Finance

Saving Money While Dining Out

Long ago, people rarely ate out. Mom would cook almost every meal at home. When they did eat out it was exciting and special. Times changed and eating out became an almost everyday happening. Times have changed again and we may have to revert to the old ways because dining out has gotten so expensive.

But, why should you? You work hard. You and your family deserve to eat out if that’s what you enjoy. Some read a menu from right to left checking prices first and then scan back to the left to see what it is. There are other ways to dine out and stay within your budget.

Select a restaurant you can afford. You may have eaten in restaurants where you feel the owner must be laughing at you for paying his exorbitant prices. You can get just as full in a reasonably priced café on quality food with friendly service. If you’re a big eater, an all you can eat buffet may be right for you. And, you can save on tipping.

Some restaurants offer specials on certain days and discounts for eating early. Do your homework by reading their ads or give them a call. If you’re a senior citizen they may have senior specials that offer smaller portions for a smaller price.

If you’re eating with no children in tow, try the happy hour lounge specials. For the price of a drink you can usually sample the heavy hors d’oeuvres. If you do have kids, some places have kids eat free nights.

For the two of you just order one dinner and perhaps an appetizer and share. Portions can be too large anyway. Most restaurants these days are happy to have your business and will be glad to bring you an extra plate at no charge. If you have leftovers take it home and eat it later getting two meals for the price of one.

Scan the newspaper and other ads for discount coupons but read the fine print and make sure it’s a bargain and not a come-on. Buying an Entertainment Book that usually offers buy one get one free can be real savings for the whole year.

Practice skipping when dining out. Yeah, that would be good exercise but try skipping a drink such as iced tea or soda and skipping dessert. Drinks can add more than four dollars to the check for just two people.

Order water instead and freshen it up with lemon and maybe a little sugar. Pick up a half gallon of ice cream on the way home for dessert the rest of the week. Fast food fare can be cheaper and if you’re careful it can also be healthy. Most fast food chains now offer salads and soups. For dessert try a container of fruit instead of fat-laden sweets.

Don’t forget to check your receipt. Some offer free meals or a reward if you take a survey about your dining out experience. Your experience should be fun and affordable. With a little planning and restraint dining out can always be special.

Finance Sponsored

7 Ways to Have Your Identity Stolen

When one hears the term “Identity Theft,” they usually think about criminals racking up thousands of dollars in bogus charges on their stolen credit or ATM card.

While this type of fraud is common, there are several other types of identity theft as well, and they could be happening to you right now, including:

  1.  Insurance – Someone uses your Social Security number to obtain the insurance they need, such as home, automotive, etc.
  2. Medical – Someone uses your health insurance to get treatment, costing you money while placing incorrect and potentially harmful information in your medical records.
  3. Criminal – A person gets arrested and is able to believably claim that they’re you. Then they jump bail, and the cops are hunting for you.
  4. Driver’s License – Someone steals your license and makes a duplicate with their image.
  5. Social Security – This gives thieves open control of your life, including buying houses in your name and then defaulting on the loans.
  6. Synthetic – A person uses information from numerous victims, creating a new bogus identity; this makes it extremely difficult to figure out what’s going on and how many victims are involved.
  7. Child – Most children have Social Security numbers, but we seldom check to see if they have a credit file. That means criminals can use their identity for years and never be caught.

Many of us now keep multiple credit cards, bank accounts and loans – meaning there is more and more for criminals to work with.  For many people, it’s not a question of if – but rather when their identity will be stolen.

Little wonder then, that more and more people are starting to get identity theft protection. The leader in this field is LifeLock Inc.

LifeLock has been helping protect people from many types of identity theft for more than 8 years.  LifeLock standard identity theft protection monitors your personal information and alerts you when they detect someone attempting to open a new credit line in your name,† or if your information is being sold on a black market website.

LifeLock also offers a more robust protection service, LifeLock Ultimate™, adding features that protect you against more insidious forms of identity theft. It also monitors public databases for your personal information, so you know where it’s being used. Plus, they scan online court records in case arrested criminals attempt to use your identity.

LifeLock Ultimate provides alerts when new checking and savings accounts are opened using your personal information, and when they detect contact information changes on existing accounts.†

And when you suspect identity theft, nothing is worse than being told you have to call back during “normal business hours” to get anything accomplished. All LifeLock members can speak with a real human, standing by 24/7/365 to assist.

How It Works
In less than three minutes, you can be on your way to protecting yourself from many forms of identity theft.

Just Visit LifeLock, fill in your basic information, and their robust monitoring technology and tools get to work immediately.  You can also add as many family members as you want to ensure that everyone is protected.

The site’s dashboard gives you a snapshot of the pertinent information you’ll want to know—all your alerts and information, plus with LifeLock Ultimate, you’ll see your current credit score, annual reports and more. Simply give them an email address or mobile number so that LifeLock can alert you when there’s suspicious activity.

When it comes to identity theft, the world is becoming more and more scary.  While it’s impossible to stop all criminals, programs such as LifeLock Ultimate can alert you when it happens to you, helping you protect your identity in the most comprehensive way possible.

Click here to check out LifeLock Ultimate and how you can get instant protection.

Finance

What Everyone Should Know About Life Insurance

Do you have it or don’t you? Do you need it or don’t you?   Unfortunately, when it comes to life insurance, many people who need it – don’t have it.  One of the principal reasons is lack of understanding.  They think life insurance is expensive and complicated, so they simply don’t bother with it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The following facts are key to understanding life insurance:

  • The primary purpose of life insurance is to help replace the income of one or more wage earners in a family so that, in the event of their death, the rest of the family can continue living the same or similar lifestyle without being financially devastated. In families with non wage earners, the financial impact of replacing the non wage earner’s services (child care, maintenance of the home, etc.) should also be considered.
  • Life insurance payouts are income tax-free1 to the beneficiaries so they can also be used an important part of a family’s retirement planning. If structured correctly in an estate plan, it may be a way to pass wealth from one generation to the next, minimizing estate taxes.

