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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 13:29

It’s Free Money Friday! TD Bank is offering you a bonus of $200 for their TD Easy Rewards credit card.

However, as you’ll see below, it looks like it may only work for our East Coast readers.

If you do qualify, it could be a good replacement for the Wells Fargo 5% Cash Back Credit Card.

How to Get Your $200 Sign Up Bonus

  1. Open a new TD Easy Rewards card.
  2. Spend $500 within 90 days after account opening.
  3. Earn 20,000 bonus points, credited to your statement in 6 to 8 weeks.
  4. The points can then be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Terms and Conditions

  • No annual fee.
  • Unlimited rewards – no point caps, points do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • Easy redemption – no blackout dates, restrictions or fees.
  • This offer only applies to new TD Easy Rewards Credit Card accounts during the promotional period and is non-transferable.

More on TD Bank

Earning Points. Earn 5x rewards points on eligible purchases with your TD Visa credit card, including dining, groceries, gas and cable, phone and utility bill payments for the first 6 billing statements after account opening. Then earn 1 point for every $1 spent.

Redeeming Points. You can redeem your points for cash back, electronics, gift cards, or travel rewards.

Intro APR. 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 billing statements after account opening.

East Coast Only? When I tried to apply, since I wasn’t a current TD Bank customer I was instructed to visit a TD Bank location near me to apply. But there are none, since it looks like their “thousands of convenient locations” are located along the East Coast. No good for me, but hopefully it will be a great offer for our East Coast readers!

Sign Up for TD

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Credit Cards"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 13:29

This month our favorite finance discussion topics were budget friendly cooking, purchases that keep costing your money, the Santander repeating bonus, becoming a billionaire, cutting your losses on Amazon, and things your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover. If you missed the most popular finance tips this month, here’s a quick overview:

This Month’s Most Popular Tips: August

How to Become a Billionaire. Don admits that from the start the odds are against you becoming a billionaire. But it’s a fun discussion anyways!

3 Basic Rules to Be a Budget Friendly Cook. Kristen points out that cooking at home isn’t everything. You need to know how to shop and how to cook in the most efficient way too.

4 Purchases That Cost You More Than You Think. Guess what they are before you click!

How to Cut Your Losses Selling on Amazon. Do you sell on Amazon? If so, it’s important to manage your losses, not just your profits!

Santander $20/Month Bonus. It’s a popular free money offer; I bet it’s because it repeats every month once it is set up!

5 Surprising Things Your Homeowner’s Insurance Won’t Cover. Does your insurance policy cover earthquakes? Do you know?

More Popular August Articles

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "popular"
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Date: Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 13:29

If you pay any attention to business news, you will no doubt hear stories on how so-and-so company is implementing a stock buyback program or how they are increasing the amount of their current stock buyback program. The question is, what the heck is a stock buyback program and as an investor, should you care? Is this good for you or bad for you?

stock buyback

What is a Stock Buyback?

Before we get into the advantages and disadvantages of stock buybacks, we need to talk about and understand what a stock buyback is in the first place. A stock buyback is when a company goes out and buys back and retires shares of its own stock.

A little background on this: when a company goes public, it issues a set amount of shares, say 10 million. The money earned from issuing these 10 million shares goes to the company, which they then use to fund growth of the business – buy plants, equipment, etc. Once those 10 million shares hit the open market, the company never sees another dime when they are traded. Now the two parties involved are you and I when we buy and sell to one another through our brokers.

Along the way, if the company needs more money, they can issue new stock. The same logic above applies here, when the shares hit the open market for the first time, the company reaps the reward.

A stock buyback is simply this in reverse. Instead of issuing more new stock, the company buys back or retires stock. So, if the company above that issued 10 million shares issues a 5 million share stock buyback, there will be 5 million shares outstanding when the program is complete.

Why Conduct a Stock Buyback?

There are a few reasons why a company would complete a stock buyback. The first is to own a larger percent of the company. Taking the 10 million shares example above, the company would not issue all 10 million shares to the public. This is because a share of stock represents ownership in the company. The company wants to maintain control and decision-making power so they will only allow 49% or less of those 10 million shares to go public. So, by issuing a stock buyback, the company could increase its ownership from say 55% to 60%.

Another reason why a company issues a stock buyback is to stop others from gaining control of the company. This is essentially the same idea as above. If the company sees a rogue investor buying up shares and increasing ownership stake in the company, that investor may try to do a “hostile takeover” of the company. By increasing the amount of shares the company owns, they can avoid this.

How Does a Stock Buyback Benefit You?

The main way a stock buyback benefits you is by increasing your ownership in the company. Let’s say you own 1,000 shares and there are 10 million shares outstanding. You own 0.01% of the company. But, if they conduct a stock buyback program and end up with 5 million shares, your ownership went up to 0.02% without buying any more shares.

Another benefit to a stock buyback is that by having fewer shares outstanding, the ratios that the company is measured by improve. This gives the illusion to new investors that the stock price of the company is a good value and those investors buy into the stock. The buying pushes up the price of the stock and thus makes shareholders more money.

What are the Downsides of Stock Buybacks?

There are two potential downsides to stock buyback programs. The first is potential growth. When a company decides to buyback its own shares, it does so with cash. This cash could be used to reinvest in the firm in order to buy new equipment, expand operations, buy a new plant, etc. In order to conduct a stock buyback, the company has to forego the reinvesting of cash. Of course, many companies do highly detailed analyses on this and can make a strong case as to why a stock buyback is a better use of money than reinvesting back into the company.

The second potential downside of stock buybacks is when management conducts a stock buyback for all of the wrong reasons. Instead of doing so to improve financial ratios and increase shareholder value, the company will conduct a stock buyback in order to give more compensation to executives. In this scenario, the company will issue a stock buyback program, but instead of retiring the shares, the shares will be granted to top executives which provides them with higher compensation. Understand though this practice is not very common.

Final Thoughts

Overall, a stock buyback program is a good thing for investors. They increase your percentage of ownership in a company and they also encourage other investors to buy shares, which in turn drives up stock prices. This results in more value for you as a shareholder. As of today, over 400 of the 500 companies in the S&P 500 are or have conducted a stock buyback program recently. As stock prices continue to rise, the question becomes how many of these firms will continue to buy back their own shares, since it costs them more money to do so as stock prices increase.

More on Investing

Author: "Don" Tags: "Investing, Retirement, stocks"
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 13:29

College is an exciting time, but it can be hectic. Between classes, working, and spending time with friends, you may just miss out on great opportunities that are only available to you while you’re in school. Here are ten not to miss:

College_Sean MacEntee

Photo by: Sean MacEntee

Free Things for College Students

  1. Career Center:
    From the moment you step on campus, you should be visiting the career center if available to you. From the start, they can help you start building a portfolio or guide you towards actions you should be taking now to help find a job after graduation. They can recommend courses to take, skills you may need based on your intended profession, and other tips like pursuing volunteering or a certain extracurricular activity to make you more marketable upon graduation. Some centers may offer career guidance and help you choose the right career path if you’re unsure and explore possible majors and career options. And once it comes time to start that job search after graduation, college career centers can offer assistance with writing a resume, interviewing, share valuable advice, host job fairs, and even help you set up interviews and find jobs.
  2. Student Discounts:
    Simply showing your student ID card can get you reduced admission to movie theatres, museums, dining places, amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, other ticketed events, and many other places. You can also score discounts at bars, restaurants, and local businesses around your school including salons, car shops, and more. Being a student also means you’ll probably qualify for a reduced membership to professional organizations that can offer you access to networking opportunities, a variety of events, professional journals, scholarship opportunities, and an added credential on your resume. Even retail stores offer discounts just for students like Apple and J. Crew.
  3. Health Center:
    An on-campus health clinic can offer affordable medical treatment, various screenings, and even reduced prescriptions. Health centers may also offer free or reduced vaccinations, health talks, free or reduced contraceptives, or free medical advice.
  4. Free Entertainment:
    Theatres, concerts, book signings, and dance performances are just a few of the entertaining events you can find at your school. Throw on your school gear, and check out various sporting events. Chances are there are also speakers, presentations, art exhibits, and all types of different events sponsored by clubs and the college. Each department may offer its own type of entertainment – the fashion department can offer shows and demonstrations, a culinary arts major may offer cooking demonstrations, and a broadcast journalism department can offer a free news show or newspapers. Check out any community boards where items may be posted. You can also check out your school’s event calendar to see what is going on and when.
  5. Teachers:
    Teachers have a lot more to offer than just the ability to lecture their class and to pass or fail you. They can offer you advice on what courses you should take and your future career. They can help you get the most out of the class and your education by recommending certain experiences, recommended reading, or more. If you have a good relationship with them, they can write you a letter of recommendation, and it can even lead to future networking, internship, and career opportunities. Your teacher is a great person to recommend a tutor if you’re struggling with a subject as well.
  6. Free Food:
    There is always something going on around campus that offers free food or drink for students. Events and meetings sponsored by clubs or organizations generally offer snacks since they are trying to tempt hungry college students to attend. If you live in the dorms, many times there are sponsored events where food is included. To find out more about club meetings, stop by any student activities office or browse through the school’s paper.
  7. Athletic Center:
    Many colleges offer a gym or recreation center that has workout equipment, courts to play team sports, and can even offer different exercise classes. Some of these facilities offer free sports teams, host competitions of a variety of sporting events, have health and nutrition talks, and more. If your college gym hires students majoring in health related fields, it may a good place to get tips on how to work out properly or other great advice.
  8. Services for Students:
    The types of services vary in each college, but you can find care for your children while you’re in class, free bus services around campus, and free counseling for you and your family. One common service at most schools is having access to computer labs on campus. Instead of buying a computer and paying for internet use every month, use these computers instead. If your college campus is in a city or somewhere near public transportation, you may get a reduced rate on a bus pass.
  9. The Library:
    Instead of spending way too much on buying all of your textbooks, check to see if they are available at the library first. Besides thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers, your library has access to medical, law, and other databases that you usually would have to pay for. You may also be able to borrow movies at no cost. Just like other departments, the library may host book signings, speakers, or other entertainment.
  10. Finance Office:
    They aren’t just there to drain your wallet. Schedule an appointment with a finance advisor. The student finance department at your school can help you find grants, search for scholarships, find the best payment options for you, and help you understand your student loans. It’s a great resource for asking tips for lowering costs and reducing debt. They can also offer valuable information on filling out taxes and help you find on campus employment. Some college finance departments may offer presentations and programs on budgeting, saving money, and other financial topics.

