Tips on Obtaining Your Budgeting Goals


If you’re like most people, one of your goals for the new year is to be better with your budget and to save more money. These goals sound a lot easier than they often are; however, following these tips can promise you a brighter financial future.

Be Realistic
You might have said that you are going to save $10,000 this year. However, after all of your expenses each month, you have only $1000 left. After paying for a few fun activities for the kids and gas for your car, you certainly don’t have enough to save four digits. It’s always best to sit down and figure out exactly how much money you are realistically able to save over the course of a year. If you aim for $5,000, you won’t be disappointed if you manage to reach $7,000.

Write it Down
In order to reach your budgeting goals, you absolutely must have some sort of document that details all of your monthly spending. An Excel spreadsheet is just fine, or you can choose another method that suits your personal preference. If you do not write down all of the monthly expenses you have, then you really do not know where your money is going. By marking everything down, you’ll clearly be able to see how much more you’d have to save if you stopped buying an expensive coffee every day.

Need vs. Want
Another way to save money is to ask yourself if you really need something or if you just want to. Generally, if you are going to purchase an item in the store or online, it’s still going to be there tomorrow or the next day. When you’re purchasing a product, especially if it is an expensive one, ask yourself this important question. When the answer is want instead of need, give yourself time to think about it. If you’ve forgotten about it by the next day or so, then it’s probably not worth buying at all.

Don’t Give Up
Maybe one day you’ll go to the mall and wind up spending hundreds of dollars in just a couple of hours. After that, you decide that it’s not worth budgeting at all. So many people do this in both budgeting and dieting, and it does not make any sense at all. No need exists to turn one little mistake into a gigantic blunder. Instead of just giving up or getting yourself all upset about it, just get back on track immediately. Do not stop for an expensive beverage on your way home for the mall; go home and make one for yourself. While you are sipping it, figure out how can you prevent overspending from happening in the future.

If you’re really struggling with meeting your budgeting goals by yourself, it’s time to have a conversation with a financial planner. When it comes to planning and money, these workers are the experts. They can help you to both meet and exceed your goals this year.

As an accountant, author Jason Harter loves to stick to his own budget. He is also a contributing writer for online accounting bachelor’s

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Mortgage Refinance Problems

IS CUSTOMER SERVICE LOST?

So  I initiated a mortgage refinance in mid June of this year.  I am going from a 30 year to a 15 year mortgage to take advantage of historically low interest rates and to pay off my mortgage faster.

I attempted to use the same company that refinanced my 30 year mortgage in late 2011, early 2012.

The bottom line is this.  After 60 days of poor communication, and then being told that because my rate lock expired, I was subject to “worst case pricing”, I pushed ahead with another lender, a local community bank, that was  confident they could close up my deal in 30 days.

I attempted to give my original mortgage company the opportunity to make the situation right.  On August 10th, the VP of the company told me he would get with someone at his company on August 13 to see what he could do.  When I heard NOTHING by 4:30 PM on August 13th, I decided to move forward with the community bank.

On August 14th, at 5:01 PM I get a call from the original company.  I told him I had already agreed to go with the community and had paid my deposit.

No apology at that point!  No, “Well, I hope to get an opportunity to earn your business in the future!”  No, “Sorry this happened, but we will do our best to  take care of the family member that you referred to us three weeks ago.”

I was pretty upset.  I’m in business…and I make mistakes and lose business opportunities all the time.  We are just humans, no one is perfect.  BUT I ALWAYS APOLOGIZE, and try to position myself for an opportunity in the future.  Isn’t that just good service and common sense?

So I have tried hard to look at the situation from my mortgage brokers point of view.  Am I a high  maintenance client?  PROBABLY!  Should he have known that though, as this was the third time I had done a mortgage with him?  PROBABLY!  Was I responsive when data was requested of me?  VERY!  Did I receive timely responses when I called with questions or concerns?  NOT REALLY!  Would I have suggested his company to my brother if I had foreseen these issues?  PROBABLY NOT!  Did I call my brother, and suggest that he give the company a chance to take better care of his mortgage request than they did with mine?  YES!

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Financial “Spring Cleaning” Tips

It is not quite Spring yet here in Michigan, but it has been such a mild winter, my internal clock is ticking early this year.

