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Credit Repair, Personal Loans, Debt Reduction Education

A new “Education” section has been added to Money-Cake.com to help people looking for information about Credit Repair, Personal Loans and Debt Reduction.  Each Section includes:     Credit Repair Education    1 – Introduction to Credit Credit Defined Your Credit Report Consequences of Bad Credit The Cost of Bad Debt   2 – Repairing […]

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Looking for a Good Franchise, Consider BounceU

February 16, 2009 | My Ramblings | No Comments

BounceU Logo

A very good friend and his wife (David & Victoria Williams) recently opened up a franchise called BounceU in Duluth, GA.  (As a matter a fact, David and I were each other’s best man in our weddings.)  BounceU is a franchise where the main idea is to have private parties for your child. However, BounceU also offers other services such as babysitting your kids, field trips, club outings, team parties and various other services.


BounceU Owners in Duluth, GA – David and Vickie Williams

David and Vickie Williams

 

David and Vickie Williams

The unique thing about BounceU is that it features a mix of different inflatable equipment in private rooms for the kids to play, in a very clean, safe and climate-controlled environment.

Additionally, while at BounceU, you child can watch Disney movies, play hide and seek sports, play basketball shootout, play balloon football, run through obstacle courses, play Karaoke, compete in spider climb races, win prizes and more!  BounceU makes it really fun for the kids.


BounceU Many Features

Bounce U Features

For months it was very interesting talking to my friend and his wife about opening their business.  From searching for a franchise, to selecting one, to getting the financing, to finding a good location, to final launch. After months of hard work, he and his wife finally opened the franchise and I had a chance to visit it.

I was very impressed with the facility.  It was clean, very spacious (about 11,000 square feet), and the kids had a blast.  I could see how the parents would like the ease of having a private party at BounceU, while I could see the kids loved the various cool bounce equipment.  They couldn’t stop running around, going from ride to ride.  Kids have so much energy it makes me tired just watching them.


Pictures of BounceU in Duluth, GA

BounceU - Employee before sign

 

BounceU - Boy throwing ball

 

BounceU - Boxing

 

BounceU - Girls having fun!

BounceU - Girls on slide

 

BounceU - Girl on slide

 

BounceU - Cute Little Girl

 

If you live in the Duluth, GA area you can visit BounceU at:

1630 Pleasant Hill Rd
Suite 110
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 931-6900
Email: duluth.ga~at~bounceu.com
Website: www.bounceu.com

The facility is located in the Pleasant Hill Assi Plaza shopping mall between the Party City and Dollar Tree.

Below is their schedule:

Open Bounce Schedule

Preschool Play dates
Mon – Fri  9:30 -11:30 am
Snacks Provided

Home Schools

Wed 1 pm – 3 pm

After School
Tues & Thurs 5 pm – 7 pm

Family Night Out

Wed 6 pm – 8 pm
Pizza, drinks available

Parents Night Out

Fri 7 pm – 10 pm
Pizza and drinks provided

Weekend Sunrise Bounce

Saturday 10 am – 12 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 2 pm

Keep a Close Eye on Your Medical Bills

February 15, 2009 | Healthcare | My Ramblings | No Comments

Like many of us, I used to go to the doctor or dentist and then receive insurance statements and doctor bills.  For the statements, I would quickly scan them and file them away.  I would then pay the bill.  A few years later, I learned the hard way that I should have been paying closer attention because it was costing me money.

I found out by accident that my dentist, who I went to for years, was ripping me off.  As a result, they ended up having to refund me a few hundred dollars.  What my dentist did was bill my insurance company and have me pay the difference.  For example, the dentist would bill the insurance company $200; the insurance company would pay via the contracted rate of $120 and determine my out of pocket cost of $20.

However, the dentist would bill me the difference of the full amount ($200) and the contracted rate ($120) which was $80.  So I ended paying $60 more than I should I have paid.  This went on for a few years until I caught on.  Looking back, I should have reported them because I’m certain they were doing the same to other patients as well.