There are several types of life insurance on the market today. The cost and features of these policies can vary tremendously depending on the options selected and the company that provides the insurance.

The two main types of insurance are term and permanent:

Term Life Insurance

Term Life insurance covers you for a set period of time, pays benefits in the event of your death during this period, but term policies do not build up a cash value.  That means if you die after the term ends, your beneficiaries do not collect on the policy.

Term Life is typically the least expensive option for obtaining pure life insurance protection for a specific period of time.  The payout is income tax-free1 to beneficiaries, and, depending on your age, amount of coverage, and other factors, payments can be as low as a $10 or $20 per month. Usually, term policies give you the option of converting the policy to a permanent policy quite easily and without complicated medical exams and the like.  Some people get term life insurance to supplement their permanent insurance until their expected retirement age, when they will receive retirement benefits that could help support their family if they should die.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance provides coverage for the entirety of the insured’s life as long as the policy is in force.  As you pay in, it typically builds in cash value.  You can then access this cash value to take out a loan for emergencies, fund a major purchase, or finance college education for your children.   The death benefit amount is offset by any outstanding policy loans at the time of death.

Permanent Life Insurance Policies generally offer fixed premiums over the entire course of your life and, unlike term policies, the premiums generally do not go up after a certain amount of time.  The death benefit is income tax-free1 and the accumulated cash value is tax-deferred. However, due to the cash value feature of the policy, the cost of permanent insurance is usually more than term insurance.

 How Much Life Insurance Coverage do you need?

The best way to determine the amount of coverage you need is to consider, in the event of your death, what your loved ones will need in order to pay off the mortgage, handle other living expenses that you currently take care of, or cover future expenses such as college cost, that you would have taken care of.

How to find the best policy options?

Today, one of the best ways to find a term policy that meets your needs is to use an online quote service.  One option is a free service called Matrix Direct.

Matrix Direct works only with stable and respected premium life insurance companies.  It’s free online service is safe, secure, and you’ll be able to request multiple quotes in minutes.

Request your quote and reach out and let us know how your experience goes!

Finance

How Natural Gas Can Save You Money

Natural gas is one of the most versatile fossil fuels used in the United States with approximately 22% of energy consumption coming from natural gas. Most gas consumed in the U. S. is produced in the U. S., with some coming from Canada. More than 60% of U.S. homes use natural gas as their main source of heating. It burns cleanlier than other fossil fuels with demand increasing at about 6% each year.

Natural gas is a non-renewable fuel that’s odorless, colorless and tasteless. Then what’s that awful odor when you turn on a gas jet that some say smells like rotten eggs? It’s a chemical called mercaptan added before distribution as a safety device. Natural gas is moved from production fields to consumers and stored in large underground storage systems for use when needed.

Uses for natural gas include high efficiency furnaces and boilers, space and water heating, ranges, gas grills and fireplaces, spa and pool heaters. It’s also a major source of generating electricity.

Studies reveal many benefits of natural gas making homes more valuable and desirable. Natural gas furnaces last twice as long as an electric heat pump providing a more comfortable heat.

Water heating and clothes drying are done faster and more effectively with gas. When drying clothes, dry consecutive loads to take advantage of built up heat. Separate heavy clothes from light weight fabrics to reduce drying time and use the proper water level for your load size when washing.

Gas is safer to cook with since you can see the flame reducing the chance of getting burned. Adjust the flame to fit the bottom of your pan. If the flame goes beyond the bottom you’re wasting energy. Reach the desired temperature more quickly when heating food by using lids or covers.

Check and clean your furnace regularly to gain optimum benefits from natural gas. Have a professional tune up your furnace each year to save at least 2%. Turn off any pilot light if you’re going to not be using that appliance for a prolonged period. Caulk and seal doors and windows when drafts are detected to keep the cold out. Shut fireplace dampers and close doors and vents in unused rooms.

A gas radiator located near a cold wall is inefficient. Place a sheet of aluminum foil between the radiator and the wall to reflect the heat back into the room.

If you’re upgrading your appliances be sure and purchase the Energy Star models. With this program, you’re sure to get the most energy efficient appliance available. Rebates may be available when you switch from electric to gas on some appliances. Your dealer can usually help you with this.

More home builders and home owners are choosing to use natural gas, especially for heating. When you save money and increase your efficiency, you might say you’re cooking with gas.

Finance

To Save Big, Nix the Lunch Breaks with Co-Workers

You probably know the scenario. The office clock says noon and the guys and gals decide where to go for lunch. In many towns, the drive time to a restaurant eats up most of the lunch hour, not to mention the gas.

It’s hard to find lunch for less than ten bucks plus tip. You gobble down your food, share a few laughs with your co-workers and rush back to the office wishing you had time for a nap.

As you walk to your desk, you notice this guy putting away his brown bag. He appears calm, happy and ready to get back to work, some of which he did while eating his lunch. He’s thinking how delicious it was, how much money he saved and the hassle avoided.

Is it worth it to prepare and bring your lunch to work each day? Well, looking at some basic examples let’s say the cost to fix your own lunch costs about $3 a day. It’s probably much cheaper.

That’s $15 for a five day week. Eating out at approximately $10 a day comes to $50 for the week. You saved at least $35 not including drive time and gas. That’s more than $1,800 a year saved. Interested?

Here are some brown bag tips. Prepare it the night before so you’re not rushed in the morning. Keep it simple but be creative and think healthy. Sandwiches on wholesome bread are fine but include nuts, fruit or yogurt. Also, put in a little treat for yourself that you can look forward to, perhaps a health bar or your favorite cookie.

