Showing posts with label finance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label finance. Show all posts
Tax Season Simplified

Welcome to the season of taxes, where some of your hard earn money that is hopefully is returned to you in order to buy more stuff you probably don’t need, or add to your investments accounts. No judgement here. Whatever your plans are or will be once you get your tax return, you should first know a few things you can claim and do in order to 
maximize your full refund amount.

Why pay to file

Before you even think about paying someone for tax preparation services, see if you’re entitled to it for free. There are a few IRS-sponsored free tax preparation programs out there. I came across Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) last year, and it seems to be the most commonly used service in my area.  These programs give eligible individuals free tax preparation assistance from trained volunteers if you fit the requirements below:

  • Individuals with incomes of $53,000 or less.
  • People with disabilities.
  • Elderly individuals.
  • Those with limited English-speaking ability.
7 Simple Habits to Save a Pretty Penny (or $100)

The concept of saving money is a very interesting one to many people. The reality is we all want to spend $3 instead of $5, right? Here are seven things you can do to right now to save money when it comes to excessive spending.

1. Give yourself a month
Have you ever heard of the 30-day rule? As a frugal guy, this is one of my favorite rules in spending. If you’re about to spend any more than $20 on something that is unnecessary, don’t. Instead, put the item down and wait 30 days to buy it. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by not making unnecessary frivolous purchases.

2. Freeze your credit cards
I literally mean freeze your credit cards. It seems a bit extreme, but think of it this way. The average credit card comes with a 13 percent or higher interest rate. By simply not using credit cards as often, you’ll save a ton. So, get a plastic
Best Time to Book Flights to Get the Lowest Fares

As any procrastinator can attest, you’ll usually pay a big premium by waiting until the last minute to book a flight. But you’ll also pay more if you purchase your tickets too far in advance. So when should you book a flight to get the lowest fare? 

To answer that question, airfare shopping engine monitored fares for more than 4 million flights in 2013 over a booking period ranging from 320 days in advance to one day in advance. Its researchers found that fares for domestic flights were lowest 54 days in advance. That’s an average, though. There’s actually a prime booking
window between 104 days
The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Black People Make

Money mistakes can be costly. From poor credit to no savings for emergencies or retirement, falling into major money pitfalls now can mean years of financial hardship. We surveyed the top financial planners to find out the six biggest money mistakes people make. We’ve got all the sage advice to avoid them, but if you have already taken a bad turn, we’ve put together a guide to help you recover.

Money Mistake: No. 1
“Most people don’t know where their money goes,” says Marlena Sonn, a Certified Financial Planner at Christopher Street Financial.
How to Avoid It: Keep a spending diary to track your monthly expenditures. Use only your ATM card for purchases,

How to Fortify Your Finances With the Threat of a Federal Default

All the talk about the federal debt ceiling might remind you of Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Remember her from the animated television specials based on the “Peanuts” comic strip? All you hear when she speaks is, “Waa, waa, waa, waa.”

That might be what you hear when politicians talk about the fight to raise the debt limit, except that you aren’t laughing because you’re too worried about what it all means to your own financial situation.

While a deal might be struck soon, here are so helpful Q&As  (after the jump) with experts that may help to ease some of your fears. 
8 Things to Never Keep in Your Wallet

That overstuffed wallet of yours can’t be comfortable to sit on. It’s probably even too clunky to lug around in a purse, too.

And with every new bank slip that bulges from the seams, your personal information is getting less and less safe. With just your name and Social Security number, identity thieves can open new credit accounts and make costly purchases in your name. If they can get their hands on (and doctor) a government-issued photo ID, they can do even more damage, such as opening new bank accounts. These days, con artists are even profiting from tax-return fraud and health-care fraud, all with stolen IDs.

Target Now Price Matching Online Retailers

Good news for Target shoppers today the brick-and-mortar stores made a huge move to counteract the practice of “showrooming,” the term that refers to consumers who going into a store and size up an item then go home and purchase it online for less. The company announced that it is now extending its holiday price matching policy year-round, in order to match those prices offered by online retailers like Amazon and, as well as and (including
The deal also extends, just in case Target’s own online property ends up competing with its retail stores on price. The price match is only being offered for up to seven days following the purchase, and as before, the policy includes print ads from other local retailers, too.

