Financial Tips Articles
Have you ever wondered how other people handle their finances? Now there’s a website named Bundle.com to help your find out how other people handle the same decisions so you can learn what works and what doesn’t. The site gives you statistics of how Americans save and spend their money from big cites to small towns.
Bundle.com compiles data from the U.S. Government, from anonymous and aggregated spending transactions from Citi, and from third party data providers. See video below. To test it out, visit Bundle.com.
One way many people get into financial trouble is that they don’t make financial decisions based on what they “need” versus what they “want”. Yes, we all want “stuff’, but do we really need it!
The recent launch of the Apple iPad had people lining up for hours, even days to be the first to own it. Most of these people don’t need the iPad, they just want it. There decision to own the iPad I’m certain is based on emotions and not financial logic. I’m certain most of these people already own computers and smart phones that already provide most of the features provided by the iPad. However, with the hype their emotions kick into gear and they think to themselves, “I want that iPad, no matter what!”
If you want to improve your financial situation, you have to start defining what you need versus what you want. You need food, clothing, and shelter to survive. You don’t need that expensive pair of shoes, vacation, gadget, or jewelry especially if your financial picture is poor.
Just recently I dropped my cell phone and it broke in pieces. I wanted to replace it with an Apple iPhone; however, after much research I couldn’t justify the cost. Currently, I pay $62 per month for cell phone service for 2 phones (for my wife and me). So we pay $31 dollars each. On many months we don’t even use all our minutes. Switching to the iPhone I will have to pay a minimum of $80 per month, which is more than double what I currently pay. So the question boiled down to do I really need an iPhone or do I just want it. The answer is I just want it.
The main reason I want the iPhone is for Internet access. If I were traveling much for work or didn’t have access to the Internet I could justify getting the iPhone, however, I have access to the Internet most of the day, so my need to access the Internet via a smartphone isn’t needed.
So I decided to hold off on the iPhone and replace my existing phone with a used one I found online for $25 with free shipping versus purchasing an iPhone for about $200 and paying an additional $50 per month for service. I “want” the iPhone but right now I just don’t “need” it!
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released a list of the top 10 scams and rip-offs of 2009. Due to the current tough economic conditions many people are looking to make some side money and are easily duped into scams and rip-offs.
The following are the BBB’s list of the top scams and rip-offs in the U.S. in 2009:
1. Acai Supplements and Other “Free” Trial Offers – Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanket the Internet, including trusted Web sites of national news organizations. The marketing campaigns often falsely claimed an endorsement by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Doctor Oz. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.
2. Stimulus/Government Grant Scams – Even before President Obama announced the stimulus plan in February, scammers had already set up schemes for misleading consumers and small business owners into thinking they could get a piece of the pie. Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.
3. Robocalls – Owning a cell phone or having their phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the US put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009. The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire—which wasn’t true—or offered help in reducing their interest rate on their credit card. The prevalence of robocalls violating federal telemarketing laws prompted the FTC to increase restrictions on the practice in 2009.
4. Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam – The victim receives a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery claiming that he or she has won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents only a portion of the total winnings. In order to get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers supposedly to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.
5. Job Hunter Scams –Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or social security numbers and requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job. Another common scam was reported to BBB by job hunters who were told by a prospective employer that they had to check their credit report before being considered for a job. The job offer is actually a marketing ploy for online credit monitoring that costs the victim every month until they cancel.
6. Google Work from Home Scam – Countless Web sites cropped up in 2009 that claimed you could learn how to make money from home using Google or Twitter and offered a free trial of learning materials. The Web sites often included the Google or Twitter moniker and logo. As a result, many people who complained to BBB thought they were getting a job with Google or Twitter when in, fact, they were being lured into another misleading free-trial offer and were billed every month for the materials and other mystery charges that added up to hundreds of dollars.
7. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue/Debt Assistance – Many families are struggling in the current economy and hucksters are offering to help them save their house from foreclosure or help them get out of credit card debt. Unfortunately, victims are paying hundreds of dollars up front for the assistance they desperately need but ultimately never receive.