Plan ahead and buy in bulk with lunches in mind. Buy large chips and put them in smaller plastic bags instead of buying small individual bags. Don’t pay more for convenience.

Cook a big dinner and save some for lunch the next day or the entire week. If it’s home cooked you know it’s good, healthy and cleaner. Put it in individual containers that night so you can grab and go in the morning.

If you’re running late there’s nothing wrong with occasionally taking a can of soup or vegetable chili. Most offices have ovens or microwaves you can use for heating.

Bring your drink too. You can probably get a 12-pack of soda for $2.99 and that comes to about 25 cents a can. Compare that with expensive vending machine drinks or coffee and you’ve saved even more.

It’s up to you of course, but you can continue to work while you eat, catch up on your emails or other relaxing reading. It just might impress the boss and if you have to take off early, you don’t feel as guilty. Don’t be surprised if others ask you for tips on brown bagging.

There’s a lot to be said for brown bagging your lunch. You eat better, save time, money and you’re more productive. Now all you have to do is figure out where to invest all that money you saved.

 

Finance

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts

It comes in the mail all too often. A large pristine white envelope hand addressed to you. The calligraphy is beautiful. You don’t have to open it to know what it is. It’s another wedding invitation to go with several others you’ve already received. Some of these people you barely know.

You know it means buying a gift and money is already in short supply. Where can you find a cheap wedding gift and not look cheap? How much should you spend? If you’re invited to one of the wedding dinners a good rule of thumb is to spend about as much as the dinner would have cost.

This could run between $50 and $125. You’re certainly not obligated to spend that much but polite etiquette also says you should not go empty handed. How can you afford to give something special yet affordable?

Select the gift early. Go ahead and get it over with and check the gift registry. With so many weddings, especially in the spring, registry items can quickly get picked over leaving you with little to choose or gifts out of your price range.

Many thoughtful brides and grooms are now adding a broad selection of gifts in all price ranges. Again, shop early for best (and cheapest) idea. With the distinct possibility of going to two or three weddings in the same year even an inexpensive gift could add up when multiplied.

Use your imagination and creativity to make or buy something that’s personalized for the newlyweds. Wedding gift baskets can be geared to their particular tastes and lifestyle. Most new brides need kitchen gadgets so a basket filled with kitchen basics, a few epicurean recipe ingredients and even a recipe book would be perfect. The groom could appreciate this more than you know.

Frame their wedding invitation. Make the frame yourself or buy one that can be personalized with their names and wedding date. Framing a favorite poem or readings from the ceremony itself is a very considerate gift.

Newlyweds are usually on a tight budget so give them a movie night out. You could spring for movie tickets and cash for the popcorn or buy them a romantic movie DVD and include a package of popcorn to pop. Put all this in a popcorn bowl along with two boxes of movie candy.

Give a bottle of wine with a note attached that the wine will be at its prime in 10 years and it’s not to be opened until their 10th anniversary. Decorate the bottle with bows or ribbons. You could also include ingredients for a romantic dinner such as pasta and a gourmet sauce. A couple of candles would round out the gift nicely.

A lavish expensive wedding gift will never trump the thoughtful personalized gift from their friend. (Well, almost never.) Be creative and give from the heart. If you run out of time and ideas, a little cash or gift card in any amount is always appropriate and appreciated.

Finance

How To Profit from the Real Estate Bust when Buying a Home

Buying a home is probably the largest investment you and your family will ever make. Unless you’re wealthy, few people buy homes and pay cash. Rather, they make a small down payment and obligate themselves to a financial lender for a term of usually 30 years. In this case, the lender determines the interest rate and gives you a thorough financial background check.

There are at least two other ways to buy the home of your dreams and probably save money: assuming the existing mortgage or owner financing. Either method usually saves you time, trouble and money.

If you’re trying to assume a mortgage first make sure it’s assumable and transferable. Many mortgages have a due on sale clause that states if the owner sells all or part of a house the entire balance becomes due and payable on demand. A lender may be willing to overlook a non assumable mortgage is you’re able to make good any overdue payments and agree to do further business with the existing lender.

If a house is selling for $100,000 and the owner still owes $60,000, you could pay the owner the equity of $40,000 and assume the debt of $60,000 with the existing lender. This is good for the buyer if the existing interest rate is equal or lower than the current rates for a home loan. A second mortgage may be needed for the equity payment.

There are different ways to assume a loan. You can, as a buyer, assume the legal obligation for payments and usually pay an assumption fee of 1% of the loan balance. Or, you could take over the payments leaving the seller still legally obligated for payment if you default. If this happens, you lose the property and the seller’s credit is harmed unless he makes payments as scheduled.

Seller (owner) financing is good if a buyer can’t qualify for a traditional loan and if the owner has had trouble selling and is in a hurry to unload the house. In this case, it would be wise to find out the need for the rush selling or why the home has not sold previously.

For the agreed upon price you would begin making monthly payments to the seller usually at a lower interest rate than is being offered at institutions. There is little risk as the home is collateral. If you default, the seller regains possession of the house.

The seller may also need to have an additional stream of income each month instead of getting it in one lump sum. And, he could save on some of the capital gains tax. With owner financing, you as a buyer can avoid some (not all) costly administrative fees and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Assuming an existing mortgage or obtaining owner financing are two great ways to become a homeowner and save money at the same time. No matter what the current status of the real estate market is or if interest rates are high or low, there are always creative ways to obtain financing.

