Financial Calendar for July

1-31 National Recreation and Parks Month. The month of July encourages recreation in the nation’s beautiful parks. It won’t cost much money to get a picnic lunch together and drive your family to the closest national park for a glorious day.

1 Midyear Financial Review. Since the year is halfway over, take a look at your financial situation so far this year. Make any adjustments necessary to finish the year financially strong.

4 Independence Day. Celebrate your country’s independence today. Dress in red, white and blue and enjoy a meal outdoors. Would you like to have financial freedom, too? Analyze your total debt this evening. What can you do to pay it down quickly?

7 Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market. Take some time this weekend to browse the Farmer’s Market. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save on fresh, delicious produce.

15 Finalize College Plans for Your College Freshman. If you have any kids starting college this autumn, have them double-check their living and meal arrangements to ensure everything is in order.

22 Hammock Day. Hammock Day is just like it sounds—a day to spend relaxing and doing nothing but resting. While you’re getting some R & R, vividly imagine realizing your financial goals. How will your life change? Use this pleasant imagery to motivate you to move forward toward this reality.

24 Parents’ Day. In the US, on this date we celebrate the importance of parents who build strong families. In order to be the best parent you can be, have you constructed a strong financial picture for your family? If not, do something now to improve your financial future.

31 Evaluate Your Financial Portfolio. Now is the time to meet with your stock broker to ensure your financial portfolio is building the way you’d like it to. Consider whether you want to add new mutual funds or stocks to your portfolio. If you do not have a broker, consider learning more about investing and decide whether or not you need a broker.


Saving Money, Investing Wisely in 2012 – Insider Secrets on How to Make the Most of Your Money in this Ongoing Recession


When to Down-size Your Home

Q: I always thought that when we bought our ideal home, we’d live in it until we died. It seems to me that most people will eventually get their home paid off so they can live in it mortgage-free when they retire. My husband and I both work full-time and really appreciate our home.

But lately, I’ve heard some of the financial experts on television talking about down-sizing your home. I can’t believe I’d ever consider it. But ever since the bottom fell out of the economy, I’m starting to wonder about all the costs involved — should my husband and I think about selling our house?

Does giving up the home of your dreams and down-sizing ever make sense?

A: You pose a good question. Many people believe the same as you: that they’ll remain all their lives in the first home they buy. However, we know that usually isn’t the case thanks to statistics on the subject. The average adult moves nearly 12 times in his life, according to the research.

Usually, each time people move, they “move up” to homes that are bigger and cost more to buy and therefore to maintain. They end up with ‘more house’ than they can realistically afford, and become more and more trapped by an asset that is not liquid, that is, can’t be easily converted to cash in case of an emergency.

The reality is that it costs money to keep a home in good working order. Some situations in life could occur that would compel you to reduce your standard of living. for example, if you or your spouse got laid off, or became ill and could not work, it would require you to live on just one of your salaries.

The question then becomes whether or not that would be possible. We should all have an emergency fund set by, but what if the unemployment or illness lasted longer than the six months you are supposed to plan for?

Another reason to down-size has to do with how much money you save over the long term. If you turn 65 and your retirement savings haven’t reached an amount you can live on for 25+ years, it makes sense to reduce your expenses by down-sizing. That will most likely involve selling the home you live in to get a smaller one and to live more modestly within your means.

Imagine that you live in a 2,500 square foot home at age 65. If the children have moved out, you could reduce your monthly expenses by a large percentage if you moved to a 1,200 square foot condo. That is because you’d be paying for heating, cooling and upkeep on just ½ the square footage that you did before, plus, no lawn care expenses would be needed.

Many families used to keep the home as is in case the children wanted to visit or come back to live, but you could look for a two-bedroom to use as a guest room and home office and consider putting in a sofa bed there and in your living room if you are really concerned about this.

Another factor that could trigger down-sizing is one of you leaving the workforce early. Consider this — if you or your husband develops a chronic health condition that prevents you from working, you would be living on one paycheck or on a significantly lower Social Security income rather than the amount on your paycheck. Another situation that might cause one of you to resign your job earlier than you anticipate is the need to take care of an aging parent. Many people are living longer than ever before, but this can often mean becoming crunched between young children on the one hand and aging parents on the other.

If your house is set up in such a way that an older person such as your parent or your aging self can live in it without issues regarding stairs and maintaining independence, you might consider keeping your house and having your family move in to save expenses.

Some people also rent out their rooms after their children leave, to earn extra money and have more company, but this can be risky if you do not know the person well, or at all.

It is less expensive to run a smaller home. You’ll begin noticing savings right away. The smaller your yard is, the less you pay to mow it or have it taken care of. The smaller your roof is, the fewer dollars you will spend maintaining it and the less you will spend on heat and air conditioning.

While it is true that the property market is not doing too well at the moment, you can never plan too early for the future, particularly your retirement. Start thinking about your opportunities now and plan for your financial future carefully. The next home you buy may be perfect for you, and one you will want to live in long term. Take account of what you would need now and in the future and think about a one-storey or easy access house in case of illness or disability.


