Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to feed your family of 4 on less than $12.00 a day

Here is an example of how to feed your family of four on less than 12.00 a day. Sounds pretty impossible, right? Not if you think about it and make sure you always have certain staples in the house. The following is an example and breakdown of the actual costs to feed MY family. (I am not making this up.) If you really want to stretch those food dollars, get in the habit of having soup & grilled cheese for dinner one night a week. It’s inexpensive, delicious and nutritious! Also, have leftovers at least one night a week…waste not, want not!

Day 1

Soup day:

2 cans of soup = $1.00

Grilled cheese sandwich = Bread .25, cheese .41 X 5 sandwiches = $3.30

Crackers = .25

Total for 4 people = $4.55

Day 2

Pork Roast = $5.43

Mini corn on the cob = $1.66

¼ of a 10# bag of potatoes bought on sale for 2.49 = .62 (for mashed potatoes)

Applesauce = ½ jar = .89

Can of Green Beans = .39

Stick of margarine (for vegetables, rolls) = .16

Can of biscuits = 1.00

Total for 4 people = $10.15 (this meal should yield leftovers)

Day 3

Hamburger helper

Ground Chuck = $2.14 (buy a big package on sale and split it to use the other ½ for another meal)

Store Brand Hamburger Helper = $1.25

Bread & Butter (Margarine) = .58

Can of Green beans or peas or corn = .39

Total for 4 people = $4.36

Day 4

Smoked sausage = $1.59 (on sale BOGO)

Sauerkraut = .86

Baked Beans = .74

Cottage Cheese = 1.25

Total for 4 people = $4.44

Day 5

Chuck Roast = $4.68 (2.35 lbs)

Potatoes (from the same bag bought on sale) = .62

1 onion = .50

1 Lb. Carrots = .79

Can of Biscuits = $1.00

Total for 4 people = $7.59 (This meal yields leftovers)

Day 6

Hamburgers patties, or what some restaurants call Hamburger Steak Some people like these plain with ketchup, or you can make a sandwich on bread.

Ground Chuck (from the same pack used on Day 3) = $2.14

Potatoes from the bag bought on sale = .62

½ of a yellow onion = .25 (to make fried potatoes & onions)

2 Cans of vegetables (Corn, Green Beans, Peas, Carrots) = .78

Total for 4 people = $3.79

Day 7

Leftovers = No cooking or spending money!

Ok, that covers the dinners. Now what about breakfast & Lunch? Well, my little one usually eats a bowl of oatmeal or a granola bar or cold cereal for breakfast. If I do eat anything, it is light, like toast or a banana. My husband is on the road, so he usually gets a sausage biscuit or something small to hold him till dinner. My 23 year old daughter usually doesn’t eat breakfast at home.

Oatmeal = 1.50 for 10 packets, so .15 each

Granola bar = 8 for 2.99, so .37 each

Cold cereal = 2.00 average for a box, so maybe .25 for cold cereal

So, for the little one, averaging out, it’s about $1.38 during the week to feed her breakfast

Sausage or egg Biscuit = .99 X 4 days eating breakfast out = 3.98

Toast = .25 X 5 = $1.25

Weekday breakfast = 6.61

Saturday breakfast = cereal = 1.00

Sunday is a good day to make a home cooked hot breakfast. Most of the foods typical to a big breakfast, such as bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, etc. don’t need to be eaten more than once a week since they contain a lot of fat and cholesterol.

I will use biscuits & gravy, eggs and sausage for my big breakfast.

