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Put Your Bills on Auto Pilot

September 28, 2009 | Financial Tips | My Ramblings | No Comments

From time to time over the years I would forget to pay a bill on-time and would incur a late fee.   One of the reasons is that the bills all had different due dates.  I hate paying late fees so I’d always call the company charging the late fee and request for them to remove it.  Most of the time they will remove the late fee, but this takes unnecessary time to do.  

Now I don’t have to worry about this because thanks to technology all my recurring bills are paid automatically.  I’ve put my bill payments on auto pilot.  No more remembering to pay the bills, writing checks, buying stamps and mailing the checks.

I use 3 credit cards which are paid automatically.  Of course before the bills are paid I’ll review it to make sure there are no fraudulent charges.  My mortgage, satellite, phone / Internet, cell phone, gym membership, water, electric, garbage and home alarm are all paid automatically.

Most companies will offer auto-payment which will bill your credit card or deduct the money from your checking account.  If a company doesn’t offer auto payment I’ll setup auto payment via my bank account.  For instance, my water company doesn’t offer auto-pay, so I set up an auto-payment in my bank account to send a payment every month of $50.  My water bill fluctuates below $50 so I carry a credit in my account.

Having my bills on auto pilot saves time (no writing checks, mailing checks or calling for a late fee to be removed), money (no late fees, buying stamps, envelops, and driving to the post office) and having to remember to pay bills.

Related Article: Five Things I Don’t Like Paying For

How to Survive a Layoff

September 23, 2009 | Financial Tips | Press Releases | No Comments

As the recession winds down, unemployment continues to hang overhead, forcing many consumers to do more with less. The American Bankers Association Education Foundation offers personal finance advice for consumers with limited resources — especially the unemployed.

“We all know someone whose job has been affected by the economy,” explains Laura Fisher, director of the ABA Education Foundation. “Even during these difficult times, there are some things that consumers can do to remain in control of their finances — even while unemployed.”

The following are some personal finance tips for tough economic times:

  • Assess what you have. Review and update your budget. Consider all sources of income like unemployment benefits, severance payments, savings and checking accounts. Look at past debit and credit card statements to discover spending patterns. ABA Financial Calculators.
  • Get your benefits. Unemployment benefits can help you to stay afloat as you restructure your household budget and look for a new job.
  • Ask for help. If you are having a hard time paying your bills, contact your creditor to arrange a more manageable payment plan. Then contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a local credit counselor to help you develop a budget and a plan for paying down debt.  To reach NFCC, call (800) 388-2227 or visit ABA Education Foundation’s Help Contacts.
  • Talk about it. Inform your network about your employment situation. Friends, fellow club members, former co-workers and other associates can be a great place to turn to find a new job.
  • Eat in. Cut out fast food and dining out. It’s cheaper to eat at home. You’ll be surprised how much you will save by taking the time to prepare meals in your own kitchen.
  • Cut, cut, cut.  Cutting cable television, cellular phone and Internet service can save you hundreds of dollars each month. Use the library’s Wi-Fi, your landline and a TV antenna until income returns.
  • Shop smart. Pay with cash or debit cards, not with credit cards. Shop around for deals, use coupons and purchase store brands.
  • Get creative. Look for free or inexpensive ways to entertain such as playing family games, choosing the library over bookstores, watching movies you already own or doing some local sightseeing.
  • Go green and save green. Cut utility costs by turning off and unplugging unused appliances, wash with full loads, set your thermostat to 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer and use fans.

For more personal finance tips, visit

The ABA Education Foundation provides financial education programs and resources that help bankers make their communities better.  Nearly 90,000 bankers have taught basic finance skills to about4 million young people through participation in the Foundation’s signature programs, Teach Children to Save and Get Smart About Credit.  Founded by bankers in 1925, the foundation is guided by a board of bankers and is an affiliate of the American Bankers Association. For more information, visit or call 1-800-BANKERS.

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Manage Your Finances with Chase Blueprint

September 22, 2009 | Financial Tips | No Comments

If you are a Chase customer you may want to take advantage of Chase Blueprint which is a free online service that helps customers manage their finances.  

Blueprint’s four features include:

  • Full Pay: Avoid paying interest on everyday purchases when your pay them off in full each month (separated on your statement).
  • Split: Pay off large purchases on your terms, separated on your statement.  Set a goal date or monthly payment.
  • Finish It: Pay down your balance transfer.  Choose a goal date or monthly amount.  Blueprint helps with the math and sets up a plan.
  • Track It: Seeing your spending trends at a glance and track your progress against goals.

