Set Your Financial Life to Automatic

automaticI’m not what you would call the most organized individual on the planet. My desk is a cluttered space of random pages, a typewriter, unopened envelopes from credit card companies I never plan to open up an account with, and DVDs I have yet to watch. Every now and then, I get around to cleaning up my room out of sheer necessity, but on the average it can be hard for me to navigate through it.

I’m sure there are those of you who share my messiness. Like me, I’m sure you also have trouble managing your finances. After all, if you can organize something as basic as your desk, how are you supposed to be able to keep track of all of your receipts and when to pay what for which credit card or what bill is due?

One solution is to simply give up our disheveled ways and adopt a more cleanly disposition.

Then again, our disorganization is a part of who we are. I mean, would Sherlock Holmes been half as interesting of a literature character had his apartment been kept in pristine order, rather than an incomprehensible clutter of medical experiments sharing the same counter space as former case documents and disguises?

I doubt it.

Thankfully, for all of us, there are several ways to compensate without losing that precious aspect of our imperfect selves. Here are a few of them which I have integrated into my own life. I hope they work for you as well.


1. Go paperless for bank accounts by receiving e-statements

This one has almost all benefits and little, if no, downsides. Not only do you save paper, and trees, but not getting your bank statements in the mail (a plus for you environmentalists out there) but you also will be able to keep track of them in a neatly fashion by inspecting them on an email. Trust me; keeping an email account organized has been tenfold easier for me than arranging my room so that it makes any logical sense. Some banks even give incentives, because it saves them money as well. You also get the statements instantly, rather than waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

Additionally, you will also lower the risk of identity theft. As I have stated before in previous columns, identity thieves go dumpster or garbage diving in order to harvest information about you. Bank websites generally have good security measures in place to prevent hacking, so you are at a very low risk
This way, you will never have to worry about losing that bank statement underneath the sofa or accidentally putting it into the fireplace along with the other junk mail you get.

Warning: Be wary of emails you receive claiming to be from a financial institution. Phishers will send emails to people pretending to be their bank or credit card company, asking you for account information. Do not, under any circumstances, reply to these emails or attempt to login to your account using a link they provide in the email. The link they provide may be for a phony site that collects your username and password in order to gain access to your account. If you have concerns about any sort of financial transaction, call the bank or credit card company. Or, close your current browser, open a new one, type in the home website, and then login. Most of the time, your email will filter them out into junk mail, but some of the time they get through.


2. Set your credit card to scheduled, automatic payments

I have a Discover credit card which I make monthly payments on, and one of their features is the ability to schedule payments to be made automatically before each due date. Most credit card companies have this feature, as well. This is a great option for those of you who have enough funds in your account to make the full payment every month rather than the minimum. Otherwise, you either have to make a note of it on your calendar or keep mental track of when they are due. You can get away with it if you just have one credit card, but when you have three of more it is easy to lose track of what is due and when; missing a payment is not something you want to have happened because you had the money but simply forgot.


3. Make online payments for things such as utilities, cell phones, car insurance

Let’s face it; there is a reason the United States Postal Service is suffering from a lack of business. Aside from Christmas letters and bulk deliveries, what else is there for them to ship? Certainly not bills. Just like your bank statements, you can receive email receipts for pretty much everything. My car insurance through Geico is automatically billed to my credit card, rather than sent to me in the mail. This way, when I make my credit card payments, I am paying for numerous bills by lumping them into a single payment. This can also be used to pay for electricity, plumbing, cable, Internet, recycling and garbage, and a variety of other services you use.


4. Limit the number of bank accounts you use for spending

There’s nothing wrong with having numerous bank accounts. You don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket. Yet, using five debit cards to purchase things makes it a pain in the neck when you’re trying to balance five different checkbooks. Ideally, you’ll want to have two checking accounts, one for big purchases, one for small purchases. For married couples, it really depends on what your financial preferences are. Some families have a single bank account, while others prefer to have an individual account for each spouse. Some families even have accounts for their children to use with their own debit card, but be warned in advance; if you intend to closely monitor their spending, it can be a hassle, which brings me to my next point.


