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Wishing you a Merry Christmas...

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Thursday, December 25, 2008 | , | Comments


and a very Prosperous New Year!




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8 Frugal Christmas Gift Giving Ideas

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Sunday, December 14, 2008 | , , | Comments

With Christmas less than two weeks away, you have probably made your list of gifts for family and friends. Perhaps you have also decided to reduce the amount spent per gift this year, and that’s ok. Frugal gift giving doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, but rather thoughtful and creative gifts that your recipients will appreciate and treasure.

Here are some ideas and suggestions on how you can present wonderful gifts this Christmas without breaking the bank.

1.
If you love to bake, why not put together a gift basket filled with homemade cookies and muffins as well as a variety of teas. You can purchase baskets at any dollar store, as well as the wrapping to go along with it.


2.
Another gift idea that has always been popular is a basket filled with bath and body lotions, body wash, and scrubs. These items are very affordable and you can create a unique basket filled with scents that are sure to please any recipient.


3.
Do you have a friend or family member who loves coffee? If so, you can purchase a box of sample coffees. Add some homemade muffins and present it in a gift basket as well.


4.
Aromatherapy candles are also a big hit. Add CDs that can calm and soothe such as sounds of nature or the ocean. You can find these affordable items at dollar stores and online for half the price.


5. If you make your own homemade jams and jellies, why not put together a gift basket filled with these items along with homemade muffins and some green tea. This is a healthy and inexpensive way to say you truly care about the recipient’s well being.

6.
Perhaps you have a friend who loves books. There are plenty of books on a variety of topics you can buy at half the price at bookstores or online.


7. How about a large soup cup filled with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows for those cold winter nights? You can use your creative ideas to make this a most unique “basket” of treats.

8.
Gifts do not have to be expensive. It could be a picture of you and your friend placed in a lovely frame, a homemade hat and scarf for the winter or even a CD of favorite Christmas music that you put together for that special friend.


Frugal Christmas gift giving not only saves money, but allows you to really think about a gift that is unique to the person. It shows you have taken the time to select or create those items you know will be appreciated by a friend or family member.

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How to Handle a Recession

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Friday, December 05, 2008 | , , , , , , | Comments

Are we in a recession? Considering everything that has been in the news lately, one can say with confidence we are indeed in a recession.

Not too long ago Nouriel Roubini, a financial expert, predicted that only two major banks would be left after the housing crisis and the economy returned to normal. It was a prophetic prediction.

What does this recession mean for you and me? It means we have to tighten our bootstraps (if we haven’t already) and begin planning for any eventuality.

While economists comment that the last two recessions lasted for eight months respectively, it is no comfort to learn that the housing crisis has not yet reached bottom and more and more companies are closing down leaving thousands of people unemployed.

Wages have decreased, more families are in debt than ever before, health-care costs continue to rise, and our grocery bills have eaten into our household budgets significantly.

In order to alleviate the burden of all these factors, the best advice economists can offer is to take a fiscally conservative stance on our spending habits. Here are some additional suggestions:

* Stick to a monthly budget

* Refrain from buying expensive items on credit

* Set up a fund for emergencies (at least two months' income)

* Try to add the maximum amount allowed to your pension/retirement fund

* Stay healthy with a proper diet and exercise program (This is a preventative measure that will reduce the cost of prescription drugs and other health-related costs)

* Pay down debts

* Purchase with cash

* Buy groceries in bulk utilizing coupons whenever you can

* If you have teenage children who are receiving an allowance, determine if they can apply for a part-time job after school

* Increase your deductibles on car and homeowner’s insurance

* Keep your automobile well-maintained

* Winterize your home and use energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs

* Walk whenever possible instead of driving to a local store

Anything you can do to reduce the amount of expenditures can only help you through this economic downturn. In the meantime, stay calm, focus on your budget, and save as much as you can.

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What Is a Recession?

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Friday, December 05, 2008 | , , , , , | Comments

World Recession PlungeImage by publik18 via FlickrIn its simplest terms, a recession occurs when there are “two consecutive quarters” of negative growth.

While most economists have been fickle in utilizing the term, it is nonetheless clear that our economy is in the throes of a recession. More importantly, however, is the fear that the recession will subsequently turn into a depression.

How does a recession occur? Well, when there is not enough supply to meet a specific demand (as in the case of oil), prices rise and spending becomes stagnant. This, in turn, causes companies to decrease expansion. No expansion means a decline in the work force and, consequently, unemployment rises. Consumer confidence dissipates, prices of homes decline, and everyone becomes affected.

It can also be suggested that the sub-prime mortgage crisis had a direct impact on the current recession. One can use the dot.com analogy to preface the seriousness of our current crisis. Remember when the stock prices for the internet industry increased beyond anyone’s imagination? Most people were buying these stocks because they felt the return on their investment would be phenomenal. It was - for a time, until the market turned sour on internet stocks and over five trillion dollars was lost, thus inviting a recession that affected companies worldwide.

Similar to the brokerage houses that were making money hand over fist today, the only people who profited from the internet stocks were the CEOs of these companies. Shareholders and everyone else were the losers.

Recently, economists have ascertained that the market will have five negative quarters. Others have stressed the importance of having on hand at least 18 months' worth of savings. Still others, concerned about the Rescue Plan’s execution, are worried that we may be headed for a depression.

Obviously, not everyone agrees as to what will eventually occur. They do agree, however, that until the banks' lending ability is alleviated, the stock market’s volatility will continue.

