Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bank fees: Are they Fair and Reasonable?

The popularity of banks and their practices have been in a steep decline for the past few years. What people used to write off as a few reasonable monthly bank charges are now adding up in the millions, and not in favor of the consumer!

It wasn't that long ago that to have a $35.00 bank fee was quite disturbing and back then the consumer and their banker usually haggled quite hard as to who would keep the charge. Boy, have things changed! If you do an internet search on bank fees, or even a search on any popular bank name + sucks and you will find blog after blog of peoples stories how the bank just wiped out their account and no, it was not just because they carelessly overdrew. The banks are now taking advantage of many practices that the consumers did not even know existed until now; and the consumers have been caught like a deer in the headlights.

It was recently brought to attention about the way that banks pay out small overdrafts or not pay them out. Also if they take a large deposit first against what is coming in after? This double whammy has a huge payout for the banks because they could charge as follows:

- $ 1.75 Overdraw on Account because of a tip duplicate transaction you don't even know existed

- $ 37.00 Overdraw Fee

- $ 33.00 Overdraw Charge Fee

- $175.00 Other checks that did not get covered

- $ 33.00 Minimum Balance Fee

+$ 40.00 Deposit that should have covered the $ 1.75

By the time you even know that this has taken place it is too late, and the bank knows this. So, if you didn't check on this account for 2 days you can rack up over $500 just in charges alone. The second day the fees get higher and wilder, usually add up to over $200.00+ ea. day. And the banks are no longer preying on just the low balance customers, you could be transferring $ 50,000 from one account to another and oh, woops, they took out any checks and charges but the transfer deposit wound up taking them into the next day.

Now, this would all be well and good if you could just call your banker up and they would say "oh, yes, that was a mistake, we will take care of it, Miss Jones", but not any more, these banks are doing this all over the country and raking in the fees. Because of course, it's all perfectly legal. All of this was sent to you on that tiny scrap of paper that you really could never decipher with your statement. So, the employees at the bank are all armed with scripts of "I can write $33.00 off, that is how we will help you", "you really have to watch that balance more closely, Mr. Smith, here do you need a new check register to write down your checks in and out"?

There are more stories and even worse practices going on, but until you experience it for yourself, you truly won't believe it!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to get a job when the company is not hiring

Sometimes it really is possible to be able to get a job even when the company tells you that they are not doing any hiring! Read on and learn how to approach this possibility. This has happened before! You can get hired even if the company tells you that their company is not hiring!

Be sure to apply in person at the company of your choice. Be well groomed of course and do have your resume ready.

Going in for an interview the first thing in the morning is a great way to impress them. Do not go in at lunch time or closing time to apply for a job because they are tired or hungry by then and may not feel like discussing anything with you at all!

Your appearance is very important and it does not matter if you are only applying for a labor job that is dirty or whatever. You must dress as well as you possibly can. It doesn't matter if the job doesn't require dress clothing, wear it for the job interview if at all possible and make sure your that your hair and nails are scrubbed and that you are well groomed. You will get one time to make a great impression only.

Go to the office at the company and request a job application from whoever is at the desk. Once that application is filled out, which is something that you should do right there and then, in their office, be sure to ask the desk person if you can possibly meet with someone in charge of hiring. Let them know that you wish to have a meeting even if they are not currently hiring. If they will not allow you to meet a potential employer, ask them when would a good time be to return for an interview or ask if an appointment could one be arranged for you.

Once you get an appointment for an interview, go to it. If you get that far and do get to talk to someone, give it your best! Do not give them a sad sob story although it is ok to let them know that you really need to get back to work as soon as possible. Express a sincere interest in the type of work they do there and if you know anything about that work at all, be sure to let them know that also!

Please note that if there is anything that does not look good on your application, you may want to try to slip an explanation about that in also at this time. After you have completed putting your best foot forward, shake the person's hand and thank them for the interview. Before you leave, let them know that you do intend to keep in touch just in case anything should become available in the future.

At least once a week from time of the interview on, please stop by the office and check on your application. If you cannot stop by in person, at least give them a call to inquire. Many times this determination and efforts will pay off. They may just get tired of you bothering them and hire you to put an end to that! You never know until you give it a try! Good luck!