1 roll sausage = $2.50 (but I usually get it from the meat manager’s special for like .89 and freeze)

1 can biscuits = 1.00

6 eggs (I don’t eat the eggs) = .50

Milk = $1.00

Total for 4 people = $5.00

School Lunch = $1.85 X 5, so 9.25 a week

Other food costs for the week:

Milk = 1 ½ gal on average, so $5.84

Coffee = 4.99

Creamer = 2.99

Soda = 5.00

Snacks, chips, etc. = 7.00

Total = $82.56/7 days = $11.79 a day / 4 people = $2.94 a day

Pretty amazing, huh? This is just an example of a week’s meals. Of course, your tastes may vary, but it can be done quite easily if you do your homework. Always check the local paper for sales, buy in bulk whenever possible and plan ahead!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to Select the Right Credit Counseling Service

If your financial situation is in bad shape, you might want to consider the services of a credit counselor. If the bill collectors are calling and the payments and interest rates are stacking up, a credit counseling service can probably help.

If your financial situation is in bad shape, you might want to consider the services of a credit counselor. If the bill collectors are calling and the payments and interest rates are stacking up, a credit counseling service can probably help.

The right counseling service can help you to deal with the debt collectors and show you how to consolidate your debt to a manageable level.

Before deciding on a suitable credit counseling service, ask for references. A credible company will put you in touch with previous customers who have had good results in debt consolidation from this company. This is your financial future; don’t rely on just some ad or direct mail piece to point you toward the credit counseling service you should use.

Make sure your counseling service is accredited. There are practices and standards maintained by the American Association of Debt Management Organizations. Credit counseling services with their accreditation will be following required practices and abiding by ethical standards.

Check with the Better Business Bureau. If your credit counseling service is a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau, it shows that they have had few complaints and are willing to engage in resolution of any problems. Call your local BBB and ask for information on whatever counseling service you may be considering.

Avoid for profit counseling services. Seek out non-profit counseling services, as there is a good chance that their advice will be independent of any outside influences.

Do not sign up with any counseling service that asks for upfront fees. There are plenty of non-profit credit counseling services that will waive upfront fees. You’re in enough financial trouble already without incurring additional fees.

Ask if they will provide educational services. No doubt part of your problem was that you did not fully understand the financial complexities that got you into this mess. Good credit counseling services offer trainings, videos, and audios on subjects like managing your income and credit card responsibility. Education is an important part of the process so you can avoid this ever happening to you again.
Ask if they will help you develop a detailed plan for becoming debt free. A good counseling service will have such a plan as one of their main objectives in helping you.
Do your due diligence and consider in detail what a credit counselor can offer you. At this point, such an option may be the only one you have left. Your choice is very important.


A close insight to Payday Loans


To handle your financial emergencies, Payday Loans are very helpful. Payday lenders provide an easy interface for consumers for applying. Normally if a person has a good credit history it gets approved immediately. But one should look for the best payday lender before applying.

Various financial emergencies like hospital bills, medical bills, house repairs, car repairs can arise anytime to anyone. To cope with such situations, payday loans help a lot. Also, they can be of great help during the holidays like Christmas, New Year, and Thanksgiving. Holidays can really drain your finances, especially when they fall close to each other, and payday loans are there to help.

Whenever you lack funds, you can resort to this type of loan. It helps you to ease your money pockets and keep you and the family cheerful all holiday long. You can easily apply for such a loan. In fact, most of the payday lender will have their application form to be submitted online. With quick processing, you can get your loan immediately- on the next day. Think about that, if you do not have enough of a budget to prepare a good meal for Christmas Eve, you could apply for a loan on the 23rd evening and probably by the next morning receive cash in your account.

To apply for a payday loan one needs to fulfill some minimum requirements. All will give you loan only if you are at least 18 years of age. Second, you have to be a resident or a citizen of the country in which you are applying for the loan. This is important, as you cannot expect a lender to give money to people who are not legally residing in the country. Three, you should have a bank account in working condition. This is also important as payday loan lenders actually deposit the money into your bank account. This is a great attraction of such loans, as you do not have to personally go and pick up the money. Four, you should be in a regular job. This means that you have to have money coming in at regular intervals. So if you are unemployed or you do not have a constant income source then be assured that most of the payday lenders will not sanction you a payday loan. This last important requirement is that the payday loan lenders will make use of the information entered in your application form to determine whether or not you can afford to pay off the loan that you are trying to get out.

