Gunning Daily News

7 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill

January 11, 2012 5:20 pm

If you’ve been clipping grocery coupons from the Sunday papers for years, you may have noticed a sad but noticeable truth: many of your name brand favorite coupons seem to be a lot less in evidence. “But,” says budget advisor Crystal Paine,” there are plenty of other ways to get more groceries for less.”

Paine, who wrote “The Money-Saving Mom’s Budget,” suggests ten ways to get more for your money:

1. Try the dollar store – Most carry off-brand canned and packaged goods—and some recognizable brands—costing far less than supermarket brands. Many also carry fresh produce at prices that may amaze you.
2. Shop the bread outlets – Check the phone book for outlet stores operated by many major brand bread bakers. The outlets sell their day-old breads and sweets for as much as 50 percent off supermarket prices. Most products have a use-by date anyway, so stock up the freezer and save big-time.
3. Use less soap – Get more out of your laundry soaps, dish soaps and shampoos that what the package recommends. In most cases, you won’t notice a difference in cleaning power, but you will find you are replenishing them less often.
4. Ditch the cold cereal – It’s an expensive breakfast. Make and freeze pancakes or waffles and store them in the freezer, toaster-ready. Try less expensive individual oatmeal packets. Throw milk or yogurt and over-ripe fruit in the blender for an inexpensive smoothie.
5. Use the freezer – If milk is getting ready to expire, put it in the freezer. Same for cheese and other dairy products—and fruit, cut into chunks and bagged. Use them later for puddings, smoothies, and other recipes. Grate the cheese for casseroles.
6. Shop less often – Doing so will save you money by forcing you to work your way through your food cabinets, freezer and fridge to come up with dinner ideas.
7. Try reusable water bottles – Don’t buy disposable bottled water. Buy reusable bottles at the dollar store, label one for each family member, and wash and refill every night.

Are You a Renter? Some Things to Consider

January 11, 2012 5:20 pm

Since the rental market is expected to thrive in 2012 with more homeowners either being forced to consider renting, or renting out their space, we checked in with Jessica Bosari, a writer for LowIncomeApartmentFinder.com, for some advice.

How do renters help protect themselves from landlords whose property goes, or is about to go into foreclosure?

Bosari says property owners are typically aware they are undergoing financial trouble, but as a tenant, you will probably have no idea. You will probably learn about the problem the day the property owner is served with foreclosure papers.

This leaves very little time to find a new place to live before you the court forces you to vacate your current apartment. But a little advance notice can help you arrange a move before it is too late.

That's where Bosari says background research can save time, money, and stress.

The best time, she says, to learn about the financial problems of a property owner is before you move into the building by looking into the building owner’s public financial records.

If the property owner is holding a lien or has filed bankruptcy in the past, you would do better to find a different property for your new apartment. Bosari says the property owner will probably not be forthcoming about any financial problems, and you do not want to learn about them a month after moving into the building.

Generally there is a pattern of foreclosure, Bosari says. Property owners who are having trouble paying their bills will usually have a string of financial problems that you can research through your local county or town assessor’s office or website.

These locations will have a record of any liens that already held against the property owner.

Plus, Bosari says you can also discover if the property owner has filed for bankruptcy or some other form of financial assistance.

Any indication of financial instability, she says, is a red flag that the property is not a safe place to begin a rental contract. Keep shopping until you find an apartment with no financial troubles attached.

Money and Moving: 5 Ways to Cut Costs

January 11, 2012 5:20 pm

According to Worldwide ERC, a workforce mobility association, the average family spent over 12,000 dollars on shipping household goods during a move in 2010. Between closing costs and property taxes, buying, selling and owning a home is an expensive ordeal. When you factor in moving costs, it’s enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. Below are 5 ways to save money during your move.

Make deductions. Did you know you can deduct moving expenses from your taxes? If you relocated for work, you may be eligible to deduct packing, transporting and storing costs from next year’s taxes, so be sure to save those receipts!

Rent your own truck. Renting a truck and doing the move yourself from start to finish is the cheapest way to move. It requires more effort, but it saves money. Ask friends and family to help, or hire neighborhood teens to help with the packing and lifting. And don’t forget that fuel and mileage charges can differ immensely between companies, so do your research before hiring.

Timing is everything. The height of moving season is the summer, when the kids are out of school, the weather is ideal for packing and in general, most people have relaxed schedules. As a result, many movers offer discounts in the off-season. If it’s at all possible to postpone your move, attempt to relocate between October and April to score those off-peak prices.

Get it delivered. Many companies, including PODS and 1-800-PACK-RAT, that will deliver a portable storage unit to your place. You will save money by packing it yourself, and then the company will come back to pick up the unit and bring it to your new place.

