditreport.com and get your reports for free. Each credit bureau will allow you to see your report once a year for free. Every three months, check one. Three months later check another one. This way you are continually monitoring your credit and it is free.

Pay those bills on time

Those late fees can really add up.

Buy yourself a notebook and a calendar. Now write down when each bill needs to be paid. Each week check your list and mark off the ones you pay.

Of course, the little things such as: watching for sales, looking at the sales ads, never go to the grocery store hungry, clip coupons, watch for rebates and all of these types of tips can help as well. You may even learn some money saving tips from a friend or relative. Don’t be afraid to ask if you think you know someone who is financially secure, how they do it.

 

Printable Pumpkin Carving Patterns that Go Beyond Halloween: Entrepreneurs in the Making

Printable Pumpkin Carving Patterns that Go Beyond Halloween: Entrepreneurs in the Making

 

Printable pumpkin carving patterns are all the rage for Halloween, but the hunt for free pumpkin stencils continues on until Thanksgiving. Find out how pumpkin carving patterns may actually prepare your child for becoming an entrepreneur.

Printable Pumpkin Carving Patterns Are Press Release Fodder

The average hobbyist undoubtedly starts with printable pumpkin carving patterns that are available online for free. Pumpkin stencils that are a bit more challenging have a small price tag attached. Of course, even if you print out pumpkin stencils, there is no guarantee that your pumpkin carving will be anything as beautiful and breathtaking as the photos that accompany the stencils.

So why would a Halloween, 2009 press release discuss the availability of printable pumpkin carving patterns and free pumpkin stencils? At first glance it appeared as though Press Zoom missed the boat on pumpkin carving. A closer look at the popularity of pumpkin carving patterns reveals that they are actually at the onset of a wave of popularity.

Pumpkin Carving Dresses Up the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Fabulous Foods showcases a soup tureen made from a hollowed out and carved pumpkin. The site offers a free printable pumpkin carving pattern to make the tureen a reality for your dinner table as well. From pumpkin carving, it is only a hop, skip and a jump to carving watermelons and all types of gourds.

When Pumpkin Carving Patterns Turn a Hobbyist into a Businesswoman

The Gazette tells the story of Dori Davis-Beck, who found that pumpkin carving can translate into festive center pieces and handmade gifts for friends, family members and even business contacts. What started out as a hobby and booth at the Oktoberfest, soon turned into a lucrative business opportunity when strangers commissioned work and companies paid to see their logos memorialized – and lit up – in gourds. Her business, Custom Carved Creations, is still of the kitchen table variety, but the dream to have a shop is there.

Professional Pumpkin Carving Is a Business Niche for Aspiring Artists

Dori Davis-Beck is not the only artist, who sees pumpkin carving patterns as a means of artistic release and commerce. Patrick Moser is a professional pumpkin carver, who specializes in “Gumpkins.” He makes appearances with his artwork. David LaRochelle works as an author, illustrator and pumpkin carver. He specializes in school presentations. Steve Dahlke found his niche with huge pumpkin carvings (we’re talking 500 pounds) and works as a professional pumpkin carver and landscaper with an eye for the atypical design opportunities. All artists got the pumpkin carving bug as kids.

Perhaps supplying junior with printable pumpkin carving patterns and encouraging the use of free pumpkin stencils for watermelon carvings might be preparing her/him for a future career as a professional artist.

What Not to Wear: Miriam the Nudist Poet Entrepreneur

What Not to Wear: Miriam the Nudist Poet Entrepreneur

At the start of the show, What Not to Wear makeover recipient Miriam appeared to rank sky high in the Most Unusual What Not to Wear Subjects List. Described as a 30 year old poet/actress/entrepreneur, Miriam’s other distinguishing characteristic is that she’s a nudist. What Not to Wear frequently illustrated this with a photo that had modesty bands of What Not to Wear logos across Miriam’s body (which, while tacky, was probably less porn-like than black bands blocking out the good bits). By the end of the show, however, Miriam turned out to be one of the most likable, well-adjusted, and foxy makeover gals the show has had in awhile.

What Not to Wear Miriam — The Ambush

I said it last week, too–I’m not liking the corny intros Stacy and Clinton are doing to these episodes. Last week our favorite What Not to Wear duo ended up as the lingerie hanger in the middle of a burlesque show. This week they put on a beat poetry performance describing Miriam’s fashion faux pas, to a mixed response from the bewildered audience. Stacy and Clinton are fun enough on their own–we don’t need super stagey stuff to keep us interested.

