Carnival of Financial Planning – Time Is Running Out Edtion

pulling out hair

pulling out hairWelcome to the Carnival of Financial Planning – Time Is Running Out Edition! I chose this theme for the carnival because I heard a report on the news that close to 50% of people aren’t done with their holiday shopping yet. Not to brag, but I got mine done weeks ago! I also hears a report that retailers are guaranteeing delivery of your online purchases as long as you order by December 20th. My question is, how can they guarantee it when it is out of their control?

If you get your package on time, they win as they kept their promise and you shop there again. If you don’t get your package on time, the retailer blames UPS/FedEx/USPS and you do too.

Anyways, in between the hustle and bustle of shopping and wrapping, take some time to remember where you want to go financially in the weeks, months and years ahead. Here are some great blog posts that can help with that.

BUDGETING AND ECONOMICS

Maria @ The Money Principle writes Get Your Debt, Before Your Debt Gets You: the six rules of debt busting – Yesterday I read the story of a guy who took loads of pills and booze trying to kill himself because of debt.

Justin @ Edward Antrobus writes 6 Ways Shoppers are Deceived! – Brands and advertisers use specific marketing tactics to convince shoppers to make purchases There are some tactics that they use that, while not illegal, border on being unethical.

Katie @ IRA Basics writes 4 IRA Withdrawals that Actually Make Sense – Withdrawing funds from a traditional IRA before a person turns 59 ½ usually means that they’re going to pay a lot of taxes and penalties.

Amy @ Money Mishaps writes These are the Biggest Money Mistakes Couples Make When Divorcing – When people get divorced, it’s the spouse who hasn’t had a whole lot of experience with the family’s finances that often ends up on the short end of the stick.

Jay @ Daily Fuel Economy Tip writes How to Save on Gas – Uncommon Ways – I will describe a few less common ways you can save on gas – I hope you will find them useful.

Daniel @ Make Money Make Cents writes The Expenses of Buying and Owning a Home – From finding the perfect mortgage with the appropriate fees, to the year round upkeep and maintenance, this investment requires a lot of time and capital.

Brock Kernan @ Cleverdude writes Dear Garbage Company: I’m Moving On – My garbage company offered to keep my rates the same for 2 years, so how did my bill go up by 30%?

Jeremy @ Modest Money writes 3 Habits of the Highly Effective Blogger – You aren’t born a successful blogger. People with successful blogs are an odd breed. A lot of us aren’t writers by trade, and many of us have just stumbled into the niche we inhabit

CAREER AND INCOME

Kayla @ Shoeaholic No More writes Trying Out Full Time Freelancing – Last week I had the opportunity to test out what it would be like if I were a full-time freelancer, and it was awesome!

Jon @ Penny Thots writes How To Make Money With Photography – You love taking pictures. Going out and seeing the world through a lens provides you with happiness and relaxation. While many enjoy photography just for the pleasure and joy that it brings, others are interested in turning their hobby into a side income.

INVESTING AND SAVING

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes There’s No Time Like the Present to Start Investing – The best time to start investing is 20 years ago. The second best time to start investing is today. There are plenty of other ways you can make sure you have enough for retirement, and maybe a little extra to enjoy now.

Matt @ Budget Snob writes Investing Doesn’t Take Genius Intelligence, Just Common Sense – A quote that’s attributed to Albert Einstein goes something like this: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Hadley @ Epic Finances writes Stock Investing Myths and Truths Part 4 of 4 – Even though there’s plenty of information about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to investing in the stock market, many myths still refuse to die.

RETIREMENT AND TAXATION

Michael Kitces @ Nerd’s Eye View writes Tax Extenders Reinstated Temporarily, But ABLE Act Of 2014 Will Permanently Change 529 Plan Landscape For Special Needs Beneficiaries – Late last night, the Senate passed H.R. 5771, known as the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 or more simply as the “Tax Extenders” legislation.

Find Insurance Savings In 2015

InsurancePeople often forget that insurance is a product. You can’t touch it, taste it, or smell it, but it’s a product all the same, one with discounts and sales incentives. It’s a funny product, because it’s one that you may never actually receive. You’re paying for coverage in the event that you need it, and most other products don’t work this way. Because people don’t always look at insurance as a product, they often neglect to shop around. By taking the first offer that flies across the counter, most people miss out on serious savings. This new year, take the time to evaluate all of your insurance options. You could be saving hundreds of dollars a year.

Car Insurance

This was my biggest savings revelation this year. By switching our car insurance provider, my wife and I saved almost 50%. I did further research and realized that my 22 year old Jeep is considered a historic vehicle in my home state. There are certain driving limitations, but there’s no inspection necessary. With a quick trip to the title and tag place, my monthly insurance went down to the level of a Netflix subscription. The total time I spent researching my options amounted to maybe two hours. The savings I uncovered will add up to hundreds every year.