This global Rescue Plan was designed to give banks enough money so that they were not tied down by these toxic mortgages that prevented them from lending to one another. This is also why it is currently very difficult for an individual to obtain a car loan, college tuition loan, or other type of loan from banks.

Unless and until this plan begins to have a significant effect on the global economy, thus thwarting a total collapse of our lending institutions, this recession will continue. In other words, we are faced with economic uncertainty and must do what we can to ensure we are prepared for any eventuality.

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Ten Tips for Budgeting Your Holiday Season

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Wednesday, December 03, 2008 | , , , , , , | Comments

Christmas gifts.Image via WikipediaThe tree isn’t the only item that will be trimmed down this December. Here are ten tips for budgeting your holiday season to enable you to not only enjoy the time spent with your family and friends, but make it an affordable time as well.

1. If you usually give presents to sisters, brothers and their children – try and exchange presents with just your nieces and nephews. This can save quite a bit of money in the long run.

2. Shop early – very early. Begin holiday shopping during the summer months at stores that have sales every week.

3. Make your holiday list ahead of time. Decide how much you are willing to spend for each person and stick to it. Keep in mind that in January you will be getting those bills and may find it difficult to pay them off.

4. Pay off all your holiday expenses beforehand. You can accomplish this by shopping early and paying with cash. If you must use a credit card, pay it off when you receive the bill. This will decrease the amount of bills you receive after the holiday season is over. Moreover, you will feel terrific!

5. Buy ornaments, wrapping, bows, and decorations early. How early? The day after Christmas is when every card and ornament is on sale for as much as 50% to 75% off. If you can make it a point to buy these items after Christmas, you will have enough to carry you through the next two or three years.

6. Open a Christmas club account at your bank. It’s very easy and a great way to save for the holiday season. You can begin in February and put away as little as $5.00 a week. By October, you will a nice little check to use to purchase gifts.

7. Make your own decorations. This can be a wonderful experience for the entire family. Everyone can pitch in and make ornaments for the trip, wrap gifts with newspaper, or decorated bags. Make holiday cards on your computer, send out holiday cards through the internet, and make your own holiday gifts as well.

8. Buy gifts online this year. It not only saves you time standing on long lines at department stores, but you can save money as well. In fact, you are probably receiving emails from stores right now who are offering discounted merchandise. Check it out!

9. Use coupons to buy holiday gifts. There are a myriad of online coupon sites wherein you can save a bundle on specific items.

10. If you have set up a budget for gift giving, why not give gift cards. They have become very popular over the last several years. In this way, you can set a limit to the amount you wish to spend and, at the same time, the recipient will be able to buy a gift they need or want.

The holiday season is a time of reflection: thinking about all the people in our lives that we love and cherish. A present is just the icing on the cake!

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6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Debt

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Sunday, November 30, 2008 | , , , , | Comments

While we all enjoy the Christmas holidays, once the bills begin to arrive we are usually brought back down to earth with a bang. If you want to avoid holiday debt, here are some tips.

1. Open up a Christmas club on January 2nd. You can contribute five or ten dollars a week to the club and by October you will either have $200 or $400 to spend on Christmas gifts.

2. Avoid using your credit card to buy gifts. This only adds to your ongoing debt and will just leave you stressed out after the holidays. Pay with cash whenever possible. If you have to buy an item with a credit card, pay the bill off as soon as you receive it.

3. A Christmas budget would be a great idea to decrease the likelihood that you will overspend on gifts. Make a list of the friends and family members you intend to give a gift to and assign a dollar amount. It is important to stick to the budget.

4.
Begin Christmas shopping earlier in the year. There are always sales every week – take advantage of them. You can even buy two or more of the same item in case you have to give a gift you weren’t planning on.

5.
If you like to shop online, use one credit card. There are many online coupon sites that offer great savings throughout the year. Utilize the coupons, check out the sales, and make your purchases. Remember to pay the credit card bill balance as soon as possible.

6.
Perhaps Jane and little Joey want something very expensive this Christmas. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. With the list of gifts they will present to you, there is sure to be some items you can afford.

Holiday debt can be avoided if you start with a Christmas budget, put aside a few dollars every day, or open a Christmas club. Instead of buying a cup of coffee everyday, put that money towards Christmas.


Let’s be honest, buying items with a credit card is very easy to do these days, especially with internet shopping. But if you shop early, you can certainly pay off the debt before the holidays and start the New Year with a
“bang” instead of a whimper.



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How Not To Go "Money Mad" on Black Friday

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Saturday, November 22, 2008 | , , , | Comments

You have made your Christmas list, checked it twice, and now you are prepared to venture out on the most important day of the year – Black Friday. Wait! There is just one word of caution – do not go "Money Mad" on this sales day!

Who doesn’t love a sale?

Who dislikes paying off debts?

In this case, the two are not mutually exclusive. Shopping on Black Friday, although you can enjoy savings, can also put you into debt if you are not careful.
Here are some tips to help you stick to your Christmas list and your budget:

* Check the prices either online or in the newspaper before you go.

* Clip out the coupons that offer an all-day discount.

* Stick to the budget you've set out and the price you've assigned for each gift.

* Bring just enough cash to cover the cost of the gifts.

* Use a debit card, or if you really have to use a credit card, stick to the amount you set out to spend and go no further.

* Arrive early in the morning.

* Bring a friend to not only help you find the items, but also to deter you from buying anything that’s not on the list.