What are some other services, places, and things to take advantage of while you are a college student? What are some restaurants, stores, or other places that offer discounts for students?

More Ways to Save for College Students

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "College Savings, save money in college, ..."
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 13:29

Most of us sit down sometime around the new year, organize our finances, and create a budget for the upcoming year. We plan out our expenses and how much we want to save. Then, many of us either put the budget aside and never look at it again, or we follow along, exactly as planned. No matter which camp you fall into, I am here to tell you that it is important for you to take a mid-year review of your finances. You don’t need to take a magnifying glass to each and every category, but rather take an hour or so to look things over. Here are some of the things you should be focusing on.

financial review

Mid-Year Financial Review Checklist

  1. Expenses
    It’s always important to keep an eye on your expenses. Now is a great time to look back over at what you had planned for the year and what has actually occurred. Are there some areas where you are overspending that you can cut back? Maybe there are some areas where you budgeted more than you actually needed.

    In both cases, it is important to know these things. If you aren’t spending as much as you thought, then you can adjust the amount you are saving or investing each month. After all, there is no point in leaving the money in a checking account. That is just tempting you to spend it.

    If you are spending more than you planned, it’s time to look at why and make the necessary adjustments. This could mean allocating more to the category in your budget or maybe simply cutting back.

    One additional step to cut back on expenses is to look at your bills – cable, internet, insurance, cell phone, etc. and see if there is a way to lower them. You don’t have to spend an entire weekend on this, just make a call to your service provider and see if there is any way they can lower your monthly bill. You’d be surprised to find it’s that easy to save $5 or $10 a month.

  2. Income
    We all love to have income. This too is an important area to look over. Are you earning more than you thought? Maybe you are earning less due to a layoff or career change. On the surface it might not seem like a huge deal if you are earning slightly less or slightly more than you planned, but it can have big consequences.

    If you are earning less, maybe you now qualify to save for retirement in a Roth IRA. If you are earning more, maybe you can bump up how much you are putting away in your 401k plan or are saving in general. Or maybe you can put more towards any debt you are still paying off. You might see some additional money if you have crossed the Social Security wage base.

    In the case where you are making significantly less than you planned, maybe it is time to look into getting another job or even turning some hobbies into income streams. If you do, be sure to review how to calculate self employment taxes.

  3. Investments
    Mid-year is a great time to review your portfolio as well. Look back at your investment plan to see what your intended allocation should be and where you stand. If you haven’t rebalanced lately, chances are your holdings are out of alignment. I typically rebalance when my holding vary from my plan by 5% or more. Take the 15 minutes to see if you are in line with your plan.

    Again, it might not seem like a big deal, but if you are too heavy in stocks, you are taking on more risk than you are comfortable with. If you have too much money in bonds, you risk not earning the high return you need so that you have enough money for retirement.

  4. Taxes
    Dreaded taxes. No one likes to pay them. But again, it is important you look over things in this area as well. Depending on your income, you might be withholding too much or not enough. While it isn’t the end of the world if you are withholding too much, withholding too little could mean a large tax bill in the new year. I don’t know about you, but having to pay into the system by writing a check in April always hurts. Make it a point to review your taxes so you don’t have any unwanted surprises.

    One other thing with taxes to consider is any life changing event. Have you gotten married or will be getting married later this year? Have you had a child or will be having a child? These events will impact your taxes so it is important to take the steps now while you still have time.

    My wife and I got married last November. In the summer we met with our accountant and found out that we were going to owe a lot in taxes last year because we would be filing a joint return. We made it a point to start taking every tax deduction we could – maxing out 401k plans, maxing out health savings accounts, and adjusting our withholdings. While we still ended up having to pay in April, it was a lot less than we would have if we weren’t proactive about it.

    With that said, taxes don’t stop there. You can work on getting some of your tax documents in order so that in the new year, it is one less thing you need to do. Create a folder and place your property and school tax stubs in the folder so you have them. If you have donated anything so far this year, be sure to place the receipts in the folder or at least write down what you’ve donated on a piece of paper so that you don’t forget about it and pay more taxes than you should. Also, keep any documentation needed for the new health insurance premium tax credit.

Final Thoughts

Creating a budget at the start of the year is a smart move to make if you plan on taking control of your finances. But it is equally important to review and adjust your budget as the months go by. We all know that life happens. As a result, we spend more in certain areas and less in others. By constantly reviewing your budget, you are able to see where you are overspending or under spending and make the needed adjustments. This could mean allocating more to certain areas or boosting your savings. Either way, an up to date budget ensures that you are doing everything you can to be financially successful.

More Mid Year Tasks from Years Past

Written by Don

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Don" Tags: "Savings, budget, finances, spending, Tax..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Aug 2014 13:29

US Bank is rolling out a new card, the U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Select Rewards card.

The card features a 10,000 bonus point sign up bonus; it’s our Free Money Friday offer this week!

How to Get Your Sign Up Bonus

  1. Open a new U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Select Rewards card.
  2. Spend $500 during the first 90 days.
  3. Get 10,000 bonus points.

Terms and Conditions

  • No annual fee.
  • You are eligible to receive one-time bonus Points for each new U.S. Bank Business Edge Select Rewards account type.
  • Unlimited points with no caps.

More on US Bank Edge

You Pick the Points Category. You will earn 3 points per dollar in one category of your choice: Day-to-Day Expenses, Automobile or Travel & Entertainment. (All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.) Here’s what is included in each category:

  • Day-to-Day Expenses: shipping, advertising, utilities, office supplies, telecom and professional services.
  • Automotive: gas, service, tires, tolls, dealerships, car washes and repair.
  • Travel and Entertainment: airlines, auto rental, hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

Redeeming Points. You can redeem your points for gift cards, statement credits, merchandise or travel.

0% Intro Rate. There is a 0% intro rate on purchases for 9 billing cycles.

Sign Up for US Bank Edge

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Credit Cards"
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Date: Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 13:29

I’ll be the first to admit that I made some mistakes when it came to student loans throughout college. Student loans are beneficial in that they allow people to get an education and a degree. But if used incorrectly, they can be a huge drain on your finances. Here are some common mistakes you might make when it comes to student loans.

