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How to Enjoy the Holidays and Save!

December 7th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Holidays are enjoyable, but can become expensive if you are not aware of the amount of money you are spending. It is great to have precious time with friends, relatives, and loved ones, and not be buried in debt when it is all over. Do you want to have special memorable times during the holidays, but want to do things a little bit different this year? Well, this year you can. However, it will mean preparing ahead, adjusting your routine, and choosing to give up a few conveniences. However, it will be well worth it. Below are some money saving ideas and tips that can assist you in making your holidays a little cheaper and more brighter.

Relaxed Holiday Dinners
Do without formal holiday dinners, and have an evening of appetizers, movies, and board games. Have everyone pitch in by bringing their favorite hors d'oeuvres, drinks, games, and movies. What a great way to have fellowship, food, and fun without hurting your budget.

Shop Early for Discounts
Look for airline tickets and rental cars bargains early. Use discount websites like,,, or Plan early in order to get the best price and deals.

An Organized List
Organize your shopping. Come up with a shopping list using a spreadsheet. Have the person’s name, gift, and the budgeted cost. Also, be sure to have who, what, where, and how you plan to locate the present, and how much it will cost. Stay focused. By using an organized shopping list, you will discover that your holiday time will be more thought-out and less frantic as previous ones.

The Envelope System
Put the money that you intend to spend on each individual into different envelopes. When you buy a gift, the money will come from a particular envelope until it's gone.

After Christmas Shopping
After Christmas you find the best sales. Instead of paying full price for gifts before Christmas, go shopping the day after Christmas. You can save anywhere from 50-75% less for the items you want.

You really can enjoy the holidays and save money, too. The secret, plan, prepare, and get organized in advance. You will take pleasure in knowing you did not spend yourself into financial ruin.

Need to Save Money on Gas?

November 13th, 2012 at 05:15 pm

Gas prices have gotten out of control. I remember when gas was $.89 a gallon. I do not believe we will ever see gas under a dollar again in our lifetime. However, all the complaining in the world will not make these ridiculous gas prices go down. Therefore, in order to survive it is important that we come up with practical ways to reduce how much we end up paying at the pump. Here are a few helpful tips to ease your financial pain at the pump.

Carpooling is a great way to save money on gas. If there are a number of people in the carpool it can save even more money. One way to manage the carpool is to rotate cars and drivers. For example, if there are four carpoolers, one week one person drives and everyone pitches in for gas money. The following weeks the rotating continues. The goal is to have each person drive their vehicle every four weeks.

Use Public Transportation.
Depending on your commute, gas can easily cost you $150-$500 a month. Gas for cars has become the new mortgage. One option is to use public transportation. Yes it may be an inconvenience, but it can actually save you money. The cost of public transportation varies from city to city. However, I can think of three advantages for using public transportation. You will have less car maintenance because of less drive time. Generally, the monthly bus pass will cost less than the monthly price of gas. Using public transportation gives you an opportunity to have time to do work, read, think, people watch, and avoid stress from commuting.

Drive Slower.
Gas and oil burns quicker at higher speeds. Is your foot causing you to make extra trips to the gas pump? Some people do not mind paying the price for living life in the fast lane. However, the faster we drive, the more natural resources are consumed. Also, you can get a speeding ticket, and then have a higher insurance premium, plus the cost of the ticket. Be sure to drive the speed limit.

Maintain your vehicle.
Maintaining your car might sound like a no-brainer, but how many of us are actually doing it? Here are some basic tips to maintain your vehicle: a) Keep your tires properly inflated in order to get more miles to the gallon. b) Combine your errands into one trip in order to reduce wear and tear. c) Remove excess junk out of your trunk so that you get further down the road. d) Get regular oil changes and tune ups as recommended by the manufacturer.

It is so important to be proactive with solutions to cut gas cost. Saving on gas is a lifestyle decision that will refuel your bank account. What have you done specifically to save money on gas for your car?

Is Your Pet Causing You Debt?