* Check out the store before Black Friday and locate the items you intend to purchase. You may also wish to check if they can be held for you until Friday.

* When you arrive at the store, go directly to the department where your items can be found.

* After you have finished all your shopping, leave immediately. Don’t stop to browse or look for something to buy for you. You and your friend can have a leisurely lunch to relax and de-stress.

Yes, the sale items will be enticing and tempting, but remember that the bill will arrive in the mail the following month and you will have to deal with the consequences if you overspend.

Here’s another thought to ponder. Are these sale items marked up specifically for Black Friday? Consider how much you would pay for a blouse on sale if you shopped in August. Department stores are in the business of making money. In order to do so, they are certainly not going to sell an item for no profit.


If you really want to save money, time, and stress – start your Christmas shopping in the early spring or summer. You can shop on any sale day when the stores are less crowded and you have time to consider the purchase.

In fact, there are millions of people who have boycotted Black Friday altogether. Perhaps they know something we don’t!



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8 Tips for Shopping on "Black Friday 2008"

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | , , , , , , , | Comments

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, can either be a shopper’s dream or the worst nightmare.

For the last several years, department stores have been opening up earlier every year. Lines have formed outside these buildings anytime from 2 a.m. onwards. For those of you shop on Black Friday, you are well aware of the many sales offered by most merchants.

For those of you who have never shopped on Black Friday, it’s quite an experience. The key to landing those terrific sales is to have a plan.

Armed with your Christmas list, experts advise that you go directly to the departments where your items can be found. If necessary, visit the departments before Black Friday so you can easily find the best route to the items on your list.

Avoid browsing and try not to buy anything for yourself. Time is precious on this day, and there are always mobs of people trying to grab that last sale item on the rack.

While Black Friday offers great deals, it is a good idea to follow these tips:

* Check out the newspapers the week of Black Friday for sale items or you can check out the Black Friday 2008 ads at Black-Friday.net

* Clip out any coupons from the newspapers as well as online coupons that can be utilized in stores.

* Check each store's online website to determine what items you will be purchasing.

* Check out what time the stores will open and close. Keep in mind some stores offer sales for a few hours only.

* Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

* Try to pay for items with cash (use a waist pouch or a neck pouch to store the cash). Bring a bottle of water – it can get awfully hot!

* If you have to pay with a credit card, use only one card and pay off the balance as soon as possible.

* Take someone with you so that you can both shop for the items on your list.

Although most people look forward to Black Friday, others avoid it like the plague. That’s okay, too. With online shopping becoming more popular, you can avoid the mobs and shop from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace.

In any case, stay focused on your mission; stay vigilant with those around you, and stick to your list!



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I'm in Debt and Can't Get Out...Help!

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Friday, August 29, 2008 | , , , , | Comments

A diagram showing the front side of a typical ...Image via Wikipedia In today's economy many people are taking on more credit card debt than they can handle, or what was once manageable has changed due to circumstances that makes their debt hard to repay.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Why are so many people in too much debt?

Most of the time it is through no fault of their own. They may have incurred the debt sensibly, but lost their jobs or become ill and were unable to work. Then they find themselves saddled with debt that they can no longer afford.

Or, by using poor financial management which causes many people to end up over their heads in debt. An increasing number of people keep multiple credit cards, which essentially multiplies their debt. Although they may be able to keep up with the minimum payments, interest keeps them in debt for many years. Also, many credit card companies are often willing to extend credit that the borrower may not make enough money to pay back.

How do you keep your debt manageable?

Compare credit cards for the best possible interest rates, and keep your open accounts to a minimum. One or two credit cards should be plenty. No one needs a pocketful of credit cards.

When paying back your credit card debt, try to pay more than the minimum payment due and this will prevent interest from accruing. If at all possible, pay the balance in full each month. This will save you lots of money and keep your credit in good shape. Stop charging if something comes up and you need to charge more than you can pay back in a month until that balance is paid off.

How do you get out of debt?

All is not lost though if you're already in more debt than you can handle. The key is realizing that there is a problem before it is too late. It will take discipline, but you can get yourself out of debt on your own in most cases.

Step 1: Stop taking on new debt.

Step 2: Work out a personal budget.

Start by making the minimum payment on everything each month. Put any extra money toward one debt until it's paid off, and then moving on to the next. Choose one of the following ways to pay off your debts: highest to lowest interest or by lowest to highest balance.

You may need some assistance if you've tried to manage your debts on your own but are having trouble coming up with any extra money to put toward them, or even enough to make the minimum payment. Talk to your creditors, explain your situation and see if they would be willing to reduce your interest and payments. If that doesn't work, credit counseling and debt consolidation are options.

It can be very scary when you find yourself getting into too much debt. But it is often possible to regain control of your debt on your own. If not, help is available. Don't be afraid to seek it out.

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What Are Credit Bureaus

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Sunday, July 20, 2008 | , , , | Comments

By definition a credit bureau is an agency which collects and sells information about the creditworthiness of other people and businesses. It collects information about your credit history including how much credit you have available to you, what your balance is and your payment history.

A credit bureau or agency compiles the information to give individuals a credit score, which is a number lenders use to evaluate the risk of lending money or giving credit to you. They also generate reports of your financial history and sell them to prospective lenders. This information is used to not only determine whether or not to extend credit to you but at what interest rate. This is one of the reasons it is extremely helpful to have good credit. It could mean the difference between a 1% car loan and a 10% car loan – potentially thousands of dollars depending on the cost of the car.

