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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 13:34

When you’re trying to get out of debt or increase your savings, the two ways to do both is by increasing your income and cutting your spending.

On the list of items you could potentially cut, is your cable bill. If you’re spending $100 per month on your bill, imagine if that money was going towards your looming credit card debt or a massive student loan you’ve been trying to deal with. Or better yet, if you don’t have any debt, if it was put towards increasing your emergency fund or your savings account.

Some people also choose to cut cable to decrease their family’s TV watching while increasing other activities. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, here are some options once you give up cable.


Photo Credit: Flickr (espensorvik)

How to Cut Your Cable Bill

  • Head out to watch the game. If you loved cable to check out all of your favorite teams play, head out to a local sports bar or restaurant instead. Better yet, opt for live sporting events when you can. Search for cheap seats at your local team’s game. You can also check out your team’s official website for a live streaming score, highlights of the game, and more videos. If you’re just a sports fan in general, check out minor league and community sports that often offer much cheaper tickets that the pros.
  • Watch the news online. Most local news channel websites offer free clips of the news or even live streaming of newscasts right on their website. The same is true for national news websites, such as CNN.com which offers live TV on their website along with video clips of various stories in addition to headlines streaming.
  • Watch episodes on the station’s website. Check out the website of the station for your favorite shows. Many websites, such as Bravo and MTV, will offer free full length episodes of recently aired episodes. Some may offer clips of shows as well.
  • Check out other TV sites. Besides the actual station’s website, there are other websites where you can gain access to TV shows. Hulu, SurfTheChannel, and YouTube are options to view TV shows and news clips. You can also use these sites to watch free movies and more.
  • Invest in a media player. You can consider purchasing a media player, such as Chromecast or Apple TV to watch TV without the cable service. You should consider the initial instillation fees and any associated costs of starting it up as well as maintaining it before you cut your cable cord.
  • Head out to the library. In addition to books and magazines, chances are your library also offers movies on DVD along with full seasons of past TV shows. You can borrow these items completely for free.
  • Reduce your package. If you can’t completely part with cable, look into downgrading your service.

What are other ways you can watch TV without cable? What are your favorite non-television watching activities? If you’ve given up cable, how has your experience been so far? If you haven’t yet, what’s your hesitation of giving up cable?

More on Frugal Movies and TV

Written by Kristen

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Frugal, bills, budget, cable, Debt, spen..."
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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 13:29

Do you shop on eBay? I have used eBay off and on for almost 15 years… but somehow I missed the fact that they have a rewards program!

I’ve been shopping a bunch on eBay recently to stock up on some discontinued items I sell on Amazon. (Ironically, there’s a book about the topic How to Buy Low on eBay and Sell High on Amazon, but I’ve never read it… maybe I should!). Anyways, I stumbled on the eBay Bucks program. It’s a free rewards program that lets you earn cash back on your shopping. Let’s take a closer look for Free Money Friday!

How to Get Your eBay Bucks Certificate

  1. Sign up for a free eBay Bucks account with your eBay user ID.
  2. Shop on eBay as you normally would and pay with paypal.
  3. Automatically earn a percentage (usually 2% back on most items) of your purchases in the form of eBay Bucks.
  4. The eBay Bucks certificates can then be redeemed for future purchases.

Terms and Conditions

  • eBay Bucks certificates are handed out every three months to members who earned five dollars or more.
  • Once you receive an ebay Bucks certificate, you’ll have 30 days to use it.
  • No fees.

More on eBay Bucks

Maximums. You can earn up to $100 in eBay Bucks on any single eBay purchase and you can earn up to $500 in eBay Bucks for all qualifying purchases during a given calendar quarter.

Calendar Quarters. Since this calendar quarter is almost over, it might be hard to earn the bucks before the end of the month. However, if you are going to spend more than $250 in any quarter, it’s worth signing up!

Sign Up for TD

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Cash Back"
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 14:07

The 2014 tax calculator is here! Do you want to get an estimate of how much your tax refund will be before you file? We just updated the 2014 tax calculator with the current tax brackets, credits, deductions, and everything else you’ll need to estimate your tax refund before the tax deadline.

How to Use the 2014 Tax Calculator

The 2014 tax calculator works based on the following inputs:

  1. Enter your filing status including your personal exemptions and any dependents you will claim on your tax return. Then enter your income, deductions and credits.
  2. Enter your projected withholdings from your W4 (or your total withholding on your W2 once you get it) for the year to estimate your tax refund for April 2015.
  3. Select calculate to use the 2014 calculator to estimate your 2014 taxes.
  4. Select view report to see the entire tax calculator report.

2014 Tax Calculator

Enter your filing status, income, deductions and credits and we will estimate your total taxes for 2014. Based on your projected withholdings for the year, we can also estimate your tax refund or amount you may owe the IRS next April 2015.

Tax Calculator Inputs

Please note that this calculator uses 2014 tax tables. All of the tax parameters and definitions used to build the free tax calculator are based on the current tax laws. If you are looking for the tax calculator for last year, please see the 2013 Tax Calculator.

