Category Archives: general

Helpful Hints for Holiday Shopping

No! That time is here again isn’t it? The giant yard decorations in Wal-Mart, the garden section has become inundated with Christmas trees and decorations, and this month or next, the Christmas Club money that you’ve been saving up is now in your checking account! A lot of people are done with their Christmas shopping by now, but what if you’re not?

Now, before you run away screaming in terror, please wait and listen to me for awhile. Some people live for the early sales. Others wait till the last minute when your local store of choice is a royal mess. Does the thought of holiday shopping give you a case of hives when it comes to mind? It used to do that to me too, until I started following some friendly advice that I’m going to share with you today.

One thing that you should always do is hold out. If some of the gifts on your list are items that are bound to be popular this coming year, try to wait as long as you can. The sales will only get better as the holidays get closer. Now, if you’re like me, the crowds just get to be too much as people rush to holiday sales. What do you do if that’s the case?

Two words: The internet. The internet has come to the rescue of the socially anxious, the easily stressed out, and the last-minute shopper alike. The only issue you may have to deal with is lag and the very rare delays at the Post Office, and neither of those things are half as stressful as holiday lines, upset kids, and angry parents. Amazon even offers free shipping, which makes it cheaper than the gas and pretzel you need to go to the mall. What, you don’t need a pretzel to go to the mall? I totally do.

Another great idea is to get creative. If you’re especially good at something, why don’t you utilize that skill or talent in order to give your family and friends unique gifts that are also cost-efficient? If you’re good at baking, make your friends baked goods; who doesn’t like them? I have a friend who cross-stitched some different things for her friends to hang on their walls one year. Another friend made miniature scrapbooks. Remember, gifts don’t have to be extravagant to make the recipients happy; they just need to be from the heart.

Lastly, always be sure to look for sales, compare prices, and to utilize coupons and rebate offers. If you want something, start looking for coupons for that specific item. Go to their company website or the websites of places that may offer that item and see if you can find those killer discounts you may be looking for.

What hints and tops do you have about holiday shopping? Have you started already? Are you done? Are you laughing at me because you haven’t even started yet? Share some thoughts, have a great weekend, we’ll see you here next week!

Is Consumerism Making Us Unhealthy?

Consumerism

I’ve never needed much. I grew up in a home where we didn’t have much of anything until I was in my mid-teens. I was 15, that was the year that my stepdad got a job with the United States Postal Service and my mom became a receptionist at a dentist’s office. Even though that should have helped our situation, consumerism took over my family’s mindset. They became tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they went crazy with their financial freedom. It caused a lot of arguments and stressed everyone in the house out.

Needless to say, I’m not a huge fan of consumerism.

Here are some things that studies have shown to be an issue in the United States and how they can affect our health.

- Ungratefulness. Ungratefulness is a direct result of consumerism. We have this constant feeling of “I don’t have enough” and become incredibly unhappy. It’s been speculated that ungratefulness is a major factor in disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Obesity. There’s two reasons that consumerism can play a role in obesity. First, consumerism can result in extra work hours, which results in eating out more, bringing home fast food, or making those quick meals that are in your freezer. Also, stress plays a huge factor in obesity; it can slow down your metabolism or make you want to overeat. Both of these factors probably have played a huge role in the fact that obesity has become a sort of epidemic in our country.

- Stress. Hey look, the one thing I mentioned in both of the above. Stress! Stress in general isn’t good for us. Anxiety, depression, and other stress-induced disorders are rising in both severity and frequency. More and more people are on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and a record number of people are seeking mental health services. Stress is killing us in a lot of different ways, and the pressure that a consumerist mindset puts on us doesn’t help the situation any.

- Addictions. Another result of stress (which can be rooted in consumerism) is that people will seek out relief. Addictions can be formed because of this, whether the addiction is to food, drugs, alcohol, or whatever other unhealthy indulgence can occur.

- Family Stability. As I mentioned in my story above, family stability can be threatened by consumerism. Jealousy, stress (always stress), and living beyond the means of the family budget can affect morale and unity within the family unit. Is it any wonder that the nuclear family has been suffering for the past 30 years?

If you are struggling with any of these things, there are resources available out there. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to your community, friends, family, or local agencies in order to get the assistance you need to get past these things.

How else can consumerism affect our health? Do you think what studies are saying is legit, or is it a bunch of hogwash? Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you here next week!