There is no need to worry about sending documents to the lender through fax or courier. You can get money in your account as soon as you apply for it and meet the extra expenses that you need to settle. If your employer is not able to give you your salary or holiday bonuses yet, then you can get a payday loan in the meantime. The major requirement is that you have to pay back the loan amount on your next payday. It is like spending your own salary, but at an earlier date. You can also look for payday lenders who provide some offers for the holiday season, and you can expect to get good rates, and a loan with waived charges!


Payday loans: Try to look for the best lender


Payday loans are short term loans. They help a lot in case of financial emergencies like festivals, medical emergencies etc. You can just borrow from a few pounds to a few hundred pounds depending upon your need. If you are unable to pay on time then most of the payday lenders will have an option to postpone the repayment date.

A payday loan is a short-term loan given for a very short period of time that is dated the same as your next payday. The minimum requirement to get such a loan is that you should be at least 18 years of age,should have a regular monthly salary and a fixed job, and a functional bank account.

Crises are something that can just happen at any time of the month. In such scenarios you might need money immediately, and payday loans are a great help during these times. Availing such a loan is very easy for you as you do not have to provide any documents or any check to the payday lender who is providing you the loan. But remember one thing before you apply, the interest rate is very high and you need to repay the whole loan amount on your next payday. These loans are very short termed and small in amount. You can just borrow from a few pounds to a few hundred pounds and not more than that. These loans are booming in sectors where low wages are given to employees. Applying for such a loan is very easy as most of the payday lenders offer online services. The good thing about an online application is that you do not have to issue a post-dated cheque; instead you simply give your bank account and specify a date when you will make a loan repayment. The date is generally your next payday. When your application is approved, the loan money is deposited directly into your bank account by the lender. They will then deduct the loan repayment automatically out of the same bank account on the repayment date.

Most payday lenders provide customers with an option to postpone the repayment date in case the customer is not in a financial position to repay the amount. But make sure the lender whom you have chosen provides this facility to its customers. This can be made sure by going through the terms and conditions section of the lender. After filling the application form payday loan lenders will check the credit history of the consumer. If he has a decent credit history (which means he has made all his past payments on time) then the payday lender will send a confirmation message to the consumer that the loan has been sanctioned. After that the consumer will have to sign an online agreement. Once this is done the loan amount applied will be transferred into the account of the consumer in few hours time. The whole process is simple and time efficient.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Stick to a Savings Plan

Sticking to a savings plan is often a matter of lifestyle changes, courage and discipline. Spending money is easy if you possess the money and with the use of credit cards you can come in trouble if you don't efficient plan.

Saving money is essential for short and long time goals but many people struggle to stick to a savings plan. Making saving to a habit is necessary if you want to succeed but it is easier said than done. We all have daily expenses we can't avoid and it is often difficult to maintain a certain saving habit if you struggle to pay all your bills or if you are not be able to resist the temptation to buy new clothes, DVD's, electronic gadgets or other things you don't need.

Sticking to a savings plan is often a matter of lifestyle changes, courage and discipline. Spending money is easy if you possess the money and with the use of credit cards you can come in trouble if you don't efficient plan. Learn to say "no" if you come in the temptation to buy and deposit the money you wanted to spend into your savings account.

Here are some suggestions which may help you to stick to a savings plan:

1. Make a budget

It is almost impossible to stick to a savings plan without a budget. A budget allows you to calculate how much you can save. A budget reflects your expected earnings and average expenses and you can create an attainable savings plan.

2. Write your saving goals down

You may have different savings plans and a certain date when you want to reach a certain amount in your savings plans. You may want to save for traveling in a certain month; it is easy to calculate how much you need to save every month for this purpose. Write down every month in a notebook how much you withdraw. It may happen you can't save every month the same amount; if you have saved fewer during a certain month you can increase your savings the next month to get on time the money you need.

