Finances

This page is a collection of tips I have collected through enrichment classes and things I remember from books and resources I have read or listened to. It ongoing and added to and revised from time to time.

Saving and Expense Tips

  • Have an emergency fund savings that covers at least three to six months of living expenses (i.e housing, auto, utilities, transportation, groceries, other debts, etc,) Bankrate.com as of 2007 has a chart you can download to calculate how much money is needed for the emergency fund  savings account.
  • To save money, instead of buying books, always check the library first. Some libraries offer free museum passes, tapes, videos, newspapers etc.
  • Carpooling and bringing lunch to work can save money.calculator
  • Flavored beverages can be an unnecessary expense. Keep it simple and try to drink only water. Sometimes I add a little apple cider to my water for health benefits. It may be unnecessary but it is has helped me avoid buying some of the more expensive flavored waters and drinks.
  • Bankrate.com has a month by month bargain shopping guide. The best time to buy holiday decorations is after the holiday. Also many items on the clearance rate the consumer can purchase less than what the company paid for them as the items end up on the clearance rate after about 80% of the items are sold. Winter and fall clothing often cost less in November. School supplies tend to cost less in August.
  • Eliminating cigarettes, buying a morning coffee and doughnut, soda every other day, cell phone calls at the wrong time, take-out dinners, and carry-out restaurant lunches can save thousands of dollars a year.
  • The following PDF, Budgeting Tips and Bean Game Utah State University Cooperative Extension 3-18-16, has great tips such as the Rule of 72 (to double your money) and the bean count budget game. When “budgeting tips Utah State University Copperative Extension” is typed in a search engine it brings up many other helpful budgeting PDFs from USU.
  • It may also be unnecessary to buy extended warranties as the manufacturer may still offer some coverage
  • Going online and searching for a monthly budget that lists expenses and allows you fill in dollar amounts may be helpful. Monthly expenses may include lessons, credit cards, movies, memberships, pet care, rent, insurance, utilities, automobile, food etc.
  • If it would help, search online for a worksheet that allows you to list creditors and their contact info and type of debt (mortgage, student loan, credit card, etc.) and the interest charged and the goal monthly payment and keep this in a binder with other personal finance information. It may help to have a total monthly debt worksheet with your personal finance binder/papers. It may help to find a monthly debt payments worksheet online that allows you to list the lender (mortgage, auto, etc.) and the current balance and minimum and goal monthly payment.
  • For some it may help to figure out how you are paid and your net (as opposed to gross) monthly income (including other income if any such as a second job, spouse’s income, child support, self-employment income etc.) and keep this near pay stubs in a personal finance binder. It may also help to have a list of needs and wants that are prioritized in a personal finance binder. You can find a monthly income worksheet online.
  • Many people track their savings and expenses on excel worksheets or use Quicken, QuickBooks, Excel, CSV or another program. Worksheets printed from a website can also help track saving and spending. Some people like both an electronic and paper copy. Cnet.com and PC Magazine can help you decide on a banking software. Microsoft.com/money is another option.
  • Work on obtaining a monthly saving and spending plan. A monthly budget planning worksheet can help with this. Be aware of your finances and how exactly how much you are spending and on what and if you are meeting savings goals. Know what your monthly expenses are and when they are due.
  • A monthly expense record may include housing, food, auto, insurance, debts, medical and dental costs, children and schooling, clothing, entertainment, and other miscellaneous items. Complete a search engine search for a ‘monthly expenses worksheet’ or search one of the websites below.
  • List your financial goals. Make sure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based)
  • Before you buy an item, especially a big ticket item ask yourself if it is a want or a need. Do you need the item now or can you wait? What is the interest rate (APR)? Are there additional fees and what is the amount you will end up paying? How much is the monthly payment and when is it due? Are the monthly payments affordable? What will happen if the payments are not made on time? Is there anything that has to be given up to pay for the item?
  • There are many flexible expenses you can cut. The local park district and library may offer free classes and entertainment venues.