Here's what a credit bureau does not do:

A credit bureau does not make any decisions about whether or not you should be given credit or a loan. They simply exist as an information collection agency, it just so happens that all the information they collect is directly related to your credit history. This means loans, credit cards and bank account information will all be present for creditors to evaluate their lending decision on.

The three largest credit agencies are:

* Equifax
* Experian
* TransUnion

According to the Fair Reporting Credit Act, citizens of the United States are entitled to one free credit report each year. These can be obtained at http://www.Annualcreditreport.com. This is the only place you can take advantage of an entirely free credit report. If you see the words “free credit report” on any credit reporting site, it is likely a promotional offer to get you to become a member and there will be fees charged on your credit card at a later date.

It is important to take advantage of your free credit report because it helps you stay on top of your credit score, but more importantly it protects you against identity theft. When you view your credit report you can easily see if any accounts have been opened in your name. When you find discrepancies, contact the organization immediately. While it can take some time to clear your identity and clean up your credit after being a victim of identity theft, the good news is that you are not responsible for the debt.



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Personal Budgeting: How Far Ahead Should You Plan?

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | , , , , , | Comments

When developing a personal budget or personal financial goals it can be tricky to figure out how far in advance you should plan. If you’re too short-sighted you could wind up with savings that don’t meet your needs. Conversely if you think too far out, you could be putting some of that money you’re tucking away for your savings to better use.

Here’s how to figure it all out: What are your personal financial goals?

List your personal financial goals on a piece of paper. They might be goals like:

* To save for my child’s college education
* To save for retirement
* To save money for emergencies
* To buy a new car or house


Once your personal financial goals have been listed, here are a few calculations you can make to know how much to save.

Emergency fund:

Experts advice people to set aside at least three to six months of cash or liquid assets (investments you can easily convert to cash) in the event of a loss of job, medical emergency, short-term disability, etc. Figure out how much you have to set aside for this emergency fund after your current expenses, and create a goal. If you make $3000/month then you’ll want to set aside a minimum of $9000. This doesn’t mean you have to save it all tomorrow – begin saving for it and create a plan. Maybe you’ll be able to save that much in a year, maybe it’ll take two.

Debt:

Most experts agree that your total monthly debt payments shouldn’t exceed 36% of your gross monthly income. This debt includes your mortgage, car payments and credit card debt. Add up your debt and calculate your monthly gross income to see where you are. If you’re above this ration, create a plan to get your debt down quickly.

Savings:

You’ve probably heard the rule that you need to save 10% of your income. This rule is a good rule to follow, assuming you are placing additional money into a retirement account. Use this 10% rule with your other savings goals including your emergency account, college education or other goals.

Retirement:

Experts tell us that our retirement income should be 75-80% of pre-retirement income. This means if you’re making $50,000 right now, your retirement income will need to be $37,500.

Using these numbers will help you determine exactly how much you need to save, how much you have to work with, and how long it will take you to save the money. A little basic planning and goal setting will make the process understandable and manageable. The numbers presented here, and the guidelines, are just that - guidelines. Your personal budget and personal financial plan needs to meet your needs and the needs of your family. This is why it is important to set personal financial goals and to save with a purpose.


Recommended: Family Budget Guide Ebook

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Five Tips on How to Live Within Your Means

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | , , , , | Comments

Living within your means is a liberating way to live your life. It means no debt – debt is one of the most common causes of relationship stress. Living within your means gives you the freedom to save money for special things rather than always scrimping to pay your bills.

Unfortunately, many people don’t live within their means. They live above it, way above it. This happens for many reasons. Maybe they just don’t keep track of their expenses and purchases are made without thinking. Maybe they’re trying to keep up with their friends and family. Maybe shopping is a misguided form of therapy. Whatever the reason, the end result isn’t a happy one.

If you feel that you could do more to live within your means, here are a few tips to help keep your life on track and your financial status right where it belongs:

Tip #1: Keep track of your spending. It is important to know where your money goes. Once you have an idea of what you’re spending your money on, you can begin to control it.

Tip #2: Buy a used car or at least keep your new car for more than a couple years. A new car depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot. Sometimes it depreciates as much as 50%. A used car already has that depreciation figured into the cost.

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to grocery shop with coupons or stock up on items for sale. Personally I love it when the grocery offers "buy one get one free items", particularly when the items are large ticket items like meats. Not only do I save tons of money but when I can’t figure out what to make for dinner, I can just open my freezer and I have options.

Tip #4: Do buy quality clothing items, not quantity. When you’re shopping for yourself, don’t make whimsical clothing purchases or follow the latest trend. What’s better? Spending $40 on a pair of jeans that will be out of style next season, or spending $50 on a pair of jeans you can wear for five years?

Tip #5: If you have a credit card debt, develop a plan to get out of it. A debt elimination plan begins with reducing your interest rate. A phone call to your creditor can usually start the process. Next, stop the charging on those credit cards and get busy paying them down. Pay more than the minimum balance or you’ll never get it done. A great way to manage the process is to develop a monthly budget. Your budget will contain your income, expenses including debt and your savings.

Living within your means is possible! It is empowering to have complete control over your money and your finances, certainly less stressful than letting your money control you!









