Category: Personal Finance

Here’s a Quick Way to Save $2500 a Year on Groceries

groceriesOne of the biggest monthly expenses for most families is the cost of food. Other than your house payment or car payment, groceries are the biggest drain on your wallet. The average family spends more than $6,000 a year on food. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to shave hundreds of dollars off of your monthly food expenses by following some of these great tips.
1. Switch to store brands
One of the biggest ways to save money on food is by simply switching to store brands instead of the commercial name brands. As most of these store brands are 30% cheaper than the average commercial brand, this can lead to a saving of up to $1,500 per year. You will also be surprised to know that in a taste-off study by Yahoo Shopping, the store brands were found to be comparable in terms of taste, quality and nutrition.
2. Plan your grocery spending
Another way to save money on groceries is by implementing a little planning. On average, families today throw out about 15% of the food they buy at the grocery store because it went un-used. When you consider that the average annual grocery bill as detailed above, that is an extraordinary $900 a year on wasted food. With a little planning, however, we can cut down this waste dramatically. Plan your meals for the week and only purchase what you need for those meals. Take a look in your refrigerator and think of great uses for the ingredients you already have. There was a reason you purchased that food in the first place, why let it go to waste? Also, stop making daily trips to the grocery store. Most Americans don’t think about what they want to eat that day until they start to get hungry. Then they jump in the car and drive to the grocery store to pick up what they are in the mood for, sometimes forgetting that they have certain things in the fridge or freezer already. A little planning can therefore save a lot of money.
3. Stop Paying For Convenience
There is a lot of truth in the saying that we pay for convenience. For example, you can get a head of romaine lettuce for about half the cost of the pre-packaged, pre-washed chopped lettuce bags that you find in every grocery store. This is a huge waste of money for the sake of a little convenience, especially when you think that most people use the entire bag in one meal instead of just cutting up what they need.
Another huge cause of over-spending due to convenience is eating out. It is so much easier to go to Subway for lunch instead of making your own sandwich and bringing it with you. Bringing your own lunch can actually save you over $2,000 per year. That is the equivalent of a $1 per hour pay rise!
4. Save Gas
With the average price of gas climbing to over $3 per gallon in the U.S., the family car is a huge drain on your wallet. Group your trips and errands together so that you make less trips in the car and you can save a substantial amount of money. For example, planning your meals for the week will result in one trip to the grocery store each week instead of seven. While you are out, why don’t you also go and pick up that rake you needed from the hardware store instead of making another trip later?
5. Eat Less by Drinking More Water
A Washington University study recently proved that most people who think they are hungry are actually just thirsty. In fact, in their study, when people drank a glass of water when they were hungry between their meals, the hunger pans went away almost every time! This is especially true when the midnight hunger pangs hit. By drinking more water, not only are you living a healthier lifestyle, you will also find that you are eating less and saving more money.

Build Credit: 10 Best Websites For Frugal Living

Creating personal wealth isn’t always about making more money. Sometimes it’s about spending less or spending smart as well. That’s where paying attention to ways you can economize not only your purchases, but also your time and your experiences can offer big rewards.
It’s true that for some the word frugal can bring up negative connotations. However, living frugally doesn’t have to mean you need to penny-pinch or live like a miser hoarding your money. True frugal lifestyles are about finding ways to get the best life has to offer at the cheapest or most “frugal” prices possible. It means making informed decisions about where and when you spend your money. If your goal is to get out of debt, or get ahead financially, finding ways to decrease your spending is going to be quite helpful.
With this in mind, below is a list of favorite websites that help promote frugal lifestyle choices and spending habits.
Frugal Living
There are hundreds (possibly even thousands) of ways to make your everyday life more efficient and profitable. From saving money with your nightly dinner meal to time saving tips that help you get more done, these sites will help you stash away some much-needed dough.
Learn all the ins and outs of creating your meals on a budget.
Frugal Village
Everything from frugal living to frugal cooking tips.
Make Better Choices
Nothing’s worse than that sinking feeling of overspending or feeling like we’ve gotten duped. Avoid common pitfalls by doing some research first with these sites.
Check all the prices of gas in your local area to find the best deals.
Make sure the hotel you booked is actually what’s being offered by browsing through the reviews of locations at
Angie’s List
Worried about doctor, a contractor or even a local business? Check out Angie’s List first to get reviews by other members on virtually every type of business. Caveat: This is a paid for membership site based on where you live. Most yearly fees are below $40.00.
Discounts & Coupons
It may feel annoying waiting while they ring up all your coupons, but when that savings gets you an extra tank of gas each week, you won’t mind the extra time spent.
Retail Me Not
Want great stuff from your favorite stories, but don’t want to pay full price? This site features coupon codes from all of the top retailers.
Less flashy than Retail Me Not, offers coupons and special offers from a wide selection of online retailers. The categories covered are quite extensive, featuring coupons for everything from computers to baby products.
Want to save money on the products you already buy? This site allows you to search by your zip code for coupons available at stores in your area.
The Grocery Game
Like having the inside scoop on local deals? The Grocery Game does just that. They provide you a list of savings from grocery stories in your area so you know where to buy what at the cheapest prices. This is a membership site that charges $10 every 8 weeks. However, you can try it for four weeks free.
Daily Deals
Sometimes deals so great come by that you have to swoop them up. This is the thought process behind daily deal sites. Each day, you’re only offered one deal at an extremely discounted rate. If it’s something you’ll use, you’ll gain significant savings from taking advantage of the offer.
In addition to their main daily deal site they also have sites dedicated to specific products such as shirts, wine and kids.
Want to book a local hotel for a discount rate? How about trying that new restaurant? Groupon is an excellent service for finding daily deals on services and products locally.
These are a few of our favorites. Take a few minutes and share yours!