Below are some other things I’ve learned over the years to keep a close eye on:

Make sure your medical provider is in network. A couple of years ago, I went to a dentist for a cleaning.  When I made the appointment I asked if they took Aetna.  They said yes.  The cleaning was 100% covered by Aetna.  A few weeks later I got a bill from the dentist.  When I called the dentist office I was told they accepted Aetna but they weren’t in Aetna’s network.  I refused to pay the bill because they didn’t tell me they were out of network.  They ended up cancelling the charge.

Make sure you know what’s covered by your insurance company. A few years ago, I went to a dentist for teeth cleaning which was 100% covered by my insurance company.  At the end of the cleaning, I was given a fluoride treatment which I didn’t request.  The fluoride treatment wasn’t covered and as a result I was billed by the dentist.  I felt this was a gimmick by the dentist just to earn more money.  The fluoride treatment wasn’t necessary.  However, in the future I made sure to pay attention to things like this!

Make sure your procedure will be covered by your insurance company. If you are having a medical procedure that’s out of the norm, make sure your insurance company will cover it.  Many doctor offices will do this for you, but some won’t.  You do not want any surprises.  Make sure that when you call the insurance company, you document everything, especially who you spoke to. Also, have them send you documentation.  You may speak to one customer service rep that tells you something is covered and when you call back, the 2nd customer service rep will tell you it’s not covered.  This has happened to me; see below!

Don’t hesitate to dispute a claim in writing. About a year ago my doctor recommended that I have a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer since a close family member had polyps found during their colonoscopy.  I called Aetna to see if the procedure would be covered.  They said yes, it would be 100% covered.  To my surprise, Aetna didn’t cover the procedure.  When I called, the customer service rep said it wasn’t covered.  I explained to her that when I first called I was told it would be covered, but I had no evidence of this.  I didn’t even have the name of the rep I initially spoke to.

I then decided to dispute the claim in writing.  Aetna responded by letter a couple weeks later that the procedure was indeed covered 100%.  However, Aetna ended only paying 1 of the 3 bills.  So I wrote a 2nd dispute letter, which, they never responded to.  A couple months later the 2nd bill was paid and just recently after me calling them again (7 months later), they paid the 3rd bill.  Unbelievable!

Never pay the doctor bill until the claim is processed by the insurance company.
Many medical providers will send out bills before the claim is processed.  Sometimes, they’ll send a bill for the entire amount, which makes no sense.  Sometimes, they’ll estimate what the insurance company will pay and your out of pocket cost.  However, you should never pay the bill until the claim is processed because the insurance company will determine the contracted rate and your out of pocket cost.  Always pay by what the insurance company determines and not the medical provider.

Shop around and compare prices. I must admit that I rarely do this; however, I have in the past for dental procedures which saved me hundreds of dollars.  Of course when it comes to your health you want the best care even if you have to pay more for it.  It’s unfortunate that doctors don’t list their prices and most patients never ask.  But shopping around to compare prices is a great way to save money!

If a claim is denied, investigate it. It may be a mistake.  Insurance companies make mistakes, too.

Earn More Money with Internet Banks

February 14, 2009 | Banking | No Comments

If you are keeping your money in a traditional brick and mortar bank you may be losing out on your interest rate.  Let’s face it; in today’s economy, with low interest rates the traditional banks are paying almost nothing for savings accounts.  Bank of America’s Regular Savings is currently paying 0.20% APY (Annual Percentage Yield), Wells Fargo Goal Savings 0.05% APY, while the national average is 0.24% APY.

Surprisingly, if you move your money to an online bank, you can earn up to 2.5% APY. That is a big difference!  If you had $10,000 with an online bank for 1 year at 2.50% APY, you’d make $253 in interest.  If you had the same amount in a traditional bank at 0.24%, you’d make only $24 in interest for the entire year.  That’s a difference of $229.  As you can see, you’ll earn a lot more with an online bank. Over several years that can really add up!  Additionally, the online banks have higher paying CDs than the traditional banks.

The reason online banks pay a higher interest rate is because they have a much lower overhead than the traditional banks.  Most don’t have actual buildings, TMs, tellers, or debit cards, and most offer no check processing, etc.  Keep in mind some Internet banks are divisions of traditional banks.  Also, with the Internet, online banks can be completely automated, requiring very little human intervention.  Computers pretty much run the business.