Now that you’re armed with creative means for financing, it’s time to find that dream home; but finding the right place can be the toughest part of the journey. Fortunately, CheapHomesBlowout.com has listings of over 487,000 homes all over the country that are in foreclosure or have owners looking to unload them. They can help you find the home that you’ve been dreaming about at a price well below market value. Click on the link below for more information and to get started:

Finance

Plug in Points to See How Your Financing Will Pay Off

One of the most innovative financial markets is the home mortgage loan sector. And, when you toss points into the mix it adds convolution to an already complicated process. Most buyers don’t understand the concept of points and hesitate to ask or go to the trouble to learn about the process. They become overwhelmed and can be at the mercy of whatever the lender offers.

It’s actually quite simple. Points are fees paid to a lender for a loan. The points are usually linked to interest rates with the more points you pay for, the lower the interest rate. You can view them as pre-paid fees. It’s sort of pay now with points or pay later with interest.

If you have the cash on hand to pay points and you still can’t decide if you should pay them to get a lower interest rate ask yourself what you would do with the money if not spent on points. If you’re buying a home you probably have many needs for the extra money but don’t be short-sighted. Invest for the long term.

Most lenders typically charge one point for the loan origination fee and additional points on loans that have interest rates under the current market rate. The lender gets some money up front in exchange for a lower interest rate. It’s a win situation for both parties. You can check the newspaper or the Internet for current rates and points being offered and their combinations, which are many and negotiable.

Some points will reduce the interest rate and some won’t. Discount points are based on how much money you borrow. One point equals 1% of the loan. For example, 1% of $100,000 would be $1,000. You can expect a reduction of about one quarter percent for each point paid. Paying points does not reduce the amount borrowed but how much you’ll be paying back. So, paying points depends on a lot of factors.

If you don’t have the cash to pay points then it’s a moot point. (No pun intended). The main thing to consider is how long you plan to keep your home. In other words, will you keep the home past the break-even point? That’s when your accumulated monthly savings exceed what you’ve paid in points to get the interest rate down.

Paying points is probably a good investment if you plan to keep the home five years or more. Points can be considered an investment when it continuously yields a savings the longer you stay in the home.

A chart can be prepared to show you the options and when the break-even point occurs. Ask the lender to quote points in dollar amounts so you can easily see how much you’re spending.

It’s thought the point system is used only in the United States. That’s probably a plus for the creators of our financial system which enables more families to purchase a home who otherwise would not qualify. Get the point?

 

Finance

How to get 0% interest on your credit card debt

Telling reporters that many people have gotten “trapped” because of the economic downturn that has turned family budgets on their heads, President Obama recently signed into law new rules to regulate the practices of credit card companies.

Consumers will now have to receive 45 days' notice and an explanation before their interest rates increase. Obama went on to criticize confusing fine print; unannounced shifts in interest rates even when payments aren't late; and payments directed to balances with the lowest interest rates rather than the highest.

Clearly, in the past few years it has been far too easy for the average consumer to build up a mound of credit card debt and then have extreme difficulty digging out from underneath.

Now, more than ever, the best thing many people can do to immediately lift the burden of too much credit card debt is to transfer their credit card balance to a card with 0% APR.

By transferring the balance of your debt from your current credit card to a new interest-free card, you can give yourself time (usually anywhere from 6 months to a year) where no interest is added to your principle. This allows all the money you make in payments each month to be poured directly into paying down your balance, shrinking the amount you owe much faster. This can greatly benefit your credit score and credit-to-debt ratio, both of which can make you much more attractive to lenders.

There are some things to consider before transferring your balance to a new card:

  • 1. Always take into account the length of the 0% APR period.
  • 2. Be sure you are able to pay off your balance within this introductory period, otherwise high interest rates often kick in when the period ends.
  • 3. Make a payment schedule and set aside money each month to pay towards your balance.
  • 4. Also, be aware of transfer fees that may be charged by the credit card companies. These can come as unexpected surprises and throw off the payment plan you have created.

Another factor to consider is whether or not the 0% APR offer applied to purchases as well as payments. If interest is charged for your purchases on the transfer card, this can leave you with lingering debt even after your principle is paid off. If interest is charged for your purchases try and limit use of the card to emergencies only to avoid this occurrence. Also, be sure and compare the rewards programs offered by a card, as these will be available to you once you have paid off your balance. Pick a card that rewards you the way you want in the future.

A 0% Balance Transfer can be a great way to get out from under a seemingly insurmountable pile of debt and greatly improve your credit score and spending power at the same time.

With Congress and the White House cracking down on bad practices of credit card companies – now may be the time for you to take advantage of this clever money saving tactic.

Click on the links below for some great 0% APR credit card offers:

Finance

5 Things You Should Know About Your Credit Score

By now most people are aware of the importance of their credit score and the huge financial costs and hassles that a bad score can cause.

However, there’re still many misconceptions regarding credit scores. We spoke to one of the premier credit reporting services, GoFreeCredit.com about the most common mistaken beliefs that people have:

Checking my credit score can hurt my score

You may have heard that the very act of checking a credit score can have a negative impact on your score.  Its true – completing a credit application can actually reduce your score by 10 points each time.  However, using a service such as GoFreeCredit allows you to access your credit ratings without affecting your score.

I checked my score and everything looked good – so I am fine

You actually have three scores because there are actually three credit tracking agencies; Experian, Equifax and Transunion.  It’s possible that you have a different score with each, as any one of them may have received incorrect or detrimental information about you. You should always check all three of your credit scores as you never know which one your bank or credit card company will use.  Reputable services like GoFreeCredit.com will always check all three of your credit scores for you.

If I am a victim of ID theft, I will be notified by my bank or Credit Card Company

Unfortunately many victims of identity theft discover far too late that they are victims.  If a criminal uses your identity to take out a loan you may only find out when the creditor contacts you looking for re-payment.  However, regular monitoring of all your credit scores is a great way to immediately spot when someone is attempting to illegally use your identity so that you have a chance to stop the crime takes place.