Car Buying Tips

  • You can research buying a car on sites such as ford.com and chevrolet.com. Sometimes the sites may even have special offers. Car and Driver (caranddriver.com) has car reviews and buyer’s guides. Car Point (carpoint.com) allows you to browse for cars to buy and has advice on topics such as insurance. You can buy a car with haggling through priceline.com and or CarsDirect (carsdirect.com). Car-stuff.com has car parts and you can compare care prices at sites like Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) and AutoInvoices.com. CarFax.com and CarDetective.com give background info on individual used cars. ClassicCar.com and Hemmings.com have advice and info and car parts for classic cars.
  • Rental car insurance may already be covered with your auto insurance and unnecessary to buy.
  • After research it may come out cheaper to rent a car rather than buy a car.
  • In general, the cheapest way to buy a car is to buy it new and use it for years until it eventually breaks down. Sometimes a used car is a better deal, but it really depends and requires a little luck and research. It is not the norm but there are some used cars that are like new cars in that they are about a year old with low mileage and never in an accident.
  • A car is a major purchase and is one of the few things American haggle when buying. Be prepared for it to take at least a half a day and to haggle with the price. CarMax has good prices and does have haggling.

Frugal Websites

  • TagSellIt.com – find local estate sales, flea markets etc.
  • OnceUponAChild.com – buy gently used children’s clothes
  • ChildrensOrchard.com
  • Coinstar.com – coin-counting machine
  • Craigslist (craigslist.org)
  • eBay (ebay.com)
  • FreeCycleNetwork (freecycle.org) – can donate old magazines to and get free magazines from
  • Buffalo Exchange resale store (buffaloexchange.com)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov) – recalled children’s toys etc.
  • Easy Sale eBay Consignment Store (easysale.net)
  • National Association of Resale Professionals, organization for thrift and resale shops (narts.org)

Credit Tips

  • Credit reports use abbreviations or codes such as T (Terminated account) U (Undesignated Account) I (Installment debt or fixed debt over a fixed period of time) M (Mortgage Account) R (Revolving Account can pay off and borrow up to a credit limit often associated with a credit card).
  • There  are three main credit reporting agencies (experien.com, transunion.com, equifax.com)
  • Have an annual soft pull (as a soft pull does not lower the score much) on credit and if necessary send a credit report dispute letter on items needing correction.

Personal Finance Websites

  • bankrate.com – interest rates of CDs
  • nerdwallet.com – website to help you compare banks
  • gobankingrates.com – website to help compare banks
  • asmarterchoice.org – to find credit unions
  • ingdirect.com – can help you find good interest rates for CDs
  • morningstar.com – information on mutual funds
  • independent529plan.org – Independent 529 plan can help lock in tuition rates for your child’s college at participating schools, many state schools offer similar planscalculator
  • ed.gov – US Department of Education
  • crown.org – have their podcasts downloaded and enjoy listening to them, site has a financial statement form that I have found helpful, has a biblical perspective
  • financialfoundationbuilders.com – biblical perspective saving and investing
  • thegoodsteward.com – online stewardship support center, biblical perspective
  • soundmindinvesting.com – biblical perspective
  • annualcreditreport.com – as of writing this in 2015 is a government certified website that offers a free credit report for Transunion, Equifax, Experian. Requesting a credit report too often can slightly lower your score.
  • nfec.info – native financial education coalition
  • cfpb.gov – investigate dispute with a credit agency
  • consumerfinance.gov – investigate dispute with a credit agency
  • fdic.gov – research banks with this site
  • mint.com – if comfortable can link with your bank account and expenses and look at every month
  • freddiemac.com/creditsmart- money management and home ownership education
  • neighborworks.org – home and finance training and services
  • creditkarma.com – offers a free credit report
  • redeyechicago.com/youngmoney – column every Wednesday
  • smartmoney.com

Small Business

  • score.org – Service Corps of Retired Executives, volunteer mentors, free biz tools, templates and tips, confidential counseling, inexpensive or free business workshops
  • SBA.gov/sbdc
  • scorechicago.org –
  • bethelnewlife.org – has a SBDC
  • sba.gov/learning – SBA’s Learning Center – podcasts, free online courses, workshops, learning tools, templates and samples to get your business underway, courses, tutorials on writing a business plan, special material for young entrepreneurs and women business owners
  • chicagoideas.com – events ranging with speakers on entrepreneurship to the heroin epidemic