5. Encourage your children to get jobs, even if it’s part-time

(Disclosure; I have yet to have any children myself, but this is advice I give based on my childhood experiences)

I know some parents like to spoil their children, and this is not always a bad thing. But when parents are handing out their credit cards like candy, it gives kids the wrong concept of how money is earned and spent. If you have kids, and they pressure you for money to purchase something as though they are entitled to it, suggest that they get a part-time job. Here’s the reason; simply handing them a credit card or cash gives a child the impression that money is simply there, rather than put there through hard work; forcing them to work a job teaches them important lessons about finance management, instills good work ethic, and gives them a sense of independence. They’re also going to spend their own money more wisely than they would yours, and you won’t have to keep an eye out on what they’re buying, since they have an incentive to be frugal.

Is Your Local Retailer Out to get You?

retailerDoes your local retailer deserve your business?   For many consumers, local retailers are certainly a good aspect of the local economy, and for good reason.   However, you might want to be careful if you see some of the following signs present at a local business.


Customer Service

Some people strongly associate customer service with local business.   After all, local retailers will generally take the extra step to connect with their customers.

The contrast can be strong with regard to larger businesses.   In fact, the same general group will often look down upon these businesses, preferring the quality service and experience that can be obtained with a local retailer.   Offering the image of the small town feel❠that local businesses bring, whether or not it’s a small town or city, is generally a selling point for the consumer.

We have all had negative experiences with a local retailer.   It is often the single easiest item to recognize â“ the retailer that doesn’t have your best interest in mind.

A local retailer should take that extra step to ensure your experience is of the highest quality.   A great local retailer will ask the right questions and get a sense of your needs â“ and perhaps give you that small town feel with a genuine conversation (that isn’t all about business).


The Local❠in Local Business

What makes a great local business?   How about the local❠part?

Local businesses that don’t strive to be a valuable part of the community â“ likely aren’t.   Let’s face it: many local businesses will thrive due to their interactions within the community, as we just saw in one dimension.   Yet, if the business and ownership doesn’t care about the needs of the community, it might give you some insight about the business itself.

Selfish businesses can exist in any town or large city.   Top-level local businesses will want to be a part of the community, help where they can, and do what it takes.   Does your local retailer have these altruistic qualities?


Can They Compete?

Let’s face it: if your local retailer can’t offer decent prices, will you become a regular customer?

There is a certain harsh reality to local businesses, so to speak.   Imagine a local computer store that simply can’t compete.   In other words, they might have a decent selection of computers, and even newer ones at that, but if they are continually outperformed by the bigger businesses â“ what’s the point?   You would do much better to save decent money from the larger business in your area, or get what is perhaps the best price anywhere, online.

While we would like to have a little sympathy for the local retailer, businesses must be able to compete with prices elsewhere.   A promising local retailer will do just that, along with discounts and other items to allow the business to thrive.   A good retailer understands that the everyday Joe survives on a tight budget. Mix that with local interaction and top-of-the-line customer service, and there you have it.   Many would give the local retailer the benefit of the doubt if the prices are near the competition â“ but everything else is there.

(This has been  a guest post by Lisa at Health Insurance Comparison, an Australian personal finance blog that provides money-saving health insurance options and ways to optimize your spending habits.)

Best Gift Ideas for Men Under $100

gifts for menLet’s face it ladies: shopping for a guy is not always easy. In fact, depending on the individual, it can be an almost impossible task. No matter what the occasion, finding the right gift for the man in your life requires thought, especially if you want to keep it below $100. So what are the best gift ideas for men under $100? Here are a few suggestions.

Before you can being shopping you have to consider the man. Does he wear suits or jeans to work? Is he into polo or rock climbing? Does he prefer the outdoors or the indoors? This gives you a place to start from.

The white collar type:

 heated shaving foam dispenser
 cuff links
 gift certificate to a men’s clothing store
 gift certificate to a spa (yes, men go to spas, too)
 a nice pair of sunglasses

A great site for white collar gifts is Red Envelope.  With their wide range of gifts, you are sure to find something that works for your business man.  They offer everything from fancy sports memorabilia to watches.  You won’t be  disappointed!