Personal financial resolutions to consider for 2013

Eating less and exercising more always make for good New Year's resolutions.  But more people are considering starting 2013 with steps that will help get their finances in shape.
A recent survey by Fidelity Investments found that 46% of consumers are considering making financial resolutions for 2013, up from about one-third of individuals just three years ago.  The trend reflects the still-fragile state of the economy and a desire to better prepare for the future or important life events.
Of course, keeping resolutions is never easy.  But among those individuals who set financial goals in 2012, almost half --46%-- said they achieved more than 80% of their resolutions.
Despite this evidence of success, 38 percent of respondents to the Fidelity New Year Financial Resolutions Study thought it's harder to keep financial resolutions than non-financial ones. But that has not kept them from trying. The top three New Year financial resolutions are to: (1) save more (52 percent); (2) spend less (19 percent); and (3) pay off debt (19 percent).

Guard Against Overpaying on Holiday Air Travel

Traveling during the holiday season?  Here's one way you can make sure you don't overpay on your airline ticket -- keep an eye on the price.  Most airlines and online travel agencies will give you a rebate -- usually in travel credits or vouchers -- if your flight’s price drops below what you paid. will send you alerts if the price drops on a flight you've booked. Be aware, though, that some airlines can charge hefty fees for re-booking your flight. If the fee outweighs your rebate, it's not worth it to make a change.
How NOT to Waste Money During the Holidays

The holidays can put a big dent in anyone's bank account.  In fact, consumers are expected to spend nearly $750, on average, this year on gifts, decorations, greeting cards, food, candy and more, according to the National Retail Federation. That's not small change.

Sure, it's the season of giving, and you might feel compelled to spend more than you do during the rest of the the year to spread holiday joy.  But if you use the holidays as an excuse to abandon good financial habits, you can easily spend too much.  

Here are a few tips to avoid ending up in the poor house at the end of the year:

1) Set a budget.
Take some time to write down all the extra things you'll be paying for -- such as the restaurant meals you'll eat while out shopping, ingredients for holiday goodies that you'll make for friends and family, postage for holiday cards, cab rides home for late-night parties, and the list goes on. Set a spending limit and keep tabs so that you don't exceed it and end up without enough cash in your account to pay bills. 
Outlet Malls: Deal or No Deal?

Outlet stores lure droves of shoppers every year -- from moms looking for back-to-school bargains to holiday gift-givers in search of can't-miss deals on brand-name items. However, with increasing competition from luxury flash-sale sites, discount mass retailers such as TJ Maxx and Wal-Mart, and frequent in-store promotions at full-price retail stores, knowing a real markdown from a come-on is getting trickier.

The folks at Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine have developed this quiz online quiz to help determine if you can spot a deal from just another purchase. Click here to see for yourself.
Are 'Concierge' Health Plans Worth It?

A small but growing number of primary-care physicians are changing over to what are  called "concierge" or "retainer" practices, treating a limited number of patients who pay from a few hundred to thousands of dollars a year for more-personalized services --- more face time, same-day or next appointments and round-the-clock access via email and cellphone.

"On a very basic level, you're paying for improved access and ease of accessibility," says Alwyn Cassil, public-affairs director at the Center for Studying Health System Change, a health-policy research firm in Washington, DC.  Hard number arent' available yet, but the American Academy of Private Physicians estimates that about 4,400 doctors now run such boutique practices. The trend has picked up steam as stingy insurance reimbursements have squeezed primary-care doctors to the point where many take on a roster of 2,000 to 3,000 patients, seeing upward of 30 a day.
Credit cards can be a better deal than debit cards

For years, consumers have been told that debit cards have more benefits than credit cards. Debit card users don't run the risk of going into debt and damaging their credit score like they do with credit cards, so the story goes. But some experts are beginning to question that logic. For consumers who diligently pay off their credit-card balance each month there's little reason to use debit cards, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at, a credit-monitoring site. They won't incur interest rate charges, or late fees, and they can avoid annual fees by using credit cards that don't charge them.
Debit Card Fees are Coming:  How to Avoid Them