There are certain savings plans, for example retirement plans which require a certain amount within one year and the easiest way is withdrawing a fixed amount each month in this account. A similar system can be used for investment purposes, for example investing in mutual funds through systematic savings plan.

Maybe you can best use a separate book for every savings plan and write down the amount you want to save, the date and the amount you withdraw into your savings account and if you didn't withdraw the necessary amount; you can best this mark it in yellow or any other color you prefer. This will make it easier how much you need to save more next month.

3. Make saving automatic

It is easy to create a plan where a certain amount will be transferred from your bank account to your savings account. It is preferable this amount will be transferred at the beginning of the month; you are sure you stick to your savings plan and you only have to keep an eye on your expenses to avoid you can't pay your bills anymore. You know how much you still have on your account and you can interfere to cut down expenses if you come in trouble.

4. Create a piggy bank

A piggy bank will help you to save some extra money. Deposit every coin you find or which you get back from the grocery or other shops when you make your purchases into a piggy bank. At the end of the month you can deposit this money into your savings account and you will save create some extra savings which ease to reach your savings goals.

5. Avoid using credit cards

Using credit cards can cause impulse spending and many people will likely spend more than they can afford. People use these credit cards too often and don't have an overview anymore of their expenses with a possible consequence they go in debt. Using credit cards will increase the temptation to make more purchases than necessary and it is difficult to stick a savings plan because often they spend more their your budget allows.

6. Rewarding

Sticking to a savings plan will be much easier if you reward yourself if you save more than you planned to do. It is a motivation key to save more money and to reduce expenses. This rewarding don't need to be expensive, for example a dinner in a restaurant with the family, a theatre visit, a DVD or some clothes you wanted to buy already for some time. You only have to ensure you don't spend all the money you have saved above your savings plan.

Sticking to a savings plan is easy if you can make it to a habit. Some people may struggle when they start but with some creativity; courage and changing spending habits, they will likely succeed to reach their goals. There are many possibilities to cut your expenses and you will be surprised how much money you can save in one month and ease to stick to a savings plan.

Trick Yourself into Saving Money

It's tough making ends meet and even tougher to put money aside for emergencies. By getting into the habit of saving and following these easy tips for saving money you'll be on your way to a bigger bank account.

One of the best pieces of financial advice is to pay yourself first. After all, if you never even see the money in the first place, you won’t miss it. Even if you only save a little at a time, the savings add up if you continue month after month. Whether you are saving for the long term such as retirement, a new home, or college or to fund a one-time splurge like that Coach handbag you’ve been eyeing, you can use a variety of tools and tricks to save more money relatively painlessly.

Automatic deductions – Set up regular, automatic deductions from either your paycheck to your savings account (if available from your employer) or from your checking account to savings. As time goes by, these systematic transfers add up. In addition, you will quickly become accustomed to the lesser amount of your paycheck. When you get a raise, consider increasing the amount you save. For example if you have $50 transferred from your paycheck to your savings account each week, by the end of the year, you will have saved over $3000.

Bill yourself – If automatic transfers or deductions aren’t an option, bill yourself. That’s right, use your computer and a printer and print out a series of twelve monthly bills for the amount you wish to save. Place one “invoice” for each month in the file you use for your monthly bills. As you sit down to pay your bills, write a check to yourself and deposit it into your savings account.

Sign up for free bill pay – many banks now offer free online bill paying. This saves both time and postage. Once you set up your payees, add yourself as a payee too. When paying bills, don’t forget to pay yourself. At the very least, transfer what you would’ve paid in postage into your savings account.

Choose a higher yield bank account – If your savings is sitting in the standard savings account that’s linked to your checking account, chances are it is earning minimal interest. Today, many online banks offer significantly higher interest rates. $3000 in a typical savings account that offers 1% interest would earn $30 after one year. An account offering 4.5% interest would generate $135 in interest after one year.