What Not to Wear really stretched the PG rating this week with Miriam’s erotic poetry reading, where she opened her robe to display her sheer black lace bra and curvy frame. Halfway through the verse, Stacy and Clinton ambushed Miriam with their bright lights and loud introduction to the show, and Miriam looked alternately confused, annoyed, and frightened. Stacy and Clinton were worried until Miriam finally let out a surprised laugh. “Do you want the money or not?” Stacy asked, and despite some obvious reservations, Miriam just couldn’t resist the lure of that $5000.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Okay, Maybe She’s Not that Weird

Anyone that shows up on What Not to Wear with a hyphenated career path (actress/poet/entrepreneur) comes off as someone who doesn’t know what the heck they’re going to do with their life. The audience may also guiltily feel that the person won’t actually accomplish any of these things. However, Miriam’s “entrepreneur” status didn’t actually sound all that off the wall.

Stacy and Clinton were impressed when Miriam described her business plan–to create personal documentaries for clients. She collected photos, narrative, and film of families to put together their own personal history. The What Not to Wear stylists felt this was a viable career that would have substantial demand–and she needed a wardrobe worthy of that position.

We saw Miriam pursuing her poetry, and after the What Not to Wear makeover, it was clear she was hot enough to be an actress/performer/model. Add that to her clever business idea, and Miriam’s hyphenated career path didn’t seem so crazy.

What Not to Wear Miriam — That Whole Nudist Thing

Miriam wanted it made clear to the What Not to Wear audience that “Nudity is freedom.” After surviving a 7 year relationship where she was controlled and ordered to dress super-conservatively, Miriam broke free and started wearing as little as possible. She loved her curves and wanted to share them with the world. When Clinton said he was fine with his own nudity until he walked past a full-length mirror, Miriam replied “You have issues!”

Miriam became tearful, however, when her friends and family talked about her odd and skimpy clothing choices, referring to her as a “hot mess”. They felt Miriam was smart and fun and had lots of potential, but they thought her wardrobe didn’t reflect that. Miriam said she felt clothing was “conforming”, by forcing her body to fit into clothes a certain way. She admitted, however, that if the people closest to her thought she was a hot mess, then it couldn’t be a good image for her budding business. She was ready for the What Not to Wear team to help her out.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Outfit Number One

Miriam shared a laugh with Stacy and Clinton in the 360 mirror when her large, asymmetrical Afro actually blocked the What Not to Wear stylists from seeing what she looked like. When they did manage to squeeze in, they found her in a loose red nylon skirt down to her ankles, and an orchid print halter that wasn’t doing anything to hold her curves in place. Stacy tugged on the halter straps, pulling Miriam’s chest more into alignment, but Miriam wasn’t impressed. “This outfit highlights what I have to offer,” she protested.

On the first What Not to Wear mannequin, the outfit included a bold print blouse with a tie neck, and a ruffled collar velvet jacket. Miriam didn’t like the blouse, and said the jacket looked “crafty”. Stacy and Clinton cut off her criticisms and told her that the point was to maintain her artistic style while maintaining a level of sophistication her current outfit did not have.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Outfit Number Two

Miriam next brought her business outfit into the What Not to Wear 360 mirror. It had a cute, double-buttoned jacket, but Stacy and Clinton pointed out that it was made of sweatshirt material. The brown wide-legged trousers were the right shape, but they were constructed like yoga pants. Looking into the 360 mirror, Miriam admitted her clunky black footwear looked like “nurse’s shoes”.

The second What Not to Wear mannequin was dressed up in a pale teal tweed skirt suit that Miriam loved. Paired with a bold print top and plenty of bling, it was sophisticated workwear with a creative style. Miriam was a little worried about the added jewelry, as she felt it was one more thing layered on top of her preferred nakedness.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Outfit Number Three

Miriam entered the What Not to Wear 360 mirror with her dressy outfit, a loosely constructed bold print 60s style mini-dress and knee-high black leather boots. While Miriam didn’t look too bad in this feisty outfit, Stacy and Clinton criticized the sack-like nature of the dress and suggested something slinkier. Miriam said she didn’t want something so overt that men were just wanting to grab at her–she quickly qualified that in a certain context it was okay to show everything, but not just for a night out. Miriam forgot about their criticisms when Clinton sweetly said that the dress was “not good enough for the girl in it.”