Another thing to keep in mind, if you are searching for work in restaurants, consider going in to apply a little before lunchtime. Sometimes, there is a shortage and you could be asked to go to work right then! It has happened to me! Arm yourself with as much information about the company as you possibly can before applying for work at a company that you may know nothing about. It will pay off later!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tips on how to get a job when homeless and unemployed

If you find yourself homeless, the first thing to do is to get started right away on finding employment. Even if you are homeless and unemployed, you can still find a job. Here are some tips to do just that.

Follow these tips and suggestions if you find yourself homeless and in need of employment and hopefully you can land back on your feet much sooner.

The most important thing when going for job interviews and to places where you will be requesting job applications, you will absolutely have to be decent and to be as well groomed as possible. Your appearance is extremely important.

If you are in need of clothing, you should visit the nearest Salvation army thrift store and ask how the people that are running the store about how to get some free clothing. Explain to them that the reason that these are needed is because you wish to find a job and to go apply for job interviews. If the one running the checkout cannot assist you, she or he will most likely be able to give you contact information on another person or organization that can possibly assist you with your need to find clothing. You will want to try the other local thrift shops in the area where someone may be willing to offer you an outfit or two from also. If you can get a back pack thrown in, that would be great to carry your clothes in. The shelter will probably have a washer and dryer where your clothing can be washed and dried.

As you begin your search for a job, you will need to continue staying at the local shelter while you can and get a daily shower and rest and also food. You should make a plan to follow on a daily basis. Get up and be dressed as nice as possible and be ready to go job hunting.

Apply for a job at every business that you can find that is located within walking distance, and once those are exhausted, ask the shelter if they have free passes for transit that could help you go farther with your job search. You must stay determined and keep looking for that job.

If you get an interview, it is very important that you make a pleasant appearance and an impressionable one on the potential employer. Be courteous and talk politely to whoever that you find that will be willing to interview you. There is no need to give them a sob story, but do impress upon them that you need work at once. Do let them know that you are willing to work for any rage at all and will work your way up to earning more as you go.

If you are working hard at these methods and find that you are not having any luck, consider asking the companies if you could might possibly take over the cleaning of their parking lots for them. Keep your eyes open for jobs that could use being worked, and ask for them. Ask if you can do cleaning of their building or restrooms.

You should always keep checking back once a week on all of your job application places. Let them know you are still interested in employment with their company.

You should visit your local library and sign up for an Internet card where you can get online and search for jobs also. The librarian will assist you with this if needed. Take notes of potential jobs, places to look for jobs, and remember to write it down on paper and keep it with you to look over later.

Research information on job training programs while at the library or ask the librarian where to help you to look for those. It is possible that you can find a job training program that will pay at least a little as you train. Look up Pell grants for community colleges and see if you may qualify for those grants. Those programs can give assistance with finances and tuition and can help you to attend school and get your expenses paid.

When you are out searching for employment and you are out walking the local areas, take note of any buildings that need repair. Ask around and find the owner or their contact information. Call them and ask about being hired to repair their building and possibly you might swing in an arrangement where they will let you live at that building while you work.

Keep trying, keep busy and do not join the homeless sitters that sit outdoors holding up a sign. Do not resort to this method whatever you do. Keep your appearance up and your dignity and you will find a job and a home if you stay determined and keep trying hard.

Some jobs offer free training as a male or female caregiver. With many of those jobs, there are live in options sometimes. This type of employment could land you a room with a job. Look in housekeeping jobs, many of those come with a room also.

Sometimes, during the day, if you get hungry while the shelter or soup kitchen is closed, take a look around for open houses at real estate events such as open houses. Sometimes, they have refreshments available, and also try to check in grocery stores to see if there are any food tester displays setup that will get you free samples.

While you are reading the newspaper at the library, check for open house ads, businesses that are having free hot dogs on certain occasions, keep your eyes open and mark it down on your paper.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best Ways to Save When Buying Groceries

Buy an upgraded membership at the grocery warehouse. It will cost you more upfront, but will pay for itself in the long run. Costco's Executive membership is $100.00 upfront, but you get 2% back. Do the math; if you go to Costco every week, you'll in effect get your membership for free and get money back! Also use the coupons that the warehouses send out. If you plan your shopping accordingly, you can save on items that you stock up on.

