Very Easy Ways to Earn Supplemental Income

The current state of the economy is looking grimmer and grimmer by the day. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck – and even more alarming – unemployment check to unemployment check. If you are one of the many American’s struggling right now due to the economy, there are ways to increase your income.

  1. Get a part-time job. If you are working 9-5 now, consider taking on another job. Waiting tables at a restaurant is an excellent and fast way to earn some extra cash. The job can be difficult at times, but the money is well worth it on a busy Saturday night.
  2. Sell your stuff. Ebay and Amazon.com are great online marketplaces to sell things you don’t use or need anymore. Their websites get a high amount of online traffic, so your listed items will most likely be noticed by potential buyers.
  3. Write online articles. Websites like Helium.com and AssociatedContent.com pay writers of all levels for articles on various topics. While the pay may not be enough to cover the monthly mortgage, it can certainly pay for a week’s worth of gas for your car.
  4. Consider temping. If you are jobless, this can be especially beneficial to you. There are numerous temping and staffing agencies across the country that place individuals with companies. Skill-sets of any kind are usually welcome. I went through a temp agency and was placed with a company that same week. A few months later, I was hired as a permanent employee by that company and now receive great benefits!

Try to avoid using credit cards to save money. Many people rack up debt by putting small purchases such as groceries and gas on their credit cards. This could be detrimental to your finances.

Do try to save money when you can. Avoid shopping excursions, dining out, and getting takeout for lunch.

Refinanced Your Home Lately? Be Prepared for the Unexpected!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’re heard that home mortgage rates are at all-time lows. But unless you’ve recently refinanced, what you may not have heard is that the process can be nothing short of a nightmare-for you and your Loan Officer. That’s right-money may be cheap these days, but ‘easy’ it is not.

Let’s start with the obvious, your home’s value. Gone are the days of the “Do you have a pulse and can you fog a mirror?” loans, where stated values were used. And back in the ‘old days’ when lenders did require a licensed 3rd party appraiser to inspect and photograph your home inside and out and analyze a multitude of data to determine the price your home would fetch in an open and competitive market–the appraiser’s opinion of value was generally accepted, with few questions asked.

But no more! With the housing market crash, no matter how much an appraiser justifies value, chances are it’s not going to be accepted. In a lender’s foreclosure, it’s this always changing difference between your home’s value and what you owe that can literally ‘break their bank’.

Whether it’s before your loan closes or after you default and your lender forecloses, they want to make sure your home can be sold for enough money to pay off your mortgage balance and all associated costs they’ll incur in getting rid of your home-which costs, according to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress-can average a whopping $77,935!

THIS is why your home’s value is critical -can your equity absorb your lender’s cost to foreclose? And the nightmare in today’s market? No one can figure that out! It’s like trying to appraise a pile of crumbling rock during earthquake after-tremors. Lenders need more valuation proof. They want more “comparables”-recent sales of nearby homes like yours-as many as 5 and 6 rather than what used to be the standard 3. And if you’re watching “For Sale” and “Foreclosure” signs proliferate in your neighborhood for months on end, then you’re right in thinking appraisers must be having a difficult time finding 3 cookie-cutter open and competitive market sales.

Lenders also want more neighborhood data like foreclosure and short-sale trends in the ‘hood’. They want more ‘desk reviews’ (that’s when an appraiser in NY City sits at a ‘desk’ and reviews a local South Carolina appraiser’s opinion of value on a quaint little country home in the Low Country), and more “AVM’s”, an automated valuation model using scientific measures and computer decision logic, versus a human’s inclination and actual details of the home or transaction.

Here’s a real example of a recent refinance my Loan Officer colleague had to deal with:

His borrower was refinancing to a lower rate where the first appraisal came in at $287,000. The homeowner knew his home’s value was low-balled. So another appraisal was ordered, which came in at $345,000. That’s a big $58,000 difference, his equity. Next, the lender ordered the “AVM”, which is like selecting a spouse from an on-line dating site based on nothing but physical stats. And what happens? Well, of course, the “AVM” result was that it can’t support the $345,000 value. Next came the dreaded desk review, performed by an appraiser who wasn’t familiar with local market conditions and who didn’t physically inspect the property, neighborhood or comps. So naturally, the desk reviewer (who’s also covering his ‘backside’) goes conservative at $284,000. And which figure did the lender use? $312,000. Are you scratching your head yet? And, you want to hear the worst part? The cost for determining value is the borrower’s responsibility. In this particular case, what should have been a $400 appraisal cost ended up being over $1,100!