The What Not to Wear stylists then displayed one of the sexiest and most awesome dresses they’ve ever had on the show–a leopard-print slim dress with a ruched waist and a lace-filled plunging neckline. Stacy, Clinton, and the entire What Not to Wear audience were shocked when Miriam said she didn’t like it. Standing there in a cacophony of primary color blocks, Miriam said the animal print was “too crazy” and just made her want to run away. Stacy and Clinton looked like they wanted to run away.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Dumping Everything

Miriam’s existing wardrobe was a strange mix of bustiers and shapeless turtleneck floor-length dresses. Miriam’s love of nudity apparently influenced her to buy baggy things that wouldn’t constrict her, but she didn’t realize that she didn’t look like a free spirit in them–only dowdy and shapeless. As Stacy ripped the millionth thing from her hands, Miriam protested “But it’s cute!” Stacy was determined. “Whenever you say ‘it’s cute’, I know it doesn’t fit you.” The argyle sequined vest was the last straw, and everything Miriam owned went into the What Not to Wear trash can.

Miriam was a little overwhelmed when she faced the What Not to Wear cameras later. She was nervous over the idea of having to rebuild an entire wardrobe in two days, when it took her years to compile her current collection.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Everyone Woman’s Downfall

On What Not to Wear Shopping Day One, Miriam relented and went in for a bra fitting, or to see the “bra whisperer,” she joked. The saleslady did a nice job, talking about keeping her chest within the edges of her frame for a more slimming look. She got Miriam into a bra that didn’t diminish her curves–just brought them up a little more to better define her hourglass shape.

In a mirror to her current wardrobe, Miriam tried on turtleneck dresses that Clinton lamented resembled blankets or throws, and little girl dresses she could barely squeeze herself into. As the What Not to Wear cameras captured her in an unflattering black bodysuit and strange Asian-style brocade suit, Stacy and Clinton discussed an issue all women have fallen victim to: talking yourself into an outfit.

Miriam was doing what we all do. If we stand a certain way, if we wear a long blouse over it, if we hold our stomachs in–then the outfit will work. Stacy and Clinton rightly advised that you need to love an outfit the moment you put it on, and should never settle. Obviously if something will work if the sleeves are shortened or some other minor adjustment is made, What Not to Wear has always advised buying and tailoring it. We all know, though, if we’re actually going to get it tailored or just say we’ll do it.

What Not to Wear Miriam — The Rules Plus Personal Taste

Miriam had a breakthrough on her What Not to Wear Shopping Day Two. Stacy and Clinton asked her to pick out a dress she loved at first sight, and a dress that she was perhaps not so crazy about but followed The Rules. Miriam picked a black and white print wrap dress that she thought followed the rules, and she was surprised how much she liked it when she tried it on. Stacy and Clinton loved the hourglass shape it gave her.

“So I need to pull more clothes?” Miriam asked. Clinton agreed that shopping sometimes takes tenacity, that you have to just try on a lot of stuff until you find something that works. Miriam then tried on her own choice, a multi-colored print dress with a ruffled neckline and belted waist. Miriam was thrilled when Stacy and Clinton told her she looked great in the waist-defining dress and that it was a good blend of her personal taste and the What Not to Wear rules. Miriam showed the damage from her previous relationship when she said how good it felt to show who she was and be complimented, rather than receiving a negative response.

What Not to Wear Miriam — Adding the Final Touches

What Not to Wear hair stylist Ted discussed Miriam’s huge volume of hair and found out that she loved it. Ted decided to add a reddish brown color to her hair to complement her skin tone, and told her that she needed to have an Afro that was up-to-date and not so reminiscent of the 60s  amp; 70s. Using scissors, he did a “free hand cut” to shorten the top layers, creating a more round, springy, and flirty style than what she’d been wearing previously. It was startling how much the color warmed up her skin, and she loved that she could wear her hair down over her forehead or pushed back. I personally liked the bangs look on her the best.

Next up was What Not to Wear makeup artist Carmindy. She kept the look simple, starting with a little spray-on foundation to even skin tone. She applied cream blush on the apples of Miriam’s cheeks, then smoothed sparkling brown shadow over her eyelids. Carmindy added mascara to the top and bottom lashes, and then finished off the look with a berry lip gloss she felt was “made for” Miriam. “You’ve gone from cute to smokin’ hot!” Carmindy said, spinning the chair around to face the mirror.

At first Miriam was startled by her What Not to Wear makeover. She said she wasn’t used to looking so much like a “porcelain” doll. After a few moments, she said she was starting to like it, and she and Carmindy exchanged hugs.

What Not to Wear Miriam — The Final Reveal

For her first What Not to Wear reveal, Miriam was a statuesque beauty in a turquoise print wrap style blouse with a jeweled waist, black dress pants and heels. (The gorgeous blouse is by Trina Turk; the trousers by Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.) She looked like a model, gorgeous and sophisticated. “I see the difference now,” Miriam said. She also told Stacy and Clinton that seeing her new shape in the mirror made her feel that a bra was “not conformist but feminine”, though she honestly admitted it wasn’t all that comfortable.