By: Occupy Posters

Photo Credit: Occupy Posters

Student Loan Mistakes

  1. You don’t think you qualify for financial aid.
    So many college students don’t even bother applying for financial aid because they don’t think they can qualify, but that is a huge mistake. You are passing up the opportunity to see if you qualify for grants, which is free money for college that you do not have to pay back. Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, you can qualify for federal loans as opposed to private student loans which come at a lower interest rate. You’ll also find out if you qualify for work study, which is an opportunity to work on your college’s campus to earn money.
  2. You forget or miss the deadline for the FAFSA.
    To find out if you qualify for this financial aid, you must fill out the free FAFSA. You’ll need information about your income and possibly your parent’s income as well as assets. There is a deadline to filling out this information, and it needs to be done either every year or semester, depending on your college. The sooner you fill out the FAFSA, the better because once this financial assistance is used up, it’s gone.
  3. You have the “borrow now, earn later” mentality.
    In my opinion, a lot of the problems with student loans come from the idea that you can borrow as much as you want because in just a few years you’ll be earning a steady, good salary and pay it back with ease. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. A lot of recent graduates struggle to find a job once they graduate, or even when they do, it’s not the salary they expected. Plus, even if you do land a job, shelling out a good portion of your hard earned income stings every month. Be conscious of the money you are borrowing, and do everything possible to reduce what you will owe.
  4. You take out more loans than needed.
    Going along with that same borrow now, earn later thought, many college students take out extra loans. Hey, what’s an extra few thousand each semester to be able to live in a nicer apartment, buy some new clothes, take a vacation, or simply have more fun with friends? I get it, but it’s not a good idea. Those extra loans add up quickly, and you’re paying interest on them. Once you’re done with school, working, and trying to pay off those loans, you’ll realize those extra loans weren’t worth it.
  5. You take more classes than you need.
    Depending on where you’re headed to college, one single class can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Taking classes you don’t need to graduate, is a horrible financial mistake. This is a common occurrence when people change their major. It’s tricky because you aren’t just going to stick with something you realize isn’t a good fit for you. To avoid this, really think about your major before you start taking classes for it. Sit in on classes, meet with advisors, talk with professors, shadow people in your field, and do plenty of research on the job outlook, what the job entails, and other working conditions including salary. This way, you aren’t making a rushed decision on a major. Another reason why people take classes they don’t need, is they aren’t quite sure and take something on accident. Requirements for colleges are constantly changing, so it’s a good idea to meet with an advisor in your major’s department every semester to figure out what you should be taking.
  6. You don’t apply for scholarships.
    Scholarships are free money used to apply towards your college education. Many people don’t think they’ll qualify for any scholarships or simply don’t want to take the time to apply. But you never know if you can qualify for a scholarship. You can find scholarships offered through your college, city, state, private organizations, community groups, professional organizations, and much more. Ask your college’s student finance service department on what scholarships your school offers and advice on where to find more.
  7. You don’t stick to a budget.
    Just because you’re in college, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to stick to a budget. Know where your money is going. You might be shocked to learn what you’re spending on coffees or grabbing a quick bite with friends. Go back over the last three months to see what you spent on food, gas and transportation, entertainment and going out with friends, and all of your other bills, like cable, electric, and rent. See what the average cost was. It might be more than you anticipated. Try to find ways to cut all of those costs down. Make an amount that you’re comfortable spending and stick to it by keeping track of your spending and finding ways to cut costs.
  8. You don’t really understand how the student loans work.
    That saying ignorance is bliss is somewhat applicable to student loans, at least while you’re still in school. It may sound irresponsible, but it’s pretty common for people just to blindly take out the loans, not realizing what they’re paying in interest and what they will actually owe once they get out of school. Even if it’s difficult to accept, really understand what you’re borrowing, the interest, and what the payments will be when you graduate.
  9. You drop classes.
    Two weeks into the semester and you realize you don’t like your professor, you’re having issues in your personal life, or you don’t like the class. Things happen, but once you drop a class, you’re still paying for it if it passed the deadline to which you can drop it without a fee. Before you register, be sure you know the specific date and time when you can drop a class without any fees or penalties.

Why do you think student loans are such a huge problem? What can students and parents do to avoid piling up student loan debt?

More on Student Loans

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "College Savings"
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 13:29

We featured How to Find Class Action Settlements That Owe You Money last week to help you find current settlements you might be eligible for. I’ve had some luck with class action lawsuits in the past. As each post-card sized, class action plea comes in the mail, I fill it out and send it in. Then, I forget about it. Because let’s face it, how often does this sort of thing pan out?

Some class actions I’ve seen look pretty bogus, while others have had some huge impacts (such as the class action lawsuit brought by lots of merchants against some of the biggest credit card companies regarding credit card swipe fees).

Money I’ve Received

2011 was a great year for me as far as class action lawsuits are concerned. I filled out several, and received the following in return:

  • $103.82 from H&R Block Inc.: In my early 20s I did not understand taxes too well. So even though I only had a basic tax return at that point, I went into the local H&R Block to get my taxes done. The woman suggested to me that if I were to open a traditional IRA for $2500 I would get back roughly $825. So I opened an Express IRA with them, my first retirement account ever! Since then I’ve learned much more about finances, retirement, and taxes, so I converted it many years ago to a Roth IRA, paid back the taxes, and moved it over to Vanguard. However, I received a check for almost the cost of having my taxes done because of this lawsuit, which alleged that H&R Block promoted and sold Express IRAs to its tax preparation customers as a good way to save money and earn interest, but the low rate of interest paid on Express IRAs and the various fees charged on the accounts meant customers often lost money on their investments.
  • $10 from LifeLock: I was one of the millions of consumers who received a refund from LifeLock due to a class action lawsuit settled between them, the FTC, and 34 states. In this lawsuit it was alleged that the company used misleading advertising practices. While LifeLock guaranteed complete identity protection (do you remember those commercials where their CEO plastered his social security number across a city to indicate how trusting he was with the company?), when in fact it was found that the fraud alerts that LifeLock placed on customers’ credit files protected only against certain forms of identity theft.

Is a Class Action Lawsuit Settlement Taxable?

According to the IRS, “An award is generally taxable, unless it is specifically excluded from income by law or constitutes a return of capital.” Whether or not your class action lawsuit money is taxable depends upon the nature of the lawsuit and of several other factors.

For example, settlements paid out to shareholders are generally not taxable because they usually represent a return of your after-tax capital lost from some sort of share mismanagement. Settlements that are restitution for damages from physical injury that the payer caused are not taxed either.

However, if the taxpayer used the cost of medical treatment as a deduction in a previous tax year, then the money is taxable. If the injury was emotional in nature, then it had to have caused a physical injury in order for the money to not be taxable.

A settlement that involves a return of premiums paid for coverage is not taxable. This is considered a reimbursement or restitution. However, money received from punitive damages (damages issued in order to deter the party from engaging in the activity in the future that was the basis for the lawsuit) are taxable.

How Much is Taxable?

Another indicator that your class action settlement money is taxable is whether or not you receive a tax form at the end of the year. You should receive a 1099 at the end of the tax year. If you receive a 1099 MISC, then that means the entire amount, some of which can be for nontaxable damages, has been lumped together. If you received a 1099 INT, then the payer has only reported to the IRS what they think is a taxable payment to you.

Remember that the amount of taxes you ultimately pay depends on your tax bracket, tax deductions, and tax credits.

Class Action Lawsuits

As you can see from above, receiving money from a class action lawsuit can actually happen. It’s happened to me!

Have you received money from a class action lawsuit?

More Tax Questions

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Tax Tips"
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 13:29

Whether you or your child is headed to college for the first time this Fall or you’re going back for another semester, you know it’s going to be costly. It doesn’t have to be hard to save money in college. Here are some simple tips to save on your college checklist:

School_Rupert Ganzer

Photo Credit: Rupert Ganzer

Dorm and Apartment

  • Find out what’s already provided. Sometimes dorm rooms already come with a fridge, freezer, and microwave. Find out what already comes with the dorm so you know what you’ll need to bring and what you can save on not buying. Besides in the actual dorm room, check to see if there is an area, like the kitchen, that gives you access to a toaster, microwave, hot plate, and so on.
  • Use what you already have. After you make your college living checklist, take inventory of what you already have. You don’t have to buy items brand new. Don’t forget to scour the garage, attic, and closets to find items you may be able to use.
  • Coordinate with your roommate or roommates. If you’re sharing a dorm or apartment with someone, be sure to communicate with them on what they’re bringing. Share items you can bring, and see what they can offer.
  • Ask your family and friends. Let your family and friends know what you are on the hunt for including furniture, kitchen gadgets, or whatever else you need. You never know what people have on hand that they’d love to give their college bound friend.
  • Shop for used furniture. Head out to thrift stores, second hand stores, flea markets, garage sales, and yard sales to see what you can score on used furniture. Always be sure to inspect and thoroughly wash items to prevent mold, bed bugs, or any other types of critters or bacteria that could be on used furniture.
  • Shop at the dollar store. The dollar store is a great place to stock up on glasses, plates, silverware, and even microwavable dishes. You’ll also find items to do a little cheap decorating such as artificial flowers, picture frames, vases, decorate dish towels, and more. You never know what you’ll find.