As a reminder for the 2014 tax calculator, the outputs will be based on your tax calculator inputs.

Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit and Penalty

As we mentioned earlier this week, the tax calculator doesn’t include the new Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit or penalty for no health insurance yet. We’ll update the calculator as soon as the IRS finalizes those forms.

AMT Tax Calculator

The tax calculator also includes the AMT exemption amounts; there is not a separate AMT tax calculator. The calculator also includes 2014 tax scenarios for capital gains tax rates.

More Tax Topics

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Tax Tips, 2014 tax calculator, income ta..."
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 14:09

Whether you’re trying to get out of debt, you want to save more money, or you are trying to simplify your life, it doesn’t mean the fun needs to stop. Finding free things to do is the best way to still have fun while sticking to your budget and keeping your spending in check. In fact, you’ll probably be more likely to stick to your budget if you’re still having fun especially if you’re stressed about your money and finances.


Photo Credit: Andrel Zmievski

Free Ways to Watch Movies

Movies are a great free thing to do for fun. Here are eight ways to watch movies for free:

  1. Borrow from the library. There’s a good chance your local library, or libraries nearby, have more than just the books and magazines filling the shelves. Check what movies they have that you can borrow completely for free. Some may only have older titles, but I’ve seen libraries with new releases as well. Documentaries and educational films are also common at libraries. Just be sure to keep them in good condition and return any movies on time to reduce your chance of a late fee.
  2. Sign up for Red Box codes. Sign-up for texts and e-mails from the company Red Box. The company often sends out surprise codes to get you a one-night movie rental completely for free or sometimes buy one, get one discounts as well. They also e-mail codes as well. Sometimes you can find promotions to free movie rentals from RedBox on popcorn boxes or other grocery store items. Like the library, be sure to return them the next day before the specific time they are due to avoid a late fee.
  3. Check out You-Tube. Sometimes you’ll find full movies uploaded on You Tube you can watch for free. Often these titles may be documentaries or independent films and lesser known, but it’s a good way to explore movies you may not normally have picked.
  4. Check out Hulu. You may find free movies on Hulu to view. Hulu is also a great website for watching free television shows if you’re debating on canceling your cable.
  5. Check out WatchDocumentary.com. If you enjoy documentary films, check out WatchDocumentary.com to browse through almost 10,000 titles. Look through the genres including music, science, biography, health, and drugs.
  6. Find free movie screenings. Search for free movie screenings in your area. For example, you can follow @ColoradoScreenings on Twitter for updates on free movie showings and advanced screenings. Check out the website AdvanceScreenings.com to find free screenings in your area.
  7. Check out places that show movies for free. There are many places in your area that show movies for free. You might find movie showings in local libraries, at college campuses, at the park districts, or other types of community gatherings. My local park district does a movie under the stars night each week throughout summer and fall, and plays a family-friendly movie. I’ve even recently seen breweries and restaurants advertise specific movies they are playing. Check these specific places for their event calendars.
  8. Use a free trial. You can watch movies for free with a free one month trial from Amazon Prime or Netflix.

What other ways can you watch movies for free? What are your best budget-friendly entertainment tips?

More on Frugal Movies and TV

Author: "Kristen" Tags: "Frugal, entertainment, free, saving mone..."
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 13:29

As the first year of health insurance through the new health care exchanges winds down, another new challenge is just beginning. The upcoming tax season will be the first year to report, claim, and reconcile the new health insurance premium tax credit. It will be a new, and in some cases challenging, addition to your 2014 tax return.

Health Insurance Tax Credit

The new health care premium tax credits are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. The tax credits and health insurance subsidies are used to purchase health insurance through the new insurance exchanges. The tax credit adjusts the annual premiums you pay to a percentage of your household income.

New Health Insurance Tax Form

To claim the premium tax credit, you’ll get a new form in the mail this year. Your health insurance marketplace will furnish you with a Form 1095-A. You will need the form 1095-A to claim the health insurance premium tax credit on your tax return.

How to Claim the Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit

Once you receive your form 1095-A, you can claim your tax credit on your return. To calculate and claim your 2014 health insurance premium tax credit (PTC) you’ll need to file Form 8962. You will use form 8962 to complete the following steps:

Determine final annual income. On form 8962 you will calculate your tax credit based on your final Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) for the year from your tax return. MAGI currently excludes income that is tax deferred under 401ks.

Reconcile advance payments. If you received advance payments for the tax credit, in addition to calculating your PTC, you’ll have to reconcile the amount of the payments you received with the actual credit you should receive based on your 2014 income. The premium and reconciliation will be a monthly calculation.

Calculate tax credit or amount of repayment. If your income was higher than expected, you’ll have to repay the excess. There is a repayment limitation based on income. If you didn’t take advance payments, or if your income was lower than expected, you’ll receive a tax credit on your tax return.

Penalty for No Health Insurance

The penalty for no health insurance will also be reported on your 2014 tax form. To avoid the penalty, you’ll need to claim an exemption from the individual mandate and file form 8965.