For some readers, you might not even need to switch providers to get the best deal. You should still shop around, but also talk with your current provider for discounts you might be missing out on.

Home Insurance

This was another insurance savings my wife and I made this year. As new homeowners, we never thought much about the cost of home insurance, assuming that one insurer will price it very much like another. We couldn’t have been more wrong. By changing our insurance provider, we saved more than 20%. Combined with the savings on our car insurance, we could save over $1000 a year, just by doing a little homework and finding out what our options are. Imagine if we hadn’t done this? That’s more than $100 a month just slipping away for no good reason.

Health Insurance

For readers living in the United States, it’s best to check out your options at HealthCare.gov. Millions of applicants have yet to discover what rates they have access to, and many that do know are happy with a cheaper than anticipated cost of coverage. This isn’t a commercial for Obamacare, just advice to check it out. If your employer provides healthcare, make sure you get everything out of it that you can, including gym discounts and other healthy incentives often overlooked in insurance packages.

Once you get a quote from the healthcare website, compare it to other plans as well, just to be certain you are getting the best deal possible.

Life Insurance

Every adult with dependents should have life insurance. But this doesn’t mean that you should buy it from just anyone. If you already have a provider of other kinds of insurance, this insurer may offer you life insurance at discounted rates. Call your agent to talk about package deals that may be available to you. And don’t be afraid to call around. Get a bunch of quotes. It could save you a ton of money.

Insurance is something we all need in some quantity. Take the time to see what’s out there and you will likely find savings you didn’t anticipate.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas Under $20

20 dollar bill

20 dollar billOh no, you waited until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping, and unfortunately you don’t have the budget to just throw money at the problem. So what can you do? Luckily there are a number of options for quick, easy, last minute Christmas gift ideas that you can put together for twenty dollars or less, allowing you to save the holiday without breaking the bank.

Bake Some Cookies

Rather than heading to the mall, why not head to the kitchen? Baking a gift of cookies, cupcakes, muffins, or other homemade goodies can be a great way to show someone that you care during the holidays. Ingredients will usually only cost a couple of dollars, and you may even have the necessary materials in your cupboard already. Preparation can take some time and forethought, but you can cut down on that by using a pre-made mix if you’re in a particular hurry.

The one important thing to be aware of are any dietary restrictions that the person being gifted these treats may have due to culture or health. There’s nothing worse than receiving a plate of warm delicious temptations that you just can’t partake in. [Read more…]

The Round Table – December 14, 2014

wood round table

wood round tableI hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is getting ready for the holidays! We had an awesome Thanksgiving and just decorated our house for Christmas this weekend. My shopping is just about done too. I took a few hours on Cyber Monday to buy all of my gifts. Was it me or were this year’s Black Friday and cyber Monday deals crap?

I am not one to go out shopping for gifts on Black Friday, I instead look for deals that I can resell for a higher price. It felt like all of the “good deals” were on products made by companies I’ve never heard of before. And for Cyber Monday, the “deals” I found were free shipping on orders of $100 or more. Wow, what a deal (end sarcasm).

Ir seems as though the deals rotate from year to year. Last year was a great year for finding deals. Two years ago, not so much. Hopefully next year is better.

Anyways, the year end is upon and that means 1,000’s of articles about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions. I am putting my foot down and telling you now I will not be writing about goals come January. At this point, it just feels like every article is the same thing just in a different voice.

Enough about all that. You came here to find some awesome posts from other personal finance bloggers. Here are the posts I’ve found to be the best while surfing the web recently.

Great Blog Posts from Other Bloggers

The Power of Asking at Bare Budget Guy
802 Reasons Why cash Is More Thoughtful Than Gift Cards at Len Penzo
Are The Experts Killing Our Savings Potential at Blonde on a Budget

Posts Money Smart Guides Wrote for Other Blogs

How To Make Money With Photography at Penny Thots
How The Long Road To Building Self-Confidence Got Me Out of Debt at Ready For Zero

[Photo Credit: Wicker Paradise]

Tips To Avoid Debt When Holiday Shopping

avoid debt when holiday shopping

avoid debt when holiday shoppingIt can be easy to get carried away with holiday shopping. It’s a magical season, and the spirit of giving can be almost intoxicating as you dart from store to store trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. However it’s important not to go too far and end up spending yourself into debt – which unfortunately too many of us do. Luckily there are a few simple tricks that you can use to set limits for yourself, and help you avoid debt when holiday shopping.

6 Ways To Avoid Debt When Holiday Shopping

Set a Budget

The most important thing to do when trying to stay out of debt while shopping for the holidays is to know your limit. You should set a budget ahead of time, and stick strictly to it. That allows you to put money aside specifically for gifts so that you don’t end up dipping into personal savings. You can set an overall budget for the entire holiday, although it’s usually helpful to decide how much you want to spend on each person.