 

My credit card company can’t cancel my card without warning

Unfortunately they can and increasing they do. More and more credit card companies are tightening their risk profiles and eliminating customers that deem too risky.  They often mail out a cancellation notice at the same time as they pull the card, leaving many consumers embarrassed to discover what has happened when they try to use the card at the register. Ensuring that any negatives on your account are corrected or removed will ensure this does not happen to you.

 

Checking and managing my credit ratings is a hassle

 

The good news is there is a quick and easy way to view your official credit report and credit score online instantly.  Start by visiting GoFreeCredit.com.  The site not only lets you see your free credit report and credit score, but also offers a free 3 bureau credit monitoring trial. The service helps you keep an eye on your credit and protect against identity theft with instant alerts of any changes to your credit report or score.

So you can just sit back and let them do the work. 

 

Finance

What Goes Into Your Credit Score – You May Be Shocked

Did you know that an unpaid library fine, parking ticket or medical bill may affect your credit score?  And, while you may not have checked your score lately- chances are someone else has. 

That 3 digit number (ranging between 300 to 850) has a huge impact on your life because banks and lending companies use it to determine how much money you can borrow and how much interest you will pay. 

Here's how your score is determined:

35 percent – your payment history:  Do you regularly pay your bills on time? If not, late payments may be reported and drive down your score. Definitely try to pay on time if you can.

30 percent – your available credit: You will have a better credit score if you only use 20% of your available credit lines rather than using 100%.   Don't max out your credit cards or your score may suffer.

15 percent – the length of your credit history: How long have you had each of your accounts?  It's better to have fewer accounts and to keep these accounts for longer (assuming you've made timely payments).

10 percent – recent activity:  What percentage of accounts and inquiries that have appeared on your report are recent as compared to the total number of accounts and inquiries.   Your score may drop if it looks like you just opened up many new accounts or if lots of companies recently made inquiries about your score. 

10 percent – types of credit you use:  Having installment debt – like a mortgage, shows that you can manage a large loan. How you handle revolving debt, such as credit cards, tends to be more important because it's more predictive of future behavior.

Once you know your number it's easy to start taking steps to improve your score. By checking your credit activity regularly you can improve your rating by managing any negative items that need to be removed or fixed.  

How to take charge of your credit score

People are often amazed by how often creditors report negative payment history that is incorrect or a result of misunderstandings.  These can often be cleared up but only if you take action.  Unless you check your score, you may never know that these detrimental items are affecting your score.

The easiest and fastest way to check your credit score is online.  There are many services that let you check your credit record free-of-charge.  One of the best and most reputable of these services is GoFreeCredit.com

GoFreeCredit.com actually offers much more than simple credit checking.  Their credit monitoring, automatic notification of credit activity and detailed personal analysis also helps you take charge and improve your credit score and save big on loan costs and interest rates.  

Best of all, GoFreeCredit.com offers a free trial of their service. You get to check your credit and see everything they offer without paying a dime.  Only if you decide to continue the service do you pay the low membership premium.   

Finance

What Is Identity Theft and how likely is it to Happen to You?

If you’ve been paying attention lately, you’ve no doubt heard a lot about identity theft.  In fact, it’s so prevalent that Fed Chairmen Ben Bernake just became the latest celebrated victim.

But what exactly is identity theft and how likely is it to happen to you?

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing categories of crime in the US, with over 9 million victims last year alone.  Every 3 seconds a new care of identity theft happens. It can strike anyone, especially if you shop online or have credit cards because many of the top US retailers have had their databases hacked into within the last 3 years. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before you become a victim.

Identity Theft is defined as a crime in which a criminal obtains your personal information and uses it to commit financial fraud or theft.

But how does the thief get your information?

There are several ways this can happen.  Some are old fashioned, like rifling through your garbage cans to get old bank statements, credit card bills and the like.  However, thieves are increasingly using high tech methods.  These include hacking into company databases where customer records are stored, or installing spyware onto computers to capture the information that gets transmitted between companies and their customers.  Often thieves will find somebody inside a company or government agency that has access to confidential information and pay them to provide it to them.

The information includes your name and address, social security and credit card and bank account numbers.  This information is used to:

1.       Obtain new credit cards in your name, but have them sent to the thief.  They will then use the credit card until the fraud is detected.

2.       Sign up for services, particularly cell phone service in your name.

3.       Open a new bank account in your name and proceed to write bad checks.

While you are usually not ultimately responsible for these stolen amounts, it typically takes months to clear up an incident.  More importantly your credit can be severely damaged, affecting your ability to get the credit you need.

How to prevent it:

Normally, victims are completely unaware that identity theft has occurred, until the company that issued loans or credit lines to the thief does not receive payment and starts coming after you to collect.

Experts agree that the most effective preventative measure is to check your free credit report regularly and try a monitoring service that immediately notifies you whenever there is a suspicious credit activity.  This is the fastest way to spot when someone has obtained your confidential information and is trying to commit fraud.

Just as auto insurance is a requirement for daily life, Identity Protection is a necessity these days. GoIdentityProtect.com is one of the most reputable of these services and they offer a 30 day free trial.  Their trial service includes

1.   Free Credit Report and Credit Report Monitoring, to notify you of any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

2.   Fraud resolution assistance – They will work with creditors’ to resolve any issues in the event that a real or attempted fraud occurs.

3.   “Wallet protection”– if your wallet is lost or stolen just call 1 number to conveniently cancel all cards.  This is a huge time saver.

4.   $1 million ID theft guarantee – The service will cover you from any personal liability for fraudulent use of your credit, lost wages and legal fees, up to one million dollars.

GoIdentityProtect.com is also now offering a 30 day free trial of their service that lets you have all of the benefits of their product for free for 30 days before you decide to subscribe to the service at a low monthly price.