  • Take inventory of what you already have. Before you head out to buy a new wardrobe, use as much of what you already have first. Instead of buying new items, try and pair items you already have for a new outfit or accessories differently.
  • Be practical. If you are going to buy something, be sure it is something that you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of. A jacket to keep you warm while walking to your classes, durable and comfortable shoes for walking, and jeans you can wear to class and out with friends would be a good example of more practical options.

Textbooks and Supplies

  • Find out what you actually need and what you already have. If you’re going away to college, you may automatically think you need to buy a new laptop or printer. But actually, many colleges offer 24 hour computer labs so you would have free access to a computer, internet access, a printer, and ink. Before you purchase the book on the syllabus, reach out to your instructor or professor to see if it is required or if it is just suggested reading. You can also ask if there is any way to make a copy of the pages that are required.
  • Borrow supplies instead of buying. As I mentioned in my article on saving money on textbooks, before you run out and pay for your textbooks (or other supplies) try to borrow them from your college’s or local library instead.
  • Shop second hand. For books, hit the used section first in your college bookstore. You can also find used books online at Amazon.com or Ebay. Used book stores may have the book you need as well.
  • Keep supplies in good shape. Try to keep your books and supplies in the best possible shape. Limit highlighting, notes in the book, underlining, and wear and tear. This way, if you do not have a need for them after the class you’re taking, you can sell them back to your book store or online.

General Tips

  • Create a budget. Just like with everything else, you should create a budget when you’re gearing up to head off to college for all of the items you want to purchase. Calculate how much you can afford to spend on getting settled and all of your gear. Then you can allot how much you want to spend on each item. You may need to do some juggling to make the figures work, but this way you aren’t spending more than you are intending to spend. Keep track of how much items cost and how much you are spending to not go over budget.
  • Find the deals. Whether it is furniture, books, or clothing, shop the deals. Follow stores on Facebook and Twitter to find out about promotions, sales, and coupons. Sign up for their e-mail list for deals and coupons. Call the stores to find out when specific items will go on sale. Always keep your receipt in case you find a better price elsewhere or something you like even more.
  • Shop through Upromise. If you’re doing any shopping online, sign up for Upromise to earn money towards college. You create an account that can link to your Sallie Mae student loans or a college savings plan. You earn money by using the links on their website while you’re shopping. You can also get a discount by shopping with your Upromise account as well. Completely free to sign up, you can register your credit cards, debit cards, and store loyalty cards to earn money as well. In addition, you can ask your parents, family, and friends to sign up as well or at least shop through your link.

What money saving tips do you have for those shopping to head off to college? How do you save money in college? What’s your best money advice for college students?

More Ways to Save for College Students

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "College Savings, college, student loans,..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 13:29

If you’ve read my article on 10 TV shows to watch to save money, you might have jumped on board with watching Extreme Couponing. The show is based on coupon lovers who don’t just save a few bucks, but they save hundreds with coupons.

Even if you aren’t interested in going to the extreme, here are a few things you can learn from the show.


Photo Credit: sdc2027

What to Learn from Extreme Couponers

  1. Stock up on basics. Unfortunately, you’ll notice on the show (and in real life) that there aren’t always a ton of coupons for fresh meat and fresh vegetables and fruits. Plus, unless you’re freezing items, you can’t stock up too much on these items that go bad quickly. However, you can stock up on basics and foundations for a meal. Load up on broths and stocks for a quick soup, gravy, or to enhance a dish. You can stock up on pastas, canned vegetables, seasonings that don’t go bad too quickly, rice, beans, and more. This way you can easily add fresh vegetables and meats to make a meal.
  2. Stock up on toiletries and cleaning supplies. If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll notice that many of the couponers have an excess of toiletries and cleaning supplies. This makes perfect sense since these items aren’t going to expire for a long time and possibly ever. When you notice these items are on sale, you have a great coupon, or better yet both, stock up on body soap, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, hair products, cleaning supplies, and whatever else you’ll use.
  3. Label expiration dates. Since they are buying a large amount of items at the same time, many couponers label each item so they can keep better track of expiration dates. Depending on the food, once it expires, it is a waste of money. Keep track of expiration dates on your items. Put items that are expiring sooner towards the front of your fridge and pantry so you use them first.
  4. Stick to a budget. On the show, the couponers always know to the penny how much they are going to spend with no surprises. Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, save more money, or just want to stick to a budget either way, it can be difficult to keep your food costs at the number you want. A good way to stick to a grocery budget is to plan your meals ahead of time. Try to use items you already have on hand. Then, browse the sale ads, any coupons you have, and the store’s website before you go to the store so you will have an idea of what’s on sale to plan. Make your list, and calculate how much you’re going to spend on this list.
  5. Keep track of what you’re putting in your cart. Many on the show are walking around with a calculator and organized list. Even if you’re not attempting to get your order for free like many of the couponers, you can still learn a valuable lesson here. First, an organized list can help you stay on track. You can accurately plan meals and snacks so you’re saving money by eating at home and avoiding fast food. Having a list also eliminates double buying, buying things you don’t need, and those tempting impulse buys. Second, having a calculator lets you know how much you’re spending. This takes the guess work out of it, and there will be no surprises at the register. You won’t have to worry about spending more than you budgeted for. We’ve all had those moments at the register that we see the total and think “how did that happen?” or “what did I even buy?”.
  6. Don’t leave the house without a coupon. The extreme couponers never leave the house without a coupon. They creatively find coupons online, in the newspaper, on products they already purchase, and they even ask friends and neighbors to give them coupons they aren’t using. Many of the couponers think of coupons like money. Take some time to look for coupons before heading out to the store. Check out the store’s website to see if you could find sign up for e-mails with deals and coupons or maybe get a percentage off for signing up.
  7. Share your money saving journey with others. The show often features couponers sharing their coupons with others, hunting for coupons with their family and friends, shopping with others, and sharing what they scored with all of their valuable coupons. It’s a good lesson on sharing your money saving experience with those closest to you. Sometimes people are embarrassed to be money conscious or share they’re on a budget. But you realize that those couponers on the show that are sharing that part of their life with their family and friends, are happier that they did. Letting your family and friends know you’re on a budget, trying to save more money, or trying to get out of debt, can feel like a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Also, it’s a great way to share your tips for saving money and learn how your friends save. It’s also a nice way to let people know that you may not always be interested in going out to expensive restaurants or paying for pricey concert tickets or other events.
  8. You can always save money, even on special occasions. Even the savviest spenders sometimes turn off their money saving skills while throwing a party or going on vacation. But Extreme Couponers shows that there is no need to stop saving money just because it is a special occasion. In fact, the show often shows couponers going into overdrive to host a party, special occasion, or wedding for a very small amount. Don’t throw out your budgeting skills for a special occasion. As they do on the show, plan ahead. Whether you’re traveling or throwing a party, you can always find ways to cut the cost, find good deals or coupons, and discover ways to save.

How has using coupons saved you money? Whether you use coupons or not, what qualities in a couponer are valuable lessons for saving money? If you have had success in using coupons, what advice can you give us?

More Money Saving Tips

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Frugal, couponing, Savings"
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 13:29

Do you ever read through some of the Class Action notices you get in the mail? Many times if you fill out the forms, you’re entitled to a cash settlement.

However, there are more settlements out there than just the ones that have to mail you a form.

We’re featuring class action settlements as our Free Money Friday offer this week!

How to Get Your Class Action Settlement Money

  1. Determine if any products you have previously purchased have open class action lawsuits.
  2. Fill out and file the claim form.
  3. Get a check in the mail.

Current Class Action Settlements

Here are some of the current class action settlements with upcoming deadlines you might be entitled to:

Where to Find More Class Action Settlements

How to find class action settlements through various websites and databases:

More on Class Action Settlements

Carla at Class Action Rebates shared some additional class action tips for readers:

Money Goes Unclaimed. Most people are eligible to claim money from class action settlements related to everyday products they may have purchased. But, because the rebates are poorly publicized, and written in legalese, few people file claims, and the money goes unclaimed.

Simple Claim Forms. Most claim forms take less than 3 minutes to fill out, and most don’t even need a receipt. For example, there have been recent settlements for Coppertone, Sketchers, Wal-Mart organic milk, Facebook, and EA Sports video games.