Be smart about where you buy certain items. Every time I go to my grocery warehouse, I'm amazed at the carts I see that are loaded with paper products. It's pretty much common knowledge that these warehouses are higher in price than grocery stores on paper products, so why buy them there? Is it that much harder to run by the local grocery store? Warehouses are great for meats, dairy, pet food, bird food, canned goods, and other food items. Toilet paper, paper towels, batteries -not so much! Warehouse brands are good quality and can save you money as well -Costco's Kirkland brand is excellent, in everything I've tried from dog food to olive oil. Be cautious about buying gas at the warehouses as well -when prices are high, they may be lower, BUT when prices go down overall, theirs may not.

Clip and save coupons. Visit brand websites for coupons, check newspapers, magazines, and on-line coupon sites. Be aware though -stores know the coupon schedule. Don't use your coupons as soon as you get them, unless the item is also on sale -wait until it is! If you have a coupon for an item that the store doesn't carry, ask about it -often the store will let you substitute another item from the same company and still honor the coupon.

Use store coupons with manufacturer coupons -often the store will honor both at the same time. Also, some stores will still honor expired coupons -won't hurt to ask! If your store offers double or triple coupons, use as many as possible. Some stores are even offering double coupons up to $1.99 now.

Stock up! Buy in bulk when the store is having a sale. This has two benefits -you will get your items at reduced prices, and you'll always have an extra on hand so you don't ever run out! Just make sure you have a place to store things.

Plan around sales. Plan your weekly menus around the grocery store flyer's weekly sales. This way, you can prepare menus that you might not normally be able to afford!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Never Too Early: How To Start Saving For Your Retirement

The truth about saving money for retirement is that it is NEVER too early to start saving money for retirement. What people may not know at an early age however is how to start saving for money for your retirement. The biggest problem with finding out later in life that you hate your job and want nothing more than to sip drinks on the beach is the fact that it takes years and years to build wealth and if you decide too late you want to retire young, you may have missed the boat.

So no matter how old you are there are certain categories in which most people should look to when it comes to basic money management and learning how to start saving for retirement. How you disperse your cash into the categories depend completely on a case by case basis depending on age, risk tolerance and current economic situation. So the most important thing anyone can do is learn, educate themselves so that they are empowered to make the right decision for themselves at the given time. Also to keep in mind that once down one path does not mean you cannot change courses. IF you want to save money for your retirement you may change your plans every so often. This is healthy! Adjustments are needed just like time changes, some markets go up and so go down. You can be as active or passive as you want to be when it comes to learning how to start saving for your retirement, the key however is that you are in fact saving. As long as you are doing that, you are on the right path.

The most common path for retirement is a 401K or 403B contributions. This pre tax option is very successful because it is automatically done and you learn to pay yourself first rather than waiting until after all of your bills are paid off to see how much you have left. Most people see retirement as a secondary concern meaning that when money gets tight no money gets saved for retirement. This is not a good thing. You need a consistent strategy if you plan to save money for your retirement AND retire at an early age. If your company is offering a matching 401K option this is free money for you and at the very least you should match the company matching contribution amount.

If you are starting out at a very young age the company you are working for may not be offering a 401K option but this does not mean you cannot save for your retirement. Your best option would be to invest in a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA will grow tax free over the years and you have more control over what your money is invested in. There is limitations to how much you can put into your IRA year to year but this is a great way to start saving and to continue to add into as you age. Unlike normal stocks or mutual funds you purchase where you need to pay out taxes each year on your gains when you sell, Money in an IRA is completely free of taxes so you can buy and sell or just let it sit and accumulate year after year and pay no taxes as the original money you invest is after tax income.

These are the most common paths people take on their way to learning how to save money for retirement however other options exist. Passive income streams such as dividend earning stocks or CD laddering are very good methods that people learn to live off the money earned from their investments without touching the investment itself. These strategies take a large sum of capital to be successful however so generally require a long time to develop the overall plan.

The bottom line when it comes to learning how to save for your retirement is that the sooner you can start the better. The more risk you can take on at an early age, the better and being able to educate yourself on the process will help you learn when and why you need to modify your retirement investment strategy as time passes on. Money has a balance. When one market goes down another goes up. Learning the ins and out will help you in the long run manage your wealth properly to retire and hopefully retire at an early age!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saving money without coupons

We've all seen the stories on the news about how this person got $268 worth of groceries and only paid $13.62.