The blue collar type:

 golf lessons
 a couple of new fishing poles or assorted fishing gear
 a nice pair of sunglasses

The rugged  outdoors man:

 a new backpack
 a sports watch
 a skydiving lesson
 a compact outdoor grill or a compete set of grilling tools
 time at a shooting range
 a rugged pair of outdoor shoes
 a pair of rubber waders
 a nice pair of sunglasses

The sports enthusiast:

 tickets to a favorite sporting event
 a year’s subscription to extra sporting channels
 a piece of sports memorabilia
 decorative pieces of their favorite sports team
 gift certificate to a sporting goods store
 a nice pair of sunglasses

The health enthusiast:

 gift certificate to an organic store
 gift certificate to a vitamin/supplement store
 a nice sports watch
 workout DVDs of something they are interested in (Tai Chi, Yoga, etc.)
 trial lessons at a marital arts studio
 you guessed it: sunglasses

If they like to work on things, get them tools. Any man who loves tools will tell you that you can never have too many of them. If you don’t know what they need, or want, or if you don”t want to try to figure it out, a gift certificate to a big box retailer will suffice.

Have they ever dreamed of driving a special type of car or truck, but have never had the opportunity to own one? Rent them one for the day. Let them experience what it’s like to cruise around in their dream car for a day.

Do they like the theater? Tickets to a special event will be well received. Who knows, they might even ask you to accompany them.

If he enjoys entertaining, give him an assortment of special beverages. This is something that he can enjoy for quite some time. Whether it’s a special occasion or just unwinding after a hard day, he will thank you over and over.

Regardless of his lifestyle or habits, every man would appreciate a nice portable iPod. Maybe have some of his favorite songs thrown in as an added bonus to get him started.

Three Tools to Teach Your Children Financial Responsibility

teaching kids financial responsibilityParents who find themselves relearning financial responsibility often have trouble passing down these new skills to their children. Here are three tools you can use to make sure financial responsibility doesn’t end with you.


Give Your Child an Allowance

I’m often asked if children are too young to get an allowance. Although each family needs to take actions that are best for their own family, I believe that children begin a fuzzy concept of money even before they can walk. They watch you exchange it for food, swipe cards for gas, and put coins into machines that return small toys. It only makes sense that to teach them to be responsible with money, they need to have money.

There are varying ideas about how to give your child an allowance. Some families pay for chores, and others only pay for extra chores.

Another method of giving out an allowance is to pay a portion of the parent’s salary to the children. This is usually tied to an understanding that they must cover their own activity fees and entertainment costs.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler, we collected aluminium cans in grocery sacks. At a very young age, she learned how to crush the cans and carefully store them. When we took the cans to the recycling center, the money we received was given to her as an allowance. As a result, grocery sacks are still called “allowance bags” in my home.

One word of caution when giving a younger child an allowance. They do not have the concept of time down very well. So if you are paying them for a chore, it should be paid out immediately rather than held over for the week or they won’t really understand why the money is being given to them.


Children Listen to Your Words

Even when you don’t hear your own words, your children do. A very powerful “aha” moment for me was hearing my son tell me he thought I should get a job. I didn’t understand where his words were coming from until he explained to me that I often turn down his requests for money or certain activities with the words “We can’t afford it.” It made sense to him that if we can’t afford things with me working from home, that I should try to get a job outside of the home trading dollars for hours.

In reality, we can afford many things but we choose not to use all of our funds in certain categories such as entertainment and dining out. Adults call this financial responsibility but our children might just call us “cheap.” A money coach,  Morgana Rae, gave me some wonderful alternative words to use. Instead of using the “c” word (can’t), I now inform my children (and any pushy sales people) “It is not a financial priority for me at this time.”


Peanut Butter Jars

This simple phrase proves to be very powerful financial tool in my household as it is really difficult to argue with priorities. Another tool that we use is a collection of peanut butter jars. These are great tools to use from the moment a child can pick up a coin.

Each child has three jars; one is labeled “Mine,” another is labeled “Mine for later” and the other is labeled “To Give Away.” Whenever they get an allowance or a gift of money, they put a portion of their money into each jar.

