Monday, March 31, 2008

All the little stuff adds up.

Have you noticed how much money you spend on the little stuff? It's easy to keep track of major purchases like a new laptop, or LCD monitor, but little things like paper, stamps, and envelopes can really add up quickly.

I'm probably going to need a new printer in the near future. The one I have is fine right now but it's a couple of years old. As a writer I give printers quite a work out. That's how I go through so much paper. What I didn't realize is how many inkjet cartridges I go through. Sometimes I think the companies who manufacture the printers don't make their money by selling printers but by selling the ink cartridges.

Stamps are another "little" expense. Sending out query letters to freelance articles requires a stamp on the envelope of course, but also another stamp for the response envelope inside. For those of you not familiar with queries, you write a short description of the article you'd like to write, the reasons why you're the best person to write the article and enclose a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the editor to use to give you their response.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

If you have a reasonable credit rating you probably receive a number of credit card offers. Here are a few tips.

Compare apples to apples when an offer comes in. A lower rate interest or even 0% interest may sound like a great deal, just make sure that after an initial time period the interest rate won't go higher than your current card.

Make sure you have enough credit but not too much. Even if the credit is unused it can count against you when you want to buy a new car, refinance your mortgage, or buy a house. The lender thinks that even if the credit isn't used now, you could use it in the future.

Don't get confused by all the bells and whistles. Credit card offers can have different interest rates, membership fees, late fees, cash advance fees and separate cash advance interest rates and usage fees. Decide what you will be using the card for and how often, then decide which card is the best for you.

Credit is not the same thing as cash in the bank. Just because you have an unused credit line of several thousand dollars don't think you have to use it. Save your credit for when you need it.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Credit Card is More than a Convenience

It can be a financial management tool as well. Most of us take our credit cards as a daily part of life. We whip them out to pay for gas, lunch and even groceries. A credit card can help you differentiate between personal travel expenses and business travel. Many cards provide year end reports that group different types of expenses together. It can be a bit of a shock to find out you spent $3,500 on stamps, for example. But that kind of knowledge is helpful when you're examining your profit and loss statement for areas you can trim.

A credit card can also make sure you track every expense. It's easy to pay cash and then forget to include that expense. The card tracks the expenses and provides a paper trail as well.

For some expenses like car rentals and hotels it's mandatory to have a credit card.

A credit card can help with emergency situations and unforeseen expenses. It can also help balance out expenses that you pay once a year, allowing you to break the payments into monthly more easily managed payments. A credit card can smooth out cyclical or seasonal expenses as well. If you know that you have very busy sales months in the summer but won't get paid until September, a credit card can help your business obtain the necessary products, materials and inventory without using vital cash resources.

Credit cards have a bit of a down side, it's all too easy to pay for things with your card and run up a tidy bill. It can also be tempting to use the business card to pay for personal items.

What type of credit card you acquire is dependent on your credit profile. If you don't have established credit it's doubtful you can obtain a card with a huge credit limit. If you pay off your credit card every month you should probably look for one that offers rewards. However if you know you're going to carry a balance from month to month, at least part of the year, then a low interest rate is more important than a rewards program.

As you maintain a good payment history, the limit will increase. Prompt payment on your credit card account also demonstrates a responsible attitude and that can help you get bank financing in the future.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sometimes you have just got to have cash. Credit cards are great for those everyday purchases but what if you need cash and you need it in a hurry?

You could ask for a cash advance on your credit card, but some cards have a limit on how much and how often you can get an advance. And of course you pay a processing fee, cash advance fee and interest fees.

Pawning valuables is another alternative. You'll get the cash quickly but you won't have the use of whatever valuable you're pawning and you'll only get less than 10% of the value of the asset. If you have a watch that retails at $5,000, you may only get $150 in cash. If you don't pay pack the $150.00 plus interest in the time period allowed, usually 90 days, you forfeit the watch.

Another alternative is a payday advance loan. This works if you have a steady job with a reliable paycheck. There's a quick online application process and you do have to pay interest and sometimes a small processing fee. The money is transferred to your bank account almost immediately. When you get your paycheck you pay the advance back.

As with any loan or credit option use it wisely.

Debt can be a lifesaver in an emergency situation but many people are drowning in debt. Unfortunately some of us think that an available balance on a credit card is the same thing as cash in the bank. If there's enough credit to go on a cruise, buy those expensive shoes, or go out to an elegant restaurant,well why not, we all deserve it.

Breaking down a $6,999.99 set of new living room furniture into easy monthly payments of $249.00 makes it easier to swallow. And what about that new car you've had your eye on? Never mind the price tag of over $20,000, it's only $389.00 a month. And suddenly you're facing a credit crisis. Your paycheck will only stretch so far and those "easy" monthly payments are pushing you under water.

Don't try to ignore the problem. Recognize there is a problem and that a
debt management program may be your solution. Debt management is simply a way to take all those credit card balances, personal loans, monthly payments and refinance the total with a new loan and often lower monthly payment.

It's difficult to do this by yourself. Often your creditors won't take your efforts seriously and that's where a debt management company comes in. The company can negotiate with all your creditors develop a new loan and debt repayment schedule for you.

It's something to consider if you're drowning in debt.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Off to School and Into Debt

Student credit cards can be a lifesaver for children away from home and can also drown them in debt. Learning to manage credit is an important part of growing up and some students handle it more responsibly than others. Here are some tips to insure your student makes top grades in credit.