Recycle packing Supplies. Moving companies often over-charge on packing supplies, so use them as a last resort. When it comes to packing supplies, you can save money by using what you have. Pack in boxes, suitcases, bags and bins you already own before buying supplies. And if you do need more, try purchasing your packing material from a recycled box company or ask local businesses for old boxes that they plan on tossing.

Dude? Where’s Your Car? Exploring the Legal Steps Needed to Repossess a Car

January 11, 2012 5:20 pm

What are the legal steps necessary to repossess a car? If you're behind on your payments, you may find your car has been repossessed—sometimes, without your knowledge or consent.
Laws differ in each state, but here are some general principles.

Seizing the car

In general, a creditor can seize a vehicle as soon as a lessee "defaults" on a payment, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Check your loan or lease agreement, which should define what a "default" is. Even missing a single on-time payment may be enough.

A creditor can legally repossess a car at any time, without notice, no matter where the car is parked (unless it's inside a part of your house, like in a garage). But repo men can't use physical force or threats. If they do, it could be considered a "breach of the peace," and the repo men could face fines for damage.

Selling the car
In general, a creditor who repossesses a car legally can sell that car to another buyer. But some states require a creditor to tell you the date of auction or impending sale so you can try to buy back the repossessed car. Other states allow you to try to "reinstate" your loan by fulfilling back payments and entering into a new contract with your creditor.

Personal property inside the car
In general, a creditor cannot keep or sell personal property found inside a repossessed car. A lawsuit may be warranted if some of your personal items are unaccounted for.
Deficiency judgments

After a creditor sells a repossessed car, laws may still make you liable for paying the "deficiency"—the difference between what you owe on your contract and the resale price of the car.
Creditors can take you to court to enforce a deficiency judgment, but they could be out of luck if you have a good defense -- for example, if the repo men breached the peace when repossessing your car, or if a creditor waited too long to sue you. You may want to consult an attorney to ensure the best possible outcome.

Source: findlaw.com

Extended Warranties: Are They Worth It?

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

It’s the time of year when many Americans are out there hunting for bargains, especially in big screen TVs and other electronics still on store shelves in the days and weeks after Christmas. There are bargains to be had, for sure, and you may be glad to fork over the money for what you deem a really good deal. But as anyone who has ever bought anything electronic knows, the first question out of every salesman’s mouth is, ‘Would you like the extended warranty?’

“For many, the answer is a flat no,” says big box store salesman John Guerrera, who has been selling big screen television sets since they first began to flood the market. “But a lot of people will hesitate a minute, and then begin to ask questions.”

That’s a good thing, Guerrera observed, because the truth is that in many cases, given the life expectancy of today’s products, an extended warranty is not much more than a money-maker for the store. “The first question should be, ‘what kind of warranty comes with the purchase?’

Guerrera suggests considering these factors before deciding whether an extended warranty is for you:

• What do you get for free? Almost every piece of electronics you can buy has a manufacturer's warranty for a particular time period. In addition, every item sold has an implied warranty, assuring the item will work as reasonably expected over the long haul. In many cases, the implied warranty may be all you will need.
• What does the extended warranty provide? How much longer will product protection last under the terms of this warranty? If it’s only an added year or two, consider that most electronics perform trouble-free for a lot longer than that—and that some parts, like computer hard drives, already come with a five-year warranty. Be sure you are not paying for coverage you will likely never need.
• What about service? The warranty you get free will usually protect you only against defects in manufacture. If an accident happens, or if you misuse the product, you're probably out of luck. In some cases, an extended warranty may be more like a service contract, covering product failure for any reason during the contracted period. If this added protection gives you peace of mind, a reasonably priced extended warranty may not be a bad idea.

Tips for Controlling Kids’ Money

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

The following tips come from Trevor Bolin, author of Take Charge and Change Your Life Today. Bolin went from a drug-addicted teenager to a clean, confident and savvy young adult who made his first million dollars by 28.

While many parents teach their children the basics of fiscal responsibility by giving them an allowance, Bolin says his experience offers less obvious but equally important lessons. Children need to have a healthy attitude toward money, not only to avoid making choices that make them unhappy, but to allow them a life path that they control.

“I learned my lessons the hard way,” he says. “You can start now to make sure your children never reach the bottom that I hit.”

These are some places to start:
• Avoid making negative comments about money: Sayings like “money is the root of all evil” and “a fool and his money are soon parted” are negative and therefore not helpful. Make a commitment, starting today, not to use those phrases. Imagine what a child believes about money if that’s what they hear all the time?

Money is a great thing—when you know what to do with it and when you control it rather than allowing it to control you.