Housepainting 101

Alternate Energy Guide


Preparing Your Household Finances for a New Baby

A new baby on the way is always an exciting and celebratory time. However, a baby can also be a huge financial challenge, especially if you don’t take the appropriate steps to prepare yourself. Keep these tips in mind when preparing your finances for the new arrival.

New Baby Expenses

1. Medical bills. Find out in advance what medical bills you’re likely to incur. This would include prenatal, delivery, and postnatal expenses. Do you have insurance? How much will it pay? If you don’t have insurance and have low income, your state has programs that will minimize the expense.

* Plan ahead. Depending on your insurance situation, you may want to have additional funds set aside for unforeseen medical issues.

2. Baby items. Here we’re talking about things like car seats, strollers, changing tables, cribs, bottles, clothes, diapers (2,700 just the first year!), rocking chair, swing, dresser, baby monitor, and more. Go out to your local store and price these items.

* Are you going to breast-feed? You may need a breast pump if you plan on ever leaving the house without the baby. If you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll need bottles, nipples, and formula.

* Do you need daycare or a baby sitter? Call around to compare costs or ask a neighbor or friend what the going rate is for daycare in your area.

Lower Your Costs

1. Borrow and buy used. Babies outgrow things long before they wear them out. You shouldn’t have any problem finding quality used baby clothes, toys, and furniture. There are even stores that specialize in used baby items. You can also check on Craig’s List.

* These used items can be much less expensive than new stuff.

* When the time is right, tell everyone you know about your happy news. You’ll almost certainly be offered plenty of baby-related items.

2. Wait for gifts. People can go crazy giving gifts when a baby is involved. You never know what you’re going to get. Wait until the dust settles before you start making purchases. The gifts you receive can be a real financial boon. Be patient so you don’t get stuck with two of the same thing.

3. Remember that you don’t need everything. Your baby doesn’t require every gadget under the sun to be safe and happy. Ask the mothers you know what they consider to be the most important items.

4. Start saving now. You can never start saving too soon. Now is the time to eliminate all those things and services that you don’t really need. Sit down and look at your monthly bills and find ways you can cut back. Reduce your expenses as much as you need to so you can save enough money to be as comfortable as possible when the baby arrives.

5. Review your life insurance and will. Sit down with the appropriate expert to ensure you have the proper insurance coverage when the baby arrives. Also be certain that your will is up to date. A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Life Insurance (Money Matters)

Preparing for a new baby can be an exciting time. For the smoothest first year for you and your little one, remember to include financial preparations as well.

Smart Spending Strategies (More for Less Guides)


April Financial Calendar

1-30 Financial Literacy Month. Established in the US to encourage people to educate themselves about all things financial, Financial Literacy Month is the time to learn more about budgeting and improving your money habits.
Do something this month to expand your knowledge of financial matters—attend a financial seminar or read a book about finances written by one of your favorite money gurus.

1 Are you ready to file your taxes? Ensure you have all the forms and records you need to do your income taxes so you can file by April 17.

6 Good Friday. Spend time with loved ones today.

7 United Nations’ World Health Day. This holiday commemorates the importance of the health of all peoples. Every year on this date, the UN releases its message in terms of current health priorities. Why not use this day to survey your current financial health? It’s time to ensure your budget is in shape.

8 Easter. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Look over your entire investment portfolio this evening to ensure you’ve diversified your “nest egg” to ensure the best results.

17 Income Taxes Due. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet and can’t do it today, file an extension today so that you have until October 15 to file them. If you owe money though, the money is still due, so if you don’t pay until October, you’ll owe interest and penalties as well.

22 Earth Day. Established to celebrate our “neighborhood,” this holiday reminds us to give pause and thanks for the earth. Why not renew your recycling and re-purposing efforts? You’ll save waste at the local landfill and get double-duty from more of your personal belongings. Recycle, re-purpose and save money! For more information, and great activities for the whole family, see: Earth Day and Every Day: A Beginner’s Guide to Green Activities and Recipes (Green Matters)

25 Administrative Professionals’ Day. This day is designated to honor all the administrative professionals who keep the offices going. Why not splurge this year and give the administrative professional(s) at your office a $25 savings bond?
30 Get ready for spring. Have you thought about having a garage sale to make some extra money? Do some spring cleaning and price items you’re ready to get rid of. Deposit the money you make into your savings account. Good job!


How to Earn Extra Money Even in This Recession, Part 2

(continued from Part 1)

3. Try is a website that allows anyone to post a product or service that costs $5. The website takes $1, so your earnings will be $4 per task. If the task only takes 15 minutes to complete, then you have the potential to earn up to $16 an hour. If you can think of offering a service that doesn’t take a lot of time, you can make some decent spending money. Logo design, for instance, does not need to take that long if you are skilled at PhotoShop. There are also several other websites similar to that allow you to charge up to $25 for quick services or products. A Google search for “Fiverr Clones” should show you several sites that are worth considering. Even if you are working full time, you can use your spare time after work, or even before work or during your lunch hour, to start earning more.