Banking Scams: How Banks Are Legally Stealing Your Money and What You Can Do About It

The down economy has hurt more than just general public – banks are feeling the pinch as well. In an effort to generate extra income, they’ve become quite creative and sneaky in their tactics. We refer to these at as banking scams. They are the ways banks “legally steal” from you month after month, most times without you even realizing it.
Whether you want to hear it or not, the truth is that the banks are in bed with the government and although the government tells the banks to “treat people fairly,” they continue to steal your money, while greedily taking money from you (via the government and your tax dollars) at the same time.
To spread the message and help people avoid these banking scams, we’re inviting everyone to share their stories of banking scams that may have happened to you. The goal is to make the public aware of what’s really going on so you can protect your hard-earned money. A few dollars here and there may not seem like much, but when you add up the thousands of accounts they are doing this to, you can see how much banks depend on these banking scams.
This is an important issue that we believe strongly about and we greatly appreciate your time in sharing your scam. If you don’t have a story to share, take a few minutes and read through the scams to make sure you don’t become a victim, or share this page with others who you think will benefit from the information.
To make it easier to find your story, if you’re sharing a scam please start your comment with the words “BANKING SCAM.”
If you have a facebook account, post this via the Facebook Comments below so we can get this message out!
In the spirit of sharing, here is one that happened to me recently.
If this isn’t a scam from US Bank, I’m not sure what is.
Last week I was helping my Mother in Law close out her lease with US Bank, she owed the final payment of $395, so I called to pay it.
Before they collected the payment, I told the US Bank Representative that my Mother just moved from California to Arizona eight weeks ago. She gladly took the information and then told me that she will have to charge my credit card $405 instead of $395. I asked, “Why?.”
Well, I found out that it is US Bank’s policy to charge an extra $10 fee for billing addresses in Arizona. Interesting.
Hmmm… I have clients all over the world and it doesn’t cost me extra money to charge a person’s credit card in Arizona vs. California. Even if it did, NO WAY it would be $10. And, even if I were charged extra, I wouldn’t even think about passing that on to the client.
Here I am, five days after this happened blogging about this US Bank Scam… to my entire client base. These companies need to start focusing on building more value to their clients instead of penny pinching all of us.
Here is how I got around the $10 scam. I told her to change my address back to the California address and rerun it. I told her, “If you charge me the $10 fee, I refuse to pay the bill.” She changed the address, I saved $10, and I’m not using US Bank again!
Share your Scam!!
Philip Tirone is a Credit Scoring Expert and Champion for the Human Race

Other Scam Posts:
The Retail Store Credit Card Scam – Click to Read
The Dirty Little Secret that Hurts Credit – Click to Read
Protecting Yourself from Common Bankruptcy Scams – Click to Read