They clipped coupons and used them on triple and double coupon days and in conjunction with sales.

That is a really cool idea.

But, not every one is lucky enough to be able to do that.

There are many areas of the this country that don't even do double and triple coupon days.

So, you just have to find some other ways to cut down on your grocery bills.

The best way to find the best deals is to look at the store flyers. Many stores even post them online. Some stores even will send them to your inbox.

Unless you find a lot of great deals at several stores, I suggest you pick the one that has the most bargains.

I know many people say the opposite. But, running all over to the different stores uses gas which can negate any potential savings you may get.

Over time, you will begin to see a pattern of when food is lower priced. When it is low, you stock up.

Some good examples are baking supplies around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ham and turkey are on sale at that time too. Ham is always on sale around Easter as well.

Cream soups, especially mushroom, are on sale around those holidays too.

As fas as meat goes; when beef is higher priced, pork is lower and vice versa. I don't know why. But, it usually works that way.

Produce that is in season is always less expensive than any that is out of season.

When things are close to expiration, some stores will mark them down. The product is not necessarily bad, but it will need to be used soon after buying.

After a holiday stores will put things out on clearance. Things such as egg nog or holiday colored candy.

Hopefully these tips will save you some money!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Take Charge of Your Credit, Debt Solutions

We charge up a lot of debt with credit cards and debit cards, but have you purchased with a charge card yet? Not a credit card. Not a debt card. Yes, a charge card.

The primary plastic pusher of charge cards is American Express (AMEX). AMEX charge cards require cardholders to pay off their balance in full each month and-or billing cycle. There is usually an annual membership fee for the charge card but no interest or other monthly fees like regular credit cards as the account holder is not able to hold an outstanding balance for more than the month it was charged on the account. This also, for the more disciplined, reduces the ability for impulse purchases and fast spending habits credit has graciously provided at the cost of your home and happiness.

AMEXs campaign –Take Charge- intends to capitalize on consumers consumed by annoying outrageous creditor fees. The way it goes, the campaign boasts the benefits of charge cards as a way to control debt during a period where such is much needed and desired by the average Joe. AMEXs goal is to spark that furious fire within consumers against harsh creditor fees and never ending debt.

As stated earlier, for the more disciplined, the charge card is not for everyone. Aside from being in control of your spending habits, in order to get a charge card you must show that you have a good history of controlling your spending habits. Yup, it takes credit to get a charge card and rest assured you have to have a pretty solid score to be approved by AMEX.

And then comes the fees. While you may not be charged interest monthly we brushed upon annual fees in the start of this. Annual fees can range from $25, to $40, to $450 and it depends on what card you choose from AMEX so read your terms carefully when applying. The good news? These fees also cover membership to the rewards program and additional perks per plastic.

One of the hardest things people have with using a charge card instead of credit is their spending habits and the realization of paying the balance in full each month. Like any other creditor, late fees will be applied to your account if the balance is not paid in full every month. AMEX late fees range from $35 to 2.99 percent of the balance (whichever is greater) …yikes.

PRO: Unlike the majority of credit cards, you have 40 to 50 days to satisfy your bill. Regular credit cards give 25 to 30 days for the billing cycle.

PRO: A flexible payment option is also available that allows you to carry a balance for travel purchases over $200. In this instance though, minimum payments and interest fees are applicable…so you may as well just consider it a credit card should you need to make payment options.

PRO: There are no cash advance options with a charge card. Foreign exchange transactions are charged a 2.7 percent fee. On the other side, Citi and BOA charge 3 percent.

Your spending limit is adjusted via your spending habits and AMEX monitoring your credit report. You are not advised what your cap is but can speak to a service rep for tips regarding your accounts and spending abilities.

Even though the rules of charging are different than credit the game is still the same when it comes to how your credit score is affected. Both are considered revolving credit on your credit report.