Read the application and understand the terms the credit card offers. Some cards offer a 0% interest rate for the first six months and then make up for it later with high rates. If the student pays off the bill every month this isn't a problem, but if the student carries a balance those high interest rates can add up quickly. Students also need to be aware that only paying the minimum payment due is in the credit card company's best interest not their own. With high interest rates and low minimum payments the student can in effect end up paying double what an item cost

Don't use the credit card for everyday expenses, pay cash. Charging lunch even a couple of times a week can build a balance up quickly. Save the credit card for when you must use it, for emergencies, or to spread the purchase of, say, text books out over the entire semester.

Instead of a traditional credit card start out with a secured credit card. The limit can be as low as $500. Knowing there is a limit can be helpful. A guardian or parent sometimes has to sign for these cards.

If you're not sure whether your student can handle credit, obtain a card with their name on it with one of the parent's accounts. Have the student call the parent each time they need to use the card. This will teach the student when it's appropriate to use a credit card and when it's not. It also provides a credit card for emergencies.

A credit card granted solely on the student's application, as opposed to a parent's, is the basis for building the student's credit history. It's tempting to abuse a credit card because it doesn't seem like real money. When writing checks the balance stares you in the face but not so with a credit card. Many times the student won't even realize the amount of charges until the bill arrives and it's heart failure time. Students often don't realize by not paying the bill on time, or even skipping a month's payment because they're short on cash, affects their ability to buy a car or even a home in the future.

Using credit wisely is a lesson every student needs to learn.

Dee Power

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm one of those people that knows a little about a lot of things. I'm a writer so I spend time researching many different topics for freelancing assignments and ghostwriting clients. While I do know a ton of stuff about business planning, venture capital, and angels investors because I've written commercially published books on the subject, I know just a bit about investing.

Investing in stocks and bonds, not investing in start-up companies. I've read, reviewed, or written hundreds of business plans for entrepreneurs and their firms. About the only thing that matters with a brand new company is the strength of the management team. Great management rules.

Stocks and bonds are different. Advice from the so-called experts and pundits can be counter intuitive, complicated and a lot of times incomprehensible. I found investment blog and it's pretty cool. Covers all the bases. I particularly like the graphs. Some people are more visual in comprehending information and the graphs help.

The advice is straightforward and clearly explained in a take it or leave it manner. Some sites imply that you're clearly stupid if you don't agree with their conclusions but investment blog respects the reader. Read the post about deep discounters and you'll see what I mean. I plan on visiting rather often.

Dee Power

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The holiday buying season is over and you're probably facing a stack of credit card bills from your generous Christmas shopping sprees. And then there were the after Christmas sales, the President Day's sales and of course Spring clothes shopping. You can rack up quite a balance. As much as you might like, those bills won't mysteriously disappear.

Paying only the minimum payment on each credit card will take you years to pay off the debt and you might end up paying three, four, or even five times as much in interest as the merchandise you bought. If you're having trouble stretching your budget to make even the minimum payments then you need to take action.

Look at your budget and see which items you can cut. Do you stop for a coffee drink every day on the way to work? Those double cafe lattes can add up at nearly $5.00 a pop. That's an extra $150.00 you can put toward debt payments. Go through all your expenses and see which you can give up. But if even that isn't enough you might consider Debt Consolidation Loans

A debt consolidation loan is bundling all your debts together, negotiating with the credit card companies, utility companies, medical providers and other debt holders for a new interest rate and payment plan. The resulting payment can be less, sometimes much less than your original payments. However the loan may go on longer than the original debts, so keep that in mind.

If you don't own your home, or don't want to use it as security for a debt consolidation loan there are Unsecured Debt Consolidation Loans You won't have to use your home as collateral.

Don't ignore your debt problems they won't just go away.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tax time is not my favorite time of year. First you have to drag out all those pesky little receipts that you saved all year, but of course you didn't save them all in the same place. Some are in one drawer, others are stuffed in envelopes, and some you aren't quite sure where they are.

Then you have to categorize them into the appropriate expense lines. If you use a payment processor like Paypal you have all the receipts in one place but it can be a challenge to tell what each one is for, unless of course you were smart enough to keep track as you go.

Since taxes are pretty much done only once a year it's easy to forget why you did something the way you did. Questions come up. The Tax and Accounting Software Forum is one place you can go to get some of those questions answered and commiserate with others.

There are software programs that help compute taxes and the government has down loadable PDF forms you can complete online, print and submit. That's a major improvement over a calculator, pencil and paper.

Probably the only good thing about tax time, is that it is also Spring time.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Identity Theft – It could happen to you

In 2006 9.9 million people in the United States were victims of identity theft at a cost of $5 billion dollars. It is the fastest growing crime in America. The numbers could be even higher as identity theft is reported differently in different areas.

"Identity theft is a criminal offense. It occurs when a person knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit or to aid or abet any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law."
- Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, 18 USC 1028(a)(7)

Key pieces of personal information are fraudulently obtained and used to steal the assets of the victim or to defraud others. Bank accounts can be drained. Credit cards maxed out and new credit accounts established. And yes, it can happen to you. Credit card protection is important. See Lifelock Reviews for more information.

It can start with pilfered mail, a computer virus that opens a backdoor to information on your hard drive, a lost wallet, phishing, or going through trash to find thrown out correspondence.

How does someone get away with identity theft? Here's an example: The criminal dumpster dives in your trash looking for bank statements, credit card statements, and records from financial institutions. If they find a bank statement they request a change of address for your bank account. The criminal orders new checks for your checking account and has them sent to the new address. They then write checks and drain the account. Many accounts are protected by overdraft credit, or can make an automatic withdrawal from a savings account, making the situation worse. You won't even become aware of the incident until you're contacted by someone you wrote a check to and it doesn't clear for insufficient funds. Life lock reviews gives you credit card protection.

If you've thrown out one of the pre-approved applications for a credit card the criminal simply completes the application and uses a new address for the cards to be sent to.