Health Care Tax Credit Amounts

Tax credits are for household income between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Tax credits will be used to cap annual health insurance premiums for those who qualify. The contribution percent goes from 2% of income at the 100% of FPL to 9.5% of income at 400% of FPL. You can find the Federal Poverty Level income ranges for 100% of FPL to 400% of FPL to see the annual income in dollars.

Health Insurance Tax Credit Calculator

If you plan to use this tax credit and your income is near the cutoff, it will be very important to not only understand tax brackets, but also understand how the different income levels can dramatically impact your taxes. As soon as the tax credits are finalized, we will add the calculations to our tax calculator for next year so you can project and play with the tax credit based on various income levels.

More on the Health Insurance Tax Credit

You must file for the tax credit. Even if you do not normally file a tax return because you don’t meet the minimum income to file taxes, you’ll need to file a return to claim the health insurance tax credit or report advance payments.

Refundable. The health care tax credit is refundable, which means you can receive a tax refund even if the credit is more than your total tax.

Filing Status. Your health insurance credit will depend on your filing status. If you are married, you must file jointly to claim the health care tax credit. In addition, if someone else claims you as a dependent, you will not be eligible for the health insurance subsidies.

Delays. Because the tax credit will be based on getting new forms from the health insurance exchanges, and new calculations (which in some cases are circular calculations for the self employed) there is always the possibility of delays during tax season. Like always, we’ll keep you updated on any delays that the new forms will have on getting your refund.

More Health Insurance Tax Topics

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Tax Tips, health insurance, refundable t..."
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 13:36

I’m going to outline for you the pathetic money system I used to have in place for my small business (I mean, it’s great that I had one…but wait and see what I mean).

I had an excel sheet, and about 7 columns of the different revenue streams for my blog, Frugal Confessions. Each month, I would go to my PayPal account, search for that month’s range of transactions, get out my calculator, and add up each type of income individually. Then, I’d do the same thing for expenses. These amounts automatically calculated together within excel, so I thought that was pretty cool. Plus I had a nice pie graph already set up so that I could see the growth of different streams in a very visual way.

I estimate this took me about 3 hours each month to calculate. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy adding things up and seeing how the month went…but it was time-consuming, and I knew there had to be something easier and more accurate (especially when I had some income coming in through checks in the mail).

So in December of last year I decided I would do whatever it took to set up a money system for my business. And it’s been working great! So great, in fact, that I want to share it with you in case you have a small business as well.

Open up a Formal Business

My first step to getting everything in order was to legally separate my finances from my business’ finance. Previously I paid taxes as a sole proprietor, and used my own social security number. So I had to get a business tax ID from the IRS, incorporate as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), and file with the State of Texas. There was also a search on the Secretary of State website to make sure that my business name was not taken. Thankfully, no one else has incorporated Frugal Confessions!

Open up a Business Checking and Savings Account

Now that I had my business formally set up, I could open up a business checking and savings account. This also included getting a business debit card so that I could now make purchases separate from our own purchases (read: much easier come tax season). You can also use a Business Credit Card to earn cash back on your business purchases.

I also had to stop using my business PayPal account as an account for personal spending as well. So I upgraded it to a business premier account, and opened a separate PayPal account for personal spending (if you don’t want to do this, read on, as there is a solution through the free software).

Connect My Bank Accounts

Next I went through and connected my business PayPal account to my business checking account so that I could easily transfer money. I also connected my business checking account with our personal checking account so that I could formally take out income and track it.

Connect Everything to a Bookkeeping System

And finally, the step that is most exciting to me, is I opened up a free GoDaddy Bookkeeping account. To be honest, I looked into non-free bookkeeping software, like Quickbooks, which I was totally ready to pay for in order to get everything set up more efficiently. However, I didn’t see a need for it after I stumbled upon this gem!

Update: It looks like they eliminated the free option for new users. If you have already signed up you get to keep using it for free. New users will need to pay a monthly fee. Here’s more on the GoDaddy Paid version FAQ.

I connected each of my business accounts to this bookkeeping system – my business Paypal, business checking, and business savings – and allowed the system to start work. It brought in each of my Paypal transactions from the previous year and categorized income versus spending for me. Of course, not every category was correct. But I was then able to change categories as needed (as well as add any type of categories I wanted). I could also automatically make one type of vendor pop up as a particular category each and every time they paid me. Pretty awesome!

What I was even more impressed with was the ability to immediately see profits and losses any time that I wanted it…without me having to do anything. It’s so exciting, in fact, that several times a week I just click on my link in “favorites” and smile as I look upon new sale alerts, and categorize anything that needs it (typically one thing every other week or so will be in a category I don’t want).

Since doing all of this, I’ve had to file an annual tax report with the State of Texas (where I incorporated), which was no big deal. And everything else has been an absolute breeze! Seriously, setting up this system has been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.

Do you have a small business bookkeeping system that works automatically? If not, what is holding you back from doing this?

More Self Employed Topics

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Small Business"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 13:29

It’s Free Money Friday! Today we’re highlighting one of the cards I mentioned in my $2,075+ Application Spree to Stockpile 0% Credit Cards.