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Review: Dig Out of Debt eBook Package

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Saturday, May 24, 2008 | , , , , , , | Comments



Product Name: Dig Out of Debt eBook Package
Rating:
9
Where to buy: Living On A Dime


Description:


A complete eBook package containing 5 eBooks to help you get out of debt involving everyday situations. These eBooks are full of articles, money saving ideas and tips and even recipes to help you save on your grocery bill. Written by two women who have been there, these eBooks will help you to become frugal with your money and time.

Review:



These eBooks are great. They have given me resources that I never imagined. You always know there are ways out there to save your money even if you have very little income to start with. If you’re like me you never really spent a lot of time trying to figure them out. These eBooks have laid them all out for me.

One of these eBooks contains information on money management. Through the articles and ideas in this eBook I have learned how easy it is to set up a budget and stick to it. Now my money works for me.

The Cleaning Cents eBook taught me a lot about just getting rid of the things I don’t really need. It showed me how I can save money just by doing little things around my house. I am a work at home mom and have found that it’s pretty easy to spend all day in front of my computer. All of a sudden there you are it’s time to start fixing supper and your still in your PJ’s, haven't showered, the laundry isn't done and the dishes, well, we won't talk about the dishes piling up in the sink. There is a tip in this eBook about getting yourself up and dressed and how it affects you and your money. I tried it and it works.

The Debt Free Holidays eBook is very helpful. I always seem to spend more money than is necessary when it comes to the holidays. This eBook provided me with the information and the hope I needed to keep myself on a budget for all the holidays. I still give my heart out but it doesn’t cost me my firstborn anymore.

Speaking of my children there’s an eBook in this package called Kids Cents. It tells you ways to get your kids to help you, how to save on school supplies, recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch and snacks and even how to keep your children entertained during the long summer months.

My very favorite one though is the Grocery Savings eBook. I hate to shop and the grocery store is my least favorite place. I used to spend hours cutting out coupons only to find they expired or I left them at home on the table. Not anymore. I have cut my grocery bill in half with the tips and ideas I’ve found in this eBook. I don’t cringe at the thought of heading to the store anymore. I still hate to shop, but not to the point it feels like pulling teeth to do it.

If you're looking for
ways to save money, get yourself out of debt and live a better financial life try this package. It’s so full of great ideas, tips and common sense that you’ll find yourself wanting more and more of their information.



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Many people are struggling with credit card debt. Unfortunately it doesn’t take much to derail your credit. A few missed or late payments on any credit card or loan can cause creditors to start calling and bring a world of stress into your life. If you are in this situation, here’s two methods on how to get your credit back on track and eliminate credit card debt to become debt free as quickly as possible:

Debt Free Method #1- Pay off highest interest credit card first:

Step #1: List all of your credit cards, including your outstanding balance, your interest rate, the minimum payment percentage and the minimum payment according to your latest statement. Yes, this could be painful and may strike a chord of panic in your chest. Don’t worry. This is the first step to gaining control of your finances and becoming debt free.

Step #2: Once you have that list, highlight or circle the credit card with the highest interest rate. This is the card you’re going to attack first.

Step #3: Add up the minimum payments for all of your cards. This means if you have five credit cards, what minimum balance do you owe on each and what is the total of your minimum balances?
Step #4: Create a personal budget. Yes, this may sound like a scary word, but a personal budget will tell you exactly what you have to spend each month and how much you have to pay off your credit card balances.

Step #5: Pay the minimum balance on each credit card you have EXCEPT the one with the highest percentage rate. On this card you will pay as much as you can on top of the minimum balance. So if your minimum balance is $25, and you’ve budgeted to pay an extra $50 toward your credit card debt, you’ll make a payment of $75.

Step #6: Once your balance is paid off from your highest credit card, move on to the next highest credit card percentage rate. Now you will add the extra $50, plus whatever the minimum was on the card you paid off, to the minimum that is due on the next card. (Example: $50 + $25 + $25 = $100) Continue the process until your debt is paid off.


Debt Free Method #2 - Pay off smallest credit card balance first:

Step #1: List all of your credit cards, including your outstanding balance, your interest rate, and the minimum payment percentage and the minimum payment according to your latest statement.

Step #2: Once you have that list, put them in order of smallest balance to largest balance. The card with the smallest balance is the one you’re going to attack first.

Step #3: Add up the minimum payments for all of your cards. This means if you have five credit cards, what minimum balance do you owe on each and what is the total of your minimum balances?
Step #4: Create your personal budget to see exactly what you have to spend each month and how much you have to pay off your credit card balances.

Step #5: Pay the minimum balance on each credit card you have EXCEPT the one with the smallest balance. On this card you will pay as much as you can on top of the minimum balance. So if your minimum balance is $25, and you’ve budgeted to pay an extra $50 toward your credit card debt, you’ll make a payment of $75.

Step #6: Once your balance is paid off from that credit card, move on to the credit card with the next smallest balance. This time you will add the extra $50, plus whatever the minimum was on the card you paid off, to the minimum that is due on the next card. (Example: $50 + $25 + $25 = $100) Continue the process until your debt is paid off.

Pick a method that will work for you, put it into practice and before you know it YOU can be DEBT FREE!

Tip: Call your credit card companies and see if you can lower the percentage rate. If they will not lower your credit card rate, consider shopping around for a card with a lower rate. If possible, transfer the balances on your high rate cards to cards with a lower rate. Keep in mind that you will likely incur a fee for this transfer. Make sure you cancel the card that you just transferred the balance from. You certainly don’t need the temptation of a card with a zero balance to ruin your progress.