To get started visit

Buy, Sell or Trade Gift Cards at

September 10, 2009 | Financial Tips | No Comments

If you have gift cards lying around valuing at least $25 that you don’t intend on using you maybe able to cash them in for up to 85% of the balance at  You may also be able to trade your gift cards.

On the flip side, if you want to save money at your favorite retailers and restaurants you can purchase discounted gift cards saving up to 40% at  

Signing up with is free. If you are looking to sell a gift card,  you can review gift card redemption values with “Cash in Now” tool. This will list the redemption values to be paid by check, Amazon e-mail gift card or Charity Gift Card.  (Note: allows you to donate 100% of your card to a public school classroom of your choice.)

Redeemable amounts are based on which option you pick to get paid. For example, a $200 gift card from the Apple Store will pay $160 in cash, $168 for an Gift Card and $200 for Charity Gift Card.

The site also has a tool called “Gift Guide” that helps you to pick the right gift card as gifts using gender, age and relationship to you.

For more information visit

Ebay and GM Extends Online Promotion to Buy Cars

September 1, 2009 | Financial Tips | Press Releases | No Comments


eBay Motors and General Motors Company today announced the extension of their first-of-its-kind promotion that enables consumers to shop new cars, crossovers and trucks online from participating California Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Pontiac dealers. The promotion, originally launched on August 11, has been extended through September 30. Customers can access the promotion at

Since the beginning of the program through August 30, shoppers visited dealers’ virtual showroom sites more than 1 million times and logged more than 1.4 million searches of GM inventory. In addition, nearly 4,000 new car buyers entered into negotiations online, over the phone and in person as a result of this promotion. At the conclusion of the California promotion, GM and eBay Motors will evaluate extending the program nationally, based on consumer demand and dealer feedback.

Complete program details including participating GM dealer inventory available through individual GM brand websites can be found at,,,, and

The promotion enables consumers to browse hundreds of vehicles in dealer inventory online, ask questions, negotiate prices, and arrange financing and payment to purchase select new 2008, 2009 and 2010 cars, crossovers or trucks online. Additional GM 2010 model-year inventory is being added to this extended promotion.

With more than 225 GM dealers in California participating, shoppers can expect to see a wide selection of new GM vehicles at competitive prices. Vehicles will be offered through eBay Motors’ traditional formats such as “Buy It Now” (where shoppers agree to pay the advertised price) and eBay’s innovative “Best Offer” option (where buyers indicate the price they are willing to pay and can negotiate online with the dealer for the vehicle).

The site also incorporates features that will allow consumers to compare pricing across models or participating dealerships throughout California, ask a dealer questions, and get tips and advice with a Buyer Checklist.

Find a Good Local Contractor with Angie’s List

August 31, 2009 | Financial Tips | Videos | No Comments

If you are looking for a doctor, dentist, contractor, roofer, electrician, landscaper, plumber, etc. and want an unbiased opinion about their service then you should consider using Angie's List.

Angie's List was started by Angie Hicks in 1995 with 1,000 members in Columbus, OH because she was frustrated at how difficult it was to find good doctors and contractors.  As a result, she literally went door-to-door recruiting members and collecting reviews from friends and neighbors.

Today Angie's List has 750,000 consumers operating nationwide and was named in 2002, 2003 and 2004 as on of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.

You can contact Angie's List by phone, fax, and website.  You will then receive the names and phone numbers of companies that are rated high by other members. You will also be told what type of work the contractor has done for the other members and what they thought of their prices, if they were polite, punctual, finished the work on time, etc.  

There is a fee to Join Angie's List.  You can join by phone (1-866-943-8257) or Website.  There is also a trial membership to test out the service.

For more information visit or call 1-866-943-8257.

Videos with Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks



Rent or Buy Used Textbooks Online to Save Money

August 24, 2009 | Financial Tips | No Comments

We all know college text books are expensive.  Most college textbooks are really a lousy investment because they lose value quickly.  Not to mention most likely you’ll use it once, forget everything you learned and it then sits on your bookshelf collecting dust for the next several years.  Of course you can always sell the book, but it takes time and then sometimes the version of the book changes for the next class so selling it becomes impossible.

To combat this problem, consider renting or buying used text books online.  There are a few websites where you can rent textbooks which include Chegg, who offers renting text books at about 65% to 85% off the retail purchase price.  Chegg has thousands of textbooks and allows you to ship the books back to them free of charge.  

You can also consider renting textbooks from and Bookbyte.  Bookbyte started out as a home-based business in 1999 and has grown steadily over the years.  Bookbyte buys and sells used text books.