To summarize, if you’re thinking about refinancing, brace yourself. Yes, take advantage of today’s low rates if you can, but be prepared in today’s market that if you ask 5 experts what your home is worth, chances are, you’ll get 5 very different opinions.

How I Stopped Fretting About Finances and Learned to Manage My Money

Growing up in my family home taught me a lot about living frugally. I have early childhood memories of the abundance of food our family enjoyed. All of this food largely came from my family’s farm. I remember the rows and rows of potato plants rising up from mounds of newly tilled soil. Tomato plants, green peas, cucumbers, onions, squash, there were so many delicious foods that came from my families garden every year. My parents didn’t seem to worry about financial success when they had all this abundance of nature’s bounty around them.

My father contributed to our family’s finances on a daily basis by doing a variety of home maintenance and car repairs. He chose to do this himself rather than pay someone else to do this work. My Mother sewed many of our clothes. Growing up in my family should have prepared me for many skills to live frugally. I had to wonder though if there is a difference between living frugal and knowing how to manage money. It seemed to me my parents never had any money to spare.

I realized only after I lived on my own for awhile that I had depended on my family’s resources, without really learning how to put those resources to use in my own life. I was different than my parents. I wanted to buy my clothes from a store. I wanted to live in town. I wanted shopping trips. I also wanted to manage my money with enough to go around to the end of the month, and from one day to the next. I wanted to have financial intelligence.

Here is What I Learned About How to Manage My Money:

— Keep a daily record (Mundis 94). I vowed to track my spending. I would carry a small notepad with me everywhere. Anytime I spent even .05 cents, I would write it down in the notepad. My record included what I spent my money on. I would find out where my money was going and how I was spending my money. I would stick with the daily record and not add anything to it until I was sure that I could track all of my spending. I would know exactly what I was spending my money on each and every day.

— Keep a weekly record (Mundis 97). In my weekly record I review where I have spent my money. For example, 5 dollars on coffee, 50 dollars on clothing, I made a weekly form to fill out tailored to my own needs. This is a form I could understand since I made it myself. This form would allow me to see my spending habits for one week. Along one side I put the areas where I had spent my money, such as, clothing, coffee, laundry, entertainment, groceries. I put columns all the way across with a total for each area of spending at the end. Once I had my totals for each area then I could add these combined totals for a complete total of spending for the entire week.

— Keep a monthly record (Mundis 98-99). The monthly record is an overall view of spending for the whole month. Again I made my own form, which was easy for me to read, for recording the amounts. I wanted to be able to see my spending habits, but I didn’t want to spend hours on a complicated budget sheet someone else designed. I wanted a financial plan simple, and tailored to my own needs. Once I had completed my first month of record keeping, it was easy for me to see many areas where I could make changes in my spending habits.

— Stick with a financial plan (Mundis 128-134). After reviewing my spending habits, it was time for me to decide how much money to spend on individual areas for the upcoming month. With my record in hand I was now prepared to make better decisions. For example, I lived one block away from a convenience store. After reviewing my monthly spending record, it was easy to see I spent close to 40 dollars a month at this store on snacks alone. I could cut back on some of these snacks and also I could purchase these snacks at various retail stores in the area, where the prices for these items would be much lower. Finally, this included my last form showing my financial plan for the upcoming month. At the end of each month I could compare my financial plan to my actual spending. Sticking with a plan would allow me to create a money surplus.

A Word About Spending Areas

Since this was my money, I decided how to spend it. I decided to have an area for entertainment, and shopping trips. Maybe I didn’t want to be rich, but I did want to enjoy life, not all fun costs money, but I couldn’t forget about the shopping trips. I would set some money aside for just the fun purchases, a new pair of shoes, or blue jeans, flowers, a vase, or a book to read, things I would personally find pleasure with.

Debt

I decided to be consistent about paying off debt. No matter how much or how little I could pay, I would never miss a payment. I would not make any new debt. If I couldn’t pay cash or figure out a way to save my money for a larger purchase, then it would have to wait. “Just for Today, One day, Do Not Incur Any New Debt. Not one. Don’t borrow $ 2 from a friend. Don’t accept a service you plan to pay for later. Don’t take a loan from a bank. Don’t charge anything on your credit card” (Mundis 83).