Are you ready to finally live debt free?
Click here to learn how to get out of debt and on the road to financial freedom today!

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Coping with Financial Stress

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | , , | Comments

Debt can be stressful... you may feel like there is no hope of getting out of debt. If you find yourself in this situation, there are actually many things you can do, so don't give up hope! The main thing is not to panic and to take time to work out a plan to get out of debt.

The first thing to do is to be honest with your situation and find out exactly how much debt you are in. Take some time to sit down and figure out exactly how much you owe, who you owe it to, and how much you have to pay on a monthly basis.

The second thing you need to do is to determine how much you have available each month to pay towards your debts. To do this, you'll need to add up your monthly expenses, including the monthly payments on your debts, which you determined in the first step. Gather your bank statements, check registers, credit card statements and receipts for the last 6 months to determine how much you spend on a monthly basis.

The third thing you need to do is determine how much your monthly income is. If you bring home more than you spend each month, then decide how much extra you can put towards your debts each month. If you spend more than you bring home each month, then you will need to make some decisions, such as cutting back on expenses that aren't necessary. You may need to get creative for a while to see where you can cut back. Or, you may want to consider getting a part time job to get caught up on your debts and to build up a cushion so you don't get into debt again.

After you've done these exercises, if you find that you are in over your head, you have several options available. You can call your creditors and ask them to work with you by lowering interest rates, lowering your payment amount, or allowing you to skip a payment or two until you can get caught up. There are also several non-profit agencies that offer budgeting and debt management help for free or for minimal costs
(just be careful; there are many scams out there, so be sure you are working with a non-profit agency with your best interests in mind).

The most important thing to do if you find yourself in debt is to not panic. Be honest with yourself about your situation and be constructive by thinking of the positive things you can do to help yourself get back on the right track.

Are you ready to finally live debt free?
Click here to learn how to get out of debt and on the road to financial freedom today!
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7 Steps to Creating a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Tuesday, May 13, 2008 | , , , | Comments

Microsoft Office Excel 2007Image via WikipediaWant to create a monthly personal budget but don’t know where to start? By using a simple spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel you can create a budget in a few minutes.

Here’s how to get it done!

Step 1: Open Excel or your favorite spreadsheet program, open a new spreadsheet and give it a name. If you want to lighten up the personal budgeting process, give it a positive name like
“The Best Life Budget.”

Step 2: Create four columns and name them: Category, Monthly Budget Amount, Actual Amount and Difference. If you want to really track your personal budget on a closer basis, add a column for each week of the month. It will look like this:

Category - Monthly Budget Amount - Week 1 Spending - Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Monthly Total Spending

Step 3: Begin creating your rows and main categories. Under the caption of Income, consider the following sub-categories:

Wages
Bonuses
Interest Income
Investment Income
Misc


This information is generally found on your pay check stub and monthly bank and investment account reports.

Step 4: Your next category is your income after taxes. Consider the following sub-categories:

Federal Income Tax
State and Local Income Tax
Social Security/Medicare Tax
Income after taxes

Step 5: Now we start taking a look at expenses. It is helpful to break your expenses into categories that fit your lifestyle. Some category options are:


Home
Utilities
Food
Family
Medical
Transportation
Debt
Entertainment
Pets
Clothing
Miscellaneous
Investments and Savings
Donations


Step 6: Within each of your expenses categories you’ll want to have descriptions. For example, under the category of Pets you could have:


Food
Veterinary Expenses
Grooming
Boarding.

Step 7: Your very last two rows will be something along the lines of:

Total Investments and Expenses
Spendable Income minus Total Expenses and Investments

That’s it in a nutshell. Spend some time working with your categories so you have a personal budget that works for you and encompasses all of your expenses. The last thing you’ll want is your indefinable miscellaneous category to be your biggest expense – that won’t help at all! Once your categories are defined and listed, it will take a few minutes to create the spreadsheet.

For ease of use, consider printing out your personal budget and placing it in a location that is easy to access. Keeping your spreadsheet on your computer is excellent for archiving the information, and Excel certainly makes it easy to compile the data. However, it will likely be easier to stick to your personal budget if you can see how much you have to spend.

Recommended:
The "New" Complete Budget and Bill Organizer

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Getting Out of Debt: How to Stay Motivated

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Saturday, May 03, 2008 | , , , | Comments

Getting out of debt is a goal that many Americans would like to achieve. But, like many New Year's resolutions, this goal is often abandoned shortly after the goal is set. Why is that?

One reason is that getting out of debt often takes a long time, so there are no immediate rewards for paying off debt. This leads to a lack of motivation to meet this goal. After all, it's hard to keep with a debt management plan when you may not see the benefits for several years.

So, how do you keep motivated when you're trying to get out of debt? Here are three steps to keep you motivated and on track to getting out of debt:

1. Determine the reason you want to get out of debt. Is it to reduce stress? To be able to spend or save the money that you are currently applying towards debt? To improve your relationship with your spouse or partner?

2. Think about the rewards you will earn by paying off your debt. Rewards might include a feeling of accomplishment, or a feeling of peace knowing that you have paid off your debts. Another reward might be the fact that you will have more money to spend for other things, such as vacation, clothing, or even saving for retirement.

3. Finally, determine your route to freedom from debt. Take an inventory of your debts and determine a payoff schedule.

As you continue on your journey to pay off your debts, review the reasons you want to pay off your debt, and the rewards you will experience when your debt is paid off. Imagine how you will feel when your debts are paid in full. These exercises will remind you why you want to pay off your debt, and will keep you motivated on your path to freedom from debt.