• Help children recognize the financial lessons they learn from experience: Say you warned your child he should set aside some of Grandma’s birthday money, but he spent it all on impulse. When he’s disappointed later because he can’t buy something he wants, remind him why he can’t. Tell him that feeling disappointed is a small price to pay for a valuable lesson. And won’t it be much easier if he learns the lesson after just one sad experience?
• Pay yourself first: If your child receives a weekly allowance, he or she should immediately put 10 to 15 percent into a savings account that won’t be touched. Or set a milestone for when money from the account can be used, such as the child’s 18th birthday. By then, she’ll be so accustomed to saving, she probably won’t tap the account even when she can.
• Help your child set goals: Setting financial goals, noting progress toward achieving them, and enjoying the satisfaction of crossing them off the list are fiscally sound lessons and a good way to nurture healthy attitudes in general. Your child might set goals for the month ($10 to go to the movies), goals for the year (save $200 for a Wii system) and goals for the future ($375 a year for the next eight years for a car when I’m 16).

“Goals are the first step in achieving what you desire in this world,” Bolin says.

“You can create success in any aspect of life—not just money—as long as you’re putting a plan in motion.”

Trevor Bolin owns three realty companies in British Columbia. He is also chairman of Bolin & Co. International Training, which offers coaching and seminars for business people.

5 Home Remodeling Tips

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

Remodeling your home can be stressful and complicated. The following tips, provided by the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, can help put your mind at ease while renovating.

• Request A Comprehensive Bid.
It should detail as many of the specifications as possible. Get bids from three remodelers. If one of the bids is unusually low, make sure that they have included everything.

• Consider Doing Some Work Yourself. If the bids are higher than expected and too much for you to afford, you might be surprised how much money you can save. But make sure you're not getting into something you don't have time to do. Things that come up near the end of the job, such as painting, finish carpentry, etc. are good bets since the other parts aren't dependent on their completion. Some can even be done after the issuance of the final occupancy permit.

• Get a Comprehensive Written Contract. It will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your remodeler. Most disputes arise over issues that were not resolved in advance. Make sure it covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc., with general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defects and correction, change order procedures, warranties, right to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since more than half of the costs of lawsuits represent legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise).

• Consider Buying Certain Building Materials in Advance. Styles for appliances and other building materials and suppliers are subject to change and are often heavily discounted when they go out of production. If there's a style you like very much, it may not be available next year, so consider buying and storing them when you see a really good deal. With the advent of the larger super discount home improvement stores, prices are down to the point that remodelers often can't get much better prices from other sources, even with their business discounts.

• Be Careful about Financing. If you're financing the project, you want the lowest rate possible and you want the interest to be tax deductible. Only certain types of loans will give you an interest deduction so check with an expert. In some cases, refinancing your mortgage can be the best bet.

Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners

6 Strategies to Help Avoid Credit Card Fees

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

In order to avoid credit card fees, personal money resource Bills.com shares the following strategies consumers can employ to better avoid additional charges that have arisen because of changes outlined in the Credit CARD Act.

1. Monitor your communications from your credit card issuer. One of the best ways to stay abreast of changes specific to your cards or situation is to closely monitor information sent from your issuer. New regulations require much greater disclosure on all changes, so any update will be sent to your attention. Be alert for all mailings and read them carefully before throwing away or destroying.

2. Maintain prompt payment status with your credit card company. Despite all these changes, the simplest way to avoid fees is to pay your credit card bills on time. By missing or being late on a payment you will incur fees, potentially increase your interest rate and lower your overall credit score.

3. Pay down high balances to improve credit card utilization.
This will show that you can responsibly manage your credit limit, minimizing the chance of higher tiers of interest rates or reductions in credit limit. Additionally, better credit utilization will help boost your credit score.

4. Maintain activity on your credit card accounts. By using the revolving credit lines that you need or want to keep and promptly paying on them, you can help avoid cancellation of those credit card accounts. This will also help avoid faux inactivity fees and help boost your credit score, while having a long existing credit line closed could lower your score.

5. Avoid over-limit fees through responsible spending habits. Credit card issuers have begun to charge fees for opt-in over-limit coverage. By remaining aware of credit limits and balances, consumers can avoid a need for this service and these fees altogether.

6. New regulations do not apply to corporate or small business cards. This means some small business owners might consider using personal cards for business expenses because of fee and rate limitations. However, these owners should remain cautious because their personal credit scores could suffer in the event of missed payments or defaults. Conversely, be aware of companies that are increasing solicitations for corporate card members to avoid new regulations.

For more information, visit www.bills.com.

Word of the Day

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

Tax rate. The rate at which real property is taxed in a tax district or county. For example, in a certain county, real property may be taxed at a rate of 55 mills (or 0.055) per dollar of assessed valuation.

Question of the Day

January 10, 2012 5:38 pm

Q: What kind of return can I expect from home improvements?

A: Some improvements offer a greater return than others do. This will vary greatly depending on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from siding and window replacements, major kitchen remodeling, bathroom and family room additions, and mid-range master bedroom suites.