The actual percentages that your child puts into each jar depends on your family’s own financial priorities. One Mom I worked with taught her children early on to save 50% of their income and divide the other half between themselves and the church. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone developed the habit of saving half of their earnings?


(This has been a guest post by Brenda Trott.  She is a parenting coach who has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years. Her blog  is designed to enable parents with tools to feel organized and in control.)

Creating a Spending Journal: Tips for Budgeting

spending journalWondering where your bank account has gone?   Individuals and families who don’t do the best job in the budgeting department can arrive often move along through a vicious cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, because they’ve neglected to budget their money. If you’re wondering how your money seems to disappear shortly after each perhaps a spending journal could be the answer.


The Useless Budget

Your budget might be useless.   If you have no knowledge of how you’re spending money, where it’s going, and how your finances look by month’s end (budgeted amount vs. actual expenses) â“ you might be wasting your time with your current budgeting strategy.

A budget is something like a credit card statement, so to speak.   In other words, you should not just update your budget, fill in the expected category values with idea numbers, and then even fill in what you’re spending.   You have to put it into action: your budget should serve as a guide, a conversation❠of sorts between you and the numbers.

It may seem a little odd to explain it in that way, but it’s true.   If you aren’t engaged with your budget, looking through the numbers and seeing how you’re doing, you might be wasting your time.   The budget serves as a guide, giving you perspective into your income, expenses, savings, and furthermore.


Using the Spending Journal

Whether it is or isn’t part of a formal budget, a spending journal can give you that perspective.

Imagine if you wrote down anything that you spent money on â“ from your groceries to your morning visit to the coffee kiosk, and even your actual bills â“ all noted in your spending journal.   And add the option to attach a category onto the purchase, which would allow you to itemize and sort the payments.   What would that do for you?

At the end of the month, you would have a list of all the purchases you made, from the expected ones to the compulsive ones that undermine your budget. This is the idea of the spending journal; it is a simpler form of the budget⦠and it could be all you need if keeping track of income isn’t complicated.

As you look at your spending habits, you’ll be able to find areas of improvement.   Maybe you’re spending too much on coffee in the mornings, or eating out (always an area with potential.)   This is the type of tool that can keep your spending habits in check, and allow you to concentrate on your saving/investment goals, and whatever is pressing at the moment (debt, buying a home, etc.).



Well, of course you can keep the journal as a true journal.   Those that prefer the old fashion way of doing things can still log items in via the pen and notebook.

Technological individuals have a number of options.   You could keep your spending journal on a spreadsheet or get a free personal finance budgeting program. There are a number of free options online, or available through software you can install on your computer. If you have a smartphone, you could easily keep track of your expenses when you’re on the go â“ very convenient, as you can imagine.


It’s really up to you!

Regardless of how you keep a spending journal, this powerful tool can offer plenty of potential.   It’s up to you as to how useful it can be in your financial situation.

How do you plan your spending each month? Do you find that a set-in-stone budget is a must-have for financial success? Share your tips with us â“ leave a comment below!

(The following is a guest post by Lisa at  Wallet Watcher, an Australian personal finance blog created to help readers figure out how to save money and watch your own spending habits.)

How to Find Work Fast During a Down Economy

find work fastThe economy continues on a path of mediocrity, the stock markets present almost daily doses of whiplash to investors, and just this week the U.S. Census Bureau released a report on poverty in the United States (hint: it’s increasing). If you or someone you know is unemployed or under-employed, it’s time to evaluate every income producing option available – even those options that are less than ideal.

I’ve worked for well over 100 employers (no, that’s not a typo or an exaggeration). I know a few things about finding a job, and quickly, when the chips are down. So if the landlord is banging on your door, your car is running on fumes, or you just need to pay for a decent sandwich – then I’m your own, personal “expert” at finding work in a hurry. Read on…

Swallow your pride and do something “beneath” your abilities.

This is no time to think that “you’re too good” for whatever it is that you don’t want to do. Here’s one trick to use when searching for so-called “low status” jobs: try looking for work in towns located some distance from your normal “stomping grounds”. This way, people you know won’t find out that you’re delivering pizzas or working at McDonald’s (the ones that they might patronize, that is.)