Experts say, if you don’t want to be a victim you have to be pro-active.  Services such as GoIdentityProtect.com make it easy to take the necessary steps to ensure you have the protection you need.

Click here to learn more about this free trial offer and get protected today.

Finance

Plug in Points to See How Your Financing Will Pay Off

One of the most innovative financial markets is the home mortgage loan sector. And, when you toss points into the mix it adds convolution to an already complicated process. Most buyers don't understand the concept of points and hesitate to ask or go to the trouble to learn about the process. They become overwhelmed and can be at the mercy of whatever the lender offers.

It's actually quite simple. Points are fees paid to a lender for a loan. The points are usually linked to interest rates with the more points you pay for, the lower the interest rate. You can view them as pre-paid fees. It's sort of pay now with points or pay later with interest.

If you have the cash on hand to pay points and you still can't decide if you should pay them to get a lower interest rate ask yourself what you would do with the money if not spent on points. If you're buying a home you probably have many needs for the extra money but don't be short-sighted. Invest for the long term.

Most lenders typically charge one point for the loan origination fee and additional points on loans that have interest rates under the current market rate. The lender gets some money up front in exchange for a lower interest rate. It's a win situation for both parties. You can check the newspaper or the Internet for current rates and points being offered and their combinations, which are many and negotiable.

Some points will reduce the interest rate and some won't. Discount points are based on how much money you borrow. One point equals 1% of the loan. For example, 1% of $100,000 would be $1,000. You can expect a reduction of about one quarter percent for each point paid. Paying points does not reduce the amount borrowed but how much you'll be paying back. So, paying points depends on a lot of factors.

If you don't have the cash to pay points then it's a moot point. (No pun intended). The main thing to consider is how long you plan to keep your home. In other words, will you keep the home past the break-even point? That's when your accumulated monthly savings exceed what you've paid in points to get the interest rate down.

Paying points is probably a good investment if you plan to keep the home five years or more. Points can be considered an investment when it continuously yields a savings the longer you stay in the home.

A chart can be prepared to show you the options and when the break-even point occurs. Ask the lender to quote points in dollar amounts so you can easily see how much you're spending.

It's thought the point system is used only in the United States. That's probably a plus for the creators of our financial system which enables more families to purchase a home who otherwise would not qualify. Get the point?

 

Finance

You can Restore Your Credit Score

Emergencies and carelessness often cause our credit scores to go downhill. The lowering of our scores makes getting credit and loans difficult because lenders see you as a high risk for repaying the potential debt back to them.

You may still be extended the credit or loan, but at higher interest rates. There are ways to gain back the credit scores you deserve. Follow the steps below and you will be well on your way to restoring the strong credit score you need:

Obtain all three of your credit reports.  Don't try to get by with only one. You must get all three because each one can contain different data. Sometimes the credit card companies don't report to all three bureaus, so check and be sure all three have the same facts and figures. Go over each report very carefully.

Note any mistakes and report them to the bureau immediately.  Even the slightest mistake on your reports can cause you to have a lower score. Make sure all three reports have the same information as each other.

Work with your creditors.  Negotiate with the companies over the debt and get the debt paid off if possible. If they report that the debt owed to them has been paid in full, your credit reports will reflect that positive action and your credit score will be raised.

Make regular payments. If it's not possible to pay them all off, then pay as much as you can on a regular basis.  Make sure you're paying all of your bills on time. Late payments, especially recent ones, get on your reports and are negatively factored into your credit scores.

Don't apply for more debt until your old debt is paid off. The credit reports will reflect all of the debt that you owe, so the more debt that it shows, the lower your score will be  – until it's paid off.

Pay off all your old debt first.  Once debt is paid off, make sure that they're reported to the credit monitoring agencies.

Keep some old accounts open. Even when you pay off your credit cards, keep the accounts open at least on some of them. Closing all of the accounts reflects negatively on your score. Even if you don't intend on using those accounts again, it still looks better that the account is open and there's zero balance on it.

It also looks better if you charge very small amounts and then pay it off completely each month on time. It shows your ability to repay your debt.

Don't pay another company to take care of your credit repair unless you absolutely know that they come highly recommended.

It's best you do it yourself. Most of the companies that claim they can repair your credit instantly are scams that will take your money and do nothing for your credit. Work hard to keep it clean and pay off all your bills on time. You can bring a negative score to a more positive one with a little diligence in budgeting for your bills and maintaining a timely schedule.

 

Finance

Why Now is the Time to Get a Legal Will

A will is one of the most important legal documents a person ever signs, yet over 70 percent of Americans don’t have one.

Many people think that a will is something they only need later in life or that’s its only for the rich, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Life is unpredictable and a will is the must-have legal document that makes sure the people you love and trust receive your property, become the guardian of your children, and manage your estate upon your death.  And, if you have a special charity, religious organization, or school that you want to bequeath to, a will is way to ensure that it happens. The importance of a will simply cannot be overstated.

The fact is, if you die without a will:

  • You do not get to decide who will receive your property and assets. Generally, the state will determine who gets your possessions. This may include the state government, your spouse, children, siblings and other relatives, regardless of your current relationships with these individuals or your personal wishes.
  • You will not decide who takes care of your minor children.

There are many reasons why people put off getting a will: Not enough time, can’t afford an attorney, too busy to think about it …

But now, a new service from a company called LegalZoom aims to address all these obstacles.  LegalZoom was founded by attorneys who have worked at some of the most prestigious law firms in the country, and who used their expertise to simplify the law and make it accessible for everyone.

The company has created a remarkably quick and simple online process that allows anyone to create a legal will in just minutes and for a fraction of the cost of what an attorney would charge for essentially the identical service.