More Free Money

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Free Money"
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Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 13:29

If you’re going to be renting an apartment or home, it isn’t something to just jump into. Before signing the lease, there are many things you need to learn about your potential home that can impact your finances along with your quality of life. Here are questions to ask your landlord before signing the lease:

by:  -JosephB-

Photo Credit: JosephB

Questions to Ask Landlord When Looking at an Apartment

  1. How much is rent? If you’re looking online prior to visiting the apartment, the price of rent listed can be different than what it actually is. Also, some units may have a higher or lower cost.
  2. What can you do to lower that amount? Depending on what type of landlord you are dealing with, there may be things you can do to lower the rent. For example, if you don’t mind shoveling snow and cutting grass, they may lower your rent. Some landlords may be receptive to negotiation while others, especially managed by a larger company, will not be able to be flexible at all.
  3. What is included in the rent? Sometimes certain utilities are included in the rent. Heat, gas, and water are a few of the items that may be included with your rent.
  4. What is the average cost of utilities? If these utilities aren’t included, you’ll want to factor in how much they will cost you when figuring out which home is the best for your bank account. Ask the landlord what the average cost of each utility is. What did the last tenant pay? What do other units of a similar size and family size pay?
  5. Besides the rent, what other fees will there be? There could be various types of fees that are attached to the rent each month. Garbage pick up, pest control, property maintenance fees, and more are some of the fees you could be charged each month.
  6. When is rent due? What happens if it is late? Say the rent is due the first of every month, does it need to be turned in at a certain time? If you are late, are you charged a fee?
  7. How do you pay rent? Do you need cash? Can you pay with a personal check or does it need to be certified? Can you put rent on your credit card to earn rewards?
  8. When will rent increase? If it does increase, how much will it increase? What type of notice will you receive?
  9. What is the sub-lease policy? If you are terminating your rental agreement ahead of time, can you sub-lease your apartment?
  10. What is the deal with laundry? Is there in-unit washer and dryer? Is there one offered on-site? If it is offered on-site, how much does this cost? Is it 24 hours?
  11. What is security like? Who has access to your building? Some buildings may offer a key entry to even get in the building. Who has access to your apartment? Are you notified prior to maintenance? Is the entry way or parking area videotaped?
  12. Do you change the locks? Ask your landlord how often the locks are changed. Are they changed after the person moves out? They should be changed to prevent past tenants having access to your apartment.
  13. Is there any problems with safety? Regardless of what type of area you live in, there is always the chance of crime.
  14. What is the parking situation? The parking situation can vary greatly depending on where you live. Some apartments charge you for a parking spot, while others may allow one car for free. Is there a parking garage?
  15. What is the deal with maintaining the property? Who keeps the property looking its best? Who is responsible for cutting the lawn or shoveling the snow?
  16. What are the terms of the deposit? In most cases, you’ll have to put down a security deposit. This money is for any damage to the apartment or home after you leave. Is it possible to get all the money returned? Some places may automatically keep some or the entire amount to repaint or get the carpets professionally cleaned.
  17. What is the application process like? Do you need to show proof of income? Have a background check? Will they do a credit check? Do they need references? How long does it take?
  18. What fees are associated with a rental application? Sometimes there is a fee for applying for an apartment.
  19. Are there any construction projects planned for the building? How long will it last?
  20. What is the noise policy? Are there quiet hours? How are the walls as far as protecting noise?
  21. What condition are the appliances in? How old is the refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer, and so on? Have they had any work done? Can you expect any issues? If there are any issues, will they be replaced upon request?
  22. Who are the other tenants? College kids? Young couples? Families?
  23. What is the guest policy? If you’re having a guest, are they allowed to park on the property?
  24. Are any amenities offered? If you’re living in a larger apartment or townhome community, there may be amenities offered such as a gym, business center, access to a party room or club house, swimming pool, or more. These items could factor into your budget.
  25. Are there any problems with pests, mold, or other irritants? If the answer is yes or even sounds like it could be a yes, ask what the landlord will do about it if it became a problem?
  26. Who is responsible for repairs? Something is bound to go wrong at some point, whether it is minor or major. Are you responsible for repairing it? What types of repairs are you responsible for? What can you turn to your landlord for?
  27. If the landlord is responsible, how long does it take to have something fixed? Some landlords may guarantee your item is fixed in 24 or 48 hours. Do they offer 24 hour emergency assistance in case something needs to be fixed right away?

What are other good questions to ask your landlord before you sign the lease? What are your experiences with asking questions to landlords prior to moving in?

More on Renting an Apartment

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Spending, real estate, renting"
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 13:29

To be quite honest, I never used to know what our homeowner’s insurance actually covered. We were in the midst of buying our first home in 2009, and I only knew that I had to have it. Because of the time crunch (once we had found the home we wanted), we did not even take time to shop around with our first insurance policy. Instead, we paid on a plan at an exorbitant price until we could breathe again and had the time to shop around (effectively lowering our rate by close to $500 per year for better coverage).

Surprising Things Your Homeowner’s Insurance Won’t Cover

Thankfully (knock on wood), we have had no claims on our policy thus far. However, I did have a question a few weeks ago about whether or not something would be covered, and talked with my rep on the phone about it. The phone call was enlightening, and ever since I wanted to look further into what homeowner’s insurance policies generally won’t cover.


This one I knew from the beginning, because of the huge marketing campaign from the National Flood Insurance Program. We do not live on a flood plain (if you do, then you are required to carry flood insurance), but we do live in Houston which happens to be only slightly above sea level. Several times I have watched the water rise halfway up our lawn (thankful that we had paid the several hundred dollars for flood insurance), only to watch it recede again. But you never know!

Building Code Compliance Issues

We had a plumber come to our home who checked out a few things for us about eight months ago. Fortunately there were no major issues. However, while he was there he took a look at our water heater and found that it was installed completely out of code. In fact, there is a pipe on the top that is supposed to go to the outside and it goes…nowhere. Yikes! Unfortunately, homeowner’s insurance covers homes as they are, and does not generally cover upgrades for building code compliance issues. Even so, getting this fixed in our home likely will not cost more than our deductible anyway.

Home Business Issues

If you run a small business out of your home—seeing patients, for example—your homeowner’s insurance generally will not cover accidents, losses or damage directly related to it. This also means that your business equipment, such as computers, fax machines, copiers, printers, etc. may be underinsured or not insured at all (even though it seems like it would be under “possessions”).

This is typically the case even if you telecommute and work for someone else.

Earthquake Damage

I felt my first earthquake ever when I studied abroad in Japan. Japan frequently has earthquakes, and the buildings there are generally set up to withstand the shaking. One afternoon as I was walking into my kitchen, everything started to shake. I didn’t realize what it was at first (I am from the Northeast and in my childhood we generally only received small tremors). Still, I stood in the nearest doorway (is that what you’re supposed to do?) with a smile on my face, glad to have experienced more of Japan’s culture.

Did you know that typical homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage to your dwelling caused by earthquakes? You can usually purchase extra insurance within your policy to cover things like cracked foundations, broken glass, cracked walls, plumbing issues, etc. Even if you already purchased this extra insurance, earthquake plans typically have huge deductibles: 10%-15%.

Pest Infestations

Most pest infestations and the damage that they cause are considered maintenance issues by your insurance agent. And guess what? Homeowner’s Insurance policies do not typically pay for issues that could have been avoided by proper maintenance. However, collateral damage caused by a pest infestation may be covered. For example, if termites eat through a structural beam, causing something to collapse in your home, the part that collapse would probably be covered.

Other common events that are not covered by “normal” homeowner’s insurance policies include landslides, floods, mine subsidence, mud slides, mud flows, volcanic eruptions, surface water, sewage and a long list of other problems. If any of these issues discussed describe your situation or leave you with heartburn, then speak with the company who holds your homeowner’s insurance policy. Ask if they have additional policies or riders that you can add onto your current policy in order to cover what you need. If your current insurance company doesn’t offer the coverage you need, shop around and find an insurance company that provides the coverage you need.

More on Insurance

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Insurance"
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Date: Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 13:29

The first summer after high school and on your way to college is definitely one to remember. You can look back at your high school years – either fondly or just happy to be done with them, while also being excited about college and everything that lies ahead. While you’ve probably focused on having a fun summer and spending time with friends and family that you might be leaving come fall, there are also some last minute things you should be squeeze in this summer to help your newly independent finances.

College_summer_by Tax Credits

Photo by: Tax Credits

Summer Checklist for the College Bound

Here are some productive financial steps to take this summer before heading away to college:

  • Start applying for jobs on your campus.
    There will be a rush of applicants applying for jobs around campus once fall hits. If you can, depending on the location of your college, head out a few weeks earlier or reach out online to apply for positions. If you’re living at home, you can start applying for part-time jobs immediately.
  • Build a budget.
    Regardless of how much money you have, you’ll want to prepare a budget you can stick to. Whether you’ll be totally on your own with money or getting help from a parent, you’ll need to create a budget. Even if you are using student loans to fund your education and living expenses, you’ll need to stick to a budget so you’re not blowing through your student loan money the first month and left with nothing or having to borrow even more money.