November 5th, 2012 at 05:21 pm

I do not own a pet, but I have friends that do. I happen to know that pet lovers love them some pets. Matter of fact, many consider their pets children. I even have a friend that rushes home from work to see her dog, not her children. Some people have more affection for their dog than their spouse. But thats another article. Nevertheless, debt is a problem in many households today. Debt is causing problems in relationships, making people lose sleep, and even causing physical health problems. With the cost of everything going up and stretching our dollars, we have to analyze everything to cut back and save. So my question to you: is your pet causing you debt?

A $3,000 Dog?
A friend of mine spent $3,000 to purchase her dog. Then she had to turn around and put it in training school for a couple of months. Of course when they went on their numerous vacations annually they had to pay for a dog-sitter. I am aware that a dog is supposed to be a mans best friend, but it appears without a budget for your pet they can also put you in poverty! If you are not in the habit of tracking your money or living on a spending plan, you probably have no idea how much your lovable pet is costing you.

Americans spend $38.4 billion on pets.
The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) says that 63 percent of American households own at least one pet. It doesnt matter what kind of pet you own, their care and maintenance will cost you something. For example, the average dog or cat lives around 6-15 years, so over that time-frame how much will you have invested in your pet? Many pet owners feel like money is not a consideration its their pet for goodness-sake! However, if you want to get out of debt, the cost should definitely be considered.

Estimate of pet costs.
The numbers below are an average cost estimate for dogs and cats.

Food - $240/year
Dental care - $250-400/year
Boarding or pet sitter - $15 to $100 per day
Neutering - $142/dog and $99/cat
Veterinarian visits - $211/dog or $179/cat
Canine cataract surgery - $2,000-$3,000
Cancer treatment - $5,000 or more
Diabetes maintenance - $600-$1,000 a year

There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning a pet if you can afford it. But what if you cant afford it? It really does come down to choices and priorities. For instance, if you spend around $1,000 a year on your pet, and they live for 10 years that is $10,000 a year. Do you currently have $10,000 in your retirement, emergency fund or 401K?

Again, its just a question. Is your pet causing you debt?

Term or Whole Life Insurance You Choose

October 21st, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Many people have debated the topic of term or whole life insurance for years. And, they probably wont stop. The question: should you buy term life insurance or whole life insurance? Some people have endorsed the philosophy to buy term and invest the different, while some advocate to purchase permanent life insurance. No one should make a decision on something so important unless they are informed and educated. However, below is some essential information, which I trust, will help you make an informed decision about your insurance needs.

Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance is the easiest life insurance to understand. It is called term because you are protected for a specific timeframe - a term. The awesome thing about term insurance is that you can get a lot of coverage for a small cost; for a specific time period. You can obtain term insurance for a term of 30 years and for as little as one year. With term insurance, you get what you pay for. Its not complex, confusing, or full of bogus promises. Matter of fact, with some companies you can get a $250,000 term policy each for a couple for 30-years for as low as $79.00 a month. Insurance professionals and financial planners will tell you it is temporary insurance. Why? Because once the insurance term runs out, you lose insurance unless you renew. The money you save with term insurance gives you margin to be able to invest in your retirement, CDs, 401k, money market or mutual fund. In other words you can buy term insurance, save money, and invest the difference.

Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance gives you insurance coverage for your entire life. However, you must keep on paying the premiums on time each month until the policy is paid up. Various term life insurance policies can be converted into a whole life insurance policy. With whole life insurance the premiums will be much higher than term life. However, the premiums are fixed for life. Most insurance professionals will encourage you to get whole life for the insurance and as an investment. The investment part is a guaranteed cash value that you can borrow against. When you pay your premiums, part of the money goes into the guaranteed cash account. However, if you take any of the cash value or decide to borrow a portion, the value of your policy decreases. Plus, you have to pay interest on the money you borrow. Using whole life, many people tend to believe the cash value is their financial security pot. In actuality, the return is very small, and any withdraw will diminish the insurance amount and cash value.

Bottom line: you have to decide if term life or whole life is best for you. Your life insurance decision is a personal one, but it should also be a smart financial one. Your decision has to make sense for you, your family, and your personal situation.