The personal financial habit that I’ve developed over the past 7 years is to preform a personal financial clean-up session at about the same time I decide to clean my garage and clear it of its dirty winter accumulation.

SADLY, MOST FAMILIES SPEND LESS THAN 30 MINUTES PER YEAR ON THEIR FINANCIAL PLANNING!  DON’T BE THAT STATISTIC!

So here are my tips:

Give yourself at least 3 hours, no distractions, to compile whatever personal financial information you need to review and organize.                                                                                       For Example:

  • Credit Card Statements
  • Unpaid Bills
  • Paid, but unorganized bills
  • Bank statements
  • Retirement savings statements
  • Receipts
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Donation Receipts

Pull your credit report and review it for accuracy!

  • Don’t overlook this one, even though it is generally inconvenient!
  • Credit Report companies are required to give you one free report per year…take advantage of that!

Define financial goals for the year, and develop a family budget to keep you on track!

  • This is extremely important.  If you don’t set goals, you will simply continue down whatever financial path  you always travel on.
  • If you need help, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR IT!  Hire a financial adviser, or ask a financially savvy friend…they will be happy to help!

Create a New, Proactive, Financial Habit!

  • Spend one hour a week, maybe after you pay your bills and balance your checkbook, to review and refine your budget and goals!
  • Monitor your financial & retirement investments monthly during this hour.
  • Double check your credit card and bank statements for accuracy, making sure you are not being charged interest or fees unreasonably.
  • Have fun with it!  Whatever your financial situation, if you live within your means, it should never cause you worry or stress if you are managing well!

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5 Tips for using prepaid cards

If you are not interested in borrowing money using traditional credit cards, prepaid cards offer you a functional alternative. You don’t go into debt and you don’t owe anything. You are spending your own money that has simply been transferred to the card. Take some time to compare prepaid credit cards to ensure you get the best card, for the best price. Once you have the card in hand, here are five tips for using it efficiently.
Protect Your Card and Your Pin Number
Just like a regular credit card, you want to keep track of your prepaid credit card. If it were stolen or lost, another person could potentially use it to make purchases. Having your pin number would make it even more convenient for someone to take advantage.
Keep your card in a safe place. After you set up your pin number, do not tell anyone what it is. This should be a group of four numbers known only to you. Do not write it anywhere on the card.
As you compare prepaid cards, look into which companies offer you some form of protection for your card. If it is lost or stolen, some companies will allow you to cancel the card. If you had a remaining balance, it can be transferred to another card. There is typically a fee associated with a new card and a transfer.
Keep Track of Your Balance
Unlike a regular credit card, you need to keep track of your balance at all times. Some people choose to keep a ledger (often used for check books) to keep track of the amount you’ve spent and the amount you have left.
If you are at the store and need to pay for something that is $10 but only have $5 on the account, the purchase will not go through. However, if you know that you only have $5, you can ask the cashier to split up the payments, charging your prepaid credit card $5 and paying the rest with cash or another card.
Be Aware of the Fees
As you compare prepaid credit cards, pay attention to the fees that companies charge. Some cards are free to purchase as well as the first time you loan money on to it. Others charge a fee just to purchase the card.
There could be monthly charges or non-use charges. When you add money to the card, you may be required to pay a percentage to the prepaid credit card company. It is worth shopping around to find a card that will work best for you and your budget.


Set Up an Automatic Money Transfer

If you never want to run out of money on your card, set up an automatic transfer each week, each month, or even twice a year. The money can be transferred from your checking or savings account at the bank. You can add money only when you need it, but the regular deposits help you establish a routine. It also prevents you from being stuck in an awkward situation, with less cash than you thought you had.
Other Uses for a Prepaid Card
As you compare prepaid cards, you may find that this is a great way to utilize and keep track of your money without running the risk of going into debt. Take your prepaid card on vacation to ensure that you don’t overspend.
Give a prepaid card to the teenager in your family. This is a good way to teach them a lesson about money, spending and credit. There are plenty of uses for your prepaid credit card.

