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Get Hazard Insurance!

October 12th, 2006 at 08:58 pm

Let me tell you about my day. It was a beautiful morning in Georgia. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold. There was sunshine gleaming through the trees in my front lawn, and the birds were singing a good tune. It was just perfect. But then…. I was getting ready to go to work and I noticed that my car had a flat tire!

Most people hate having flat tires, but I hate them even more. Want to know why? Well maybe it’s the fact that I have had over 12 flat tires in less than one year and eight months. Or maybe it’s the fact that I have had to get ten patches, and two tire replacement. It might also be the fact that I have had to spend over $400.00 on stupid patches! But luck was on my side. The general manager at Big 10 Tires, Bill, gave me a free patch because I am their best “patch-up” customer.

One of the tires that I replaced was purchased at Big 10. I bought hazard insurance because you know luck will strike again in the future (But then again. My luck shined and decided it wouldn’t be on the tire I have insurance on!). Get hazard insurance on all your tires, because the road is your enemy and it wants to send pieces of sharp metal right into your tire. I wish I could get it on all my tires, but that will have to wait till I get new ones on all my wheels, which according to my calculations should be in three months.

Save for Trips Now

October 5th, 2006 at 10:53 pm

Aren’t vacations great? Giving yourself a week off from work and school is therapeutic for the body and soul. But when you get back from your dream vacation and your next credit card bill comes around and you’re shocked to find that you went over your budget by $250.0! Maybe next time you should consider not drinking so much at the extremely expensive bars. After recovering from the panic of seeing your bill you decide to take my advice. Save for trips now, and have a better vacation later on.

When you plan a vacation start a separate online savings account.
*Example*: You are planning to go on a one week cruise to the Caribbean in March, 2007 and all your expenses will be ~$1000.0. If you start saving in August 2006 you will need to put in $125.0 a month into your savings account. Let’s just make the amount $130.0 to make the numbers easy. In March after eight months of saving you will have $1040.0 and ~$18.0 in interest.

If you save for your trip early and you go over your budget by $250.0 then it wouldn’t be such a financial burden. Instead of paying $1250.0 ($1000.0(budget) + $250.0(too much partying)) you will only need to pay the extra $250.0 because you already paid off your trip. You can apply this principle to anything whether it’s a trip, a new TV, car, or a down payment for a house. Save on a monthly basis and get bigger and better things in the future.

If you have a trip coming up and what to start saving now, email me at JRBeaudry@efipo.com and I will send you a link from INGDirect.com (current APY is 4.40% 10-06-06). If you open your savings account with more than $250.0 you will receive an extra $25.0 just for opening the account! So start saving now and receive the extra money!

Don’t Be Cheap

October 5th, 2006 at 06:14 am

Buying “quality” instead of “quantity” is something that people just don’t do much anymore. They would rather something cheap and hope that it will last as long as a high-quality item (it never does). Your average person will buy something like a computer, for instance, and believes that the $300.00, bottom of the line computer will last as long as the $700.00 one. What they don’t understand is that you will probably end up buying nearly three of them while the $700.00 computer just needs some minor tweaking over the years.

You can usually apply this concept to nearly anything you buy. Instead of always buying the cheapest equipment, consider reading consumer reports and reviews of items before you make a purchase. Sometimes investing in a more expensive item might save you a ton of money in the future. Stop being “economical/extremely cheap”, and become an educated buyer.

A Quick FICO Minute

October 3rd, 2006 at 03:29 pm

Here is another great question from a subscriber. “I am trying to get rid of some credit cards that I no longer use. I currently have five credit cards. The ones that I want to close have a zero balance. Which ones should I keep, or should I just keep them all?”

Even though I have an answer for your question, this is pretty much a personal issue. I will have to assume a few things on the credit cards you want to close. First, you probably no longer need or want them anymore. Second, these credit cards are not the oldest ones in your repertoire.

When you close down credit cards most people think that it will automatically increase your credit score. Well, I have some news for you. Most of the time it will actually decrease your score. The reason for the decrease can be easily explained with some simple math.

Let’s just say you have $5000.0 of credit card debt and you have four credit cards. Two credit cards with $2000.0 credit limit and the other two have a $3000.0 credit limit which means that you are using 50% of your eligible credit ($5000/10,000). If you were to close your two $2000.0 credit cards you would be left with an eligible $6000.0 credit limit, but your debt ratio just went up to 83.3% ($5000/6000). *Remember that your debt ratio plays a key role in your FICO score*

Let’s take the same situation as described above with a different issue. Let’s say your two $2000.0 credit cards were open in 1997 and the other $3000.0 ones were opened in 2001. If you decided to close both of the $2000.0 credit cards and keep the others opened your credit score would probably go down a bit just because you closed four years of credit history. This will also affect your credit score, because the length of your credit history will change.