Are you ready to finally live debt free?
Click here to learn how to get out of debt and on the road to financial freedom today!
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Review: Mom's Talk Guide to Family Budgeting

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Friday, May 02, 2008 | , , , , , , | Comments

By: E. Sartin

Rating: 8
Where to buy:
Mom's Talk Ebooks

Description:

This eBook is a guide on why your family needs to be on a budget, how to go about setting up a realistic budget and the tools and resources you need to follow through with your budget.

Review:

Every family no matter how much money they make needs to be on a budget. In today’s world of new gadgets, credit cards and high college tuitions the need to earn, spend and save money is always there. With the right budget for your family a financial future is within reach. This eBook can help you find that.

This guide is a step-by-step process that is easy to follow and implement into your life. It explains all the reasons why a family should be on a budget. It tells you the ins and outs of budgeting and how you can make your money last longer so you aren’t living from paycheck to paycheck the rest of your life. It explains how a budget can help your money grow and be more effective for you and your family.

It will help you to understand living expenses, debt, bill consolidation, income, assets and much much more. Not all of us realize all the things that are entailed in a budget. Why this should be there and why I can change this amount from month to month but need to keep this bill at its current level all the time.

Living on a budget can be hard to do sometimes especially if you’re just starting out. With this guide you will begin to understand why a budget is necessary. This in turn will help you to remain on your budget and make your budget work for you. With a little financial planning, a good budget and this eBook life can be the dream you have always envisioned.



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How to Plan for Future Expenses and Emergencies

Presented By: EJ Cooksey | Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | , , , | Comments

The passbook is the traditional document to keep track of earnings in a savings accountImage via WikipediaIn today's economy, many people are living from one paycheck to the next. They are never quite sure if they will have enough money to cover all their bills. This can make planning for future expense or emergencies extremely difficult. If you are not prepared for these big expenses that pop up from time to time, it can be a very stressful event.

The following tips on how to plan for your future and save money for the little and the big expenses should make your life much less stressful.

Step 1: Create a personal budget.


You can call it a spending plan if you prefer. It gives you control over your spending and cash flow, and helps you know where you can cut back and save money.

Step 2: Create spending goals.


How much you spend on the majority of expenses in your life is up to you. You will begin to control your money in a positive way when you create a spending goal.

Step 3: Create savings goals.


Include both short-term and long-term savings goals. Short-term goals give you more immediate satisfaction, like saving for a new sofa or a vacation. Long-term goals like a new house or retirement are important too. Set up timelines and planned amounts to save each month for every goal. For example, if you’re saving for a family vacation your goal may be to put away "X" amount of dollars every month for "X" amount of months to reach that goal.

Step 4:
Create a separate savings account for your each of your goals.

If your savings and your checking are linked, then you run the risk of using your savings to pay for bills or things you want to buy for immediate satisfaction.

Step 5: Put away money for emergencies.


Experts advise to have a minimum of six months salary set aside just in case. This is particularly important in today's economy where people can get laid off from their jobs, or businesses can go under without notice. And if you’re self-employed, an emergency savings account is particularly important.

With the right planning and a good personal budget, saving money can be a very positive and empowering experience. After all, isn't it worth your time and effort to make your future more secure, to provide a good financial role model for your children, and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.


Recommended: Guide to Family Budgeting







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How do you reward yourself? Me, I like to buy books. To keep my spending on track and to eliminate binge shopping trips and tears over credit card bills that are too large to pay off, I decided to make myself work for those books. It works like this:

Set short-term and long-term goals for yourself. The goals can be anything that fits your needs and lifestyle. For example if your goal is to lose ten pounds, then establish exactly how you're going to lose those ten pounds and by when. Also establish a reward. Make the goal as specific as possible and the reward as specific as possible.

For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, then you could say, "I'm going to lose ten pounds in six months by cutting my carbohydrates and exercising for 30 minutes a day three times a week. When I reach my goal I'm going to buy that "whatever your goal is" I've had my eye on for a few days."



I think it's a good idea to define the cost of your reward also so that you can resist going overboard with it. Otherwise, once you're at the store you could end up spending more than you intended and it will no longer feel like a reward when you see your credit card debt. Additionally, by predetermining your reward you will be able to plan for the expense.

Long-term goals work a little differently. Let's say, for example, that your goal is to train for and run a marathon. This is a long-term goal because it can take several months and a lot of determination to reach your goal. In this case you may want to give yourself mini goals to reach, like when your training reaches the 10 mile mark you get a reward.

This goal and reward process works well because the rewards have meaning. They're not just "I'm a great person and I deserve these books" types of rewards. Additionally, this system helps to keep your spending under control because you know you're going to buy the item, you know how much it costs, and you know exactly when you're going to spend the money. If this type of system doesn't work for you, leave a bit of wiggle room in your budget for a monthly splurge.



After all, money is for enjoying!





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Credit cardsImage via Wikipedia

Credit cards can be very useful things. You can earn cashback, earn miles and they’re about the most convenient spending tool available.


The downside to credit cards, besides the interest you pay if you don’t pay off the balance each month, is that it is so very easy to lose track of how much you’re spending.


Think about the last $100 you spent using your credit card. What did you spend it on? What about the last $1000? It’s scary to realize you could have no idea where $1000 went - yet most people don’t remember. Even scarier is finding out at the end of the month that you’ve overspent, again, and paying off your card becomes a stressful event.