Get the Best Car Loan and Avoid Credit Problems at the Dealership

A lot of car buyers hoping to get the best car loan have had embarrassing experiences at the dealership. The buyer picks a car and applies for financing from the dealer. The dealer offers an unfavorable loan package, telling the poor buyer that his credit is bad. The buyer is embarrassed. He feels silly for not entirely understanding the loan package, he has doesn’t have time to learn how to build credit. He has already been subjected to some high-pressure sales tactics, and he just wants to get out of there.
This is a sales tactic! It is a scenario intentionally manufactured by the dealer to get you to sign on the dotted line before you have had time to realize what a poor financing offer they have made you. Sometimes, it is even an outright scam: the dealer tells the buyer that he has bad credit just to get the buyer to agree to an expensive financing package.
I guess I can’t get the best car loan with my shoddy credit, thinks the buyer.
The number one way to avoid this unnecessary situation in the first place and get the best car loan is to already have the financing nailed down before you walk into the dealership. Dealers almost never offer the best loan packages, so it is almost always better to avoid bundling the purchase of the car with the financing, warranty, and trade-in of your old vehicle. Shop around for financing ahead of time, using banks, credit unions, and online auto lenders.
Then the dealer can make you a loan offer if he wants, but he knows you are going to compare it to other, probably better, offers. Even if you truly do have poor credit (unlikely if you have attended our free teleseminar), there are far better sources of sub-prime auto loans than the dealership.
If for some reason you still want to find out what kind of financing the dealer can offer you, then the second important step—after applying for financing from other lenders—is known as “The Folder.” The Folder has your credit reports, your credit scores, and some monthly payment calculations based on the target purchase price, interest rate, and loan term. It also has your financing offers from the other lenders. And it contains information about the price other sellers of your desired vehicle will accept. It is perfectly acceptable, and often less costly, to purchase vehicles online these days from dealers all over the country. Once your local dealership knows that you know this, it will be easier to negotiate. The Folder is hated and despised by auto salesman and puts you in charge of negotiations. If you want to get the best car loan, never enter the dealership without it.
The third important method to get the best car loan is simply this: get up and leave several times before agreeing to a deal. If the sales tactics are too heavy-handed—if the dealer is asking for your credit information even though you are not sure you want to apply for financing, if the numbers they are offering do not make sense, if it just feels like you are not going to get the best car loan—get up and leave. Shake the salesperson’s hand and tell him or her you will be in touch. Then walk out. If they tell you their offer is only good for a day, reply calmly and confidently that you are willing to take your chances, and then go.
Only once the dealer understands that you are knowledgeable, educated, prepared and willing to walk away will you start hearing their best offer. Have confidence and do not get emotional. You have financing from other sources, “The Folder,” and numerous other sources from which you can buy your chosen automobile and get the best car loan—and it is a buyers’ market

The Faces of Identity Theft

About 80 percent of people have errors on their credit reports, and many of these are a result of identity theft. Identity theft can be a devastating event that gets in the way of learning how to build credit. Once a thief acquires your personal information s/he can quickly suck your account dry or steal your identity, resulting in not only a tremendous financial loss but a considerable outlay of time to put your affairs back in order.
Now, more than ever, you have to be careful about leaving any scrap of personal information available to scheming identity thieves. Take safeguards to avoid leaving yourself open to identity theft, and be aware of the many ways identity theft might occur.
Dumpster diving. One of the more common forms of identity theft is when thieves find pieces of personal information is to rummage through a victim’s rubbish. For example, the credit card offers that you discard without a thought might be used by a dumpster diver to set up credit accounts in your name. Bank account statements that have your credit card number or bank account might even be used to purchase items online or over the phone. To prevent this, purchase a shredder and use it on anything with your personal information.
Open-access mailboxes. If you have a mailbox that is not secured or is a community mailbox, beware of identity thieves snatching your mail and setting up bogus accounts in your name. If you’re going to be away on vacation, protect yourself from identity theft by asking the post office to put your mail on hold so no one can grab it.
Pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Make sure you never leave your purse or bag unattended. Having access to your credit card and driver’s license is an identity thief’s dream. For that reason, never, ever carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
Phishers and Phreakers. Be especially wary of phishers and phreakers, the newest form of identity theft. Phreakers are people who search for personal information by eavesdropping on telephone calls.  Phishers send cleverly disguised emails that ask you to provide personal account information. Using anti-virus software and a firewall is a good way to cut down on malignant attempts by criminals to access your information. Do not share your password with anybody and change it often to decrease the possibility someone may hack into your computer. Also watch out for spyware, which is often installed on your computer without your consent. It can monitor your computer for personal information, such as credit card numbers.
Keep a close lid on your Social Security number. This is your most sensitive personal information, and when an identity thief gets your Social Security number, s/he can easily steal your identity. Do not give out your number unless you started the call and can confirm the identity of the person/company you are calling.
Always keep track of your credit report. Regularly checking your credit report is the best weapon you have against identity theft. Request copies of your credit report at least four times a year. You can get a free annual credit report once a year. Follow up to see any suspicious information or other irregularities show up. Another important safeguard against identity theft is double-checking the purchases on your credit card and withdrawals from your bank account.