Through their online process, you are asked a series of simple questions in plain English. They then generate and send you a legally binding will ready for you to sign that is valid in all states. You can create your will on your own time, without an attorney, and with the guidance you would expect from the premier online legal service center.  The online procedure carefully guides you through the process, provides all of the necessary options, and answers any questions you may have.  The company also has advisors standing by that you can call if you have additional questions.

A recent survey showed the average preparation for a standard Last Will and Testament by an attorney is approximately $540.   LegalZoom is currently offering their will preparation for an amazing $69!  Furthermore, the LegalZoom Online Will Preparation takes as little as 15 minutes to complete.

There really is no reason to put off getting a will any longer.  Your loved ones will thank you for it, and you will rest a lot easier knowing that your wishes have been legally recorded and will be carried out as you have requested.

Create Your Own Will Online Now

Finance

You May Have Too Much Debt, But You Also Have Options

If you feel like you’re in over your head with personal debt, you’re not alone.  Millions of Americans have become overextended, many as a result of easy credit and the recessions.  Credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, and raising interest rates do not make a good financial mix.

The five strategies you may want to avoid:

The first advice of experts in the field is to be sure you don’t make your situation worse by making common mistakes.  In particular:

  1. Beware of just paying the minimum payments on your debts. This will result in your overall debt actually growing and your problems will only become worse.
  2. Beware of relying on friends and family, as it could damage relationships with the most important people in your life.
  3. Beware of unscrupulous credit counselors that demand cash upfront, or high fees for help they promise, but don’t deliver.
  4. Avoid taking out a new high-interest loan to pay off lower interest rate loans.  It may be easier to just have one payment, but it will actually increase the amount you have to pay back.
  5. Declaring bankruptcy when debt settlement may work for you.

Debt Settlement or Bankruptcy?

Two common solutions people turn to are debt settlement and bankruptcy. Generally, if you are struggling with a financial hardship and are behind or falling behind on your minimum payments, then debt settlement may be right for you. If your situation is more dire, then you may consider bankruptcy.

However, bankruptcy is a serious step with long term implications for you and your financial future. Most experts would suggest it only as a last resort. The better course is to attempt to work through your debt issue with your creditors, and this is where debt settlement companies can help.

What is Debt Settlement?

You may have heard companies advertising recently that they can settle your debt for less than you owe.  Is this process legitimate?

Working with a debt settlement company can actually be a great solution for many people struggling with a financial hardship. Debt settlement is the process of negotiating with your creditors to get them to forgive a potion of your debt.  Specialty settlement companies determine a reasonable monthly amount that you can afford to pay, which is based on total amount owed.  You make your affordable payment every month into a special purpose account, and as these funds accumulate, the settlement company reaches out to creditors to negotiate a final actual settlement amount.  Typically these companies have excellent relationships with creditors and are negotiating on behalf of thousands of people every day.

So, how do you find a legitimate and trustworthy debt settlement company to work with? A great way to start is by visiting Freedom Debt Relief for a free, no-obligation consultation to evaluate your options. 

To learn how much of your debt can be reduced, click here.

Finance

How to Check Your Credit Without Hurting Your Score

Every day, we are bombarded by numbers, but some numbers matter a lot more than others. 

One of the most important numbers in your life should be your credit score–it effects how much you pay for many things including interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, car financing, and other loans. It can even affect your ability to rent an apartment, get a good job, or lease a car.  A small difference in your score can add up to thousands of dollars in extra, unnecessary expenses and huge hassles over time.

Your credit score is one number you definitely should know.

Once you know your number, it’s easy to start taking steps to improve your score. By checking your credit activity regularly, you can improve your rating by managing any negative items that need to be removed or fixed.  

People are also often amazed by the number of mistakes on their credit report.  Often, creditors will report negative payment history that is incorrect or a result of misunderstandings.  These can often be cleared up, but only if you take action.  Unless you check your score, you may never know that these detrimental items are affecting your score.

The easiest and fastest way to check your credit score is online.  There are many services that let you check your credit record free-of-charge.  GoFreeCredit is one of the best established and most reputable of these services.  You can try this service free to monitor all activity on your credit report and take action to increase your score.

You may have heard that the very act of checking a credit score can have a negative impact on your score.  It’s true–some methods actually reduce your score by 10 points for each check.  However, checking your credit score through GoFreeCredit.com will not have any negative effect on your score.

And, with GoFreeCredit.com, you also get credit monitoring, automatic notification of credit activity, and a detailed personal analysis.  

Often, people are shocked to find negative activity on their credit report.  Past 30-days late payments, collections, judgments, and bankruptcies are all factors that can negatively affect your credit score, and this service can help you address these and other issues that may have damaged your score.

Best of all, GoFreeCredit.com services are completely free to try, so you can see exactly what lenders see, plus a much more comprehensive picture of your credit history than a normal credit check can show you.

Improving you credit increases your options for financial success. By taking charge of your credit report, you can make sure negative incidences are dealt with quickly, and that you are not a victim of fraud and misunderstandings that can cost you thousands.

To sign up for your free unlimited access trial, visit GoFreeCredit and take charge of your financial future today.

Finance

What to Do When Your Water & Sewer Bill Soars

Save water and you not only save money, but also conserve one of our planet’s most valuable, natural resources. It’s like getting paid twice. Water conservation is one of the easiest things to do if you have a little discipline, but it’s so easy to turn on the faucet and let the water run.

When gallons of water go down the drain, so does your money. You can actually save a third time, because most sewer charges are based on the amount of water used.

Let’s take a look at the amount of water used daily for a family of four: 

Bathing or showering uses the most at about 80 gallons. Showering accounts for 30 percent of total water usage in the home.