No matter how rotten the economy is, the same industries always seem to be seeking workers. Many businesses involved in the retail, restaurant, seasonal, leisure, agriculture, and trucking industries are always hiring. And don’t forget call centers, also. (By the way, if you decide to look for work at a call center, try to grab a position that involves “inbound” vs. “outbound” calls. “Outbound” means: you’ll be cold calling people just as they sit down for dinner. Not fun.) Remember: a little “hard time” at the crummiest greasy spoon in town may well help you get a management position at a respectable nightclub in the future.

Deliver pizzas

This one really isn’t bad, and probably gets a worse rap than it deserves. To get paid to deliver a major staple of the American diet, you’ll need three things: wheels that you don’t mind putting some mileage on, a reasonably decent driving record, and insurance. Don’t bother with this type of gig if any one of these is missing. You’ll get tips, which means you’ll have cash – always.

You can work whatever schedule is convenient for you (though, obviously, weekends will be more lucrative). Bad weather means better tips. You can listen to whatever you want on the radio, and pull over and use the cell phone at your convenience. Bonus benefit: free food! And, if you’re single: you’ll certainly encounter cute members of the opposite sex, either co-workers or customers.

Start a hauling and/or moving business

I did this once – and wound up with a business that lasted over two years. There are now national franchises that are making millions from hauling away junk from homes, garages, and storage units. If you have a pickup truck and/or trailer, a cell phone, work gloves, and a willingness to get paid to excercise – you can be in the hauling business. When I ran a junk hauling business, I used local weekly small-town newspapers to advertise.

Running classified ads in these types of papers is pretty cheap, and they always yield at least a handful of phone calls. You can use online classifieds like Craigslist, of course – but so is your competition. Besides, many homeowners don’t bother calling service businesses listed in Craigslist because they don’t trust those businesses, or take them seriously.

Play the numbers game

It’s obvious that you should be using the web to look for work. But try the old school method of “pounding the pavement” – since so few others do this these days. Find the area near you where the half-dozen (every town has this area) fast-food joints are located near one another.

Or go visit your local mall. Grab applications at each store, take them home, then fill them out (it’s a more laborious process than you think – do it at home, trust me). Then return those completed applications in person. Try to hand your application over to the store manager on duty. This will leave an impression on that particular manager that you’ll never be able to deliver via cyberspace. You may even receive an interview on the spot – I’ve had this happen to me several times when the business in question needed workers immediately.

Get a commercial driver’s license

This idea only applies if you have a decent driving record, no felonies, and you’re single. If you aren’t single, you soon will be – if you go OTR (trucker parlance for “over the road”). You’ll be away from home for weeks. In fact, some drivers don’t bother having homes and instead live out of their trucks. Which, actually, will save you huge amounts of money – but cost your social life dearly.

Now, you can also drive “local”, but these driving gigs are far more difficult to get, especially for newer drivers. Most local driving gigs involve 10-12 hour days anyway, so even these will greatly impact your non-working life. I’ve worked mostly local gigs, and made great money doing them. But, I like my downtime. A LOT. Which is why even the most lucrative local driving gig, for me, only lasted three years. (However – I paid off huge debts during that period.) Having a “CDL” means you’ll always have work (if you want it).

Use temp firms

Yes, there is a lot not to like about temp firms. Most treat applicants like ten-year-olds, take a cut of your hourly pay, and will waste a lot of your time before sending you to a gig. Temp firms tend to want you at their office, in person, so that they can run you through a battery of tests to prove you aren’t a complete moron. Ironic, since many temp staffers are. (I’m not a fan of temp firms, in case you didn’t notice.) On the other hand, maybe you don’t care, since you need cash immediately.

Let’s face it – in any economy, the temp firms usually have something (anything!) Don’t kid yourself, though – many temp firms are trying to fill lousy gigs with warm bodies – the kinds of gigs that in-house H.R. departments gave up trying to fill. Some firms, of course, are worse than others. The worst part about applying for work via a temp firm is watching the dummy videos that nearly every temp agency forces prospective employees to watch. Painful.