Take the free money – If your bank offers an incentive program such as Bank of America’s Keep the Change program, enroll in it. This particular program helps you save by rounding up your purchases to the next dollar and transferring the change to your savings account. While you can do this yourself, the perk here is the matching funds. For the first few months that you are enrolled, the bank will match your savings!

Free checking – If you are still paying a monthly fee for your checking account, renegotiate or switch banks. Many banks offer free checking, while others will if you have your paycheck deposited directly. Use the savings to increase the amount you pay yourself.

Use sub-accounts to earmark your funds – If your bank allows it, you can set up multiple savings accounts and use these for individual savings goals. For example, ING Direct is one such bank that lets you do this. You could have one savings account earmarked for your annual property taxes, another for Christmas spending money, another for vacation, and another for emergencies. To top it off, ING Direct offers one of the highest interest rates you’ll find.

Save your five dollar bills – Whenever you get a five dollar bill as change, place it in a special place such as a separate compartment in your wallet or purse, a coffee can, or a piggy bank. At the time, it’s not a painful sacrifice. Over time, the five dollar bills add up.

Is Zero Percent Financing Worth the Risk


Zero-percent financing offers are great credit building tools and can even turn you a profit if accepted and handled properly. The challenge is finding zero percent financing offers that are worth it as some may come with unwanted fees, restrictions, and so forth.
The most common zero-percent financing offers come in the form of 0% credit cards and more then often in the form of car payment financing.

How many times in a day do you see advertisements for 0% financing on new and used cars vs. 0% offers for credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and bank loans? That right there should be a red flag for which 0% offers to generally avoid which are car financing loans. When purchasing a car you should rarely use the services of the dealer's financing offices because they tend to come with a ton of restrictions, fees, and hidden expenses.

Car loans in general come with deceptive terms most often; you either pay a set monthly payment that includes interest (ensuring you end up overpaying for a product that depreciates quickly) or if you get a 0% offer you may run into a higher down payment, higher fees, or a sky high interest rate when the 0% financing offer ends. Honestly you may be better off putting your new car purchase on a low or no interest credit card or seeking a loan from a reputable bank.

That leaves credit cards as the best way to secure and use 0% financing offers. In times of recessions and financial cutbacks these offers are slightly harder to find, but in general every major credit card issuer offers them in some way. The terms for them will depend on your credit score and history, the credit limit given, and the company itself. Many credit card providers will extend 0% offers from 6-15 months with the average being 12 months. This basically means a person can get approved for an interest free credit card for 6-12 months and as long as that person does not exceed the credit limit or miss any of the minimum payments they can enjoy 0% financing.

To maximize the benefits of 0% financing on credit cards you should plan to pay off the balance in full when the offer expires to avoid interest. You can put money away in high interest checking and savings accounts like ING Direct and make the minimum payment each month as required on your credit card. You'll pay no interest during the 0% offer and earn a few bucks in interest on your money sitting in the bank.

The trick is to be sure you can pay off the balance in full once the offer expires so you can keep all the interest earned on your money in your high interest accounts. This means you can't use the card for purchases you can't afford to pay off by the end of the offer. Yes you can use it to buy that new plasma TV or that vacation to Europe but only if you know by offer's end, that you'll have the money to pay it off.

Some people take 0% financing further on credit cards and use it to write balance transfer checks to themselves for about 80% of the available credit; then they store that money in a high interest account while paying minimum payments on the card. At the end of the 0% offer they pay off the card and keep the interest earned as profit.
However fees and restrictions can limit this way of making money so only skilled balance bouncing customers and responsible borrowers should attempt balance transfer check floating.

Fees can ruin 0% offers of credit card. If there is a fee that is too high for balance transfers or transfer checks it can cancel out any profit earned. Plus even if you use a 0% card until the offer expires, if you miss one payment, are late, or can't pay in full at end of the 0% offer you may cancel out any profits and any rewards points earned.
Free money through 0% financing is a game and credit cards are generally the best tools to use. But getting free money, free points/cash back/rewards, and other perks takes a certain level of financial responsibility and planning. Free money is out there for anyone willing to research and be responsible with it but its a game that many don't win at.