Traditional Bank Linked to Online Bank

Traditional Bank Linked to Online Bank

I currently have a checking account with Bank of America in which I keep enough money to pay my bills.  The checking account is linked to two online banks where I can easily transfer money back and forth.  The two online banks that I use are INGDirect.com and EmigrantDirect.com, which I highly recommend.  INGDirect.com recently started offering additional services such as a debit card, checking account and free access to ATMs. EmigrantDirect.com doesn’t offer these services as yet. There are a few other good internet banks you can check out, which include Bank of the InternetEtrade.com, WTDirect.com, and HSBCDirect.com.

So go ahead, do some research and open an account with an Internet Bank and get a higher annual interest rate.

Think and Act Like a Business Owner

February 11, 2009 | Financial Tips | 1 Comment

Are you a business owner?  You might say no, but if you have a job, you are selling your services to a company and that makes you a business owner.  According to Wikipedia, a business is “a legally recognized organization designed to provide goods and/or services to consumers. Businesses are..…formed to earn profit to increase the wealth of owners.”  Do you see how this definition can easily apply to you?  We all work, “to earn profit to increase wealth!” The main reason any business exists is to maximize profits for the shareholders.  Why shouldn’t you have that same philosophy?

Even though you may not have a legally recognized company, you can still operate as a business.  Businesses have goals. They require planning, budgeting, forecasting, cost cutting, investing, and more.  To measure performance, they take periodic financial “snapshots” to determine how they’re performing. They use three primary financial statements; an Income Statement, a Balance Sheet and a Cash Flow Statement.  You can apply these same financial statements to yourself to see how you are doing.

Track Your Performance


An Income Statement is a statement of income and expenditure for a period of time.  For an individual with an income, it’s basically your take home pay.

A Balance Sheet is a summary of a company’s balances.  This includes assets, liabilities and equity (assets – liabilities = equity).  As an individual, your assets would be your savings, 401K, IRA, home value, and auto value.  Your liabilities would be your debt, which includes your mortgage, car loan, and credit card balances.  You take all your assets and subtract your liabilities and this gives you your equity.  The goal here is to build equity.  Maximize your assets and minimize your liabilities and you will maximize your equity!

A Cash Flow Statement is company’s cash receipts and cash disbursements over a period of time.  It lists cash to and cash from operating, investing, and financing activities, along with the net increase or decrease in cash for that period.  For an individual this is basically,(remove comma) how much money you made for the month minus how much money you paid out in expenses.  What’s left over is your savings.

In my opinion, the cash flow statement is the most important financial statement, because it drives how well you will do financially.  It’s all about how much cash you have at the end of the month.  Every heard the phrase “Cash is King”? The goal here is to maximize your cash receipts (income) while minimizing your cash disbursements (expenses).  If your cash flow is negative every month, there is no way to build equity and eventually you will be bankrupt.

I personally take a monthly snapshot of how I’m doing financially with these very same statements.  I also create financial goals and create a budget to help me get there.  I have a spreadsheet going back 4 years showing my progress.  Download Sample Financial Statement Spreadsheet.


First Thing’s First, Set Your Goals


Being able to track your financial performance is great.  But in order to know if you are doing well, you must first have a goal.  Let’s say your goal is to maximize savings.  How much do you want to save?  First, you have to figure out how much money you can save with your current income and expenses.   Download Sample Budget Spreadsheet.

As previously discussed, subtracting your monthly expenses from your net pay will determine the amount you have left over for savings.  Now, ask yourself if this will meet your goal.  If your goal is to save $500 per month, and based on your income and monthly expenses (remove comma) you can only save $200 per month, then you will have to look at your budget and make some changes.

  • Things you may have to consider are:
  • Cutting your cell phone bill from $75 to $50, saving you $25 per month
  • Reducing your cable/satellite bill from $80 per month to $50 per month.
  • Fixing that leaking water facet that is costing you an extra $20 per month.
  • Eating out once per month instead of once per week, saving you $120 per month.
  • Bringing your lunch to work (remove comma) instead of eating out every day, saving you $75 per month.
  • Downgrading your car so your car loan is $300 per month, instead of $500 per month, saving you $200 per month. (How do you do that?)
  • Shopping around for new auto insurance, saving you $30 per month.
  • Cancelling the gym membership you never use, saving you $25 per month.