Bank of America has a 10,000 bonus points offer that can be redeemed for $100 towards your next travel purchase with their BOA Travel Rewards card.

How to Get Your $100 Bonus

  1. Sign up for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card.
  2. Make at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days.
  3. Receive 10,000 points.
  4. Redeem points for a $100 statement credit towards travel purchases.

Bank of America Terms and Conditions

  • No annual fee.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Limit one (1) bonus points offer per new account.

More on Bank of America

Earning Points. Earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on purchases and travel anywhere, any time with no blackout dates.

10% Bonus Rewards. Enjoy an annual 10% customer points bonus on your total purchases when you have a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Intro APR for Purchases. 0% Introductory APR for the first 12 Statement Closing Dates following the opening of your account.

Sign Up for Bank of America

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Credit Cards"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 13:29

We frequently discuss the impact of credit inquiries on credit scores whenever I write about our latest credit card application spree.

What we haven’t discussed before is how much a late payment will affect your credit score. I never had the perfect data point to share… until now!

How Much Does a Late Payment Affect My Credit Score?

I’ll cover more details about how I got the late payment (and how I also got rid of it) below, but first let’s look at the impact. Here’s a picture from my Credit Sesame account:

Credit Sesame Graph

How much does a late payment affect my credit score?

How Much Will One Late Payment Affect My Credit Score?

As you can see, my score was 716 in April, and dropped 75 points to 641 in July when the late payment showed up. As soon as I got the late payment removed, the score went back up. I reviewed my report and there weren’t many other factors that changed significantly during that time.

How to Monitor Your Credit for Late Payments

Credit Sesame offers a free credit monitoring service. That service turned out to be a very valuable way to monitor my credit report.

Years ago, we highlighted that you could get your free credit score from Credit Sesame. I signed up and forgot about it.

Here’s the credit monitoring email I received that caught my eye:

When I logged in and looked at the detail here’s what I saw:

Late Payment Removal

It turns out the late payment was on my Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. After I cashed in the $400+ sign up bonus, I changed my card to the Barclaycard Arrival card with no annual fee. There was a mix-up in the electronic billing when the account number changed and I never received the final bill. Then they reported the payment as late.

After a phone call to clear it up, they took responsibility for the error and removed the late payment from my credit report.

I was really pleased that Credit Sesame caught the late payment and sent me an email right away! Not bad for a free service… thanks Credit Sesame!

Do you use Credit Sesame or another credit monitoring service to monitor your credit report?

More on Your Credit

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"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 13:29

If you watch commercials or are ever bombarded by internet ads, then you would think everyone and their mother are emptying their jewelry coffers and melting their gold down at gold parties being held across the United States. Or perhaps you think you are the last person remaining who has not purchased a stash of gold coins to take advantage of rising prices.

I’m here to tell you, you are not alone (and perhaps you have been smart for not jumping on the bandwagon!). Here are some scams to watch out for, and ways to make sure you won’t be scammed if you decide to jump in on the gold craze.

Gold Party Scams

If you go to a gold party with some gold jewelry, then yes, you should walk away with a check in hand. That’s pretty exciting and convenient, plus you get to eat some appetizers, have a drink and mingle.

What you need to be aware of is that you will make far less at a gold party than you would submitting your jewelry to a gold refiner yourself. This is because there are essentially two middlemen selling your gold to a refiner who is going to offer generally 50% or less than what your gold is actually worth (ask yourself this, have you ever seen a gold party company furnish the current gold market prices that they say they are competitive with?).

Here is who gets a cut of your money:

  • Host: The host typically makes 10% of all the value that they bring in.
  • Gold Party Company: The company itself is not a refiner, so they take a cut as well.
  • Gold Party Representative: Yes, the rep who shows up at the party also gets a cut of the profit (on top of being reimbursed, as typically they pay people at the party out of their own pockets).

Gold Coin Grading Scam

Perhaps you are looking to get into gold coins. What you need to know is that gold coins, like all other coins, have a grading system. Grades refer to the karat (aka purity), of the gold, which in turn determines the value of the gold and its sale price. The grade point system goes from 1-70, with 70 being the best condition, or saved for coins that have never been used. Coins are also graded with an acronym, such as MS for “mint state”, or AG for “about good”. Overall, a coin’s grading will look like this: MS70, AG3, etc. (MS70 is the best possible grade a gold coin can get).

The thing is, people who sell you gold coins (and especially if they know you don’t know much about the market) may up the grading just to charge you more.

Gold Coin Marketing Scam

Gold coins have been marketed as your ticket into the surging gold market. And it’s true, the gold market has definitely surged in the last several years.

The thing is, gold coins do not necessarily follow the gold market, especially if they are alloys, even if that is how it is being marketed to you. So when you purchase gold coins, you should not expect to be able to turn around, melt them and then reap 100% of the money in accordance with the weight.