So what do you have term or whole life insurance and why?

Financial Fitness Takes Practice

June 22nd, 2011 at 01:32 pm

Americans need a regimen to get their finances in order. In a Capitol One study, they found that the majority of Americans lack a basic understanding of credit scores and the fundamentals of personal finance. In other words, Americans can talk all the prosperity talk they want, however, if they do not put forth the actions, behaviors, and practices to become financially fit it is wishful thinking.

Know your credit score
A large number of Americans (52 percent) do not regularly review their credit report each year. The same Capitol One study stated that twenty-three percent of Americans have never reviewed their credit report at all. Being financially fit means paying attention to your credit and money. A credit report is simply a rundown of your payment history, listing your accounts, balances and your payment behavior. Not paying attention to credit can affect your interest rates. Unfavorable credit can affect your ability to own property, rent, and can cause you to have higher premiums for many types of insurance. In some states you can get a free credit report annually from all three credit bureaus by calling 1-877-322-8228 or get a free FICO score at

Know what you make
You would be surprised how many Americans do not know how much they bring home each month or year. Many discover how much they make in January or April when their taxes are done. If you do not know how much you make, how can you plan and reach your financial goals? Just so you know, the gross amount is before taxes, insurance, medical, and social security is taken out. The net amount you bring home is what you have to live on and work with in your budget.

Know what you owe
Unfortunately, many Americans feel comfortable living in denial regarding their debt. Listen up; you cannot become financially fit if you do not know your financial reality. One way to do that is to write down on a piece of paper everyone you owe money to. You must include creditors, vendors, loans, friends, family, co-workers or neighbors. In order for you to be real about your financial situation, you have to be honest about who you owe. Next, based on your debt amount, come up with a plan and time-line to pay it off. Your plan must be realistic, doable, and attainable.

Bottom line: if you want to lose weight you accomplish it by having a fitness plan. In order to get financially fit, you use the same concepts. First you admit you have a problem. Then you identify the problem. Next, you come up with a plan to correct the problem. Finally, you connect with like-minded people to help you stay accountable to your goals to be financially fit. Like anything else in life, financial fitness takes practice and work.

What are you personally doing to get financially fit?

As You Get Older Does Quality Matter More?

May 19th, 2011 at 06:14 pm

Im starting to notice something about myself. As I get older quality is more important then quantity. Matter of fact, getting the cheapest deal doesnt give me the same satisfaction and gratification as it once did. Ive learned that you get what you pay for. Sometimes paying that extra $10, $20, $25, or $50 to get a better landscaper, cleaner, hotel, meal, or experience is so worth it. Matter of fact, quality can make all the difference in the world when it means having a good experience, great time, or feeling this really sucks. Im at a season in my life that I will pay extra to have better quality and experiences.

I enjoy vacationing at four or five star resorts or hotels. I expect the amenities, food, room, furniture, bedding, landscaping, service, and environment to be a little more special. I do not eat food out of boxes, packaged, and of low caliber at home. Why should I have to compromise my standards at a restaurant or hotel that I pay my hard-earned money for? Additionally, my home is very clean, so I expect a hotel room or restaurant to be twice as clean as my home.

Anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that I am frugal. Saving money is wonderful, but not if my comfort, enjoyment, quality of service, and the experience have been compromised.

This is my new normal, when Im paying for things my standard and expectations are at a different level. First, I want people to do what they say they will do. Second, I want consistency in service, products, merchandise. Third, when I pay for quality give me what I pay for.

As you get older does quality matter more?

Tips to Save on Car Insurance

February 21st, 2011 at 07:13 pm

Everyone is looking for ways to save money and cut back on expenses. Many times the way to save is right under their nose. The solution may be as simple as looking at what you already have, and ways to reduce those cost. There are many ways or categories in spending that individuals can save money. One way to save is car insurance. Getting less expensive auto insurance can be as simple as making a few changes. Below are a few helpful tips that can reduce the cost of your auto insurance.