Between school ID cards and debit cards many of today's youth may have swiped their way into adulthood.  BofA recently announced its intention to charge most customers who use their debt card for purchases a flat monthly fee of $5 starting next year.  The bank is also testing a new array of checking accounts with higher fees. SunTrust Banks has followed suit and announced plans to add a $5 monthly debit-card fee for purchases to some accounts and is raising some checking-account fees. Citigroup is raising fees and adding a $1,500 minimum balance on basic checking accounts, though there are ways around it.   Not to be out done, Wells Fargo will soon begin testing debit-card fees.

The new and higher fees come as a regulation that took effect this month cut the average fees that merchants pay for debit transactions to about 24 cents from 44 cents. In addition, federal rules that have reined in overdraft fees have cost banks billions of dollars, which they are trying to make up in more-direct consumer charges.

A $1,000 Emergency will be  Difficult for Most Americans to Handle

Sixty four percent of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday. Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a 
cash advance on a credit card.

Where to Find Back-to-School Deals

Wether you are preparing to go back to school or college or are sending someone off, its best to shop around for the best back-to-school deals available.  
Most stores offer back-to-school promotions, so it's up to you to figure out what you need, the best time to buy it and where to go -- especially whether you should buy in-store versus online. Many stores continue their deals through the second or third week of September, though sometimes sales can end earlier depending on the part of the country. Here are tips on where to shop, when to go and what to expect.
Supplies: There are always weekly deals out there, in which products like pens, glue sticks and index cards can cost as little as a penny but more often range from 50 cents to $2 at stores like Staples, Target, WalMart and Office Depot. But you're not the only one hunting deals. You'll benefit by shopping early in the week when the deals first start to ensure the shelves won't be empty when you arrive, says Jevin Eagle, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Staples.
The Wealth Gap Widens Between Whites And Minorities Increases

According to U.S. Census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, the media net worth of a white family now stands at 20 times that of a Black family and 18 times that of a Hispanic family, roughly twice the gap that existed in 1984.  The average wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for African Americans.  
7 Little-Known Credit Card Perks

Points and cash back are only a fraction of the things your credit card can do for you. Here are seven benefits cardholders receive — from extended warranties on items they purchase with their cards to free admission to museums. See what your card can do for you.  Enhance Your Warranty: Gold and platinum MasterCards, Visa Signature cards and American Express cards all extend the manufacturer’s warranty by up to one year when you use the cards to purchase items. American Express cards and Citi’s new ThankYou Premier card will pay to repair broken items or replace lost purchases within 90 days — up to $1,000 per claim (the $450-per-year Platinum card has a limit of $10,000).
Read more..

How to Beat Bank Fees

Lose your PNC Bank debit card on vacation, and it'll likely cost you $32.50 for a replacement. If U.S. Bank gets more than one of your statements returned in the mail because of an incorrect address, you'll be charged $5 -- for each return.
If you feel banks are nickel-and-diming you these days, you'd be right. Free banking has gone the way of the free in-flight meal. Banks are now restricted in some fees they can charge -- and stand to lose billions of dollars in revenue as a result -- so they're coming up with new fees for things that used to be free.
Checking accounts at the 10 biggest U.S. banks had a median 49 fees in October, according to an April study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
But there are ways to beat your bank at its own game -- and minimize or avoid some fees.
Banks May Cap Debit Card Spending at $50

Guess who wants you to start using your credit cards more? Reports CNN:
JPMorgan Chase, one of the nation’s largest banks, is considering capping debit card transactions at either $50 or $100, according to a source with knowledge of the proposal. Why? Because of a tricky thing called interchange fees. Right now, every time you swipe your debit card, your bank charges the retailer an average fee of 44 cents, which it shares with its partners. Those little fees, however, add up to about $16 billion per year, according to 2009 data from the Federal Reserve.
If the changes go into effect customers are expected to withdraw more cash from ATM’s and use credit cards more often.
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