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What you need to get a loan

Securing any type of loan requires making some advance preparation. In most cases, this means providing information that is requested by the lender and generally proving that you do represent a reasonable risk to that lender. While the requirements for different types of offline and online loans will vary, there are a few basic things you need to do in order to increase your chances of meeting lender criteria and having your loan application approved.

Proof of Identity

Most lenders of traditional and online loans will not loan money to individuals if those applicants cannot provide some sort of proof of their identity. This means you must have a valid government issued identification of some type. Even something as simple as a driver’s license will be sufficient.

Proof of Residence

Many lenders require that you be able to prove that you do in fact live where you say you live. This can often be verified by providing the lender with a copy of a recent utility bill or the contact information for a landlord. Having a verifiable residence is an indication of stability, something that lenders tend to desire when it comes to lending anyone money.

Proof of Income

Demonstrating that you have the ability to repay the loan is extremely important. To that end, providing verification of employment or documentation that confirms other streams of income will be part of the application process. Provide legal documents such as employment check stubs, child support payments, dividend payments or any other documentation that proves you have consistent income that can be used to repay your debt. Even short-term lending arrangements, such as payday and similar types of online loans, will require verification of income before the loans can be approved.

Credit Ratings and Scores

Lenders not only want to make sure you have enough money coming in to honor your debt, but that you are up to date on your current obligations. For this reason, lenders will often order credit reports from at least two of the major credit reporting agencies. A great deal of attention will be given not only to your credit score but also any positive and negative feedback that current and former creditors have submitted to the agencies. For this reason, it’s a good idea for the applicant to order copies of his or her reports ahead of time and go over them carefully. If any data on the reports is outdated or incorrect, steps should be taken to update the reports before applying for any loan.

With so many loan options today, it is sometimes confusing to know exactly how to prepare before submitting a loan application. Check with lenders in advance, since most will provide a breakdown of the information required as well as any supporting documentation. Taking the time to assemble the right data in advance means there are no delays in considering the merits of your application and receiving an answer. Assuming you do meet all the lender’s criteria, the application will be approved and the borrower can begin to use the proceeds from the loan for the intended purpose.

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Business is changing, are you keeping up?

I have not spit any business advice in quite a while, but I received some input this weekend that hit me as extremely simple, relevant, insightful and valuable.

I have a friend who is a Six Sigma, black belt Ninja :) for a fortune 300 company here in Michigan.  My understanding is that his job is to dive deep into many different areas of the company, seek to understand, and then to offer insights and perspectives to improve those areas if he can.

When I asked him to give an overview of his process for trying to express an opinion, and improve upon, areas of a company that he may not fully understand…his answer struck me…

“I JUST LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING THE WORK.”

He went on to explain that he has observed over the past 10 years that management can no longer take a top down approach to leading their employees.  Today’s workers are educated and informed, and the best way to lead them is to simply ask them “What can we do, to help you do what you do, even better?”

By asking questions like this and others, and by genuinely trying to inspire and serve the workers he is tasked to help improve, he earns their respect and trust…and can get things done!  In contrast, he believes he would be a complete failure if he simply observed an area, made notes, and then told these folks what HE thought they needed to DO.  That is the management style of the past, that just doesn’t work here anymore!

Anyways, it was a great conversation, and I could go on for an hour.  The bottom line is this…The only thing that is truly required of anyone in a leadership position, in business today, is to serve those you work with!

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Is “Enjoy The City” Fundraising Program a Scam?

So I’m afraid I may have been scammed again, and this time by a fundraising organization.

ENJOY THE CITY http://www.enjoythecity.com is a Fundraising company that allows you group or organization to sell fundraising books to earn money for whatever it is you are raising money for.

For Example, a group at my church was selling these coupon books for $20, and I believe that the church group gets to keep 50% of that money, or $10.00.

Initially, these books with hundreds of restaurant and other coupons seems like a great deal…mostly because they have several pizza restaurants involved that actually offer you a coupon for a FREE pizza is you meet the manager.

For Example, Today I drove 40 minutes to Happy’s Pizza at 6045 S. Cedar St. in Lansing, MI to use my “Enjoy the City” coupon the says the following “MEET THE MANAGER SPECIAL:  ENJOY ONE FREE LARGE TWO-TOPPING PIZZA”  No purchase necessary, carry out only!  Valid through December 31 2012. I was VERY excited to use this coupon to try a new pizza place, and truly, these types of coupons was EXACTLY why I bought the coupon book in the first place.