Plain Speaking on the World’s Cash Crisis!

Global cash crisis! We hear this screamed from headlines and news channels every day, but to the layman the language used is so confusing, it becomes lost in a meaningless gobblygook of deficit, and spending to return ratios, a concept for most of us that muddies exactly what is happening in terminologies beyond our normal understanding.

Let us speak plainly about world debt so we can perhaps learn by the lessons put before us. The more we spent – with offers of buy now pay later or interest free credit – the more in debt we became to banks and money lenders! To continue funding our drive for more and more credit the banks had to borrow from each other until they too ran out of money. Now a country can not survive without a stable banking system so in steps the reserves, lent to banks by governments to strengthen the deficit until these too ran dry. The only option left to countries was to borrow from other countries like a flue virus it was airborne! Now every country on every continent in the world is in debt!

So what can we do about this crisis? We could turn to charts and graphs and analyze the hell out of the problem until it becomes so vast and incomprehensible that we will end up analyzing the analyzed, or we could just simplify it all in ways we can understand.

Lets pretend each country is a person, and we have ten people owing each other money! The first thing to do is work out who owes what to who. We might find that number one person owes number two, and number two owes number three who owes money to number one, then it becomes a closed system where everyone is waiting for the first person to pay up so they can pass the money on to whoever they owe, a little like three people being locked in a room with a flue bug and passing it around forever without end. Like passing the parcel around and around, holding it for a moment and feeling rich but then having to hand it over to the next person, an endless circle of “I am owed what I also owe!”

How can we break this system? How about just saying? “Look you owe me, I owe him, he owes you, lets forget it and get back to making money!” It has been done before, many countries have been in debt to us, and others, and for concessions or trade agreements we have wiped the debt to move forward, we just need to talk to each other.

The only real problem is in the possibility that we all have ended up borrowing from the same person! If this is the case then we would all have to pay this person back, making us weaker then we already are, and them stronger, but that could never happen because especially in the world of finance, being the only lender creates a little thing called monopoly, and after all that is illegal!

What to Look for in a Debt Management Program

Everyone probably has debt. In fact, a survey shows that at least 70% of American households have credit card debts and this is because they spend more than they earn. If you are looking for a way to achieve debt relief, debt getting a debt management program might just be the best way for you to achieve a debt-free, worry free life.

If you have debt, you are probably always facing a barrage of phone calls from collection companies right now. Your first impulse might be to ignore these calls as we sometimes ignore the unpleasant things in life, hoping they would just go away. But these debt collectors wouldn’t go away. They will hound you and the best thing to do would be to face them now before things go worse. The best thing for you to would be to get into a debt management program. What are debt management programs anyway?

Most of your creditors wouldn’t want to settle your debts with you. They would want to bring a third party into the scene and most of the time, these are debt counseling agencies with debt management programs. These agencies will be the one to negotiate with your creditors and will be the one to budget your monthly payments in case you have a number of debtors. On top of that, they provide counseling to make sure that you don’t go back into the same routine again and even get deeper into debt.

However, not all debt management programs and debt counseling agencies are created equal. There are those who are better at helping you and here are some of the ways to find them:

A good credit counselor

A debt management program is indeed catered towards helping you pay off your debts but most importantly, it should incorporate a program that will help you better manage your finances. As such, a great program should be carried out by a good credit counselor who will help you budget and explore other options when it comes to debt relief.

Licensed and accredited

There are a lot of scammers online posing as the solution to your debt problem. The best thing to do would be to make sure that before you get into any of their programs, they are accredited and licensed by your state just so you are sure that you are dealing with a legitimate company. The last thing that you need is to get scammed out of your hard-earned money and find out that your creditors haven’t been receiving any of your payments and you now have to face a huge amount of penalty fees and other charges.

No or minimal upfront fees

Most agencies ask for an upfront fee before you can enroll in their debt management program. The average upfront fee is $50-$100 dollars, don’t pay any more than that. Also, don’t get tricked into paying an acceptance fee, and then an application fee, and then a consultation fee and so on.

There are a lot of credible, trustworthy agencies out there. Just do your research and you should be able to find one that could help you achieve a debt-free life.

If you think this article is interesting, you may be interested in this Debt Collection article.

