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Money Coach

September 2011 - Posts

  • Save money on Halloween by planning ahead

    Halloween isn't that far off and, as is true with anything else, waiting to the last minute to shop will only get you frustrated and force you to spend more than you have to. Planning ahead, however, can help you do this particular holiday in style and with a little cash left in your wallet.


    One of the biggest expenses, particularly for families, can be costumes. Everyone wants their costumes to be unique, but no one wants to spend a fortune. Look around your community and see if you can find a costume swap. If you can't find one locally, it's not too late to participate in the swap at http://www.thredup.com/halloween_costume_swap. Costume swapping is a great way to de-clutter your own home and save money.


    You may also want to consider buying Halloween treats now. The selection will be better, and you can hit all the dollar stores before they run out. 


    One of the easiest and most fun ways to save money is to make your own decor for your home. You can find items for 30 to 90 percent off in the coming weeks at your local box stores.


    If you want to really save money on your costumes, try making your own. If you can sew, the options are really limitless. But you can make your own costume, regardless of your level of expertise. You can get costume items at the dollar store, or even create your own. Let your imagination go wild.


    The idea is to plan ahead. Waiting until the last minute to decide about costumes and decor will lead to frustrations and expensive shortcuts. And that can be scarier than anything else.


    Posted Sep 29 2011, 11:35 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Help! I'm in my 40s and I have no retirement savings!

    There are literally millions of people in their 40s who have yet to begin saving for retirement. If you fit into this bunch, don't get your knickers in a bunch. You can still save for retirement – but time is crucial.


    First of all, figure out how much you'll need to live on when you retire. Don't stress about whether you know how to use a retirement calculator – just come up with a ballpark figure. Once you know that figure, find out what you can expect from Social Security or other sources, including your 401(k). 


    Next, you'll want to set goals to supplement the amount you need to retire, in addition to those other sources. If you're not already saving for retirement, check to see if your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b), and sign up immediately. You should plan to contribute as much as possible each year. 


    Remember, don't be conservative in how much of your income you put toward retirement. You have a while yet, if you're in your 40s, so invest a large percentage of your earnings, and you should be fine at retirement.


    If you can't contribute to your retirement fund, consider downsizing. If you live in an area with a high cost of living, consider moving to an area that is less expensive. if your home is larger than you need, sell it and move into a smaller home, and pocket the difference. 


    Remember that if you're over 50, tax laws will allow you to play catch-up. You can contribute a little extra to your 401(k) and IRA as you near retirement age. You should definitely take advantage of this tax break.


    If you can't do anything else, work to get yourself out of debt. You can then save the money you would have been using to pay off creditors. 


    Don't be discouraged if you have no retirement savings – instead, find ways to make it happen. And remember: Every little bit helps.

    Posted Sep 20 2011, 12:44 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • How do student loans affect my credit?

    By now, students are busy heading to classes and completing homework on college campuses nationwide. And most of those students have taken out student loans. What many of those students don't understand, is how student loans can affect their credit scores. 


    Many people believe that paying off a student loan as quickly as possible will help their credit scores. This isn't the case – it can actually hurt your credit score. Why is this? Lenders earn money on the interest paid on these loans, and so it would seem that sticking to the schedule is the best way to go. But this could also hurt your credit. So what do you do?


    If you're already a student and have a student loan, you can start paying the interest on your loan before you even graduate. You'll have a six- to 12-month grace period after you graduate to find full-time work before you have to officially begin paying the loan back, but you can also pay interest during that time as well. 


    It's important that you don't miss any payments or that you do not default on this loan. Defaulting on your loan is a surefire way to destroy your credit. If you choose to default, it will remain on your credit report for seven years. Your lender could even choose to garnish your wages in order to gain payment. 


    To avoid this, contact your lender and discuss deferment or even a different payment schedule. 


    Don't put off thinking about this until you graduate. It's easy to think that you've got three or four years before you have to think about it, but truth be told, you'd be much better off thinking about your student loan now. You'll thank yourself later.

    Posted Sep 14 2011, 12:40 PM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Get started on your holiday shopping now

    If you've spend any time in a retail store lately, you know that even though fall hasn't officially kicked off yet, there are already Christmas decorations up in many stores. 


    And while those decorations are going up, so is our stress level. These vivid reminders only make us more anxious as we realize that the holidays are just around the corner, and we've got a ton of gifts to buy.


    But why not play it smart this year? Instead of waiting until the last minute, and scrambling to find a gift, any gift, for the last person on your list, start now. You can avoid much of the holiday stress by planning ahead. Here's how. 


    First, make a list of all those you want to get gifts for, keeping your budget in mind. Make sure you factor in holiday travel and host gifts for those holiday parties. If you have no idea where to begin, think about what you spent last year. This can be a great starting point.


    Make sure that you include everyone on your gift list – that includes family, friends, the babysitter, your hair stylist, the mailman, your kid's teacher, the boss, and anyone else you'd like to spread a little holiday spirit to. Figure out how much you can spend on each person, and include gift wrap and shipping.


    Now you are ready to get out there and shop. Watch the sales papers, research online, and take advantage of holiday sales. The stores want you to shop and they're hacking prices left and right – take full advantage of this.


    You may also want to consider homemade gifts for some of the folks on your list. You can make homemade hot chocolate mix, soup or cookie mixes, or even give them a handcrafted item you've created. But again, the key is getting started now.


    Work at checking items off your list until you are done – and with any luck, you'll be done before you have to hang the tinsel in your own home. And you can sit back, relax, and truly enjoy the holidays.

    Posted Sep 08 2011, 11:24 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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  • Will I save a lot of money by raising chickens?

    In the midst of these uncertain economic times, most people are pinching pennies and cutting their budgets as much as possible. One of the areas in which people are working hard to cut back is groceries. In addition to hardcore coupon use, there's also a new fad – raising chickens, in both urban and rural settings.


    There is doubt whether chicken farming is a frugal venture. Maintenance costs vary, with chicken feed costing from $15 to $50 per month. Coops can cost up to $4,000. But they can also be purchased cheaply, or even built with scrap wood for very little cost. 


    To get started, you'll find that baby chicks will cost you about $1 each, with fully grown hens costing about $10 each. You'll find that two hens can produce about a dozen eggs a week, or 624 per year. With the cost of eggs in the store running about $3 a dozen, you can count on recouping your costs in about 2-and-a-half years. 


    Chickens are low maintenance, though. As long as you spend a little time each week cleaning the coop, and a little more time to do a more thorough cleaning once a month, you'll find chickens take much less time than other pets. 


    But you've also got to factor in care of chickens who no longer produce, and veterinary costs. Once you weigh it all out, you'll find that raising chickens isn't going to bring you any significant savings.


    It's also important to note that chickens raised outside of factory farms produce eggs that contain four to six times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin E, two-thirds more vitamin A, and seven times more beta carotene. They even taste better.


    So to determine whether this venture is worth the effort, forget about the money. Raising chickens isn't going to make you rich. It isn't going to save you a bundle of money. It will, however, be a great family activity, for a little monetary investment.


    Posted Sep 01 2011, 11:13 AM by moneycoach with no comments
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