Shop around.
Before your current insurance policy expires start shopping for a new one. This is true especially if your premium has gone up. Car insurance coverage on the same car can differ widely between different insurers. Therefore, do not go with the first quote. Instead get at least three quotes from three different companies, and compare them before making a decision.

Have good credit.
Having good credit makes all the difference in the world in getting the best rate. Insurance companies check credit information to determine the cost of an auto insurance policy. Therefore, pay your bills on time, don't obtain more credit than you need, and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Also, check your credit report on a yearly basis. Have any errors corrected, so that your credit record remains accurate. Good credit saves you money.

Drive less.
Insurance companies will give you a discount if you drive less than a certain number of miles in a year. Usually that mileage number is 7,500 a year. If you work from home, ask for the low-mileage discount. Think outside the box to save on car insurance. If you commute to work, it might be cheaper to take public transportation. Consider car pooling to save on gas and insurance cost.

Raise deductibles.
Raising the deductible on car insurance is an excellent way to cut the cost of the policy. By increasing your deductible from $250 to $500 or $1,000, you can trim down your annual premium by 10-25 percent or more. However, if you raise your deductible, make sure you have the financial resources to handle the bigger deductible if or when the time comes.

Multi-policy discounts.
If you purchase additional types of insurance through the same insurance company (i.e., auto, life, and homeowner's) you may qualify for a discount. Also, if you have multiple cars under one policy, you may be entitled to a discount.

Military savings.
Are you in the military or have you been in the past? is a great company to save on car insurance. Most insurance companies cannot beat their low prices and excellent customer service. If youve never been in the military, immediate family members of veterans can also join USAA. Call USAA, compare prices, and save a substantial amount of money on car, home, and life insurance. Also, with USAA save on loans and credit cards.

Got a New Tenant

June 20th, 2010 at 02:28 pm

Our old tenant moved out June 6 and on June 16 we signed a lease and received the deposit for a new tenant. I'm very thankful! I didn't like paying utilities and bills for two homes.

Here is a landlord tip. Sign a "landlord agreement" with utility companies. That way, when tenants move out the company will waive the connect fees for utilities. While the property is vacated, they keep the utilities on under the landlord's name without charging a fee.

Do you have any tips for landlords to help cut down on cost?

Preparing House for New Renter

June 7th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Our tenant just moved back to Maryland after renting one year. Great tenant! Always paid early and let us know if something was wrong. Now Im preparing the house for a new renter. Have to get the house professionally cleaned, yard done, and do some minor repairs. Of course Ill take if out of her deposit.

I wish we could sell the house, but the economy still sucks. Sometimes I think about keeping the house forever. Having a rental property is great residual income, and it would be ideal to have in retirement. However, if we could just get a long-term 20-year renter, that would be absolutely wonderful. Oh well, such-is-life in the world of being a landlord.

Are you a landlord? How is it working for you?

Have You Thought of Bankruptcy?

May 20th, 2010 at 04:30 pm

Bankruptcy is a personal choice. When the average person is overcome with money issues and debt, the typical response is to take the quick way out and file for bankruptcy. The stress from creditors calling can send anyone over the edge. However, regardless of your financial situation it is important to think with a clear mind. Otherwise, you may jeopardize your financial opportunities in the future. If you are considering bankruptcy, first look at different options. Have a clear understanding of what it means to file for bankruptcy. Once you are educated about your bankruptcy options then you can make an informed decision. Bankruptcy really should be the last solution.

Alternatives to bankruptcy
Your first step is to evaluate your financial situation to determine if filing for bankruptcy is right for you. If it isnt the right choice, look at other options.

Call your creditors yourself. Explain your situation, and see if an agreeable payment plan can be implemented. They may be able to reduce your minimum monthly payments, waive late fees, give you zero interest, and extend the payment period. You dont know until you ask.

Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS). CCCS is a non-profit organization that helps individuals in debt. They are nationwide, and they have partnerships with many financial institutions. They will work with you and your creditors to come up with a debt management plan that is tailor made for you. They may be able to help you avoid bankruptcy.