9 Fun Money Facts

Good evening! I hope that you found a bunch of great deals today, and I hope you continue to through Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. If you were like me, you probably spent a lot of cash today, and we’re going to talk about those dollar bills that you placed in people’s hands.

1.  Cows were one of the first forms of money. In 2000 BC the first pieces of money looked like cattle, but the value on those coins where done by the weight of the bronze. Another form of currency was also deer skins… ever wonder why we call a dollar a “buck?” Yep, that’s why.

2.  By law, no one is required to take your money in order for debts, taxes, or dues. They can take other stuff, like your TV. Or your car. But they have to warn you that you’re doing so first. They can’t just come and tow your car away… at least, I hope they can’t.

3.   Three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies is $1.19. This is the largest dollar value that you can put together without being able to make change for a dollar.

4.   In 1916, you could drive to DC and they’d clean your money for you so that you could use it more. Guess what they called it? Laundering. That’s definitely not the definition that we use for that word now…

5. $1 gold coins currently have  American presidents on them. Before that, they had famous American women on them. Even though coins have starred famous American women, the only woman to have ever appeared on paper money was Martha Washington. Her portrait was on the $1 Silver Certificates printed in 1886, 1891, and 1896.

6. Ever wonder why Monopoly money is so small? “Funny money” has to be at least 50% larger or 25% smaller than a normal bill, or it’s considered to be counterfeit.

7. The first paper money printed in the United States was distributed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690. In 1775, the Continental Congress printed similar bills, called Continentals, that had no true value, only anticipated value. Because of this, the money was frequently counterfeited, and the phrase “not worth a Continental” became popular during this time.

8. The phrase “In God we Trust” was first put on Union coins during the Civil War. It became universal on all coins in 1955. It’s a shame that they’re trying to take it off of coins now, huh?

9.  The Secret Service was created because of money problems. Why? Because, right after the Civil War, a lot of people were broke, and between 1/3 and 1/2 of the money in circulation was counterfeit.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and we’ll see you here next week!

 

4 Easy Steps to Take to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the top fears of many Americans today, and it’s not unfounded. Technology acts as a double-edged sword; it both protects us and makes us more susceptible to identity theft. The good news is that, like most things we fear, there are some things you can do to make it less likely that you are affected by the mess that can come from getting your identity stolen.  Today we’re going to look at 4 of the simplest ones.

  1. Keep your computer secure. Please, above everything else, be careful about your computer. Now, if you don’t do online banking or shopping, you don’t have to be as cautious, but still, computers are expensive. Don’t mess it up just because you’re lazy. Here are a couple things you can do.-Use reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Don’t think you have to spend money. AVG and Avast! are free antiviruses; Ad-Aware and Spybot are free anti-spyware software packages. All of them are safe and reputable. If you already have programs of these types, make sure to scan with them regularly.
    - Change passwords regularly. Make them different too. Don’t just throw extra numbers on.
    -Clean your computer regularly.
    Defragmentation, disk cleanup, and cache clearing are vital to your computer running smoothly and keeping your information safe from hackers.
  2. If you’re using your debit card to pay for something, don’t use your PIN. I had a dear friend not follow this, and one day she got a letter from her bank saying that she was going to get a replacement debit card in 2 weeks. Why? Because the Wal-Mart near our college had someone break into their credit processing system. People who had used credit cards or debit cards as credit were safe, but hundred’s of people’s pin numbers were compromised. She learned her lesson and I learned it from her mistake: Use your debit card as a credit card, and don’t ever use your PIN unless you’re withdrawing money from an ATM.
  3. Keep self-identifying documents in a safe place. One of the first things that many thieves look for are your self-identifying documents: birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc. All of my items like that are sitting in a fireproof lockbox in a storage closet. Easy access if I need them, hard to get to if you don’t have a key. You don’t want to lose that stuff anyway. I lost my social security card once; not a fun process.
  4. Shred everything. Scissors will do. Just make sure that anything that has any sort of credit card, account, or social security information is destroyed when you’re done with it. People do still dig through the trash to find that valuable information if they’re looking hard enough.

So there you have it. 4 simple ways to keep your identity safe that take no time to do. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you here next week!

Some Qtips for the weekend

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Wow, this was a very busy week and I’m glad the weekend is finally here. Lately these past few weeks, I’ve been so busy I’ve fallen behind on calculating this months net worth so hopefully I’ll get that done tomorrow. But anyway, I wanted to leave guys with some general finance tips you can carry over this weekend.