Avoid Financial Strain with a Prepaid Credit Card

Prepaid credit cards are becoming more and more popular. As Americans find themselves stretched to financial limits, these cards have become a way to avoid overspending.

A prepaid credit card works just like a regular credit card, except you have to pay before you use it. Such cards are available everywhere and offered by most major card issuers. American Express, Master Card, and Visa all offer prepaid credit cards. They even look so similar to their brethren that it’s hard to distinguish the prepaid card from the standard credit card.

You can make any type of purchase you would normally make with a regular card, however, some restrictions due apply. Generally, you cannot use a such card for hotel accommodations, airfare, or auto rental, as these purchases require your card to attach to your name, address and personal information for obvious reasons. Your card is anonymous, is doesn’t attach to your name or personal information in any way. Also, gasoline retailers often restrict prepaid credit cards because of the drive-away syndrome.

A prepaid credit card is a good option if you are in tight financial circumstances. Because you pay ahead (load the card), you can’t really purchase beyond your means and there is no balance to carry forward.

Apart from the restrictions we have already discussed there may be associated fees for your prepaid cards. Such cards also come in many forms. At the rear of your Pharmacy or in Wal-Mart’s somewhere you will find a display featuring various prepaid cards. These are offered for preset amounts and you pay that amount plus charges at the cashier while checking out. You might purchase a $20.00 prepaid card from the display. At the checkout this card will cost around $25.00 because of associated fees. Once you’ve paid your $25.00. However, you’re done. There are no more charges and no fluctuating interest rates.

Other types of prepaid cards are one you can load to amounts you decide upon. These cards are usually issued by one of the Major credit card companies like VISA, or Master Card. You generally receive the card after applying for it and including your first deposit on the card. The card is issued to you and you can use it for anything up to the amount left in your account less fees for use. These cards allow you the option of refilling, or loading, your card whenever you want. While there are fees for using the card, they are pretty clear cut and you should check them out and no the costs involved before making an initial deposit.

Using either of these types of cards is a good solution to stop overspending until you get your financial situation ironed out.


Easy Ways to Trash your Financial Life


Timely payment of your credit card dues is a must for you to have a healthy financial life. Delay in payment for just one day can bring a huge penalty for your available credit limits. Beware not to cross the limit of 30 days. You may risk your whole financial life if you ever cross this limit even by mistake.

At times your credit card payment is delayed due to some confusion or a small financial problem. If this delay is not more than one or two days, you still have an option to contact the card issuer. You can manage to close the chapter by having a word with them and they may grant you a waiver of late payment fees.


But if the delay is more than the time limit of 30 days the penalties are unbelievable.

These accounts are then listed as delinquent. Within no time the credit card issuer will update this delay in your credit reports. This delinquency comment will stick to your report for seven long years. This will result in significant cut down in your credit score because the payment record is reducing your score to 1/3 rd.

Many of us have a misunderstanding that to get rid of this comment they can simply close the delinquent credit card account. But we must know that this is not the solution of this problem and this comment will not go off from your report for seven years even after the closure. The mortgage companies and also the auto loan providing companies are alarmed about these comments. All your future applications will suffer due to this as you are charged high interests.

You have to sign the agreement with the card issuer at the time of issuance. Most of the card company agreements include a special clause. This clause states that this delinquency remark on your report is enough for other card issuers also to increase the rate of interest. Due to this you cannot escape from the losses that you incur as you pay higher interest rates for the coming years.

All this can be avoided if you take proper care and your records are timely updated and managed about all credit cards you hold, their credit limits, your dues and the most importantly, their due dates. Your due date should be convenient or else you can put a request and ask them to change it for you. If you have a difficulty in paying even the minimum amount for your dues do not hesitate to call the card issuer. Request them for some concession. Never try to hide these problems from them as they are always alert about such delays. For them this delay can mean you are on the verge of bankruptcy!

 
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