For the right person a charge card is a great alternative to –Take Charge- of ones credit and avoid incurring massive amounts of credit debt with credit cards. If you have a decent credit score and can be disciplined with your spending, check out the options available through AMEX charge cards. Consolidate your other credit cards for lower interest rates and get out of the credit game altogether. With raising rates and tougher terms maybe it is time we all took charge of our credit card woes. A charge card with AMEX can still help you build a solid credit history without falling deeper into debt with credit cards.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Understanding Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Do you know what your credit report looks like, what it contains, and what your credit score is? If you are like the average American chances are you answered no to all three questions. And when it comes to your credit score and credit report – ignorance is far from bliss. Your credit report and credit score are a measure of your past, present, and future financial health. This measure is used by lenders when determining risk when you apply for credit card, loan, or other items related to finance.

The Difference Between Your Credit Report and Credit Score

There is a vast difference between your credit report and credit score. These terms are often used interchangeably, however this is done in error.

Your Credit Report

Do you know what your credit report is saying about you? A credit report is a financial record of past and present payments and debt, including late payments, and non-payment of debt. Also, it contains key personal information - your name, social security, places of residence (both past and present), bank accounts, credit cards, loans, payment records, your credit score, and other vital statistics. Late payments and non-payments are recorded here and are reflected in your credit score.

Your Credit Score

Credit scores can range between 300 and 850 with the national average between 650 and 750, and the higher your credit score the better your credit is. Your credit score indicates a risk level to potential lenders, and the probability a loan or other debt will be repaid if it is given. A high credit score indicates you are financially responsible, and according to statistics indicate you will repay a debt. However, if you check your credit and discover you have a low credit score there are ways to repair it.

Why is this Information Valuable?

There are two reasons you should be well informed of what your credit score is and what your credit report contains. The first is to repair your credit, which will influence your credit score. The process can be time consuming, and will involve repaying past debt – but will be worth it when you have an increased credit score. Second, it can inform you if you are a victim of identity theft. By catching identity theft early, you can repair the damage before it becomes extensive.

How Much Does it Cost to Check Your Credit Report and Credit Score?

You can obtain this information annually for free by completing the Annual Credit Report Request form. More information can be found via the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website. Be careful when you enter web addresses for the FTC or other reporting agencies. Scam artists on the web own similar addresses – if they charge a fee to access your report they are a scam. Also, you should check your credit several months out of the year – but verifying your report and score once a year is better than not at all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tips For Credit Card Users

I have been a credit card holder for 3 years now. In those 3 years, I have certainly learned a lot. Some of these I learned the hard way. A big outstanding balance was my punishment. The following are some of them:

1. Know the important dates in your credit card.

These are the cut-off date, statement date, due date and card expiration date. These crucial dates can be seen in your credit card statement. Before purchasing, I advise you to pause for a moment and think if what you are about to purchase is within the cut-off date or not, when would it fall due and if you think you have enough funds to pay for it by the time due date comes . As to the expiration date, some stores refuse to accept your card if your car is about to expire and you want to apply deferred payment.

2. Pay the full outstanding balance on your statement.

Avoid paying interest or the so-called finance charge on your credit purchases by paying the full outstanding balance on your statement, and not just the minimum payment required by the due date. Remember that interest-free periods do not apply except if you pay off in full. If you fail to do this, you will be charged interest on your outstanding balance and therefore forfeiting the interest-free period on your past purchases. Moreover, you must pay the balance off in full before you will get any interest-free period on your current and future purchases.

3. Credit cards have annual fees.

Some banks offer to waive the annual fee on your first year or if you spend enough on your card each year, or if you are a valued client of the bank. Thus, unless you are sure that your card is exempt from annual fees, then this must be taken into consideration because annual fees can be a big amount, depending on what type of card you have. Further, this is also one good reason why carrying more than one credit card is not advisable.

4. Do not be fooled by the offer on cash advances on your card.

The interest rates on credit card accounts do not apply to cash advances. Aside from the interest rates, some cards also impose a service charge whenever you apply the cash advance feature on your card.

5. Remember that incidents of internet banking fraud are rising.

Be wary when using your card in the internet. Deal only with established and reputable merchants and be careful when sending out your credit card details.

These are only some of the things that must be kept in mind when you have a credit card. Credit cards can indeed be very convenient and can make our lives easier. However, we must also be responsible and not unmindful of the risks associated with having them.

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