Start Early

Last minute holiday shopping can be stressful and difficult. The pressure to get everything done quickly can lead to you throwing money at the problem rather than hunting down the best prices possible. The earlier you start thinking about what to get everyone, the more time you will have to carefully consider the best present, and find the lowest price tag on each one. It will also make it easier to avoid paying a premium for items out of holiday desperation. [Read more…]

Five Reasons Business Owners Mistakenly Believe They Cannot Accept Credit Cards

mobile payments

mobile paymentsIt’s tough to survive as a small business in today’s economy. The competition is intense, and to survive, you need to find any advantage available. Naturally, an increase in sales will always be welcome, and there is no better way to do this than by accepting credit cards. Some people will only pay with a credit card, or at least use a debit card as a credit card. If you are not accepting the top credit cards in the world today, you are losing sales. Truthfully, no business can afford to do this. Chances are, you understand this, but you do not believe that you can accept credit cards for a number of reasons. You are probably mistaken about this. Below are 5 common misconceptions business owners have about accepting credit cards.

You Can’t Accept Credit Cards Because Your Business Is Mobile

You may have the type of business that is moving from place to place offering a service to your customers. There is simply no way of acquiring the capability of accepting credit cards. The truth of the matter is that there are now attachments for smart phones that integrate with an app that allows you to take credit cards. It is only a matter of getting a merchant account, and you will be ready to take credit cards as payments wherever you are.

It Is Too Expensive To Get Started

Often a business owner will think that there are high application and set-up fees, making it too expensive to get started with accepting plastic. However, there are several companies that will set-up your merchant account free of charge and the application process is free as well.

My Credit Is Bad

Too often a small business owner will know the value of accepting credit cards, but he or she is under the mistaken belief that with bad credit or no credit, acquiring a merchant account is impossible. However, there are merchant account providers that specialize in this type of high risk business. Not only is it possible to get a merchant account with bad credit, but if you apply to a company that specializes in high risk accounts, it is highly probable that you will be approved for a merchant account.

My Business Is In A High Risk Industry

Sometimes the issue is not your credit rating but the nature of your business. Certain businesses are seen by many merchant account providers as inherently risky. It may be the type of product that is being sold, or the number of international transactions that are being done. Some businesses are considered risky simply because they operate offshore. Once again, there are merchant account providers that specialize in helping these high risk businesses.

It Too Expensive To Process Credit Cards

It is true that there are transaction fees involved when you process a credit card, but many of these sales would not have occurred except that you offered credit cards as a payment option. Even with transaction fees, the number of people buying from you will increase. That alone makes not accepting credit cards more expensive than refusing them. In addition, people have a tendency to spend more money when they use a credit card versus paying cash.

You can start shopping for a merchant account today, but make sure you focus on companies that specialize in high risk merchant accounts. There are several companies like this that are easily found on the Internet. High Risk Pay is one example of this type of merchant account provider.

[Photo Credit: Eric (HASH) Hersman]

How To Live On $1,000 A Month

Spent

I found the online game Spent last night and must say it is a very eye opening game. The premise of the game is that you’ve lost your job and house and are down to your last $1,000. Can you to survive on $1,000 for a month? As you play the game, you need to find a job, a place to live, buy food, and deal with everything else life throws at you. The game only takes 5-10 minutes to play, so I highly suggest you try it out. Simply click on the image below to play the game. When you are done, you can read my experience below.

how to live on $1,000 a month

How to Live on $1,000 A Month: Lessons Learned

I failed. I ended up running out of money after 12 days. I thought I was smart about my spending decisions, but life kept throwing me curveballs. I guess I could have ran away from the accident or not answered that collection call, but I just couldn’t do it – I’m too honest!

The most striking thing that I learned from playing the game is how much more costly it is to survive when you are living paycheck to paycheck. For example, in the game it asked if I wanted to buy health insurance. Many low income earners forgo insurance because of the cost. Because of this, should any issues come up, they will cost you much more money than if you were paying for health insurance each month. It sounds simple then to buy the coverage, but many cannot afford it without going without something else. There are so many choices that you need to make.

Another thing that struck me was just how little thought I put into buying certain things that area big decision for those in need. For example, the game asked me to buy sneakers for my kid. I never think about the cost of sneakers in terms of surviving month to month. I buy a high quality shoe that has a reasonable price tag, but I never have to make the decision to buy the sneakers or buy myself a jacket.