So, where does the money go?

If you’re brave enough and if you feel that your money is controlling you, here’s a quick way to examine your expenses and gain control over your money:
Begin by writing down your expense categories or create a simple spreadsheet:


* Home
* Utilities
* Food
* Family
* Medical
* Transportation
* Debt
* Entertainment
* Pets
* Clothing
* Miscellaneous
* Investments and Savings
* Donations

Take a few minutes to review the categories listed. What categories can you eliminate? What categories will you need to add? By reviewing your credit card statements, checkbook register, and your bank accounts for the past three months you can find this information. Take a look at each category that is right for you and add any sub-categories you might need. For example, under Transportation you might have the following sub-categories:


* Public transportation costs
* Insurance
* Car Payment
* Maintenance



Take a month or two to track your spending using the various categories you’ve determined. This means keeping track of all your spending, keeping receipts and not letting any dollar go untracked. You need to know how much you spend on everything. You need to know where your money goes.


Do not to limit your spending or spend less than you normally do. The point is to gather information. If you normally go out to dinner three times a week, don’t all of a sudden go out to dinner just once a week simply because you’re tracking it.


Once you have completed this experiment you might be surprised to find for example that you spend $1000 a month on groceries and only $100 a month on entertainment, or vice versa. Maybe you'll find that you spend $1000 on going out to dinner. It is guaranteed to be an eye-opening experience. After careful evaluation, you’ll most certainly find there are areas where you are overspending and can cut back.








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Example of a checking account statement for a fictional bank.Image via WikipediaDo you balance your checkbook every month?

It always seemed like way too much work to me. I didn’t always keep track of my checks, let alone balance my checking account.

That was until the bank called me one day to tell me that my account was overdrawn. Granted, it was only $20 over, but still it was very embarrassing and I decided right then that it would not happen again. I now balance my checkbook every month.


And you know what? It was not as hard to do as I thought it would be.

Here are three great tips to make balancing your checkbook easy:

Tip #1: Keep track of all of your expenses and income.

Including all electronic checks, direct deposits and bill pay tools. Using your checkbook register, a simple spreadsheet program, or a simple home accounting software package, you can easily record every transaction.

You could keep a folder where you can write each transaction on a little post-it note or on a scrap piece of paper. Put all your post-it's, scrap pieces of paper and receipts into the folder. Once a week, take this folder and enter the information onto your spreadsheet. This information is useful when you have a discrepancy between what you think you have in your account and what the bank tells you.

Tip #2: Use the worksheet your bank provides to balance your account every month.

This worksheet is straightforward and anyone can use it. The worksheet begins by asking your for your ending balance from your bank statement. You then add any deposits and subtract any expenses that are not on your statement and you should come up with a match with the balance you have in your checkbook register or on your spreadsheet.

By tracking your expenses and deposits as suggested in tip #1, all of your information is at your fingertips and finding any discrepancies is quick and easy. This way discrepancies are less common and it will take you less than ten minutes to balance, if you do it monthly. The longer you wait to balance your account, the more information you’ll have to go through and the more likely it is you’ll have errors.

Tip #3: If you do find any errors, take a look at your math first.

It is easy to accidentally hit the wrong number on your calculator or to forget to carry your 1.

Other common math errors can include the following:

basic addition and subtraction
reversing numbers
subtracting a deposit
automatic payments not deducted
ATM/debit card transactions not deducted
fees or dividends not accounted for



Don’t wait until you experience the same situation I did before you start balancing your checkbook. Spend a few minutes every month and do it right. You’ll be very glad you did.



Recommended: Guide to Family Budgeting






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A personal budget is the best way to gain control over your finances and live a life free of financial stress.


Here are the simple steps to achieve this:

Step 1: Expenses

Collect all your financial information together. Anything that documents your expenses for the last three months needs to be collected. This will include: credit card statements, bank statements and receipts for any other expenses. You will use this information to categorize your expenses.

What do you spend on your home?
What do you spend on your car?
Your food?
Your health?
Entertainment?


Begin by drafting the categories and sub-categories you think your expenses will fall into. Keep in mind that you will want a budget category devoted to savings goals too. As you go through your expenses you can verify your category decisions.

Step 2: Income

Determine how much money your really have to budget with by gathering your income statements or profit and loss sheets. You can use either your net or gross income as your number, just be consistent. Also, if you choose to use your gross income, make sure to account for your taxes on your list of expenses.

Step 3: Monthly Spending

Now examine how much you spend each month on each category or sub-category. I highly recommend that you write this number down. This will help you predict how much you will spend in the future. You want your budget to be a realistic reflection of your spending habits, not a financial diet.

Step 4: Create A Budget Record

Find a method of recording your budget. This could be a simple spreadsheet where your columns are a list of your categories, your weekly or monthly available spending amount, how much you actually spend and the difference between the two numbers. Your rows will be the income and expense categories you’ve already established.

Step 5: Follow Your Personal Budget

Spend a month or two following it once you have created your budget. Keep your budget close at hand so you can track your finances closely. Review your spending on a weekly or monthly basis. Re-evaluate your budget if needed. Your budget is not set in stone and some of your expenses are variable, meaning you control how much you spend on them. For example, entertainment is variable and your mortgage is fixed.

A personal budget is nothing more than a spending plan. It is a tool to control your money and be knowledgeable and smart about where it goes. It’s your money after all, and isn't it great to have the upper hand?






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