For her second What Not to Wear reveal, Miriam donned a blue-gray and orange print blouse, soft blue-gray cardigan, jeans, and a bright orange scarf looped around her neck. She showed off her jeweled accessories and seemed happy that she could look chic but still show off her personal style. (The cool blouse and jewelry were bought at Lee Lee’s Valise.)

The third What Not to Wear reveal was a stunning blue and gray dress with angled seaming that dramatically highlighted her hourglass figure. (The WNTW website lists the dress as a Jones New York gray/purple layered dress, from Bloomingdales. See comments section.) Miriam was practically jumping up and down, exclaiming “I look so good!” Clinton told her that she was a blessed rarity on What Not to Wear, in that she loved her body both with and without clothes. He actually sounded a little envious. Miriam said she was pleased with her new wardrobe, and thought it was “authoritative” yet “relaxed”.

What Not to Wear Miriam — The Verdict

We often learn about style and self-acceptance from a good What Not to Wear episode, but the difference this time was that Miriam taught us as much as Stacy and Clinton did. Though she had suffered from a self-esteem-damaging relationship, Miriam’s response was to throw all of that out and embrace her looks and her body completely. Her frustrations with clothing came from not being able to share her awesomeness with the world, and that is a refreshing attitude on What Not to Wear.

Miriam’s friends and family were thrilled with her new look, and it’s a good bet that Miriam’s hyphenated career path will flourish with the combination of her outgoing personality and new sassy-yet-sophisticated wardrobe. I think What Not to Wear has had a bit of a Renaissance this season, where they’ve worked harder to embrace people’s personal styles and let them be themselves in the best possible way.

In this episode, Miriam got to keep the hair style that she loved, but Ted updated and colored it to make her look even more beautiful. Carmindy kept the makeup simple and neutral to suit Miriam’s preferences–but with just enough sparkle to match Miriam’s personality and wardrobe. Best of all, rather than telling Miriam to button up her large chest underneath a restrictive jacket, they got her into figure-flattering V-neck blouses and snug-fitting dresses. This is a pivotal moment for curvy girls everywhere, and a step in the right direction for What Not to Wear. After all, Stacy and Clinton have always said to love the body you have now and dress it to its best advantage. This week, Miriam supplied the love and Stacy and Clinton provided the wardrobe.

Watch What Not to Wear on TLC, Friday nights at 9/8c. Check your local listings for encore showings and repeats of previous episodes.

 

America for Rent Franchise Plants the IPO Seed

America for Rent Franchise Plants the IPO Seed

[ Recap and setup: please READ”America for Rent Franchise Plants the IPO Seed – CEO Reveals ARF’s Mission to Save America.” ]

“God, I love the smell of FOX in the morning….”

The Mission

“Yes, a noble mission: Saving America…Yet, tight schedules, with no commitments, driven by high need: what a conundrum. Help! Now what?”

The Vision

“Well, God didn’t create that Netflix business model just for movies! Let’s rent something.”

“Although that something must be real and meet our needs, it can’t require too much of our precious time and attention. It can’t require commitment.”

“You understand, all of you, it has to fit into our essential schedule of things without requiring a real commitment. Be real in meeting our needs, yes, but not so real as to require anything long-term from us.”

“We’ve field tested women, but that just does not offer a cost-effective or time-efficient solution. Too, our risk assessment outcomes on that one have not met the minimal, reasonable and acceptable safety threshold. And some women, in fact 73% according to our survey rapid feedback form, object to being field tested.”

“No, another kind of fury pet, with wagging tail, is what we crave. We need to find a pet. But just for a little while. You know in these times of instant gratification and immediate feedback, with no strings attached, we can still handle a leash.”

“Just trot down the street, looking all debonair, like we just stepped out of a gentleman’s club. Spin off into a green space somewhere for a little romp. And then, before we lose our breath, just take doggy back for the next humanized metrosexual to share. No dogging a good thing.”

“And a dog would be the only way to go. Can’t do cats. They’re too independent and finicky – almost as disorienting to personal space and time as a woman. No ‘relationship’ for us – maybe some dating, certainly some romance – but no committed relationships. Yeah, dogs will do.”

“Once we get the hang of this – or maybe start getting a little bored with its predictability and reliability, we might even want to take this “Spot” thing and diversify a little. If it works for one-night stands, trial marriages, and pre-nuptials, why not other niches of human personal and familial need?”

“Rent-a-kid sounds like an idea with potential. Like something you’d hear about on “Good Morning, America” or read that Oprah was starting up in Africa somewhere. You could rent a kid from different stages of maturation or development.”