The point here is; most people can’t control their income, but they can control their expenses.  This is where you can save a ton of money.  From our examples above, if you were to cut your expenses so you could save an extra $300 per month, after just one year, you will have saved an additional $3,600.  Over 10 years that’s $36,000.  If you managed to save $500 per month, you would have $60,000 in ten years. That is a significant amount of money!

This may sound easy, but most people fail.  This is simply because they fail to plan by creating a budget, setting a goal and measuring their performance.  They fail to act as if they own a business!

See related article“Keep Expenses Low for when the Hard Times Hit”

Get $25 to Open Etrade Savings Account – 2.50% APY

February 9, 2009 | Bank Rates | No Comments

Check out this great deal from Etrade.  They are offering a $25 bonus on their online savings account with a 2.5% APY.  Most traditional banks are paying nothing.  Currently, Bank of America’s Regular Savings pays 0.20% APY, Wells Fargo Goal Savings pays 0.05% APY and National Average pays 0.24% APY.  With Etrade paying 2.5%, that’s a lot more interest in your pocket.

There is no minimum; no account fees and you can transfer money for free with one-click transfers to and from any institution. All you need is $1 to open an account.  Visit Etrade to find out more.

Stick to Your Price and Negotiate When Buying

February 9, 2009 | My Ramblings | 1 Comment

When purchasing products and services, it’s always good to have an idea of a “fair price” in mind. I always have a price in my mind of what I’m willing to pay for an item or service.

If I go to the mall to purchase a pair of jeans, I may expect to spend $25 to $30 dollars. I may get to the mall and see a very nice pair of jeans. But after seeing the price is $75, I’ll immediately put it back down. $75 for a pair of jeans in my mind isn’t a “fair price”.

Recently, I purchased a flat screen LCD TV and upgraded my satellite service to HD. I always wanted to purchase a flat screen but couldn’t justify it because I already had a TV in my living room and had no other room to move it into. It was a big, heavy, bulky TV. I thought about donating it to charity but never got around to investigating it. So when the TV stopped working, I knew it was my opportunity to finally purchase my flat screen. I immediately told myself 2 things:

  • I didn’t want to pay more than $1,000
  • I didn’t want to increase my monthly satellite bill for HD service


After doing surprisingly little shopping around, I found a sale at BrandSmart selling a 46″ Sharp LC46SB54U for $ 898.88. The TV is a 46″, HD, LCD, 1080P, with HDMI. They also had a Sharp Aquos LC46D64U selling for $1,149. The Aquos is supposed to have a better picture quality. However, after spending a good 10 minutes comparing both TVs in the store I saw no difference, so I couldn’t justify spending an additional $300 for something I couldn’t see.

I ran into a woman at the store and she stated that after researching both TVs there is really no difference in picture quality that the human eye can detect. The Sharp LC46SB54U had high ratings per several websites I visited. (Incidentally, Amazon.com is selling the Sharp LC46SB54U for $1,180.44 and the Sharp Aquos LC46D64U for $ 1,149.00 with free shipping! Not a bad deal).

Sharp LC46SB54U 46-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV

Ok, so it was settled – I would purchase the Sharp LC46SB54U. With tax, the total price of the TV was $ 961.80, well within my budget of $1,000. Interestingly, BrandSmart e-mailed me a PDF copy of the final receipt. See it HERE!

Now, on to getting HD service without increasing my monthly satellite bill. I’ve been with Dish Network for about 5 years and I felt they had to give me a good deal. One tactic I was going to use was to call them up and tell them I was considering switching to DirecTV because it seemed they had better deals. As expected, the customer service representative pretty much begged me to call back to allow them to meet or beat anything DirecTV had to offer. A day later I called back and was ready to negotiate.