  • Save the pennies and the dollars will save themselves. The small amounts really do add up.
  • Make the effort to educate yourself about personal finance. Go around and find some financial magazines and books.
  • Don’t forget to budget! Operating without a budget is like driving a car without a steering wheel, you have no control.
  • Start taking savings out of your paychecks before you even see it. After a while, you will get used to planning your spendings around your lower amount and at the same time your savings will grow.
  • Be smart and not cheap. You don’t want to buy cheap items that don’t last.
  • Be aware of your debt and don’t let your spending get out of control. If you notice yourself headed for trouble, act quickly before you ruin your credit.

Keep these tips in mind while you start your weekend and remember, millionaires are just average people who practice good habits. You could be one of them.

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How to Pay Down that Credit Card Debt

card.jpgStatistics show that the average American has over $8,000.00 in credit card debt. If you fall under that credit card debt range, then you’ve got some major cleaning up to do. There are millions of people who have come out of some heavy credit card debt, so now it’s your turn.

Follow these 5 steps to be on your way to being credit card debt free. 

  1. First thing, you need to stop the credit card offers. You want to get away from all these tempting offers. You can actually force credit card bureaus to stop selling your information at 1-888-5-OPTOUT. Call the number to get the forms.
  2. Reduce your interest rates. The average credit card interest rate goes for about 18%, which is really high. You want to be in the 7%-12% range. You can call your credit card provider and negotiate for a lower interest rate. If you have been a customer for a while, then it should be really easy to negotiate. 
  3. Stop using your credit cards. If you’re trying to reduce your debt, the last thing you want to do is to keep adding to it. If you have a hard time not using your cards, then take them out of your wallet or purse and leave them at home. If those methods doesn’t work, you can even cut up your cards.
  4. Always pay more than the minimum due amount. Credit card companies love it when you only pay the minimum amount because the balance is calculated based on a system so that they can extend your payment plan as long as possible to make optimal profit.
  5. Consolidate your debt. Once you have reduce the interest rates of your cards, you want to combine your credit card debt into the card with the lowest interest rate.

Once you have stopped using your cards, reduced your interest rates, and have consolidated your debt, then you’re heading in the right direction for paying off your credit cards.

[Photo Credit]

10 Reasons why I Love to Budget

piggybank.jpgSo whats the big deal with budgeting and why is it so important? Let me tell you why I love to budget, I have ten reasons and maybe you might see for your self the reason for its importance. Here they are:

  1. Big Awareness. Through budgeting, it keeps me aware of how much I spend on the daily basis.
  2. Saves me money. By knowing whats coming ahead and being able to plan, it helps me to spend less and less every month.
  3. Smart planning. Knowing how much money I have allocated, daily budgeting keeps me financially aware of my situation.
  4. Puts me in the right direction. Helps me to reach my financial goals.
  5. Helps me Prioritize. By keeping a nice balanced budget, I don’t have room to always buy things that I want. Instead, I need to make sure that I am able to buy the things that I need first before being able to buy anything else.
  6. It just feels good. The satisfaction of spending within my allocated funds is a great feeling and an accomplishment.
  7. Helps reduce debt. Financial planning and strict budgeting is a great way to help reduce debt.
  8. Keeps me in a positive financial mind set. When I’m consistently around numbers and percentages, I’m always being reminded to keep going.
  9. I love numbers. I love to calculate and to see how I’m improving from month to month.
  10. Organized. Being able to plan my budget has definitely helped me to be more of an organized person.
  11. (Extra)I’m ready for those emergencies. Life is unpredictable and you never know what’s heading your way. Being on a budget prepares me for those emergency times when I need those extra few bucks.

Budgeting is a very nice way to keep track of all your expenses and it also helps you stay organized. The best thing is it only takes about 20 minutes per week. I recomend using this program called pear budget. Its an excel spreadsheet that keeps track of how much you spend on the daily casis. If you want to give it a try, you can download it for free here.

[Photo Credit]

Saving Money Update

Recently I have been so busy with school preparing for these final exams and projects it’s been quite difficult to keep up with my site. I know that I have to set my priorities straight and school is definitely on the top of the list. Aside from the obvious reason why school should be placed as top priority, let me list some other reasons why keeping up with school helps me save more money(or even make money).