8. Mystery Shopping – Consumers across the country thought that they could make some extra money by becoming a secret shopper and evaluating the customer service of various stores. The victim is asked to evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores as well as a money wiring service such as Western Union or MoneyGram by wiring money back to the scammers. A seemingly real looking check is supposed to cover the costs, but ends up being a fake. The victim is out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
9. Over-Payment Scams – Over-payment scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent and sellers on classifieds or sites like Craigslist. Typically the scammer pretends to be a customer, possible renter or interested buyer, respectively. The victim receives a check for more than the amount requested. The scammers then ask the victim to deposit the check and wire the extra amount elsewhere, such as to a shipping company. Ultimately though, the check is fake and the victim is really wiring money back to the scammers.
10. Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam – A perennial problem, phishing e-mails pop up in inboxes and can take various forms such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or official or even a friend. Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing e-mail is the same: to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect the victim’s computer with viruses and malware. In addition to phishing e-mails, spam e-mail selling wares to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus were particularly rampant in 2009.
Equifax is offering a free “Credit Score Card” which provides you a range of where your credit score is. The score is from their “Equifax Risk Score” system, not the FICO score. The Equifax Risk Score has a range from 280-850, which is almost the same as FICO which is 300 to 850. The tool is good for giving you an idea your credit score.
I checked to see my score and was happy to see it was high. (See screen shot below). Having a high score will help with qualifying for lower interest rates and offers from lenders.
In today’s rough economy many people are selling their gold for money.
Additionally, gold prices have set new records lately selling for $1,143 an ounce last December.
There are many companies capitalizing off people selling their gold jewelry which includes gold-party companies, jewelry stores and mail-in companies. So how do you know what your gold jewelry is really worth?
Below are the steps you can use to determine how much your gold jewelry is worth:
- Weigh your gold on a scale in grams.
- Multiply the weight by the current price of gold to determine $/ounce. Find price of gold at cnnmoney.com/data/commodities
- Divide by one of the following
- If gold is 10k divide by 74.8
- If gold is 14k divide by 73.2
- If gold is 18k divide by 41.5
- If gold is 24k divide by 31.1
- Multiply the above result by 0.50 and 0.80 to determine the fair price range
So let’s say you have several 14k pieces of gold jewelry weighing 50 grams. The value can be calculated as follows:
50 grams X $1,119.50 per ounce / 53.2 X 0.5 = $526
50 grams X $1,119.50 per ounce / 53.2 X 0.8 = $842
Per the above calculation your gold jewelry is worth between $526 and $842.
However, keep in mind that if your jewelry as an antique it may have more value than just its gold content.
If you are interested in selling your gold, check out Cash 4 Gold.
As expected the Senate approved a $626 billion bill to fund the Defense Department for the fiscal year that began almost three months ago. The bill was approved via an 88—10 vote. The bill next stop is the White House where President Barack Obama is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.
The bill includes $128 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $13.3 billion to extend unemployment and COBRA benefits for the long-term unemployed whose benefits would otherwise expire.
Good news for those of you unemployed. The House of Representatives today passed a temporary extension of unemployment benefits and subsidized COBRA health insurance for laid-off workers as part of a $636 billion spending defense bill. The measure was approved on 395-34 vote.
The Bill extends the COBRA subsidy by 6 months to a total of 15 months where 65% of the premium is paid by the government. This is for people who lost their jobs through February 28, 2010. People who lose their jobs after December 31, 2009 are not eligible for the subsidy. The legislation requires employers to notify current COBRA and future beneficiaries of the new 15 month premium subsidy.
Additionally, the new legislation will give beneficiaries whose subsidy expired and who didn’t pay the full premium a second chance to get coverage. For example, a beneficiary whose nine months of subsidized coverage ran out November 30 and who didn’t pay the regular unsubsidized December premium could pay the 35% premium share in January and receive coverage for December.
The Senate should pass its defense bill with the same extensions this Friday.