How to Qualify for a Loan

In today’s rough environment, knowing how to build credit isn’t enough if you want to also know how to qualify for a loan.
Ideally, a loan sits on a stool with four legs: income, down payment, savings, and credit score. If necessary, a stool can stand with just three legs. It cannot however, stand on just two, and it is important for would-be borrowers to understand this when learning how to qualify for a loan.
You are going to need at least three out of four “stool legs” to get a worthwhile loan.
Before applying for a loan, understand that the lender is in the business of earning a return on its investment. The lender could invest in the stock market, bonds, annuities, mutual funds, or any number of other things. The lender is only interested in giving you a loan to you if the lender can earn a worthwhile return in the form of the interest payments you make as the loan is paid.
To make this determination, the lender considers the four stool legs we discussed.
How to Qualify for a Loan—Stool Leg Number #1: INCOME
The lender considers your income. The higher your income as compared to your existing debts (your “debt-to-income ratio”), the more likely you are to make your monthly payments.
How to Qualify for a Loan—Stool Leg Number #2: DOWN PAYMENT
Next, the lender considers the down payment you are going to make on a loan attached to property (such as a car or home loan). The bigger the down payment, the more protection a creditor has. First, the property has more equity invested in it, meaning it is more likely to have enough equity to be sold at a profit to pay off the loan. As well, the borrower has more invested in the property and is therefore more likely to prioritize loan payments.
How to Qualify for a Loan—Stool Leg Number #3: SAVINGS
The lender considers your savings. Also called “reserves,” your savings are important because they tell the lender your likelihood of weathering any rough spots in your life, getting back on your feet, and making those loan payments.
How to Qualify for a Loan—Stool Leg Number #4: CREDIT SCORE
Finally, the lender considers your credit score. The credit score gives the lender a glimpse into your character and how important it is to you to keep your word and repay your debts. It also further assists the creditor in analyzing your ability to repay by revealing whether you are already carrying large amounts of debt.
When considering how to qualify for a loan in today’s market, a person really needs four out of four stool legs, though some exceptions might apply. If the would-be borrower is strong on any three out of the four, a lender might make an exception, even if his fourth leg is weak. A strong income may make up for a lack of reserves. Or a high credit score can make up for a small down payment. In normal lending environments, a borrower with a strong income, lots of savings and a big down payment will probably be allowed to slide on a mediocre credit score, but s/he would pay high interest rates.
For major purchases, like cars and houses, it’s worth thinking about these four criteria at least six months to a year in advance of applying for a loan.
Keep your income as high as possible when learning how to qualify for a loan. You can get a second job or work to bring home additional commission. This will help your income, savings, and down payment. Dedicate as much of your monthly earnings to a savings account and maximize your reserves. Learn how to create a budget. If you have family members willing to help you with the down payment, get the money from them in advance so that when the lender looks back at several months’ worth of bank statements, the lender will see consistent higher balances. (Keep in mind that you should discuss the tax consequences for cash gifts with a tax consultant.)
Get a copy of your FICO Score and review it for any errors. If you find them, contact the credit bureaus and follow their steps to have the information corrected. Make all you payments on time, and try to pay down your balances on existing accounts. Attend our free teleseminar so that you can learn how to improve your credit score quickly.
Although the four legs of our stool are the most important criteria, learning how to qualify for a loan means that you take a look at some smaller factors as well. How long have you been at your current job and address?

  • People who move around a lot are generally consider bigger risks than borrowers with proven job stability and a permanent address. From a lender’s perspective, a stable lifestyle—two or more years at the same address—equals a safe investment.
  • In addition, the lender wants to know that you have a history of making plenty of money to afford the loan. Ideally, your job should also be stable, meaning you have been employed for at least two years at the same company.

In today’s market, knowing how to qualify for a loan can be tough. Lenders have more stringent guidelines than ever before. Remember to start early and learn everything you can about building picture-perfect credit!