  1. I’m on a full scholarship which pays for tuition and fees, room and board and even as far as all my school supplies including my books. In order to keep this I need to maintain a semester and cumulative G.P.A of 3.6.
  2. Aside from the full scholarship, which is provided from the school, I also receive some scholarships and grants from the government. This extra money is then turned into a refund check and I get to pocket all of it, each semester! I usually get somewhere between 1,250 to 1,750.
  3. If for some reason I don’t graduate on time, I would have to pay for whatever credits I need in order to graduate because my scholarship only covers for 4 years.

So for the next two weeks (until exams are over), I still may not be able to post as frequently as I like to due to crazy hours spent at the library. Believe me when I say, I’m ready for summer and looking forward to full time blogging.

Good News: last week I was able to pay off a little over a thousand dollars off of my credit card. Woot! Right now it’s at an even three thousand dollars. Looking at my current funds, I may be able to pay off some more next week. I’ll keep try to keep you updated and post my total credit card debt sometime next week.

Update and Articles

Busy busy busy! Finals are right around the corner and I tell ya it’s gonna be hectic. I know I’ve been a little idle here with my posts this past week but I hope to get these finals out the way as soon as possible so that I could dedicate more time into the site. Meanwhile, here are some finance articles that caught my eye, check these out.

  • Money for Military wrote an article titled, Military Taxes Refund. He makes a very good point, why should we let the government keep our hard earned money and let them invest in it, while we could be using that for our own purposes and own investments. Although huge refunds always results in huge smiles, we need to realize…that’s our own money. Key point: try to pay just enough taxes to come out even!
  • PfAdvice explains why she Decided Not to Buy a House. Owning a home is definitely something that is looked upon as a great life accomplishment and a goal for many. However, buying a home is a great way to go but is not for everyone and in some cases, renting more secure and a safe play. “I also might miss out on losing a ton of money by buying at the peak of a market that so many people think is about to crash (or already in the process of crashing, or at least leveling out”
  • Digerati Life posted an article today called 5 Money and Currency Facts your History Teacher Never Told You. Fact #5: Do you know how the dollar sign ($) got invented?”Most people think the symbol for the US dollar is derived from the initials U and S superimposed on each other. Well this is false. It’s from the Spanish dollar sign. The US decided in 1782 that its basic unit of currency would be the Spanish dollar or peso. Its symbol was even then written as $, which was supposedly an ancient Phoenician sign indicating strength and sovereignty.” Fun facts are always welcome, thanks Digerati :)

Have a great week, keep up the reading!

Frugal vs. Cheap

Many people are confused with the difference between frugal and cheap. Being frugal means making smart spending choices or getting the most for your money. Cheap while on the other hand, is looked more upon as selfish and stingy. When I looked up the synonyms for frugal, I got thrifty, chary, provident, careful and economical. Synonyms for cheap resulted in stingy, shoddiness, inferiority, showy imitation, complete unworthiness.

Living well for less money is frugality. Leeching off of people to get by is cheap.

For example, I want to get a book for my brother for his birthday. Say I saw a nice book in new condition at a garage sale and I only spend $1.00 opposed to the $24.99 price at Barnes and Noble. Some people would see this as being cheap, only spending a dollar for a gift, however if this is something that my brother would like, it doesn’t really matter how much I spend. There is no point in spending more for the gift if I could get something the person would like just as much for a lot less. Now this kind of giving is just good money management, it’s not being cheap.

Some more example of frugal vs cheap:

  • Frugal - Going to a buffet and eating enough to get full and satisfied.
  • Cheap - Getting full and satisfied, then filling your pockets and bags before leaving
  • Frugal - In a group, a person with 10 dollars would order at a restaurant taking in consideration of tip and tax.
  • Cheap - In a group, a person with 10 dollars would order 10 dollars worth of food and intentionally leave the tip and tax for others to pay.
  • Frugal - Satisfied with only spending a dollar on a kids meal for your child.
  • Cheap - Ordering an extra kids meal for your self to avoid the regular price.
  • Frugal - Deciding not to go out to eat because you don’t have enough for the food + tips, instead you go to buy something to make at home.
  • Cheap - Intentionally going out to eat when knowing you don’t have enough to tip.

Important note: frugality is not just for those who are on low income. Take Warren Buffet for example. Big Warren, with a net worth of more than 42 billion dollars still live in the house he bought more than 40 years ago at $31,500. He also prefers a burger and a coke over an expensive lunch at his desk.