Real Estate Tips

  • The more knowledge you have the better. People often find the bank is somewhat closed with information. Understand types of loans and loan terms. Try to target a monthly mortgage no more than 31% of your net income. Banks often steer people toward a mortgage payment of 40 to 50% of income. Many borrowers are eligible for government programs such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). A refinance may make a home more affordable over a longer period of time. Many large banks have a complicated investor system and if there is ever a default by the borrower negotiations are very difficult. You may find it helpful to find a smaller local community based bank to apply for a mortgage with.
  • Do not forget to calculate closing costs and the cost of a an appraisal, insurance and a credit report.
  • For a housing loan generally the more money that is put down the better the interest rate. There is often a higher interest rate if the building is non-owner occupied.
  • Often the cheapest way to pay for a home is to put as much money as you can down first and pay it off as quickly as possible. The longer the loan the more you end up paying in interest.
  • Many short sales or foreclosed properties have issues such as burst pipes, even cases of pre-buying unnoticable rodent and or insect infestations. There is no recourse or anyway to get money or cancel the deal within a deadline with short sales. Make sure you have extra money to deal with any of these issues. It takes patience to buy foreclosures and many of the deals for buying them do not go through at the last minute to factors beyond the buyers control. Finding a great foreclosed property is like finding a needle in a haystack. There are pros and cons and they generally sell for less than market value. If people were recently living in the building then the heat and water are probably still in good shape. A short sale is when the property is sold for less than the loan amount. For instance, if it is worth $200,000 and the loan is $400,000 after much negotiation the bank may approve a $200,000 sale.
  • Websites such as homepath.com has a glossary of key mortgage and foreclosure terms such as escrow, Loan Origination Fees, Delinquency, amortize, deed etc. HomePath also has a homebuyers checklist.
  • Try to obtain a lease if renting. If there is no lease the landlord does not have to declare the income and can change the locks anytime and the tenant cannot do anything and has no legal standing. If there is a lease the tenant is able to stay a year or it may take one year to evict. A bank statement is not accepted as proof of rent payment. A bank would want a cancelled check from a landlord and a lease to use as credit.

Real Estate Websites

  • biggerpockets.com
  • zillow.com
  • realtor.com
  • hud.gov/recovery – HUD Implementation of the Recovery Act
  • homepath.com – lists Fannie Mae’s properties all across the country, has a financing and resources section
  • usa.gov – government made easy, can search for US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Home and Communities, FHA loan info, Federal Housing Adminstration, Public and Indian Housing Info, Fair Housing Act Info, disability and elder law info
  • makinghomeaffordable.gov – help you find a HUD-approved housing counselor, avoid foreclosure scams, resources for borrowers, home modification forms. Any company that tells you it is safe to skip mortgage payments and or they will buy your house and sell it back to you is probably a scam.
  • nwsch.org – Northwest Side Housing Center, a local non-profit that serves Chicago and the suburbs (as of writing this in 2015) with housing counseling, foreclosure prevention, and more.
  • bickerdike.org – Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation has redevelopments in some Chicago, Illinois areas that allow for home ownership for low and moderate income residents
  • clclaw.org – Chicago Legal Clinic addresses bankruptcy, landlord/tenant matters, contract law, wills, immigration, adoption, tort defense and more
  • cvls.org – Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, affordable and low income legal assistance, landlord/tenant, general practice, collection defense, bankruptcies and more
  • carpls.org – Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS) landlord/tenant matters, bankruptcy, garnishments, consumer fraud, elder law and more
  • DuPage Bar Legal Aid Services – for low and moderate income residents
  • Will County Legal Assistance Program – low-income and indigent residents of Will County
  • metrofamily.org – Legal Aid Bueau of Metropolitan Family Services low income residents service by Calumet Center and Midway Center of Metropolitan Family Services, payday loan abuse, tenants facing eviction, landlord/tenant issues, etc.
  • lafchicago.org – Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois family law, public aid matters, domestic violence, Social Security and more

Sources

  • local non-protfit class
  • Toss Keep Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out the Clutter and Cashing In Leah Ingram (SuddenlyFrugal.com) Copyright 2011 Adams Media Avon, Massachusetts