“In our temporary, just a moment in time, throw away society, who has time for a baby? Wow, what a responsibility! And commitment? Even a woman doesn’t really expect eighteen years of commitment. (And that’s such a relief – can you imagine eighteen years with one woman. So tedious…)”

“So sure, have a rent-an-infant and rent-a-toddler, preschooler, kindergartner, maybe a third grader. Then, the top of the grand faux parenting mountain would be rent a middle schooler and (gasp) a frosh brat.”

“The caveat here is teens can be problematic, even traumatic. So only someone with lots of experience with younger, short-termer kids should try it with a teen. You know, like maybe three weeks experience trial parenting.”

“And then there’s the other end of the aging spectrum to maximize. Rent-a-grandma sounds viable. With the rising number of seniors and the declining number of two-parent families, why those two are as inviting as steaming cinnamon buns and icy cold milk. But let’s start with the kids. Grandma’s can be difficult to manage. Easy to recruit, but difficult to manage.”

The Marketing Plan

“Any way and all ways, once this “rent something” goes big time, think global. The possibilities for offshore out-sourcing and global markets are huge.”

“Think of all the people in India or China who don’t have time for anything – except to stay out of each other’s way. They would climb over one another to get to the chance to hold off on getting kids of their own.”

“And France would be approprié. All those young French girls running around, loose, with no where to go. They’d be naturals. Just line them up and offer every tourist getting off at DeGaulle a really good deal for a few hours love. So de rigueur, yet in a genteel way. An amour au naturel, if you will.”

“The UK might have to be brought in later. Those English either want to give it away or buy three of them – especially if it’s here in America.”

“The possibilities are endless. Disregarding differences in the cultures and peoples of the world, this rent-a-whatever is made for globalization.”

“Of course, we’ll have to have it all organized and stuff. We will have ARF’s global corporate headquarters here in the USA. We’re negotiating with the European Union for a regional hub there, maybe in Bern. And we’re exploring the possibilities of an Asiaian hub. Tokyo probably will get the nod over Shanghi or Singapore.”

Security and Identification

“The Japanese are really big on caring for dogs. Of course, with the population of dogs in Japan increasing and the fertility rate of Japanese decreasing, that might be a shot-term market. Too, in some parts of Asia, dogs are common fare for dinner, so the screening process of renters would have to require valid identification.”

 

“I don’t know about passports. They seem pretty tenuous and unreliable sometimes. Maybe some kind of special, global identification could be worked out.”

“You know, like a number on your forehead of something. And the U.N. could be in charge of marking sure everything went according to plan.”

Investors and ROI

Our Chinese investors have some sway, but they, like the Saudis, will remain silent partners – at least in the first phase of deployment. The Saudis, in fact, disavow any knowledge of ARF. Riyadh has issued a statement saying that ARF would not be welcome in the Middle East, at this time.

“Then, there’s the Marketing and PR part, per se. Do a point-counterpoint with CNN and Fox, at least. Maybe we could get Wolf Blitzer to try the concept out. And the media princess on Fox – wow, what a market. One dog could be shared among four or five of these news wonder babes – of course, then doggie would have to be retired, for a little while anyway, to revive and get its ‘bark back.'”.

 

“Now, don’t get me wrong, there nothing wrong with the groups that rescue strays and such, like Rent-A-Pet-Program. And Rent a Pet may be visionary entrepreneurs in marketizing this concept. But, they are so small-scale. And…

(Excuse me, let me take this…”

“Yes, Barack, what is it? … Yes, I remember you’re having dinner with the corporate team tonight. No, no – you’ll be fine. Hilliary won’t be there. Promise. And I’ve already talked to security and they know to let you up. Great! Ciao.”)

“So, to wrap up today’s news conference: next we will try this out in practice, not just do the whiteboard conceptuals and theoreticals. There are bound to be glitches and challenges – maybe even a problem or two. We don’t want our wonderful lives ‘going to the dogs’ – at least, not until we’ve stuffed those accounts in the Caymans, hmmm?

“And then? Well, there may be that ‘last million we need.’ So then we could revisit that “C” thing or commitment. But only with a pre-nup, of course.”

He finished off his Absopure bottled water, leaned comfortably into the lectern, and waited for the first question from the media. The Fox babes on the front row, with their obvious newsworthy assets, had hung on his every word – he would give them first turn.

God, he loved the smell of FOX in the morning…

Why I Use Mint.Com To Monitor My Finances

Why I Use Mint.Com To Monitor My Finances

The mint.com website is a free financial management site run by Intuit, which is the company that produces the popular financial software package Quicken. Obviously nothing is really free in life and users should be prepared for the reality that the ulterior motive of any “free” site is to make money and sell products to customers. However, this does not change the fact that mint.com is a very useful site for a wide variety of financial functions and monitoring.