    It’s simple. Start with what money you’ll have each month including saved money, any income, and any loans you’re taking out for living expenses. Next subtract your expenses — tuition and fees, books and supplies, any transportation costs, cost of a dorm or rent, any utilities you’ll have to pay, food, any bills you might have, entertainment, extra items, and whatever else you’re spending on. Whether it’s finding a way to earn more, cutting the price of expenses, or both, you’ll need to find a way to make this budget balance.

  • Sell your unwanted stuff.
    As you’re packing all of your belongings to take to college, now is the time to get rid of all your clutter. If you’re living in dorms, your space is limited. But even if you’re staying at home, it’s good to start off clean, organized, and getting rid of items you don’t use anymore. Plus, it’s the perfect way to get extra cash. Sell your old high school textbooks on Amazon, and sell your clothes to a consignment or second hand store.
  • Get a recommendation from your summer job.
    If you are a good worker, your employer from your summer job can be a possible recommendation for you down the road. Plus, it’s a good way to start building up your resume and experience for when it comes time to start thinking about internships and future jobs. Ask your employer for a recommendation or keep their contact information in case you need it in the future.
  • Make a game plan for what you’ll need.
    You’re probably going to have a list of things you’ll need before starting school, especially if you’re moving out of your house on campus. Once you make your list, find out what you already have on hand. Next, depending on what is on your list, sign up for e-mail alerts at stores to get coupons and hear about deals. The best part about starting now is you can research what has the best deal.
  • Apply for scholarships.
    If you haven’t already, start applying for scholarships now. If you have been applying and you haven’t had much luck, keep trying! Every year, thousands of unclaimed scholarship money goes to waste. Even a small amount can help alleviate some of the financial burden of student loans. Look for scholarship opportunities in your community, your city and state organizations, religious affiliations, at the college you’re attending in fall, and organizations of the course of study you’re planning on taking.
  • Take a class in your community.
    Get ahead of the game by knocking out a class at your community college this summer. Chances are your freshman year you’ll be taking many general education requirements. Odd are, the class is going to be a lot cheaper at your local community college than wherever you’re headed in fall. Make the most of your summer by knocking out a class. If it’s too late to enroll in a summer class in your area, consider it again next summer.
  • Make an appointment with an advisor.
    Meet with your advisor right off the bat to plan your course load. He or she will be able to help make sure you are taking the right classes you need to graduate. Trying to decipher requirements can be difficult from just looking online and they can change frequently, and enrolling in an unnecessary class can be a waste of your money and time and stall you from graduating sooner.
  • Research your major.
    Changing your major in college is not uncommon, and it’s not a bad thing. However, it can mean extra semesters, taking additional classes, and living on campus longer which will mean a lot more money. You shouldn’t stick with something that you decide isn’t for you, but you can hedge your bet by not jumping into a major immediately. Take some time during the last few weeks this summer to shadow someone in the profession you’re thinking about doing so you can really get a feel for what that job is like. If you’re deciding between a few things, shadow both professionals. Research what that job is like and what it takes to study it in college. Reach out to your college to put you in touch with faculty from that department, recent graduates, or even current students. You can talk with them about their experience with that field of study. Consider talking with a career counselor at your college now so you can also decide if your major is right for you.

What should college bound recent grads do to prepare for their first semester of college? What are your best financial tips for students who are heading to college this fall?

More Ways to Save for College Students

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "College Savings, college, saving money f..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 13:29

How do you determine you are going to make a purchase? Do you simply look at the price? Maybe you compare the price to other stores or patiently wait until an item goes on sale. No matter what great of a deal you find or what kind of bargain you are getting, there is one more thing to consider. You need to factor in what that purchase will cost in the future.

Many things you buy don’t just end there. There are a lot of things that continue to cost money long after they have been purchased. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you really didn’t consider these costs while making your decision. But if you want to save money or manage your money properly, you need to fully think about how much each item will cost you in the long run.

by: Kristen

Photo Credit: Kristen

Purchases That Cost You More Than You Think

  1. A pool.
    In the heat of the summer months, a pool can be fantastic. It keeps us cool and is a lot of fun, regardless for kids or adults. But it is not over once you purchase the pool and install it. A large pool will cost you every year to open and close it. You need to constantly be putting certain chemicals in the pool to make it safe to swim inside. Some of these may include algaecide, chlorine, a pH balancer and other things. You will also need to replace the filter every so often depending on the type of pool you have. A pool cover, a safety fence to lock out young children, and other optional items, like pool toys and floats all can add to the cost. If something goes wrong with the pool, you may need to hire a pool professional to come out to help you fix the problem.
  2. Clothes.
    This one may be small, but it always gets me. A few months ago, I found a great deal on a sweater for a minimal cost. The problem is that it is dry clean only. So every single time I wear the sweater, I need to pay more money to have it cleaned. While it may not be much, it adds up and realistically, that sweater cost a lot more than what I initially paid. Dry cleaning costs can add up fast. The same is true if you have to have something altered or tailored to your size. Check the tags for clothes, coats, blankets, and anything else before your purchase. Just take a second to consider if you don’t mind paying for dry cleaning. The same is true for any leather or suede shoes, jackets, purses, or other clothing that would have to be specially cleaned by a leather cleaner.
  3. A dog and other pets.
    I love dogs. They are fantastic companions. They can bring you joy, entertainment, and even protection. But just because you leave the pet shop does not mean your dog is done costing you. Besides dogs, cats, birds, fish, and any other type of pets are going to cost you a lot of money. They need food, medicine, toys, and other objects like a water bowl, leash, brush, and much more. When I bought my dog, I was shocked at how much vet fees cost me. Every year, I needed to take him to have specific shots that I needed to provide for him legally. These shots would depend on where you live. Pets get sick just like we do and require a doctor visit, medications, and surgeries if you don’t have pet insurance. Another way a pet can cost you is if you are renting or owning a home or condo in an association. If you are renting an apartment or home, you may be charged a fee for having a pet live with you. Some town homes and condos that are in an association will also charge you a fee. You may also have to pay for a permit depending on the area you live.
  4. A car.
    This one is pretty obvious, but a car is extremely costly after it is purchased. When you calculate the total cost of a new car you’ll need to factor in paying for car insurance, license plate registrations, and possibly a sticker or registration for the city or town you live in. Depending on how much you drive and where you live, the cost of filing up your tank with gas will need to be factored into your weekly budget. You will need oil changes, tune ups, and other types of maintenance regularly. Depending on where you live and where you are headed, you may have to pay for parking if you’re headed out with your car. For many people, the purchase of a car is unavoidable. However, if it is possible to get by without one (or use just one shared car in a two person household), doing so can save you thousands of dollars every year plus the cost of the car payment every month. A lot of times in a bigger city, there are multiple options for public transportation, so try that option. If you can walk or bike to work, school, the store, and other places do that instead. If you do need to purchase a car, keep car costs low by taking care of your car to avoid costly problems down the road. Drive safely and carefully to avoid any issues and to avoid accidents that would also cause your car insurance payments to be higher. Limiting the amount of time you drive will of course reduce how much you are spending on gas and the normal wear and tear your car will face.

Do the Research

Anytime you make a purchase, always consider what the other costs will be, regardless of the amount. Take this into consideration before your purchase. If you’re not sure what the cost would be, do some research ahead of time. A little research and asking around for people who have already purchased the same item, can really help you make the best decision for you and for your money.

What are some other examples of items you purchase that end up costing a lot more down the road? Have you ever regretting buying something that you bought after you started realizing what the cost would be down the road?

More Money Saving Tips

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Budgeting"
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Date: Friday, 08 Aug 2014 13:29

Santander is offering you a bonus of $20 per month when you use their direct deposit and bill pay features on a Santander checking and savings account.

It’s Free Money Friday and the Santander offer is easy since you can automate it and it will keep repeating!

How to Get Your $20 per Month Sign Up Bonus

  1. Open an extra20 Santander checking and savings account.
  2. Make direct deposits of $1,500 or more to your extra20 checking account for a $10 bonus each period.
  3. Pay two bills using BillPay for another $10 bonus each period.
  4. Repeat each month to earn $240 per year in bonuses.

Terms and Conditions

  • Bonuses will be credited to your extra20 savings account on the first business day after your extra20 checking account service fee period ends.
  • Limit 1 extra20 package per person.
  • Your bonuses will be reported as interest on a Form 1099-INT in the year received.
  • You must qualify for the Direct Deposit bonus to be eligible for the BillPay bonus each period.