How to Safely Cash in Your Gold Jewelry or Buy Gold Coins

If you are still interested in either cashing in your gold jewelry or purchasing some gold coins, how are you supposed to do so without getting scammed? Here are some tips for you:

  • Double Check that Appraisal: Get any grading verified by a third party that is not being paid for by the person selling you the gold coin.
  • Examine What You are Buying: Sometimes sellers put their gold coins in a fancy display case so that you can’t really access the product. How are you to know whether or not it’s gold or if it’s an alloy? You need to be able to access the actual product and examine it (preferably with a third party) before making your purchase. If the seller won’t let you, then you should probably run away.
  • Cut Out the Middleman: For either of these, you can simply cut out the middleman and put more money and/or value into your own pocket. For gold coin (and other currency) purchases, you can simply visit the United States Mint website and get it straight from its source. In order to cash in the gold value of your jewelry, you can take it straight to a gold refiner.
  • Make Sure the Scale is Fair: When having your jewelry weighed to figure out a fair price, you want to make sure that the weight scale is fair to begin with. Gold is typically weighed in grams. Some people will buy gold jewelry based on ‘penny weight’ (abbreviation: dwt), which is  about 1.555 grams. If you hear ‘penny weight’, go someplace else.

Read More

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Hot Topics"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 13:29

As an Amazon seller, there is nothing more frustrating than running out of supplies when shipping in inventory to Amazon. I worked on putting together a list of most of the supplies I use to keep things running efficiently.

If you also like to make money on Amazon, here’s a list of my go-to supplies. It also makes reordering supplies a breeze when you keep an organized list!

One Time Amazon FBA Supplies

You won’t necessarily need all of these supplies just to get started. However, they were all items I acquired as our Amazon business made money, and have paid for themselves over time.

  1. DYMO Label Printer. This is the label printer I use to print labels for our items.
  2. Scotty Peeler Label Remover. Taking off price tags? This little peeler is like magic!
  3. USB Barcode Scanner. I use this handheld scanner to scan the merchandise into the computer quickly when I’m uploading all my products to ship.
  4. Brother Laser Printer. I started just using our standard printer at home, but after burning through ink, I bought a laser printer. Money well spent!
  5. Low Profile Shipping Scale. After I got sick of using our bathroom scale and having to remove each box to see the weight, I finally invested in a scale that has a remote display!
  6. Heavy Duty 3″ Tape Dispenser. I had a cheap one before, but decided to switch to 3 inch tape, which makes one pass at sealing a box. It became a great time saver. I ordered the tape dispenser from Bubblefast.
  7. Scanfob. This wasn’t a day one investment since it was expensive, but it did make scanning in stores incredibly fast. I purchased mine from Serialio.
  8. Books. The two books I bought when I started were Retail Arbitrage and Selling On Amazon: How You Can Make A Full-Time Income Selling on Amazon.

Reorder Supplies

Here are the supplies that I reorder on an ongoing basis to keep our supply closet stocked:

  1. Orange-Sol De-solv-it. When the peeler leaves behind the gunk from the price tag, this spray is very helpful.
  2. Dymo Labels. After trying multiple labels, I now use number 30334 labels.
  3. 3 inch tape. I originally started with Scotch Heavy Duty Shipping Packaging Tape before I switched to 3 inch tape. I buy the tape in cases from Fastpack.
  4. Boxes. I now purchase our boxes in bulk from Uline.
  5. Poly bags. I buy all of our poly bags on ebay from a seller named “mallquistore”. There is no suffocation warning preprinted on the bag, but I just print out a few hundred with my Dymo and stick them on.

In addition, I keep a tape measure, paper, scissors, scotch tape and a sharpie marker in our supply box.

Tools I Use

In addition to supplies, I use the following tools to run our Amazon business:

  • Profit Bandit App. This is the app I use on my phone to make decisions on all of our purchases.
  • Seller Engine Plus. I use SE Plus to upload our inventory and as our daily repricer.
  • Quickbooks. I use quickbooks for our tracking our financials and for our inventory management.
  • Amazon FBA Seller Account. I subscribe to the professional seller account on Amazon.
  • Financing. I haven’t used any traditional financing in the past. However, we are planning to float extra inventory during the holiday season using 0% Credit Cards. It’s a much cheaper alternative than typical Amazon seller financing like Kabbage or Amazon lending.

What other tools and supplies do you use as an Amazon seller?

More on Amazon Selling

Written by Madison

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Madison" Tags: "Amazon"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 14:06

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…extra cash (which you can then use to buy yourself some ice-cream if you’d like)!

How to pull in extra cash is on many people’s minds. That’s because bringing in more money is a quick way to help whatever money goals you have, whether that’s saving for a trip, a wedding, a down payment on a home, or if you’re itching to get out of debt sooner than your creditors want you to. Not to mention you might need extra cash just to keep your head above water.