Volunteer, or work for free

If money isn’t really that pressing, and/or you’re fortunate to have a side income or partner who brings home the bacon, then thank your lucky stars. Go visit a volunteer website and offer your time to someone less fortunate (there is always someone less fortunate than you.) Find a cause you can get into and help out. Even a couple hours a month is welcome. You can also work for free (Different from volunteering; I’m talking here about donating free work to a for-profit organization.)

I’ve noticed that sometimes “experts” on job hunting will occasionally suggest that you work for free. This may (“experts” claim) lead to a paying gig. I suppose that might be the case, sometimes. I doubt it, though. I’ve worked for “free” as a freelancer on several occasions. Not once did doing so get me paid work. I don’t recommend doing this, but it’s an idea worth including here.

Some job hunting sites are better than others

I have had good luck finding full-time and part-time work through classified sites like Craigslist and; not so much with the larger job-related “megasites” like or CareerBuilder. The latter two sites are overloaded with listings from recruiters, who will waste your time more effectively than actually find you paid work.

The former two sites, however, are filled with job listings from employers looking for help and who need to hire quickly. Beware of scams, however – especially with Craigslist. Never send a prospective employer your Social Security number via e-mail or via an online job application until you are sure of who you’re dealing with. That said, there are far more legitimate job opportunities on the online classified sites than scams – just be careful. If a job opening sounds to good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

Just because you’re a college graduate (and especially if you aren’t) doesn’t mean a good job is your birthright. Quit expecting your “dream job” to fall out of the sky, and look for work beyond “your field” (do people still use this phrase?) Your field is wherever the work is, right now. A paycheck derived from driving a taxi is better than no paycheck at all.

(This has been a guest post by Matt Henterly, a developer of The BuckTrak Budget Planner, a free online financial manager for individuals and small businesses.)

Honey, the Kids are Moving Back Home!

moving homeWhen parents raise their kids and get them up to that all-important age of 18 years old, they are prepared to say goodbye. This is because the teenager is usually moving on to their own, independent life either by going to college or getting out into the working world. These days, however, there is a new trend of college students moving back home in order to save money. What’s going on? After all, aren’t college kids the ones who like to go out and party? How in the world can they enjoy living back home with mom and dad?

Although many parents are sad to see their kids leave for college, commonly called empty nest syndrome, most of them get used to the idea of their new lives. In fact, many parents relish the idea of having the ultimate freedom to do what they want in life after finally raising their child to 18 years old. That’s why it can be quite an adjustment to have your grown college student living back in your house. This leads to the question of how can you make the process of living together again less of an imposition? Here are some ideas and tips to get you started when you find out that your college kid is moving back home:

Boundaries from the get-go

You have to think about your college student moving home almost like you’ve just taken in a tenant. There should be boundaries and rules put into place for what you will and won’t accept in your house. For instance, is there a specific time that you want the house locked down for the evening? Many parents don’t want their college student to be coming and going at all hours of the night like they are living in a dorm. As the owner of the home and the landlordâ, you are perfectly within your rights to set up rules that they are expected to follow.

Delegate some chores

Just because your college student is moving home doesn’t mean that they are relieved of housework duties. If they are going to be living in your property, they need to have certain cleaning tasks that they take care of. Remember that you’re trying to prepare your college student for the real world after they graduate. Letting them be a slob around your house is not teaching them anything.  I remember when some of our Composite doors had been abused and my Mom asked me to clean them.  It was my chore and I did it!

Paying your fair share

Financial contributions: Even though your college student has moved home due to financial reasons, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t contribute something to the household. Even if it is as simple as paying a quarter of the electric bill each month, your student needs to understand that they have to pay their way in life. Most college students have some kind of a part-time job to pay for their car insurance and gas. Sit down with them before they move in to decide what part of the bills will be theirs to pay. You don’t want them to move home and start living off of you again because that will only set them back from becoming independent after they graduate.

Teaching opportunity

For some empty nest parents, having a college student move back home can be a wonderful thing. You might feel great about getting to take care of someone else again. However, remember that your needs are not the only ones in play here. It’s much more important to make sure that your college student gets a real world wake-up call. The whole purpose of sending them for higher education is so that they can go out and be independent in their lives. You want them to be successful not only in their career, but also in their personal life. That’s why having these boundaries and rules in place is so important.