More on Santander Checking

Opening the account. A minimum deposit of $25 is required to open a checking account and a minimum deposit of $10 is required to open the savings account.

No cap. There’s no cap on how long you can collect your $20 as long as the product is offered.

Fees. There is a monthly $10 fee on the checking account. You can avoid the fee with $1,500 or more in total direct deposits during the service fee period (which you’ll be doing anyways to get the bonus).

Sign Up for Santander

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Deals"
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Date: Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 13:29

The funny thing about memories is that you don’t need to spend lots of money or go to lots of far places to make them. In fact, some of the best memories can be made right in your own backyard! The most important thing is to be fully engaged in any activity that you pursue, and with the people that you love.

Speaking of cheap activities you can do at home to create some wonderful summer memories, here are 10 to get you inspired.

Inexpensive Summer Fun

  1. S’Mores Anywhere You Can Make Them: I’m a huge fan of s’mores. We have a chiminea in our backyard, and it works out beautifully. You can build a little fire in your backyard, use your fireplace, or even use your gas range stove in a pinch.
  2. Sparklers in the Backyard: Why wait for July 4th again next year to see fireworks? Buy some sparklers and any other small fireworks you can find and periodically host a fireworks show in your backyard with the kids.
  3. Pitch a Tent and have a Sleepover: You can do this in either your backyard, porch, or even in your living room. The point is that it creates something new and fresh. Turn off the tv for the night, and pretend like you are in the middle of nowhere.
  4. Catch Fireflies (and Release): Save a few glass jars from condiments or spaghetti sauce, and punch several holes through the top. Give one jar to each of your children (don’t forget the parents!) and spend an evening collecting fireflies. After you enjoy them, don’t forget to watch them fly free.
  5. Scary Stories Around a Fire: You can make up stories, or read your favorite scary stories over a fire or even a flashlight. Another fun thing to do is to start a story, and then pass it onto the next person in a circle, who then passes it onto the next person in a circle, etc. This can get a little crazy (and is a whole lotta fun!).
  6. Take Turns at Storytime: Change things up this summer. For bedtime stories, make each night a different person’s turn. On their turn, they get to choose the book, as well as read it to everyone else snuggled up in bed or on the couch.
  7. Hold a Tournament of Some Sort: It doesn’t matter what type of tournament you choose, just that you set aside time over a day or over a week, and that everyone can participate. Choose a cherished board game, pick out a game on Wii, or come up with some sort of other competitive game you can all play. Tape up a piece of paper where everyone can see, and figure out the scope of the tournament. Are you all going to play five games in one night? Or five games over five days, with the winner being announced at the end of the week? To add a little fun to this, you could have prizes for first place and runner up (and why not some ice cream for everyone so there are no sore losers?).
  8. Have Tea in the Backyard: You and your little ones can dress up as if you are going to tea, and instead do the whole thing in your backyard! Grab a blanket, comforter, or use your lawn furniture, and make some of your favorite teas. You’ll also want to include some treats and pastries. You can pick some wildflowers (dandelions work as well), and put them in a vase in the center of the table. Have any leftover satin gloves from prom days? Might as well bring them out. And don’t forget to display your pastries or little sandwiches beautifully! If you don’t own a cake stand, you can just turn a bowl upside down and place a plate on top of it.
  9. Attract some Wildlife: Fill up your birdfeeders, or make your own (think: peanut butter, pinecones and bird food). Then sit back and bird watch! Take turns looking up the birds you attract. Hint: I’ve been quite surprised recently with the types of birds that fly well overhead of our yard that I never noticed before. To check out what birds are bypassing your yard, put a blanket in your yard and lay down. You never know what you will catch!
  10. Give Each Other Manis/Pedis: It can be so much fun to be pampered and to pamper the ones you love! Gather together your best supplies, set up shop in your living room or back porch, and get to work on soaking feet and hands, buffering nails, and painting toes.

More Fun Activities

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Frugal"
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 13:29

Back to school can come as a relief to some parents who are exhausted from an eventful summer. But on the other hand, back to school means an extra cost for stocking up on supplies and clothes for the next year. This expense may not come at the best time since it seems like you’re just done paying for summer camps, high utility bills with the air conditioning running, and any summer adventures and trips you got to take. But before you get stressed out or end up spending more money than you need to, here are some tips for saving money on back to school costs this year.

School_Rupert Ganzer

Photo Credit: Rupert Ganzer

Save On Back To School Supplies For Kids

  1. Wait until you get the list from your child’s school. If your child’s school or teacher sends out a back to school list for items you need to buy, you may want to wait for that to come out before shopping this year. First, they may be asking for specific items instead of something more broad. Second, you don’t want to overbuy on quantities if you don’t need it or buy items that aren’t needed this year. However, if you are certain about some items on the list and see a great deal ahead of time, buy it anyway. Just keep the receipt in case it’s not the correct item, and you want to take it back.
  2. Take an inventory of what you already have. Before you head out to stock up on supplies, take inventory of what you already have at your home. You may have leftover items from last year or items from summer projects or camp. See what you can get away with using from last year.
  3. Get your child in on the savings. If they’re old enough to pick out their own items and understand money, create a budget and have them stick to it. This is a great way to teach them about money, saving, and budgeting. It also gives them the option to splurge on a new backpack or a sweater if they want to balance that budget out in other areas. You can also get them in on the savings by encouraging them to use what they already have or jazzing up cheaper items. For example, let them decorate their binders, lunch boxes, backpacks, pencil cases, and spirals instead of paying for one already decorated. Use art supplies and crafts you already have on hand. You can also purchase items on sale.
  4. Swap with other moms and dads. Whether it’s school supplies, clothing, or sporting equipment, organize a swap party with family members, friends, other parents at the school, or neighbors. Kids are going to outgrow things quickly; don’t pay for it if you don’t need to.
  5. Shop the sales. Many stores advertise for back to school sales so take advantage. Target, Walmart, Office Depot, Staples, Office Max, Best Buy, and even grocery stores will offer a deal. See which supplies are the best deal at each store, plan an efficient route, and score the best deal on everything you need.
  6. Clip coupons. Just like you use coupons when you’re trying to save on your groceries, do the same for school supplies. You can find coupons in the Sunday paper, on the store’s website, and online. Also try “Liking” the store and any companies on Facebook to get coupons as well.
  7. Sign up for store e-mail alerts. Visit all of the store’s websites to sign up for e-mail alerts. Simply by joining the list, you may earn a percentage off or a coupon. Also, you’ll learn about any promotions or deals they’re having. A good tip is to create a separate e-mail for coupons and signing up for stores so your work or personal e-mail isn’t getting flooded with additional mail.
  8. Borrow books from the library. Before you purchase all of the books on your child’s list, check out your local library. You can borrow the books for free instead of spending the money on it.
  9. Buy used books. For any required books, opt for a used book instead. You can find used books online at Amazon, on Ebay, or if you prefer in store, you can search for used book stores in your area. Encourage your child to keep it in good condition as well. If he or she doesn’t need it or doesn’t want to keep it, you can sell them at the end of the year.
  10. If you can hold off on certain supplies, go for it. Some supplies aren’t needed right off the bat. If you don’t need them right away and you can’t find a good deal on it, consider waiting until you need it. This way you have more time to try to find a better price.
  11. Create a Upromise account. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, sign up for Upromise. Upromise is not only a great way to pay off college student loans, but you can also start saving for your young child’s college education as well. Simply register your credit, debit, and loyalty cards and use their links to shop, and a percentage of your purchase can be linked to a college savings account (or an existing student loan). Also, you can get coupons and discounts as a Upromise member.
  12. Hold onto your receipts. It’s always a good idea to hang onto your receipts, but it’s especially true with school supplies. If you buy something and see it go on sale later on, you may be able to get the sale price. If something breaks quickly or you bought the wrong item, you can bring it back. Not to mention that kids may see their friends with a certain backpack or lunch box and quickly change their mind on the type they’d like to use this year.

What other ways can parents save on their kids’ back to school needs? What are the best stores for great back to school deals? What are your tips on starting the year off being organized and efficient?

More Back To School Shopping Tips

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Kids, back to school, school supplies"
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Date: Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 13:29

A reader recently wrote in wanting to know how to become a billionaire. There is no set path to becoming a billionaire. If there was, you can be certain that I would have majored in it in college along with everyone else. Realize from the start that odds are against you becoming a billionaire. I am not saying this to stop you from trying, but if it were easy, everyone would be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Let’s discuss many of the various ways you can become a billionaire anyways.