4. Buy a storage unit at an auction.
Or more correctly, purchase the contents of a storage unit. This practice occurs when people put items in storage and then fail to pay their rental fees. Eventually the property devolves to the rental place, who will sell the items in order to recoup their rent. The items will be auctioned site unseen. This practice can be hit or miss, since people might be storing a whole bunch of clothes or other personal items with little to no resale value. However, if you think about the success of eBay, you will know that many people are actually making a living from purchasing the contents of abandoned storage units and selling what they find. CDs, old records, books, tapes, and other collectibles can all be found in this way and sold on. Sell the junk at a garage sale and the good stuff on eBay. With a little luck, that $200 storage unit could be worth $10,000 or more.

There are certain rules, tricks and tips to selling on eBay that you will want to become familiar with before making such a commitment, so start small with a few items in your home and then take it from there. Also consider selling the latest titles as used books on Amazon. Become familiar with good packaging and mailing practices to be sure that any parcels you send out go by a traceable means and arrive promptly and undamaged. Remember that you will get ratings as a seller at all of the sites you participate on, so be prepared to offer good customer service.

If you still have a job but you are underpaid, underemployed, or both, these are just a few of the ways that you can make extra money to pay off debts, start an emergency fund, or start saving for your financial goals for the future.

Further Reading

For more great ideas on how to survive and even thrive in this recession, see: Your Recession Survival Guide

For more information on creating wealth to start your own business, see How to Start a Successful Small Business Even If You Don’t Have Much Cash

For more information on how to start an emergency fund, see Emergency Fund 101: How to Save Money for Unexpected Expenses


Credit Card Question, Part 2

Continued from Part 1
*Insurance Coverage
Also remember that charging certain items on a major credit card can confer some extra benefits. For example, car rental liability insurance is offered by some major credit card companies. If your card has this coverage, you don’t need to pay the incredibly high fees for the “loss and damage waiver” car rental companies try to charge you when you rent a car.

Insurance coverage for baggage lost when you fly is also available, depending on the credit card you choose. In fact, some credit card companies offering this insurance actually cover in addition to what the airline will pay you for lost bags. This baggage coverage is no cost on some credit cards and is well worth having. Travel insurance is also included, so that you would not lose the whole cost of the flight, and would just need to pay a ticket change fee of about $50 to $100 if an emergency cropped up. If the flight is a long-haul one, this insurance coverage is worth having.

*Consumer Protection
Price protection for items you purchase that drop in price after you buy them is offered by some companies. Stores must allow a 30 day ‘cooling off’ period with an unconditional money-back guarantee. They should honor any price differences and refund the money within 30 days. Some major credit card companies allow up to 60 days and will refund you such price differences.

*Fraud Protection
A debit card will not usually confer all of these perks. And indeed, the major difference is the most crucial one: You liability with credit cards in the event of identity theft or fraud will be zero or much lower with a credit card than with a debit card. With a credit card, if you suspect anything fraudulent, you have up to 90 days to report it. With a debit card, you need to report it within 2 business days. Otherwise, you will be liable.

If you do not look at your online banking account that often, or you are overseas, for example, this can be a major financial disaster. Therefore, use your debit card only sparingly for online purchases, and use a credit card instead because of all the extras it offers. Then pay off the bill at the end of each month.

*Determine Your Benefits and Weigh Risks Versus Rewards

One final suggestion is to take time to read all the fine print on a credit card application to determine what special privileges and perks you get with your card, or call customer service and ask. Then choose to use the card that gives you the most benefits in terms of cash back, benefits, insurance, and other perks.

Credit cards do not have to be a disaster and can indeed improve your credit score and even help you save money if you care cautious and learn how to use them to your advantage financially.

For more information on how to improve your family finances, see

Emergency Fund 101: How to Save Money for Unexpected Expenses


Your Recession Survival Guide


Credit Card Question, Part 1

Q. I’ve finally learned my lesson when it comes to credit cards. After charging up four credit card accounts and spending four years paying them off, I don’t ever want to see my name on another credit card again. In fact, I want to cut all of them up and close all my accounts. However, my friend says that I should keep the accounts open and keep one card just in case of emergencies. Which one of us is right? And won’t a debit card work just as well?

A. Congratulations on paying off your credit card debt and being so determined never to get in that kind of position again. We are glad that you have found strategies that work well for you to help you manage your money.

However, your friend does have a good point about your credit cards, for a number of reasons.

*Your credit score and credit to debt ratio.
You credit score is in part determined by how much credit you are permitted by financial institutions. If you close all your accounts, you could be lowering your credit score. Therefore, now that your cards are paid off, keep the accounts open, but put the cards in a safe place where you will not be tempted to use them, except in the most dire emergency.

Keep one available with a low interest rate and possibly cash back points and only use if for essentials and items you could not readily pay for in cash, such as online shopping. The key for using a credit card is never to charge more in a month than you can pay off at the end of the month.

*Rewards cards
Some rewards are worth having, such as free airline miles for purchases, but only if you are a great traveller. Otherwise, go for the cash back. Just be aware that studies have recently shown that people who use rewards based cards tend to spend 4% more each time they use it than cards that do not carry such perks. So make your shopping list and stick to it.

Continued in part 2