After some negotiating with the customer rep, I ended up getting the following from Dish Network:

  • Free installation of new HD service (new DVR and satellite dish).
  • The customer rep recommended eliminating 1 satellite box because the new HD DVR now could control 2 TVs. This is after I asked him how I could decrease my monthly bill! If I never asked, he probably wouldn’t have told me. This took $10 off the monthly bill.
  • Upgrade package which gave additional channels and HD channels
  • Free HBO for 3 months
  • Cinemax for 1 year for a penny (didn’t really understand the penny)
  • $10 off my bill for 1 year (This is after the customer rep. told me my monthly bill was still $70)


As a result of the above, my satellite bill went from $70 per month to $60 per month. After the year, I plan to lower to fewer channels and keep the $60 per month. So I ended up getting everything I listed above and saved $120 for the year! Not bad!

One interesting note: When the Dish Network technician installed the new HD service, I was disappointed with the picture quality. He then stated I needed a HDMI cable to run from the HD box to the TV. I ran to the store and got one and sure enough, it was like night and day. If you have HD service and you’re not using a HDMI cable, you are missing out on getting true HD service.

I love my new TV! The HD picture quality is amazing! Now I have to find time to watch all those HBO movies I’ve been recording! Check out my new TV below in my living room! The wide screen reminds me of being at the movies!

My Sharp LC46SB54U

sharp lc46sb54u 46 inch 1080p lcd hdtv

Make Money Using Credit Cards

February 7, 2009 | Credit Cards | 1 Comment

I never pay with cash unless I have to.  My wife and I use credit cards for practically everything we purchase.  Many of our monthly bills are paid by credit card.  The reason we do this?  To make money!  We don’t pay credit card companies (late fees / finance fees); credit card companies pay us (cash back).

For years I used Discover Card (note: currently offering a $50 cash back bonus to sign up), which paid 1% cash back, and would earn me about $300 per year.  Not a lot of money but hey – it pays a few bills.

When my wife and I were dating long distance I switched to an AirTran Visa card and was able to earn a few free tickets which amounted to about 1% cash back.  Then we got married and stopped flying as much.  I then switched to CapitalOne No Hassle Visa, which offers 2 miles for every dollar of monthly spending above $1,000, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.  The cool thing about this card is you can take the rewards as cash, gift card, buy products, or book airline tickets.  I’ve always taken the cash.

Several months ago, I signed up for the Amex Plum Card because they offered 2% cash back if you spend over $5,000 for the month, and 1% cash back if you spend less.   The trick is you have to pay your balance in full within 10 days of the statement closing date to get the discount.  The nice thing is the cash back is credited to your account automatically.  No need to redeem anything.

Unfortunately, the Amex Plum Card has changed the terms for new customers.  New customers get a 1.5% discount on eligible purchases made that month.  Existing customers are “grandfathered” in under the old terms.  The first year annual fee is waived, after it’s a $185 per year.

Another cool thing about the Amex Plum Card is this; if you run into cash flow problems and can’t pay the bill on time, they will allow you to pay at least 10% of the balance and defer payment of the remaining balance without penalty until the closing date of your next bill cycle.  I never plan on using this because I want the cash back, so I pay on time.

If you want 2% cash back no matter how much you spend each month, there’s good news.  The Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Signature and the Fidelity Rewards American Express credit cards give you unlimited 2% cash back on purchases, automatically deposited into a brokerage account each month.  There’s no limit on the cash back you can earn, no minimum monthly purchase amount, and there are no annual fees.  That’s a great deal and I’m considering signing up!

WARNING! In order for you to make money using credit cards, you must pay off the entire bill and never be late.  If you don’t pay off the bill in full, or if you are late paying, you will incur finance and late fees.  The idea here is to not pay the credit card company any money; you want them to pay you!  So if you are an impulsive shopper with a credit card and you can’t control yourself, pay cash.

Below is what my wife and I earned last year by using our cash back credit cards for personal and business expenses (Amex Plum Card and CapitalOne):

Cash Back Earning in 2008

CapitalOne = $425
Amex Plum Card = $1,111
Late Fees = $0
Finance Fees = $0
Total = $1,536

 

Note: Check out our list of Best Credit Card Deals