Tips for Borrowing from a Family Member – Family Personal Loans

borrowing from familyIf you find yourself in need of some extra money, explore the option of  borrowing cash from a family member prior to applying for  personal loans. Taking out a  loan from a relative can be tricky since you are mixing business with a personal  relationship. Utilize the information below to decide if taking out a family  loan make sense for your situation and what you can do to ensure that you manage  yourself in a manner that will equate to a situation that is comfortable for all  participating parties.

– The only time you should ever consider borrowing money from a family member  is to satisfy an unexpected situation; like car repairs, home maintenance,  medical costs, etc.. Never borrow from a relative for the purpose of buying  something material or for taking a vacation. Putting money in the equation of  your relationship is going to put some sort of strain between you. Therefore  borrowing from family should be a last resort option and should never be used to  satisfy a wantâ¦.only a need.

– You are going to want to be careful when selecting a relative to contact  for borrowing money from. You want to avoid asking someone for a loan that is  not in the best financial situation themselves. Even if you know they won’t turn  you down, don’t take advantage of their kindness/commitment to helping family.  Attempt to ask somebody that you know is not only financially stable but will  likely have surplus cash to let you borrow.

– Even though you will be borrowing from family, conduct yourself in a  professional manner. Treat a family loan that same as though you were utilizing  unsecured  loans from a bank. Before any cash changes hands, make sure you have no  questions as a borrower and that your family member does not have any questions  being your lender. It is important that you are both comfortable and confident  with the short and long-term situation.

– This is the most important tip! Develop a promissory note/agreement that  describes all of the details of the loan arrangement that has been mutually  approved by both parties. Be certain to include any interest rates, the expected  monthly payments, penalties, etc.. And since you are taking a loan from a  family member, you may want to consider adding a note about confidentiality to  your agreement since you are probably not going to want any other relatives  knowing about your situation. You don’t want anyone passing judgment on you  without fully understanding your needs.

– If you can, provide some type of collateral to show your honesty and intent  of paying the loan back. If you expectantly succumb to bankruptcy your relative  is going to be on your list of creditors that are owed since there is collateral  associated with your loan. This should establish a strong comfort zone for your  family personal loan provider when lending you their hard earned cash.

– Be certain that both you and your relative comprehend the tax consequences  of lending and borrowing money. A good idea would be to have a conversation with  an accountant prior to finalizing the loan to determine if the arrangement will  attract the attention of the IRS or as a borrower if you can deduct the interest  costs that you are being charged.

– If you can, pay your family loan off sooner than you agreed to. Doing so  will likely keep the door open in the future for borrowing again if needed. You
don’t know when you may be faced with another emergency!

12 Free Summer Activities for Your Family

summer fun One of the best times of the year for many families is the summer. And no it’s not over yet in many areas of the country!  Kids are out of school and families are able to do things together. However, the economy hasn’t allowed a lot of families to take grandiose vacations in recent years. That’s why it’s more important than ever to find free summer activities that your family can enjoy without breaking the bank. Here are 12 of our favorite activities you can enjoy with your family this summer:

Going on a picnic: Simply pack a picnic basket basket and head over to your favorite local park to enjoy the day with your family. Try a menu of sandwiches, fruit and potato chips to make things easy.

Have a  camp out   You don’t even have to go anywhere to have a great camp out. Set up some tents in your own backyard, grab the ingredients for some s’mores and enjoy an evening out under the stars.

Find the sunset: Think of a great place in your local area where you and your family can enjoy watching the sunset one evening. Make sure to bring your camera!

Sprinkler time: Many of us remember running through sprinklers as children. It was a ton of fun and didn’t cost a thing. Get some inexpensive sprinklers if you don’t have them and make a day of it in your yard.

Make ice cream: Homemade ice cream is some of the best stuff on the planet! Instead of spending lots of money at your local ice cream eatery, you can make it at home and build a lot of memories in the process.

Set up your own field day: Many of us remember field day at school where we played all kinds of sports and competitions to win prizes. Instead, set up your own field day right there in your backyard; invest in some slowpitch softball bats for a big game of softball, or similar activities.