How to Bring in Extra Cash

Here are 8 ways to bring in extra cash:

  1. Apply for Inclusion in Several Marketing Focus Group Databases: You never know when this one will pay off. For example, while I was trying to earn $2,500 in extra cash (i.e. outside of our paychecks) leading up to our honeymoon, I was pleasantly surprised when one of the marketing companies I had applied to called and invited me to their focus group. The topic was shampoo. For 1.5 hours of my time, I earned $150! And they cut the check that night, which was even nicer.
  2. Refer a Great Service You’ve Used: We’ve been in the unfortunate position to have to replace and repair lots of things in the home we purchased five years ago. Like the downstairs central a/c and heating unit, or repairing part of the foundation, or the master shower. The one thing I’ve learned is, for many of these expensive services, they want you to refer them. Not only will they thank you for doing so, but they will generally pay you to! Our foundation repair company gives $100 for every successful referral you give. And the master shower quote that we got (but didn’t ultimately go with) paid past clients $50 just to give testimonials for prospective clients who wanted to call them. Heck, I used to live in an apartment complex in Florida that would give you $100 for each new renter you refer. Check into the services that you enjoy (that’s key, as you don’t want to refer bad services to your friends, family, and coworkers) to see if they have a monetary referral program and get to work! Here are some offers we’ve highlighted in the past that have referral programs: Ebates, TradeKing, Motif and the Fuel Rewards Network.
  3. Sell Stock Photography: Here’s a great article on how you can passively earn income (after you take the photos and upload them) on stock photography sites. You’ll need a quality camera to get started, and you generally have to apply to these sites. However, there are so many of them, that chances are good you can get your foot in the door. Also, you will need to learn a bit about keywords so that you can properly tag your photos so that people will be more likely to find them (people with cash!).
  4. Sell Your Plasma: While you cannot earn money from selling blood (donation only, with some places giving out tee-shirts and other small gifts), you can sell your plasma. The Guardian estimates that you can earn $300/month doing so. Here is more on Donating Bodily Fluids for Cash.
  5. Set Up a Gig on Fiverr: Fiverr does not house only $5 gigs now. Sure, you’ll start there to test out the market and get testimonials/ratings. But once you get experience and lots of people lining up for a service, you can raise your price above $5!
  6. Search for Unclaimed Money: It’s amazing how much money people leave in accounts. But this isn’t the only kind of unclaimed money; sometimes old utility companies owe money to customers who have since moved. So they hand the money over to the state in which that person used to reside. Or really, any number of reasons why an old state (or current state) that you used to live in has money with your name on it. Either way, make sure you periodically search these two sites to see if any money is owed to you or your family: Unclaimed.org and Missingmoney.com. For more information see How to Find Missing Money Owed to Me For Free.
  7. Become an Insider Guide: Do you live in an area where tourists frequent? And do you  know some neat stories and history of this area? You can sign onto Vayable.com as an insider guide and guide others through an experience in either art, fashion, design, eating, drinking, architecture, history, outdoors or any other cultural experience that tells a unique story about your destination. Gigs range in price from $25 to $200.
  8. Liquidate Old Boyfriend’s Jewelry: Once I got engaged, I decided it was time to let go of my old boyfriend’s jewelry (sorry, guys!). So I took them to a pawn shop and made close to $100 for doing so. Do you have jewelry from a past romance hanging around that you will likely never wear again? Don’t be shy to cash them in and use the money towards your future.

More Ways to Make Money

Written by Amanda

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Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Bonus Money"
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Date: Friday, 05 Sep 2014 13:29

I mentioned a new card I was targeting in my $2,075+ Credit Card Application Spree.

The Citi Double Cash card is essentially a 2% cash back card. I think 2% cash back cards are some of the best cards for everyday spending.

It’s a good alternative since our 2.27% on our Barclaycard Arrival expired and my standard Fidelity 2% Cash Back Credit Card is an American Express card, and we still sometimes run into businesses that don’t accept Amex.

It’s Free Money Friday, so let’s look closer at the Citi Double Cash card!

How to Get Your 2% Cash Back

  1. Open a new Citi Double Cash card.
  2. Earn 1% cash back on every purchase you make.
  3. Earn an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases in full or over time.

Terms and Conditions

  • No annual fee.
  • Unlimited cash back.
  • No Caps and No Category Restrictions.

More on Citi Double Cash

Earning Points. There are no category restrictions and no quarterly enrollments so it’s a good card for everyday spending.

Redeeming Cash Back. As soon as you earn $25 in cash rewards, you can redeem them.

Late Fee Pass. You get a pass on your first late fee.

Intro APR. 0% Intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 15 months.

Sign Up for Citi Double Cash

Written by Madison

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Author: "Madison" Tags: "Credit Cards"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 13:29

Walmart is back again with a new savings program that will hopefully lower the prices for thousands of families.

Well, sort of. It’s not that they are lowering their prices through the Saving’s Catcher Program, but rather they are willing to pay you the difference between their price and a lower competitor’s price in the form of a gift card.

Ready to learn more?

Savings Catcher: A Little Background

Several years ago they rolled out the Walmart Price Match Program. The whole idea was that you could price match any products found at a Walmart to any of their competitors without actually bringing in the competitors’ advertisement. This opened up huge potential, especially for shoppers who make it part of their job to shop at several stores each week for their groceries based on items that were on sale. Suddenly, they could just go to one stop for all of their grocery needs!

And even though the program had its snags, such as lack of proper training that led to many people getting price matches denied nationwide, I was still able to snag some savings when I tried it out.

