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Money Coach

August 2011 - Posts

  • How will the country's credit downgrade affect me?

    Since Standard & Poor downgraded the USA's credit rating from AAA to AA+, consumers have expressed concern regarding the trickle-down effect. In other words, what does this downgrade mean for me?


    Bottom line is, we don't really know yet. But most experts think it will mean an increase in interest rates by as much as 5 percent. This means that if you have a variable rate credit card or home equity line of credit, you'll likely see an increase because your lender can just modify your terms at any given time. 


    If you're thinking the CARD Act of 2009 will prevent this from happening, you're sorely mistaken. Credit card issuers can increase interest rates because they're tied to a moving index. 


    What steps can you take to minimize the impact on you? First, take a look at your credit cards. Call the issuers, and ask if you have a variable or fixed interest rate. You may be surprised that your once-fixed rate has been switched to a variable, thanks to that CARD Act. When you discover which cards have variable rates, stop using them. Continue to pay the card off, aiming toward getting it paid off as soon as possible.


    If you have a home equity line of credit, contact your mortgage lender and see if you can refinance, combining the mortgage and the line of credit into one loan with a fixed rate. This way, no external rate increases can affect you. 


    Posted Aug 23 2011, 12:06 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Make your baby's food and save money

    Having a baby changes everything – from your alone time as a couple, to your time with friends to how you spend your free time. It also changes your bottom line. Caring for a child can be expensive.


    One of the easiest ways to save money is to make your own baby food. It may take a little more time than running into the grocery store for it, but it's a cost-effective and healthier alternative for your child. You can even make large batches and freeze some in single-size serving portions.


    Before you begin, it should be noted that if you're going to take the time and expend the energy to make your baby's food, you should be sure to choose the freshest meanest, produce and dairy for your child. You can go organic or buy locally. Wash all produce thoroughly and if possible, steam the foods instead of boil them, in order to retain nutrients. 


    Making baby food is relatively easy, since you probably have all the tools at home already. You'll need to first cook the food, and then cut it into manageable pieces. Then you'll mash or puree it. You can use a portable, hand-turned food mill or baby grinder, a hand blender, a food processor, a blender or even a fork for soft foods like bananas or avocados.


    Depending on the water content of the food, you will need to add liquid when pureeing it. Options for thinning include *** milk, water, formula, cow's milk, plain yogurt or homemade broth, which is vitamin rich. If the food needs thickening, use cooked egg yokes, sweet potato, wheat germ, whole grain cereal, cottage cheese or plain yogurt.


    Once the food is pureed, you can use it immediately or store it for use later. If you are going to use it in the next couple of days, you can put it in airtight containers in the fridge. If you need to keep it a while, you can freeze it. An easy way to do is is to use one-ounce ice cube trays. Freeze the food and then you can just pop out a portion when you need to. Use frozen baby food within two months.


    You'll save money by making your baby's food, but you'll also be providing healthier foods for your child, and you can control your child's diet more easily, keeping out contaminants and allergens.

    Posted Aug 18 2011, 12:52 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Back to school time doesn't mean you – and your wallet – have to suffer

    If you've been to your local store lately, you've no doubt seen the back to school displays that are already filling up the aisles. The National Retail Federation estimates that parents will spend approximately $600 on back to school expenses. This includes school supplies, clothes, sports physicals and books – not to mention fees and clothes. But there are ways you can stretch your dollar and get your children back to school on a budget.


    The first step is to make a budget. Make a list, knowing how much you can afford to spend, and stick to your list. Do some comparison shopping and look for coupons, both in circulars and online. Don't be afraid to ask retailers if they'll match the advertised prices of their competitors. 


    Before you rush out and buy new clothes for your kids, check their closets. See what they can still wear, what may need some minor repairs and what could be handed down to younger siblings. Then make a list of must-haves – not wants – and use that for your shopping. Consider going to a consignment or thrift store to look for gently-used clothing, shoes and coats.


    When it comes to school supplies, check the house for leftovers from last year. You may find markers, colored pencils and binders that weren't used last year that can be recycled for this year. You can also check your child's list of needed items to see if there are items that you can buy later in the year, to cut your spending down to a more manageable size at the beginning of the school year. 


    Consider shopping at discount stores, superstores or warehouse clubs, where you can likely find the items your child needs at considerable discounts.


    Last of all, make it a priority to purchase the items your children need with cash. When you put these items on a charge card and don't pay the balance in full, you will lose any savings you may have gotten by paying interest on the total purchase. 

    Posted Aug 11 2011, 11:45 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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