Think about consolidating all your debt into one payment. Consider getting a debt consolidation loan or transferring your debt to a zero interest credit card to have one payment. Look for hidden fees associated with this choice.

Be aware that bankruptcy will temporarily stop bill collectors and creditors from harassing, calling, and filing lawsuits against you. However, the creditors may start harassing you again. Also, certain financial obligations cannot be apart of your bankruptcy filing.

1. Student loans
2. Alimony
3. Child support
4. Restitution for DUI
5. Fraudulent debt

Bankruptcy is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. It is a personal choice that will affect your credit and finances for seven to ten years. Before moving forward with bankruptcy, look at all your options. If it still makes sense, you will have to decide.

The Sales Tax-Free Weekend is a Rip-off

August 10th, 2009 at 11:07 am

There is a lot of hype about the before school sales tax-free weekend for school supplies and clothes. I for one do not get hyped up or excited when everyone else does. We actually went school shopping over a month ago. We went to an outlet mall an hour from our home with 140 name brand stores. We purchased around 10-12 items of clothing for around $110. Then the next weekend we went garage sale hopping. At the last house of our trip, we came across a goldmine. A teenager that only wore name brand designer clothes who hardly wore them or they were still new, was selling them per bag. So for just $5.00 my daughter walked away with 11 items that would have easily cost over $300.00-400.00 if purchased brand new.

Sales tax-free weekend just ended this weekend. The malls were packed and people were buying like crazy. My daughter decided to return a couple of the outfits from the outlet mall, and take the money to get more stuff at garage sales. When we went into Children's Place, Justice, and Osh Kosh I didn't see any bargains or sales. I saw jacked up prices with huge signs advertising a "sales tax free." What a rip off! And, people buy into the media hype.

I asked my daughter if she would rather have a bag full of name brand clothes for $5.00 or to spend $100-$200, and still need more clothes. She said, "A bag of designer clothes for $5.00." The money we saved on her clothes we are using to redo her room.

Was the sales tax-free weekend a bargain or rip-off for you?

Do You want to be on a financial show on MTV?

July 16th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

I just got off the phone with MTV. They're doing a documentary on newlyweds that are having financial problems, and are looking for couples that are interested.


* Young couple having money problems
* Married - less than one year
* Age - 18-27 years old

If interested call:

Gina - 310-752-8253 or
Email -

Ugh...He wants $3,800 to paint 7 rooms

March 8th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

We're selling our rental property. Yesterday I met with contractors to get estimates on multiple projects in order to put the house on the market. I received three quotes to paint our 1900 sq. ft. rental property. One was $1,900, $3,000, and $3,800. The house is in pretty good condition and so are the walls.

I usually do not choose the cheapest price. I believe you get what you pay for. However, in this case the one for $1,900 and $3,000 both have outstanding recommendations and testimonials from a third party website. The highest bidder has zero testimonials online, but was recommended by a realtor. I think I'll go with the $1900 estimate. Get this, the estimate for $3,000 doesn't even include painting ceilings.

The depressing part, that price is only for the paint job. I still need carpets installed, and around eight small projects done. Oh well, such is life. Why complain? It has to be done, right?

Are your kids frugal, too?

October 23rd, 2008 at 04:28 pm

My daughter loves American Girl (AG) products. She is 10 years old. If you aren't familiar with AG, their stuff is good quality but very expensive. My daughter gets paid $10 from our neighbor to vacuum her home most weeks. She saves her money and when she gets $30-40, what does she do? Spend it on AG.

Okay, the dolls cost $90. Thank God her grandma gave it to her for a birthday gift last year. However, my daughter brought her doll a tennis outfit that came with a visor and tennis racket. It cost $48. I told my daughter I wouldn't pay $48 for an outfit for her, let alone for a piece of plastic.

Anyway, obviously our daughter is a great saver. But once she saves her money, it all goes to this pretty plastic non-human thing. I've started to take 50% of her earnings to go towards her savings account.

Funny, my husband and I are so frugal, and our daughter loves saving for pricey frivolous things. Hopefully she'll grow out of it.

Have your kids picked up your frugal ways?