Key Considerations About Divorce and Credit

While divorce often causes a person to take inventory, many people forget the implications of divorce and credit. Many married couples or life partners jointly apply for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages. Part of learning how to build credit means that you learn about how divorce can complicate your credit situation.
If you and your partner kept all credit separate during your marriage, you will not be impacted by your ex-spouse’s credit behavior at any time before, during, and after your marriage. However, if your spouse is an authorized user or joint holder of a credit card, an angry former spouse can start lots of problems with respect to divorce and credit. With joint accounts, both you and your ex-spouse are jointly responsible for debt and therefore are affected by each other’s financial decisions. For example, your ex-spouse’s late payments and collection notices show up on your credit report after the divorce if you have not split the accounts.
The best move is to cancel these cards rather than risk the negative effects of someone else’s mismanagement. Some credit card companies may require a special type of notice to cancel jointly held cards, such as a written notice. Doing this as soon as possible is in your best interest in terms of divorce and credit. After a divorce, your ex-spouse may need to charge many things to make up for reduced income. Even if your ex is not being malicious, this could harm your credit score by causing your utilization rate (the balance as a percentage of the credit card limit) on jointly held credit cards to increase.
If you and your ex-spouse own a home together, both are charged with paying off the debt unless you work out another arrangement. Aside from selling the house, your best option may be to pursue refinancing. Using a quitclaim deed, you can take your name off the title of the property, but this is not enough when it comes to divorce and credit. Your ex must also refinance, or your credit will suffer if he or she becomes delinquent on payments.
On the other side, if you retain ownership of the home and do not put the property in your name, you could be affected if your ex-spouse is sued. The house might be seized to pay off your spouse’s debts.
If you are separated, you may want to take a few steps to prepare yourself, especially if you think you are heading toward divorce. Pull your credit report and assess your financial situation, noting all existing credit accounts. Keep copies of everything in a safe place. If you have joint accounts, have a discussion with your spouse about who will assume payments for which credit accounts. If you are on peaceful terms with your spouse, have a frank discussion about divorce and credit, and how you can both protect yourselves. Consult an attorney, and create a plan to keep your payments on schedule and your credit protected.
To protect yourself from the pitfalls of divorce and credit, cancel your joint accounts, and make sure you contact all credit bureaus to ensure that your address information is updated.

New Overdraft Fee Legislation

As part of the new overdraft fee legislation, beginning August 15, banks will no longer be allowed to authorize debt card transactions if they overdraw your account …
… unless you tell them otherwise.
Until this new overdraft fee legislation takes effect, banks can continue their practice of authorizing transactions that put your account in the red, charging you an overdraft fee. Currently, banks also can allow you to withdraw more money than you have at an ATM, charging you an overdraft fee of at least $35.
But once the new regulation comes to fruition on August 15, this practice will be against the rules unless you “opt in” by authorizing your bank to continue automatically authorizing these transactions.
A word of warning: Banks are aggressively finding ways to line their pockets before this new overdraft fee legislation go into effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if they loosened their policy on this practice between now and August 15. You might be authorized for just about any transaction while they sit by and collect the $35 overdraft fee.
Indeed, some banks have already started a direct mail campaign that persuades account holders to opt in so that they are not affected by the new overdraft fee legislation. But I generally think this is a bad idea. If you do not have enough money in your account for the transaction, it stands to reason that you do not have enough money to pay the overdraft fee.

“I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit”

I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit.” An old friend of mine was calling for advice. “What’s the best way to get my hands on money? Should I go to one of those places that offers instant cash?”
If you are like many cash-strapped Americans whose scores fall below 720, you should–of course–learn how to build credit. But what do you do in the meantime?
You might think you must rely on high-interest loans with large penalties and lousy terms. But sadly, too many people desperate for money end up exacerbating the situation by applying for loans intended for people with bad credit, which guarantees that they will pay extra fines and interest rates. The irony, of course, is that people with bad credit are the ones who are least able to afford these loans.
If you find yourself saying, I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit, consider one of two options:
1. If you have a long and strong relationship with your boss, ask for an advance. This is an interest-free way to secure some quick cash, and your boss might let you pay the loan off slowly by simply taking small deductions out of each paycheck.
Only implement this strategy if:

  • You have been at your job for more than one year,
  • You have a strong relationship with your boss, and
  • The company has a solid bottom line.

You should also pay close attention to the amount of the loan. After working for me for only three weeks, a former housekeeper of mine once asked me for an advance on her salary.
I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit,” she told me, begging for 10 percent of her salary! I had no idea whether she would work for me long enough to repay the loan, nor did I know whether she was the type of person who took her financial obligations seriously. I refused her the loan, and our relationship was permanently scarred.
To protect your relationship with your boss, follow this general rule:
If you have been employed for more than one year but less than two years, ask for no more than 2 percent of your annual salary. Your boss might feel comfortable lending you 5 percent if you have been with the company for two to three years; if you have been working for the same company for more than three years, you might be able to secure a 10 percent cash advance.
2. Another low-interest option is to ask a relative for a loan. Be upfront about your situation, but be businesslike. Instead of calling in a panic and saying, “I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit,” try writing out an agreement that details interest, when the payments will be made, and what you will provide as collateral in the event you are late with a payment. By putting everything in writing, and making every payment on time and in full, you will preserve your relationship and secure a low-interest loan.
Finally, be sure to register for our free teleseminar so that you will never again need to say, “I need a personal loan quick but I have bad credit.”