Before you start calling the credit companies and cutting up your cards make sure you look at the downside of it. If you do have to close some down make sure they aren’t the oldest ones in your wallet/purse unless they have a yearly fee. See, there are some good reasons why having several credit cards can be beneficial.

Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need.

September 27th, 2006 at 04:46 am

Have you ever purchased something that you used once then threw it in the back of your closet or garage? Most people don’t ever think how much money they loose by purchasing things they don’t really need. Sometimes buying your “wants” can be self-satisfying but extremely expensive when used only a few times. Here is a great example that has happened to at least ten people I know. You ever buy a shirt that you think will look great, wear it twice, and then you never wear it again. Try to apply this to other things in your life.

Before you head off to college and decide to get a fancy computer make sure you read this article. Consumers need to learn to shop for good deals that will save hundreds of dollars by going to websites like these: FatWallet, Woot, and NewEgg for electronics. Shop around for good deals online, and don’t buy things you don’t need.

Are You Losing Your Change?

September 26th, 2006 at 11:28 am

Most people have a loose coin bucket in which they throw their change at the end of the day. After a few months of accumulating your pounds and pounds of change, you decide to go to a supermarket to cash it all in. It feels so nice losing five pounds of change and converting it into little pieces of paper that you can easily slip into your pocket. Now let me ask you a question. Have you ever willingly paid an additional 8%-10% on something for no apparent reason? If not, stop using automated cash counting machines in supermarkets.

Go to YOUR bank! They provide FREE paper rollers and usually supply you with a quick counter which makes your change counting easy. After about ten minutes of work you can save a ton of money. I went to the bank about three months ago and it took me around twelve minutes to count, roll, and deposit $246.87. If I had gone to a coin counting machine they would have deducted $19.75-$24.68 from my total after around ten minutes of labor. Man, wouldn’t life be incredible if you could make $20-25 for every ten minutes of labor? Now go ahead and start saving wisely. A penny saved is a penny earned. -- Benjamin Franklin.

Is Gas Guzzling up Your Bank Account?

September 22nd, 2006 at 02:41 pm

Try some of these tips to really save your money on fuel.

1. Keep your car maintained. Your fuel efficiency will increase by 25% over a poorly maintained vehicle.
2. Don’t get high octane gas unless you have a high performance vehicle. Most automobiles run fine on the regular octane with a $6.00 gas booster (which needs to be added every six months).
3. Check the pressure. Make sure your tires are at the pressure your manufacturer recommends. This will increase fuel efficiency by 30%.
4. Think of a driving plan. Make sure your daily errands are properly designed. If you are overlapping your driving routes, change it.
5. Stop beating people off the line. Accelerate your car at a regular rate. Think of it this way. Every time you speed up at a red light you lose 25% of your fuel versus accelerating slower, and when you accelerate quickly at a traffic light people make fun of you. Trust me. They do…
6. Slow down, speed racer. If you obey the speed limit you will have your car running at maximum efficiency. You will also save money by never having to pay a speeding ticket ever again!
7. Try to cruise. Using your cruise control feature (if your car has it) can save you from constantly accelerating, and decelerating. Avoid slower cars, and anticipate future traffic so you slow down slowly instead of hitting the brakes and smashing your head on the steering wheel.

If you would like some more tips. Go to Bankrate and Wiki and remember an inefficient car is an expensive car.

Are You Getting a BIG Tax Check?

September 19th, 2006 at 09:37 am

Is getting a huge refund check really a good thing? Most people think that it is, but you need to stop looking at it as a big payout and begin viewing it from a different angle. When you get a huge refund that means you’ve been paying too much in taxes over the past year. This also means the government has been getting some good interest on your money. If you are receiving, or paying more than $500.00 a year on taxes, consider going to your payroll department to change your tax withholdings.

Example: if you were supposed to get a $2500.00 tax check, have your payroll department help you modify your tax withholdings so that you get an extra $208.33(2500/12) per month. After you change your tax withholdings, you put the additional money into your savings account (avg. of 5%), and at the end of the year you will receive an extra $75.00. Do yourself a favor and stop giving more money away than you have to.

Save money when buying a new computer

September 18th, 2006 at 02:24 pm

By Mickey

So the time has come up trash that old clunker of a PC and pick up a nice shiny new one. Great! While your specific needs may vary, here are some tips to help you save some money on your new purchase.

1. Figure out what you need. Dual-core chips are all the rage now, but do you really need one? These are processors that are essentially two processors in one, making that part of your computer nearly twice as fast. However, most pieces of software (including games) can't use both at the same time. There are exceptions, such as the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. In addition, if you often run multiple programs at once it can help. Otherwise, just stick with a faster (but cheaper) single-core chip.

2. LCDs aren't as great as you think. The cool thing now is to get a flat LCD monitor. However, compared to an big, heavy CRT:

-- LCDs don't look as sharp.
-- LCDs can't handle as wide of a variety of resolutions.
-- LCDs tend to cost more.