But now, Walmart’s come out with a much more convenient program addressing several weaknesses of the first one.

Enter the Savings Catcher Program

Basically, all of the price comparison work is now going to be done for you!

If a price for an item is lower at a local competitor’s store than what is offered at Walmart, Walmart will give you the difference in price. You won’t get a refund, but instead, you’ll get money credited to an eGift card in your Walmart account.

How to Claim Your Walmart eGift Card

First of all, you must have an account at Walmart.com (it’s free to sign up for one). Then, you want to do the following:

  • Within 7 Days of Your Purchase, enter your receipt number (the TC number) into the Savings Catcher program (or you can use the Walmart App; click the “Savings Catcher” button, then scan the receipt barcode).
  • Walmart’s program will automatically scan the local competitor’s sales ads – both paper, and online – for that week and determine if an item you purchased was more expensive at their store. The lower price must have been valid during the time that you made the original purchase.
  • If there are items that were more expensive at Walmart from a local competitor, you will be given the difference between the two prices in your account (this generally takes 72 hours).
  • Choose to either fund an eGift card now with the money refunded from your most recent purchase, or choose to accumulate more money before you use it to make a purchase (bonus: it could be fun to do this for an entire year and then fund an eGift card to use for Christmas shopping!).

Other Savings Catcher Program Rules

Here are a few more rules to help you with this new tool:

  • Submission Limit: You may only submit 7 receipts each week to the Savings Catcher program.
  • Florida Buy One Get One Free Rule: Specifically for Florida, Walmart will match Buy One Get One free deals. However, they will use the amount specified as “save up to” in the ad (for example, an ad may say that if you buy one can of tuna, you get a second can of tuna for free with a savings value up to $1.29; in this case Walmart would refund you the difference between their price for a can of tuna and $1.29).
  • Certain Deals will Not Apply: This includes where you have to purchase one item to get another item at a discount, closeout/going out of business prices, percentage off ads (such as 30% off cans of tuna), items that require a purchase to get a gift card, etc. In other words, the competitor’s ad must have specific information on the sale with an actual dollar amount.
  • In-Store Purchases Only: Unfortunately, this program does not count for online purchases (could you imagine the refund you could get from Cyber Monday deals if it did?).
  • Automatic Funding of eGift Card after One Year: While you are allowed to fund an eGift card at any time, Walmart will automatically fund one for you if you haven’t redeemed your Reward Dollars by the end of the calendar year.
  • You Can Use Coupons: You can still use coupons for products. What will happen is Walmart will compare the pre-coupon price of an item to competitor’s prices and credit you accordingly as if you had not used a coupon (could be a great way to score even better deals!).

Have you tried the Savings Catcher program out yet? Will you give it a whirl?

More Couponing Resources You May Enjoy

Written by Amanda

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Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Frugal"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 14:10

The kids just went back to school, so it’s time for an application spree! Long time readers are familiar with many of my previous application sprees to sign up for a about a dozen of my favorite credit card sign up bonuses at the same time. It’s not for everyone, and it has to be done very carefully; but if it’s done right, it can be a very lucrative way to make extra money!

Building a Stockpile of 0% Credit Cards

My focus this time around is not only on scoring some of the large sign up bonuses, but also on maximizing 0% interest rates on purchases to float lots of our Amazon inventory for the holiday season on cards that offer great cash rewards.

As always, I alternate applications, this time it’ll be under my husband’s name since our last $1,720 Application Spree was under my name.

Credit Card Application List

  1. The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card. $100 cash back. 10,000 points for an easy $100 bonus. We are maxed out on the Barclaycard Arrival $440+ sign up bonuses, so I had to find the next best thing from Barclaycard. I was pleased to see the Priceline card has 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  2. U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. Cards with 15 months of 0% are my priority since I will be able to stretch the 0% over two holiday seasons.
  3. U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Select Rewards. 10,000 point bonus. I’m focusing on this US Bank card for the bonus and the 0% for 9 months on purchases. My US Bank apps are higher up on the list since they are pickier about inquiries than some of the bigger credit card companies.
  4. Discover it. There’s no sign up bonus, but I want it for the 5% cash back quarterly bonuses during the holidays and the 0% for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. I’ve also heard rumors about a targeted sign up bonus for this card, so I’m going to open all my mail that’s stacked up from vacation to see if we got one.
  5. Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® 20,000 miles. The focus of this card is the 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  6. Chase Ink Plus. $875. I got an invite in the mail for this one with a 70,000 point sign up bonus offer. You can redeem it for $875 in travel or $700. Usually, the typical Chase Ink Sign Up Bonus is $50k points. Per Flyertalk, the 70k offer may also be available in person at a Chase branch.
  7. Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. $500+ rewards. The Premier card has one of the highest overall bonuses with the potential for 50,000 points. It’s a two year commitment to get the bonus; here is How to Maximize the Value of Your $500 Citi Premier Card Bonus.
  8. American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. $400 rewards. The current bonus is 25k points plus and additional 15k points after spending $30k. See the Best Way to Maximize American Express Points to redeem the points.
  9. IHG Rewards (Priority Club) Visa. 80,000 points. I had a huge success with this card during my last application spree which we’ve used for over a dozen free hotel nights. The 80,000 point offer is better than their standard IHG Hotels 60,000 Point Sign Up Bonus. In addition, since they are rolling out their Big Win, we might be able to stack it with some extra points this fall.
  10. Wells Fargo 5% Cash Back Credit Card. 5% cash back. No bonus, but 5% cash back is something special for buying gift cards and manufactured spending!
  11. American Express Old Blue Cash Card. This card is an old one but it features 5% cash back on grocery store, gas and drugstore purchases after you spend $6500. It may be a good replacement for my American Express 6% Blue Cash Preferred card card which is limited to $6,000 in spending. It also has 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  12. BOA Travel Rewards. $100 bonus. In addition, this card offers 0% for 12 billing cycles on purchases.
  13. BOA Cash Rewards for Business. $100 cash back and 0% for 9 billing cycles on purchases.
  14. Citi Double Cash. My day two application for Citi will be to target the Citi double cash card for 2% cash back and 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. I think non-intro 2% cards are always cards to pick up and keep on hand when promos run low for everyday spending.
  15. Capital One Venture Rewards 40,000 miles which you can redeem for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or cash back.