Tracking mechanism

One of the primary benefits of this site is the ability to track accounts. Users can input their bank accounts, credit cards, loans, assets, and investments. Not all companies are involved, but most of the major players can be accessed. The site stays connected to these accounts and provides individuals with up-to-date balances. Obviously people have to be comfortable giving out financial information of this kind, but managing finances online is increasingly becoming the standard. The site will also alert users through email or smart phone notification when various transactions are posted or statements are ready. This can be particularly helpful for avoiding fraud and knowing when items clear.

Budgeting tools

Another major function of the site is budgeting. Individuals can pick various categories and set budget limits for the month. The site will track transactions from all input accounts and send alerts to the user if categories are exceeded. Some tweaking is required to put transactions in the right categories, but overall the site does a solid job of identifying where various businesses fall in the budgetary scheme. Obviously the site won’t stop people from spending money, but tracking is often the first step towards greater financial discipline. In addition, users can run various reports and see patterns in their spending.

Extra services

As mentioned, the site is designed to provide people with various financial options. This includes different credit cards, loans, insurance, and investment vehicles. The presence of these options are all over the site, but they are no different than banner ads on various websites, and discerning customers can easily pick and choose what they are actually interested in pursuing. Again, this is an understandable part of a company providing relatively free services.

Summary

Online tracking is becoming standard practice and this may be the future of money management as consumers move away from standalone software packages. This site is fairly intuitive and a good way to get a lot of information in a single place. For smart phone users, there is also a mint.com app that can used as a companion to the website.

https://www.mint.com/

More from this contributor:

Verizon iPhone Review: Why I Am Happy That I Bought the iPhone

The Importance of Financial Management Ethics

How to Use Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Taking Care of Your Finances in the New Year

Taking Care of Your Finances in the New Year

The New Year is finally here. Out of all the many resolutions floating around finances remain at the top of the list. So, what are some tips you need to remember in order to keep your finances organized and well balanced in the New Year? This article is designed to give you a few pointers.

Taking Care of your Finances in the New Year: Need vs. Want

If we were to comprise a list of the things we “need” we would probably find many things we can do without. This is our first mission, by compiling a list of all of our bills we can eliminate the different “wants” leaving a lot more money to save for the “needs”. Of course, we do all need (once in a while) to spend money frivolously. But it should be planned out and allotted-This will tremendously help your finances and give you that little extra perk.

By deciding what you really need from what you could and should do without, you can save a lot of money. The extra funds can go toward house payments, car payments and credit card debts to improve your credit score. Even if it is only a few extra dollars on top of your minimum payment a month it will significantly improve your Fico. The rest of the money you save should go into a savings account for those emergencies that the new year may hold.

Taking Care of your Finances in the New Year: Emergency Needs

Every year we all face some type of emergency or another. In order to help build our finances in these situations there is something important we can all do. Aflac is a wonderful investment. It has helped my family out tremendously when someone has been injured and could not work. The goal is to keep our finances up and stay out of debt. With a company like this it is easy to build up your bank account when you are physically restricted and unable to earn income.

Other insurances are great to have as well. So, whether it is your home, car, or other expensive purchases you have bought, getting insurance coverage could be a good idea.

Taking Care of your Finances in the New Year: Closing

I hope this first installment has helped in beginning to define basic needs regarding your finances. It is important to always be clear in your choices as to where you spend your money. Because this is a primary concern amongst most families, these guidelines can help you plan out and prepare so that you can find yourself debt free.

Using Facebook to Improve Your Personal Finances

Using Facebook to Improve Your Personal Finances

While Facebook is a fun place to connect with old friends and network with new ones, used correctly, it a can be a great tool to improve your personal finances. Facebook can save you money in your everyday life and even give you access to free things.

We have a Facebook page for my travel website and blog (travel4people.com) and use it to network and promote the site. But we’ve been using it more and more as part of our almost daily research to ensure we always get the best price, whether it’s at a local restaurant, our neighborhood dry cleaners, or on a new car. All those types of businesses have Facebook pages and “Like”ing their pages (joining their social network) is the key to accessing them.

If you don’t use Facebook here’s how the system basically functions. People have personal Facebook pages and business can have their own Facebook pages as well. Just as you accumulate “Friends” on your personal page to increase your own social network, or group of friends, businesses seek to accumulate “Likes”, which are shown as a number and indicate the number of Facebook users who like the business and basically their popularity. Your local dry cleaners may have 150 Likes, while a big company like Ford cars may have 4 million Likes.