When I go to use the coupon, the girl at Happy’s Pizza tells me the following, “We are not accepting these coupons!  This is fraud, and we never signed up for this program.  We feel terrible, and have upset a lot of potential customers.”  I was very upset, and she told me the following…”The coupon book companies phone number is 1.866.359.2489, you can call them to complain.”

I, of course, try to call ENJOY THE CITY to ask for my $20 back…but as you can expect, no one at the company will answer the phone.  My only option was to leave a message…we will see how that goes.

This seems a little bit like my Restaurant.com problem!

Has anyone else had a problem with the  ENJOY THE CITY Fundraising program?  Let me know!

Thanks,   -TAM

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Best Rewards Credit Card

Recently, as I’ve been surfing the Internet, reading financial blogs and yahoo finance forums, I’ve started to notice an interesting credit card trend.

The major banks are getting REALLY aggressive with their credit card rewards programs.  It seems like I’m seeing an ad on ever site I visit tempting me to open up a new credit card account with Chase or Citibank…and their are offering me 50,000 Bonus Points, and more, if I take the plunge.

This is a pretty amazing deal!  These bonus points are very easily turned into cash or gift cards at almost any major retailer or restaurant.  The catch is that generally you have to spend around $3000 on the card, in the first 3 months that your new account is open, t0 get the bonus rewards.

In addition to the bonus, you still get the normal 1%, or somethings 2%, rebates on all of your purchases.  The free stuff can add up fast if you are a big spender and if you pay off your card in full each month.

Conclusion:  The best offer that I’ve found at this point is from Citibank.  Check out http://www.citi.com/rewards

Remember, USE CREDIT CARDS WISELY!  If you buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need, or carry a balance and pay interest, you will never get ahead…and you could be stuck being an “Almost Millionaire” forever :)

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Top Tips for Sticking to a Family Budget

If you’re trying to save or clear old debts as a family, then you may have recently decided to keep your spending within the limits of a budget. However, this is often easier said than done, and making financial sacrifices can by tricky. Here are a few tips which may help you to stick within the limits of the budget which you have set.

Firstly, it is important to make sure that you are clear about your budgeting goals. How much are you aiming to save each month, and where will the remainder be spent? After all, even if you’ve got a great credit card deal from somewhere like lovemoney.com, you will still need to prioritize your outstanding payments above the money which you might otherwise allocate to various leisure activities. Rather than being vague and simply suggesting that you ‘budget’ in order to ’save’, you are far more likely to achieve your aims if you set specific goals and limitations on your overall spending.

Another good way to stick to your budget is to try and use cash wherever possible. Paying by card can sometimes be much too easy, and you are more liable to forget that the money which comes out of your account can be eating into your budget. By handing over physical cash, you will be automatically more aware of exactly how much money is changing hands each time you make a purchase.

Rather than just wandering around various stores when you are picking up your family’s groceries, make a list of what you actually need while you’re at home, and then stick to it. It is also a good idea to hang on to your receipts, so that you can keep a record of exactly how much of your budget has been spent, and where.

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Update on Post…Is Quicken Loans a Scam?

On May 15, 2009, I asked my readers a question…

Is Quicken Loans a Scam?

I had had a relatively good experience with a mortgage refinance with Quicken, and had suggested Quicken to a friend, but my friend felt like Quicken Loans scammed him out of $750.00.

As of today’s date, this question about Quicken Loans has lead to over 110 comments…and most of them are truly worth taking the time to read.  Many of my readers have left rather lengthy accounts, and sadly, many feel they were duped by “mortgage experts” at quicken loans.

I give you this update because this morning I found This Quicken Loans Article online and it made me sad for my readers who have complained.  I don’t know anything more about this West Virginia fraud case, but my suggestion is to do your research before giving Quicken Loans, or any mortgage company, any upfront deposit money.

Again, I personally had a very good refinancing experience with Quicken here in Michigan in 2009, but there is quite a bit of feedback here that stopped me from using them a second time, when I refinanced again this week.

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