Should Married Couples Share Their Finances or Keep Their Money Separate? Part 1

Whether you are just getting engaged, in the honey moon stage, or have spent a life time together; the question of combining money is extremely important for most to make and only a passing thought for others.

The tradition of automatically pooling funds can be hard to break. It works well for some couples but the discussion of whether to pool your funds, keep them separate or a combination of the two is often a very difficult subject to approach.

Money problems are often cited as the most common trigger for arguments and one of the top reasons that married couples get divorced. Before walking down the aisle couples should spend a great deal of time discussing their feelings about money and deciding how they will handle finances from paying the electric bill to vacations to retirement. At the same time they should decide whether or not they will share their money, in whole or in part or not at all.

While the ultimate decision varies from couple to couple – many financial advisers recommend that married people each have some separate finances (including bank accounts and credit cards) and have a joint account for certain shared expenses (such as mortgages, child care, groceries, investment goals, etc.).

Separate Not Secret – Please keep in mind that separate does not mean secret. Avoid financial secrets as any secrets can be devastating to a marriage.

Some of the Basic Reasons to separate accounts include:

From simple things like:

Avoiding the frustration when your spouse forgets to tell you about checks written, ATM withdrawals, charges on your credit cards, or an eBay addition.

Protection – Protects at least the separate portion of your money from these factors as well as when there are more difficult issues that can arise when a marriage goes sour.

To more complicated Financial Issues:

Examples include those that are brought into the marriage, such as:

Issues from previous marriages, child support, alimony,

When one spouse brings a ton of debt into the marriage,

If one spouse is a spendthrift, a gambler, impulse buyer,

If one spouse gets the “its my money” bug. or

If one spouse brings a great deal of money, property or an anticipated inheritance in. (This is a good time to ask “Do you need a pre-nup?”)

Be sure to look out for Part 2 of this article to learn more and to help you decide if sharing all of your money with your spouse is right for you.

If you have feelings as to whether or not couples should share finances or example of good or bad experiences related to sharing (or not) finances please feel free to share them below in the comment section. The more people know about the good and bad that can occur the more likely they will be able to make a comfortable decision as to how to handle their own situation.

Please follow me to receive updates and new article so that you will not miss anything. Feel free to leave comments or suggestions for new articles, if there is anything that you would like to learn about investing or any of the other topics that I will be writing about.

5 Ways to Organize and Stay on Top of Your Finances in 2011

If 2011 is going to be the year you get ahead financially, you need a plan to stay organized and on top of your bills and cash flow. Missing bill payments, spending without a budget and not monitoring your bank accounts can end up costing you in the long run, and will make it harder to keep your financial house in order. Getting your bills and cash flow organized is essential for staying on top of your finances in 2011m and these activities can also help you budget better all year long.

Use these five tips to stay organized and on top of your finances in 2011:

  1. Create a budget blueprint. You can use financial software to make a budget, or just create your own using your favorite spreadsheet software. The goal is to create a basic outline of your cash flow – a comprehensive list of your monthly fixed and variable expenses, all of your income sources, and any big purchases you expect to make within the next six to twelve months. Use this blueprint as a guide and reference it regularly (see #2) to keep your finances organized.
  2. Review and revise your budget at least twice per month. Keep a close eye on your expenses and make sure all of your bills are paid on time by reviewing your budget or cash flow statement at least twice per month. Make sure you write down confirmation numbers of bills you paid online so that you can correct any mistakes easily.
  3. Pay your bills on a schedule. If you can’t pay bills as soon as you receive them, at least have a plan to pay them on a specific date – well before the due date. One of the easiest ways to organize and stay on top of your finances in 2011 is by creating a bill payment schedule or calendar. Keep this calendar or schedule in a visible place so that you never miss a bill payment again.
  4. Create a monthly checklist of luxury or extra expenses. Are you planning on purchasing a big-ticket item this month? Are you looking to splurge on something for a special occasion? Create a list of these “upcoming” expenses so that you can add them to your budget and keep track of your expenditures. Forecasting your expense in this way can help you better organize your finances and may also prevent you from overspending.
  5. Open at least one checking account at a local bank. Even if you do most of your banking online, stay organized and don’t worry about check cashing by having an account at a local bank. Open a checking account at a local bank so that you can get an ATM fee-free debit card, and also cash your checks without having to pay a fee. Make sure you understand what your limitations are with this account and that you understand the minimum balance you have to maintain in order to avoid fees.