Stack of Money

Have Billionaire Parents

The easiest way to become a billionaire is to have parents who are billionaires. Odds are that they will leave their money to you to inherit and then you can sit back and relax because you are a newly minted billionaire, unless you are the child of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett who are giving away their billions to charity.

Of course, you can’t choose who your parents are at birth and if you are asking how to become a billionaire, I am assuming that your parents aren’t billionaires, so this option is off the table you.

Become A Movie Star

Tom Cruise earned $20 million for starring in Oblivion. Sandra Bullock earned $56 million for The Blind Side and The Proposal. While these earnings aren’t in the billions of dollars, if you string along enough movies and are smart with your money, billionaire status is achievable.

Achievable but not likely.  Before you run over to your mirror and start your best Jack Nicholson impression, understand that the big-time movie stars are the exception and not the rule. Take a trip to Los Angeles and ask any waiter that serves you food what they do for a living and odds are they will tell you they are an actor. Sure someone has to make it, but when millions are trying, the odds of you making it are slim.

Become a Sports Star

See the above point about movie stars here. Less than 2% of college athletes in football and basketball make it to the pros. An even smaller number of high school stars make it to the professional sports leagues.

Again, there is a chance. I would never tell someone to quit their dream, but you have to be honest with yourself at the same time. I’ve heard many people talk about how much faster the NFL is compared to college football. It makes sense. Only the cream of the crop plays professional football.

In college, Reggie Bush of USC would outrun everyone on the field. In the NFL, he routinely gets caught. He is no longer the faster person on the field. However, if you do have the skills be sure to read the Financial Advice for Pro Athletes.

Become The Leader of a Drug Cartel

Leading a drug cartel will yield you billions of dollars. But, the drugs you would be working with are illegal and you run a very high risk of ending up in jail. Actually, odds are more likely you will end up murdered since other leaders and defections in your own gang will be looking to take power from you.

Having to look over your shoulder all of the time and questioning everyone you know doesn’t sound like much fun. You want to lie on an island beach, soaking up the sun all day, not locked in a room worried about whether you are being targeted every day.

Win The Lottery

You won’t become a billionaire by winning the lottery, but if you win a large enough jackpot and invest the money wisely, you could easily end up one.  But, the odds of winning the lottery are slim and the fact that 90% of lottery winners go broke within 5 years is sobering. And don’t forget You Have to Pay Tax on Lottery Winnings.

Start Your Own Business

Creating a successful business and then going public with your company stock is a great way to become a billionaire. Of course, you’ll need to come up with a great product or service that people need and want to buy and then be able to make certain your product is the best.

Even then, many small businesses don’t survive, so this path isn’t guaranteed either.

Follow Your Dream to Become a Billionaire

What we have learned here is that there is no certain path to becoming a billionaire. If there was, many more people would be a billionaire. Here is my advice on your best shot at becoming a billionaire:

Find something you love and start working in that field. If you are truly passionate about the subject matter, you will want to always know more and stay on top of the latest news and developments. Work won’t feel like work. It will just be fun. Through all of this knowledge you gain, you will begin to see shortcomings in the industry that you might be able to exploit.

Maybe there is a better way of doing something. Maybe a product or a service that isn’t offered could be offered. Then create that service or product. If you do it right, you will have customers and will be making money. But here is the key: you can’t spend the earnings you make on cars, houses and vacations. You have to save the money.

By re-investing the money into the company you have a greater chance of staying on top and fending off future competition. Trust me, if your product or service is good, you will have competition eventually. As your company grows, you will earn more money which will allow you to re-invest more money. Compound interest will take over and your company will be worth millions.

Ideally, you will either go public and offer investors stock in your company or someone will want to buy your company. Either way, you are well on your way to becoming a billionaire. Of course, none of this is guaranteed. You can follow my advice and never become a billionaire. But many times, the journey is worth more than you can imagine.

Since this list isn’t exclusive, add your methods to becoming a billionaire in the comments below.

More on Generating Wealth

Written by Don

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Don" Tags: "Millionaires, billionaires, Investing, m..."
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Date: Monday, 04 Aug 2014 13:29

I’m sure you have heard that old line, “Don’t play with your food.” As much as parents may often try to get their kids to stop playing with the foods on their plates and just eat, the kids somewhat have it right. Food is fun, and eating can be a really enjoyable fun experience.

Many people are under the wrong impression that food is only entertaining when you’re out to dinner at a restaurant or when you’re splurging on throwing an expensive dinner party. But the truth is you do not have to spend a lot of money to have fun with food and to combine entertainment and food into one. Here are some simple ways you can start to have fun with food, enjoy what you’re eating, combine entertainment and food, and save money all at the same time:

by: Kristen

Photo Credit: Kristen

How to Have Fun with Food and Save Money

  • Have a potluck with friends.
    It’s always fun to get together with your friends and family, but if you’re going out to dinner all the time, it could add up pretty fast. Instead, as an alternative to dining out, throw a pot luck. Have everyone bring an affordable dish and whatever they would like to drink. Now you can try your friends’ favorite meal, have a great time together, and avoid spending a ton on a restaurant meal, drinks, and tip. You can even set a type of theme such as brunch foods or Italian dishes. Another option is suggesting everyone cook with a specific ingredient that everyone must put in their dish, such as cheddar cheese, bacon, or pretzels. If you end up liking the pot luck idea, you and your friends can switch off hosting and make it a new tradition.
  • Switch up dinner and a movie.
    A night at the movie and heading out to dinner is pretty costly. Instead, have dinner and a movie at home. You can base what you cook for dinner off of the movie you’re watching for a theme night. If the movie takes place in another country, cook the ethnic food. Even if the movie takes place in the U.S., cook something from the region, like barbecue if the movie takes place in the South, pizza if it takes place in New York, Chicago-style hot dogs if it takes place in Chicago, and so on. If you’ve seen the movie before, you can also try to make something that was in the movie.
  • Set a limit on a lunch or dinner out.
    Before you head out with a friend or your partner, challenge them (or yourself) to find a meal for a certain amount. Pick a neighborhood or area nearby. Choose an amount, say $10 per person for lunch. And then they can find a restaurant where you can get a meal for under $10 each. It doesn’t have to be at one place either. Maybe you want to combine a few small bites at a couple different places. Combining side dishes, appetizers, or small items, like tacos or soup, is a fun way to try a bunch of different restaurants. To make it even more affordable, you can avoid places where you are sitting down so you can limit the tips.
  • Recreate a memorable meal.
    Try to recreate a meal that you’ve had in the past. Whether it was something you ate on a family vacation, a meal you had at a specific restaurant, or something you ate for a special occasion. Just try to use what you have, and stick to a budget when you’re shopping. It doesn’t have to be exact. Use the meal as inspiration. If you had lobster tacos and a mac n’ cheese on a trip, have vegetarian tacos and something similar. Just get creative with it.
  • Have a picnic.
    Having a picnic is great because you’re getting out of the house, enjoying a meal, and it’s super cheap. Find a scenic area where you can set up, and dig in on things you’ve brought from home and made yourself. You can turn it into a daylong event by biking, hiking, or enjoying other things that the area has to offer.
  • Scope out free samples.
    You’d be surprised at just how much free food may be right around you. When a new restaurant is opening up, they may start passing out free samples to try to attract business. Grocery stores often offer free tastes of products. Costco is known for offering lots of samples at mealtimes. Specialty stores, like a cheese shop, offers tastes of their products so you know what you’re buying. You might also find free food at happy hour bar specials if you buy a drink.
  • Do a “Chopped” session.
    If you’ve never seen the Food Network’s show Chopped, check it out online. Chefs open a basket with three or four mystery ingredients and then have to create a delicious meal out of it. With a friend or your partner, grab a few of these things and see what you can create out of it. You can use what you already have on hand or pick out a few inexpensive items from the grocery store. The chefs on the show have a stressful time limit, but you can just play for fun to take the edge off.
  • Get creative with leftovers.
    Throwing out food is a terrible waste. Besides wasting all of the time and effort you made to prepare something, you are wasting your hard earned money with everything you throw away. Instead, stop wasting food and start having fun with your leftovers and get creative. Leftovers don’t have to be the same meal simply reheated. Try turning them into something completely different. Throw pot roast into quesadillas, turn leftover baked chicken into a pasta dish, or turn leftover vegetables into an omelet. You can find ideas online, on Pinterest, or by watching cooking shows. Making leftovers into something different is not only a way to use up your food and save money, but it can also be fun.

What are some ways you have fun with food that also save money? Which of these ideas would you like to try?

More Ways to Save on Groceries

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Savings"
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