Visit state parks: There are so many beautiful state parks all over the United States. You are likely to have one within close range of your home, so take a day to visit and enjoy. Many times, you only have to pay a small parking fee, if anything at all.

Have a craft day: Most kids love crafts, and many would highly enjoy spending the day as a family making all kinds of things. You can get craft supplies at the dollar store or just use things from around your house like paper bags and plates.

Local freebies: Many times, local museums and other attractions will have free days during the summer. Check around to see what you can find and get some culture in the process.

Fishing: Even if you don’t love fishing yourself, there is a great chance that your kids do. Taking a little fishing trip to a local watering hole, and it will provide a lifetime of memories.

Scavenger Hunt: Set up a scavenger hunt around your house or yard.

Family game night: With so many people running through life on hectic schedules, kids will really enjoy having a family game night where everyone gets together and laughs for hours on end.

Spending time together as a family during the summer doesn’t have to be expensive or cost any money at all. By simply taking the time to come up with unique, free ideas for entertainment, you can build a lifetime of memories with your family while never opening your wallet. After all, these kinds of activities are what you and your family will remember for many years to come.

Sharing with Neighbors and Friends to Save this Holiday Season

My wife and I have really worked on finding as many ways to save money. So lately, we have worked really hard on it so we have the additional income to purchase the gifts we want to for our family and friends this holiday season. We recently decided to switch from an unlimited phone plan with talk and text to prepaid phones, because neither of us needs the unlimited coverage. We are using more coupons at the grocery and at clothing retailers as well. We have been keeping track of the money we save each week and depositing that savings into a separate bank account for holiday shopping.

However, it seems like we are running out of ways to save money. Holiday shopping can really add up fast, especially when purchasing the latest technology gadgets for friends and family. It got me thinking that whatever happened to people loving their neighbors as their self.❠Most people in today’s busy world do not even know their neighbors’ names let alone be willing to help them. But helping others can be the easiest way to save lots of money in a short period of time.

There are so many organizations out there that even provide help to those looking for ideas on how to help neighbors and save money at the same time. Here is a money-saving tip you can do each day of the week:

Seven Money Saving Tips that Also Help Others:

1. Sharing Internet Service

Whether it’s an apartment neighbor or home neighbor, do some research together on the most cost-effective internet provider. Then, decide to go in on a shared router plan. By sharing a router, you can easily cut the internet service bill per a month by half. The extra twenty to forty dollars could be used to purchase several holiday gifts.

2. Purchasing DIY Home Equipment

It’s a great idea to go in together with one neighbor on anything from lawn mowers to snow blowers to rakes, shovels, and mulch. Many times by sharing the cost evenly, two people can afford an upgraded version of various items. Chances are that neither your neighbor nor you are going to want to use the same equipment at the same time. When it comes time to get equipment services, you can also share the servicing costs, too.

3. Reduce trash and recycling costs

If the two of you already use the same recycling and trash companies, why not inquire about double pickup at one house. This is another way to reduce costs by half the amount. If the company does not have two can pickups, one neighbor could pay for recycling pickup while the other pays for the trash pickup.

4. Saving on home services

Try to coordinate septic, bug spray, termite inspections, and heater, air conditioner, and paint services on the same day with the same company. The companies are going to love the fact they do not have to stop at two places. They will in-turn offer discounted rates by serving two people’s homes at one sitting.

5. Planning babysitting

By bringing two sets of children together on the same night, two couples can enjoy dinner and a movie without spending so much money. It’s also so much more fun for the children and the parents.

6. Shopping for Groceries

Neighbors can sit together and go through the circulars looking for buy one, get one free sales. Oftentimes, people know these sales are great deals, but they don’t need those two jars of peanut butter and jelly. By splitting the cost, each of you can afford the luxury items on the grocery list.

7. Having garage sales

Whether it’s planning a garage sale or taking items to a resale shop, by coming together, the both of you will cut costs on gas and other commuting costs.

Also, by sharing and helping neighbors out, you are not only going to save money that could cover all the holiday gift giving expenses, but helps save the environment. Naturally both neighbors will reduce their use of paper, packaging, and other costly materials. You might even save enough money to host several holiday parties without tapping into regularly earned incomes.