January 12, 2012 5:58 pm
Q: When should I tackle the job myself or call in the pros?
A: A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your own hard work.
There are several do-it-yourself books that offer guidance, and some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, offer classes that can be helpful getting you on the right track.
Be aware, however, that you may end up spending more time, and up to double your estimated budget, if problems arise. Also, you may have difficulty selling your home if the workmanship looks shoddy.
Unless you are very experienced, home improvement experts suggest that you stick to painting, minor landscaping, building interior shelving, and other minor improvements.
Remember, too, that you may need to deal with local agencies to get permits, inspections, variances, and certificates of occupancy.
January 11, 2012 5:58 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.
January 11, 2012 5:58 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.
January 11, 2012 5:58 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.
January 11, 2012 5:58 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.
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.
January 11, 2012 5:58 pm
Tax sale. A court-ordered sale of real property to raise money to cover delinquent taxes.
January 11, 2012 5:58 pm
Q: Are there such things as no-cost and no-fee loans?
A: You see promotions for them all the time. But banking regulators have gone after lenders who misrepresent these loans. The reality is that no-cost and no-fee loans may actually cost the borrower more over the long term because costs are often hidden by rolling them into the new loan through higher principal or interest.
The rates on no-cost loans are usually about 1/2 or 5/8 of a percentage point higher than the "full cost" rate.
A typical no-fee loan includes points and all fees in the loan principal, so the borrower does not pay or “see” these expenses at the closing. Instead, the borrower pays them over the life of the loan.
If you are looking to refinance, it may be possible to get a no-cost program that will lower your rate at no expense to you. Today, lenders are paying all closing costs, such as title fees, appraisal fees, and credit report fees. There are no loan fees or points, and nothing is added to your loan balance.
However, many lenders may charge a loan application fee and some restrictions may apply depending on the size of the loan.
January 10, 2012 5:54 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.
January 10, 2012 5:54 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.
January 10, 2012 5:54 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