For anyone reading this post, here is my advice to anyone living close to the edge:

  • Find areas where you can cut back on expenses. Buy alternatives. Learn about things that actually make you poorer. Limit your spending. You can live off of Ramen noodles for awhile. Buy non-perishables like canned vegetables that will last. Take advantage of food stamps. It may not be glamorous, but don’t worry what others think of you and be proud of who you are and where you are going.
  • Make saving a priority, not something you do if there is anything left over after the fact.
  • Make friends at work. If they live nearby, maybe you can carpool and cut down on gas and wear and tear on your car.
  • Find a roommate. Find someone to live with to help cut down the monthly cost of rent.
  • Find other income sources. You don’t necessarily need another job. With the internet, you can turn just about anything into an income. This post has a ton of ideas to get you started.
  • Work on building an emergency fund. Start out with just getting the balance to $1,000. That $1,000 for the unexpected will save you from many headaches down the road.
  • Save money. Find out if you can save a lot of money by changing three things in your life.
  • Stay positive. Everyone experiences setbacks in life. Learn to not get down when a setback happens and instead grow and become a better person from it. Check out this video for some perspective, or this one.

Final Thoughts: How to Live on $1,000 a Month

Living on $1,000 a month is not easy. But if you are in this situation, you don’t have to settle and accept it. There are things you can do to change your circumstances, you just have to be willing to put in the effort. If you can take steps to better your situation, you will slowly begin to see changes. Use those achievements as motivation to keep pushing through and reaching your goals.

Readers, how did you fare when you played Spent?

Wealth Creation And A Slice of The Pie

wealth creation

wealth creationThere is a lot of conversation these days about the very wealthy and their debt to society. In fact, one of the boards making up many political platforms is taxation of the wealthy at a greater rate simply because they are wealthy. The debate is simply this: to whom does the wealth belong? One fact that fuels the fire is that the top 1% of the wealthy is getting richer. People who view wealth as a fixed amount of goods and material objects use the metaphor of a pie. They point out that society owns the pie, and if people like Richard Branson get the lion’s share, there is less left for the rest of us. Many people argue that the pie should be distributed more equitably.

Wealth Creation: The Pie Isn’t Finite, It’s Infinite

According to a Forbes magazine article, that comparison might hold up if there were, indeed, a pie, and if the wealth was tangible and finite. The problem with the analogy is that today’s wealth lies in technology and in ideas that are infinite as far as we know. It goes on growing. Society does not own the skills that create the technology advances or the ideas that advance culture; the innovator owns them.

The article cited gives the example of Robinson Crusoe. Suppose the shipwrecked Englishman had grown tired of fishing with his bare hands and had invented a spear, garnering more fish for himself. Would Friday, who never thought of anything like a spear, be correct in claiming that Crusoe was getting an unfair amount of the fish?

It goes on to say that Richard Branson began by selling record albums out of the trunk of his car. The albums were his and so was the money he made selling them. He used the money he made to make more. That is, he made records cheaper and more accessible, made phones easier to use and improved air travel. The wealth he created from his ideas is his, even though they benefited society.

Stephen Wynn is another example. The man who is credited with revitalizing the Las Vegas Strip did not come from a poor family. Still, when he took over the family bingo operation in Maryland after his father’s death, he made a profit. Moving to Las Vegas, he revamped the famous Golden Nugget, attracting a new, more affluent clientele to the downtown area. He built the Mirage and the Bellagio, with its indoor lake and an art gallery with museum-quality pieces. His efforts have not only made him wealthier, they have increased the value of Las Vegas properties for others because of the updates he initiated.

Final Thoughts

Wealth creation, the idea that people have the right to the fruits of their labors, is the foundation of capitalism. The idea that great wealth compels you to share with others is valid as well. That is not why we should redistribute the “pie.” If there were a wealth “pie” society would not own it, but it certainly deserves a bite for being the consumers and investors. That is why so many of the top 1% in wealth give back through charities and foundations.

If you are in the 99% and aspire to become the 1%, here is my detailed guide for how to make it.

[Photo Credit: mseattle]

Black Friday Shopping Tips

black friday sales

black friday salesWith the holiday season approaching, you must be eagerly waiting for Black Friday when you can get the best shopping deals. However, in the frenzy of shopping, you may get carried away and spend more money on things that you want than on things that you need. Therefore, you should plan and be ready to shop when the day arrives. So, here are 5 Black Friday shopping tips:

Create A Shopping List

With so many items available at such competitive rates, you may find yourself picking up every item that catches your eyes before you realize that you are running out of money. To prevent this from happening, create a shopping list. Try to do this well in advance so you don’t miss anything that you need. You may amend the list several times before making it final.

Scan The Ads

As the big day approaches, all major retailers come out with eye-catching ads to attract the attention of shoppers. Ads are valuable shopping resources as they contain information about the latest products, their sales price and other offers. You can see the ads on TV, newspapers and websites focused on Black Friday. Many website allow you to filter your searches so that you can look for deals on only the items on your shopping list. [Read more…]