Overall Value

The total for all of the sign up bonuses is: $2,075 + 150,000 points and miles. In addition, (and the part I’m most excited about) is that I’ll have nine new cards with 0% to use for leveraging and stocking additional inventory during the holidays!

More on Credit Card Application Sprees

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: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 13:29

Last fall I received a text from my husband telling me that he was being let go and would be home soon. To be quite honest, he went through a lot of turmoil in the five years he was with his previous company, surviving a buyout by a larger corporation, several bosses, and less-than-ideal working conditions for sure (such as spending the night at the office several times and coming home just for Christmas).

So it’s not like we weren’t a little happy that he was finally relieved of this job and had proper motivation to look for another. The tricky part, however, was that he had also started college full-time last fall and was loving it. Classes were as close to night as he could get, which meant 4:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays and 5:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with no classes on Fridays-Sundays. So we needed him to find a job that was okay with him continuing with classes if at all possible.

How to Survive Unemployment Financially

Fast forward five months, and Paul is now gainfully employed. While this job is not ideal either, in that he is quite underemployed as far as pay is concerned, we are happy he is back at work with a company that is flexible about his classes (score!).

Now that we are on the other end of a stint of unemployment, I wanted to discuss how it was that we were able to survive the five months financially.

Cut Back on Expenditures

Instead of living in denial about our change in circumstances (you see that a lot on financial TV shows such as Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s ‘Til Debt Do Us Part and callers on The Suze Orman Show), we immediately made drastic cuts to our spending. We knew it could be awhile before Paul was able to find a job that would suit him (and of course, technically he’s still in the job market), so we took our personal spending money down by 50%, lived off of free entertainment such as free museum and zoo days, and used all of our frequent flyer miles to travel home for free for Christmas.

Severance Package and Unemployment Compensation

We were a bit hesitant about unemployment compensation, but when we found out that each company has to pay into the state’s unemployment fund in accordance with how many people they let go, we were fine with it. On top of that, Paul received a small severance package.

Fully Funded Emergency Fund

I know you hear about the importance of setting aside money until you fully fund your emergency fund, but I hope that you take this advice to heart. One of the biggest reasons why we didn’t freak out during this 5-month stint was because we had a fully funded emergency fund. This meant that in the good times, we diligently saved our money so that the bad times weren’t that bad at all.

In fact, since we paid off our non-mortgage debt in 2010 (another great reason why we survived our unemployment financially) and we live so frugally, we actually did not need to touch our emergency savings at all! What a relief that was.

We Paid Off All of Our Non-Mortgage Debt

I am a huge proponent of paying off your debt early. In our case, we paid off all of our non-mortgage debt a full ten years before our creditors wanted us to be out of debt. And thank goodness we did; we were sending in $950 per month when we were in debt payoff mode, and that would have been enough to have us running to our savings each month to cover our living expenses and not get behind in our creditor payments.

Our Home is Below 30% of Our Take Home Pay

I know that financial gurus tell you to keep your home mortgage costs to no more than 30% of your take-home pay. While lenders would have enabled us to take out a mortgage that is twice as large as we did, we simply didn’t want that anchor around our necks. So our mortgage plus escrow payments are lower than 30% of our take home pay, which helped a lot when our monthly cash flow took a dive.

We Worked Together

If there were extra things that came up, such as a medication or even kitty litter, we took turns buying these items from our individual spending money (the one we cut to 50%) instead of taking more money out of our account. This really helped, even though it meant that sometimes we didn’t have much to spend. Since we took advantage of some great free activities in our city, we were never bored. It was also a great amount of time that we got to spend together (gotta look on the bright side, right?).

Have you ever been unemployed? For how long, and how did you survive it? 

More Unemployment Resources

Written by Amanda

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© My Dollar Plan

Author: "Amanda" Tags: "Career"
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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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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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