Companies and businesses want and need your Likes. The more Likes they have, the more popular they seem and that encourages even more people to Like them, and so on. Businesses like having many people in their social network because it provides them a free network to advertise to, simply by posting a message. And these people are people who have expressed in interest in the product or service by Like-ing the page in the first place. So a business with 10,000 Likes may be able to generate good sales if only a small percentage act on their message, promotion or post.

They also use the social network properties of Facebook, when they post something to your wall, it will then appear to all your Friends and then Facebook makes it very easy to share information. So if a customer likes a business, they can re-post a message or link on their own wall, which then spreads the message to their entire network. Each person in their network can continue to spread the message to their own individual social networks and that is what’s called “viral marketing”, because the message spreads quickly, like a virus. For all these reasons businesses will offer your incentives to get you to Like their page, and even pay online marketing firms large sums of money, based on the number of Likes they can generate for them.

A great example of how we use Facebook to save money and improve our personal finances happened recently when we wanted to go to a comedy show at the Improv Comedy Club in Los Angeles to see Steve-O perform with our grandson. The tickets were $30 at the door. My son suggested we check Facebook and we searched for the Improv and Liked the Improv Facebook page, giving us access to future discounts and show information. The Improv even offers free tickets to many shows, you just pay a $3.50 service charge per ticket. But there were no discounts for the show we wanted to see. We then went to Steve-O’s page and liked that. He had a link to the comedy show’s event page, called Comedy Juice. Once we Liked that page, we could see a discount code, for Facebook fans only, getting us the tickets for $10 each, instead of the $30 each we would have had to pay at the door. Here are some other businesses where you can get Facebook discounts:

Events and Concerts

Before the event, check for a Facebook page for the artist that is performing. Also check for a page for the actual venue where the performance will take place.

Restaurants

Many restaurants are now on Facebook and offering discounts and access to other special offers and things just for their customers. Especially if you frequent big chain restaurants, they have a lot of good deals on Facebook, both fast food and higher end dining.

Local Businesses

Facebook can provide the most savings for local businesses, who can really use it to bring in customers. Any local business or service you use, check for their (or their competitor’s) page on Facebook and Like it to get any available discounts.

Banks and Financial Firms

Check for Facebook pages for your bank or financial providers and for competitors as well.

Car Dealers and Manufacturers

Both local car dealers and car manufacturers have great Facebook pages. Manufacturers offers news on new models, and local dealers use it for discounts on service.

The number and types of business with a presence on Facebook increases daily. Before you do any business with any local merchant, national retailer, really any type of transaction, check on Facebook to see about potential deals and discounts.

More from this contributor:

“Plans For Tax Refunds”

“It’s Time to Change Your Financial Thinking”

“Differences Between Roth and Traditional IRAs”

Additional Interest Insured on Car Insurance

Additional Interest Insured on Car Insurance

Car insurance can be confusing, and in this economy, it can be expensive. Understanding the different terms used that insurance agents and lien holders use can save you hundreds of dollars per year. It is important to understand what a lien holder or leasing agent requires when it comes to car insurance before you start to purchase a new or used vehicle.

When it comes to the additional interest insured part of the insurance world it is pretty simple and a necessity. What an additional interest insured is on your car insurance policy by definition is a company or person who is protected under your insurance policy if they are named in a lawsuit due to an accident that is deemed the policy holders fault.

Most leasing companies and lien holders require their car buyers to have this on their car insurance policies. Basically it will protect these companies from being sued if you are in an accident. This not only protects these companies from liability, but it can protect the policy holder as well. If this protection was not available the consumer would suffer due to increased car payments to pay for this liability.

Since additional interest insured is generally required on a person’s car insurance policy if they are leasing or financing a vehicle your insurance agent will have all the necessary paperwork to meet this requirement. Most individuals may not even know that they have this on their policy, however if you lease or finance a vehicle it is generally required. Because of this requirement that is why your insurance agent generally asks you if you are leasing or financing a vehicle and who through, that way he or she will have all the necessary paperwork ready for you when you purchase your policy.

Fiance’s and Finances

Fiance’s and Finances

You have finally met the guy or girl of your dreams and you have agreed to marry them. There is so much to do during the engagement period. Where will you live, how will this affect your career, and your family are a few of the things to consider. One important thing that you must not overlook is your financial situations, and how they will affect the approaching marriage. Discussing money makes some people very uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Financial problems are amongst the top reasons that people divorce. If you want your relationship to have a fighting chance, be adults and discuss your business.

You and your fiancé need to set aside a time to have this conversation. Some preparation needs to be put into this. Each should know their current financial situation, and be prepared to discuss it. Neither party should be rushed or tired when you begin this conversation.