Laundry uses about half that; dishwashing 15 gallons; cooking and drinking 12 gallons; and, for the big surprise, four people can flush down over 100 gallons of water a day. Including miscellaneous use, the total rounds out to 250 gallon a day, or 7,500 gallons per month. That’s a lot of water.

What can you do to save?

Make sure your commode doesn’t leak. Listen carefully for the tiniest dripping sound. If it’s old, you might want to buy a new water-saving model. Or, place something plastic inside the tank to displace the amount of water being flushed.

Use only as much water taking a bath as you need. A full tub is fun, but not necessary. For showering, use a low-flow showerhead. Get wet, turn off the water, and soap. Turn the water back on and rinse. When shaving or brushing your teeth, don’t run water during the entire task. Running water while brushing for two minutes can waste up to four gallons of water.

Most washers use up to 60 gallons per load, so use load settings on the smallest setting possible. Permanent press cycles use a third more water than the regular cycle, so use that feature judiciously.

Run your dishwasher only when full. The amount of water used is the same regardless of how many dishes you wash. At the sink, use hot water only when needed. You waste a lot of water waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet

Lawns are more resilient than you think, so water lawns and gardens only when necessary. Use mulch around plants to hold moisture. Water either early or late to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day.

A soaker hose conserves more water than a sprinkler and gets to the roots better. Native grasses and plants require much less water. Use a broom or blower to clean your sidewalks. Don’t wash them down with water.

If you wash your car, don’t let the water run continuously. Get a hose brush that has an on/off water switch. Wash your car on the grass to water it with runoff from your car.

Repair drippy faucets. The smallest drip can waste over 300 gallons a month. Check both inside and outside faucets. If you can’t fix it right away, place a container to catch the drip water, and use it to water plants or clean floors. Encourage your family to be water misers and your bank account will remain more liquid.

 

Finance

How to Qualify for up to $500,000 in Life Insurance with No Medical Exam

If you need life insurance and haven’t gotten it because you think it’s a hassle, help has arrived.  

How many of us really enjoy and look forward to going to the doctor or getting a physical? Let’s face it: Getting a physical or medical exam is a chore and an inconvenience.  Additionally, obtaining life insurance generally requires lengthy paperwork and underwriting.  No wonder so many people put off getting this much needed coverage. 

However, there is an alternative. You can now get life insurance online, with no medical exam, and you may even qualify for same-day coverage.

Life Insurers now offer a solution that is referred to as “no medical exam life insurance.”  No medical exam life insurance has a number of important benefits, and it has become quite an attractive option for many people.

There are many reasons for its increasing popularity:
 
No medical exam – Some people simply do not wish to submit to the indignity of a medical exam. No medical exam life insurance let you obtain the policy you need without the complete physical exam, blood tests, and other requirements of standard life insurance policies.

Privacy – Are you uncomfortable with a private company knowing so much about your health? No medical exam life insurance lets you obtain a policy without having to share much of the private information required on standard policies.

Less paperwork and hassle – Many people love the streamlined application process and speed of issuance of a no medical exam life insurance policy.

So, how do you find the best no medical exam life insurance policy for you?  The key to getting the best possible coverage at the best possible price is using a website like USAcoverage.com.

USAcoverage.com provides quotes from top rated life insurance carriers in no time.  Compare rates and benefits on no medical exam life insurance, term life insurance, and whole life insurance.

Life insurance as low as $6 month

Ultimately, rates are determined by your age, medical conditions, coverage amount and term, but it’s not uncommon to see extremely low rates for healthy adults looking for coverage. 

To see if you qualify for same-day coverage and low rates, fill out the short form on USAcoverage.com.

Click here to visit the site and learn more.

Finance

How to Tell if You are Ready for a Home Loan

Few purchases that an individual will make within their lifetimes will rival that of buying their first home. When making the move from being a renter to being a homeowner, there are a few things you may want to consider before taking the step into home ownership, some of which may not come to mind until after the process of purchasing your home has begun.

The first thing you should keep in mind is whether or not you can actually afford to purchase a home. Home ownership brings with it expenses which you may not have considered previously.

Homeowners are required to have homeowners insurance and they must pay taxes on their property on a yearly basis. Depending upon where the home would be located, you could be looking at paying both city and county taxes on your home each year.

Homeowner taxes are calculated based on the appraised value of the home, and since most homes appreciate in value, you’re looking at an increased cost of homeownership over time.

When you go to secure a home loan, the lender is going to look at your credit history as well as your employment history. If either of these two happens to be in less than perfect condition, it’s going to be more difficult to secure a home loan than it would if you had perfect credit and a long employment history at the same job.

The lender looks at your employment history as a security factor. The longer you’ve worked at the same job, the more stable they consider your income, which makes you less of a risk.

Your credit history is going to play a big role in whether or not you qualify for a home loan, as well as what type of terms you’ll get as far as interest rates. Again, the lender is looking for stability in your life, but this time he’s looking at how well you’ve paid your debts in the past. If you have a blemished credit history, you’re–at best–looking at higher interest rates, and–at worst–not qualifying for the home loan.

Most lenders are going to require you to come up with 15 to 20 percent of the purchase price of the home as a down payment. If you don’t have this much cash on hand, then you’re going to find it much more difficult to secure a mortgage for the home you have in mind.

If you have no problems in your employment or credit history, you may be able to find financing for your home for as little as 3 to 5 percent as a down payment. As you can see, it’s important that you have your credit history in good condition before attempting to secure a home loan. It also helps if you have a good track record of staying employed.

Purchasing a home is a big step in an individual’s life. Being a homeowner is also one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. If your employment or credit history isn’t perfect, then you’ll need to put off homeownership until you’ve taken care of past bad debts or have established more time at your current place of employment. You may have to put off getting your home for a year or two, but you can get a home loan once you’ve established yourself as a good candidate for homeownership.