Now, if you need desk space then it might be worth getting an LCD. If not, you might be able to find a sweet bargin on a much larger CRT.

3. Keep your old monitor. Wanna save a couple hundred bucks? Keep your old monitor. If you'll continue to use your old PC (for the kid's homework or something), you'll need to go ahead and purchase another monitor. However, if you plan on not using your old PC any longer once the new one is going, you can just use your old monitor on the new system. There won't be any compatibility issues.

4. Dude, don't buy a Dell. Dells are cheap. If you compare the major features of a computer (processor, memory, hard drive, etc), a Dell is the cheapest almost every time. The problem is that they really skimp out on internal parts. If you need to upgrade down the road, you'll be in big trouble with a Dell.

To use an example, our church just bought a brand new, fairly nice Dell. I needed to add a second video card to it, and had very few options because of how the Dell was built. It didn't include a PCI-Express slot and it didn't even include an AGP slot - just some normal (older) PCI slots. This meant that out of the 25 or 30 video cards I was looking at in the store, I could only choose between TWO of them - the rest used PCI-E or AGP.

I don't fault Dell for this, as they're in the business of selling computers, and cheap computers sell very well. Just don't be one of the people that buys one.

5. Microsoft Office vs. OpenOffice.org. One of the biggest expenses when purchasing a new PC is getting Microsoft Office on there - you're talking about a couple hundred dollars. We all need it - Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc. The great news is that there is a free alternative - OpenOffice.org. It is a full-blown office package that is 100% free and 100% legal. I'll admit that it's not quick as slick looking as Microsoft Office, but it's real close. It will read all of their files and it does a nice job. Even if you have MS Office already, go ahead and check it out. www.openoffice.org

6. Virus scan is optional. I considered not putting this item on here, but thought I'd share my views. Running a virus scan program such as Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee Virusscan is a HUGE resource drain. They're constantly monitoring your system and really make it run much slower than it needs to. If you are a semi-literate computer user and you keep your Windows Updates current, odds are that you'll never catch a major virus. Realize that it's a slight gamble, though.

Here's the magic - your computer can't "catch" a virus. They don't just slip in there like a germ in the air. You need to work to get a virus - open an infected e-mail, download an infected program, etc. You still should run a system-wide scan from time to time, but there are free programs that do this just as well as the commercial ones. Your best bet is likely Avast (www.avast.com). Dig around on their site and you'll find the free edition.

Now, if you tend to download a lot of software, or have friends over that like to download stuff, you might want to consider sticking with a full-blown AV program like Norton or McAfee just to be safe. If not, then this is a good place to save $50.

Beyond those items, it's just a matter of what you want. It's a tough line to spend as little as possible but still try to buy something that will last for years to come. If you have specific questions about "what should I buy?", feel free to ask me and I'll try to help you decide.

For other tips on how to make your PC (new or old) run more smoothly, you can visit SpeedUPMyXP.com.

Trying to Save $40.00 a Month?

September 17th, 2006 at 10:25 am

Have you looked at your bills and said “God, I hate paying so much!?!” Well if you have a regular landline phone get either VoIP or just cancel your phone service and use your cell phone. VoIP is a lot like your regular phone service but is MUCH cheaper. Only catch is you need to have high speed cable internet. Consider this MCI current unlimited calling plans start at $49.99; while Vonage.com is offering the same plan with more features for $24.99! That’s twenty five bucks by just switching to VoIP and you can still keep your old phone number. Do the research and you will see the value. Save your money for something like a down payment on a new car or even better put it in your online savings account!

Let Me Hit You with Some IRA Knowledge

September 14th, 2006 at 08:51 pm

I received this really great question about IRA’s: “What kind of IRA should I get? Do you think I should just put my money in a fixed IRA?”

Even though I think this is a very easy question to answer many people do not really know what to do with their IRA. First, single individuals with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $95,000 or less should contribute to a Roth IRA. There are so many benefits to the Roth IRA such as tax-free earnings, borrowing from the plan (I do not recommend this), and there are no minimum distributions during your lifetime.

The second part of the question can be answered using this calculator. Let’s say you save the maximum annual contribution of $4000.00 a year which is ~$333.0 a month (in this example assume the contribution rate stays the same).

Fixed plan with the highest paying APR of 5.12% (according to Bankrate):
In 30 years you will have a total amount of $284,583.00 with total paying interest of $164,702.00. This is still pretty good return because all you invested was $119,880.00

Growth plan using the S&P average return of 11% over 80 years of data:
You will have a total amount of $942,466 with a total paying interest of $822,285.00
While still putting in a total of $119,880.00

It seems incredibly self explanatory doesn’t it? Well unfortunately, I know more people in a fixed IRA then a mutual fund IRA. So if you are in a fixed get out of it! Open one up using an online brokerage firm like INGDirect, Fidelity, and Vanguard.

Please email me at admin@efipo.com if you have any financial questions that you would like me to write about on eFIPO.com.