Tip #1

Discuss any debts that you have, and you are bring into the marriage. Yes any debt. Do not attempt to hide your debt from your fiancé, that is not a good foundation upon which to build a future on. You should both agree to work to pay off or down any credit card debt you have incurred individually. Experts state it is best not to consolidate student loans when you marry.

Tip# 2

Discuss any assets that you have. Any retirement, trust, 401 K savings, homes, cars, etc. This is an opportunity to begin to see these as mutual assets, and not individual any more.

Tip # 3

You need to learn each others spending and saving habits. If you have dated any period of time, you already have some knowledge in this area. But when you were just dating, it was your prerogative on how you spent or saved your money, now your actions will affect more than yourself. You should work as a couple or devise plans that will satisfy the types of money managers both of you are.

Tip # 4

Be open about any negative financial situations you are currently in or are feeling the repercussions of at this time. If you have filed bankruptcy, have a low credit score, your future life partner deserves to know.

Tip # 5

You need to discuss how you will handle money issues that arise in the future. Will you lend to friends and family? Does you fiancé agree with giving to the needy or less fortunate? Will you tithe, etc? All of these are important questions that need addressing before you say I do.

How to Manage Your Credit Cards

How to Manage Your Credit Cards

We make many financial decisions in life- some are big, some are of lesser importance. Credit card accounts and how they are managed impacts your future more than you may realize. Whether you reply to those offers you receive in the mail or if you succumb to the “instant credit” offered by the sales assistant in your favorite store, there are several things to consider when opening these accounts.

Let’s start with the good news first. There are some positives to having a credit card. To be perfectly honest, in this day and age, a credit card is pretty much a necessity. Many times it is required to have a credit card to make a reservation for a hotel or to book a flight. Having a credit card can also be a lifesaver in an emergency. A prime example of this would be car repairs. Ideally, this is an expense that should come out of savings, however, if the money isn’t in savings, the car still has to be fixed. It’s not an option to wait and save up to pay for the repairs. Also, initially having a reasonable spending limit on a credit account and utilizing this wisely will allow for the establishment of a credit history. Managing credit by paying bills on time every month will help achieve a good credit score.

Another advantage to having a credit card is that are some rewards or points systems attached to certain cards. Points acquired through the use of a particular credit card can be redeemed in exchange for airline tickets, merchandise, or even gift cards. Finally, there are special offers on big ticket items that are only valid when purchased with a specified credit card. There are lots of retailers who advertise zero interest for promotional periods on a specified minimum purchase made with their store’s credit card. These offers may be for 90 days to 24 months. There are even furniture retailers who have offered as much as 48 month interest free as long as the purchase is made with their store card. These are wonderful deals on higher cost things as long as all the payments are made on time and within the specified period set to pay off the debt.

Unfortunately, there is a down side to having a credit card. There are more than a few horror stories and it is worth avoiding the pitfalls that come with managing credit. It has been said, although not nearly enough, that when we have to reach in our pockets for cash, we tend to think a little harder about whether or not we really need to spend that money. With plastic it is easy to overspend without thinking because not being able to afford something is not usually considered. The second thing to note is the interest charged with a revolving credit account. When this is factored into the cost of the items purchased with credit, the items easily double or even triple in cost from their original price tags.

Overuse of credit cards can quickly create a situation where more is owed in monthly bills than is being earned as income. It creates a worrisome debt-to-income ratio which can cause most reputable creditors to shy away from approving additional credit. This excess of monthly obligations can begin to affect one’s ability to pay things like utility bills on time which in turn negatively impacts the credit score. In addition, this lower credit score resulting from late payments or nonpayment can affect employability. Many employers as well as landlords now conduct a credit check along with a criminal background check prior to hiring or renting to an individual. These days bad credit can literally prevent you from getting a job or an apartment. Also, the lower the credit score, the higher the interest rate charged for new loans or credit accounts. Chronic misuse of credit cards can lead to years of trying to get out from under the yoke of debt or even ultimately, to bankruptcy. Having to go into bankruptcy may alleviate some of the burden or at least make it more manageable, but it will destroy a person’s credit for about seven years. No one likes having to go back to square one.

It seems harsh to describe credit cards as a necessary evil. They are more like a necessary temptation in our fast paced lives. Credit cards, managed properly, can help build a high credit score which leads to the opportunity for home ownership and being able to replace vehicles when the time comes. This is a good thing considering that most people have to finance such large purchases. Credit accounts that are mismanaged and overused create enormous hardship to those card holders. The resulting low credit scores and high debt-to-income ratio, can make personal finances a nightmare.