Thursday, August 29, 2013

Questions: Share Your Tips and Ideas


We have several questions on the Frugal Life Forum that could use your help.  These are Frugal Lifers, like yourself, that want to save money if they can.  Just click on the topic and it will take you to the forum to comment/reply.

Automobiles

1. End of car lease questions

Miscellaneous

1. Used Potholders


Personal Care

1.  Deodorant Stone Roll On
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How to Protect Your Elderly Parents From Being Scammed

From a young age, your parents taught you to be aware of stranger-danger. If you have elderly parents, you may have noticed the irony. Now you're telling your parents to be wary of people out to do them harm.

The national statistics on crimes affecting the elderly are sparse and outdated but instructive nonetheless. For instance, according to the National Institute of Justice website, a national 2007 study of more than 7,000 community residing elders estimated that 1 in 10 senior citizens reported experiencing at least one form of elder mistreatment in the past year. And the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses in telemarketing fraud—and that was back in 2000. Crime against senior citizens is so pervasive that over the years, elder crime units have cropped up throughout the country in police bureaus, aimed solely at protecting senior citizens.

It can be a challenge to even have a discussion with your parents about their susceptibility to crime and identity theft. Have the conversation too early, when your parents feel perfectly safe and relatively invulnerable, and they may justifiably be insulted that they're thought of as elderly and vulnerable. Bring up the topic in an artful way, and they may wonder if ... Read the entire article.


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Your Employer May Share Your Salary

The Equifax credit reporting agency, with the aid of thousands of human resource departments around the country, has assembled what may be the most powerful and thorough private database of Americans’ personal information ever created, containing 190 million employment and salary records covering more than one-third of U.S. adults.

Some of the information in the little-known database, created through an Equifax-owned company called The Work Number, is sold to debt collectors, financial service companies and other entities.

"It's the biggest privacy breach in our time, and it’s legal and no one knows it’s going on," said Robert Mather, who runs a small employment background company named Pre-Employ.com. "It's like a secret CIA."

Despite all the information Americans now share on social media and websites, and all the data we know companies collect on us, one piece of information is still sacred to most people: their salaries. After all, who would post their salary as a status update on Facebook or in a tweet?

But salary information is also for sale by ... Read the entire article.

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Best Shopping Deals for September

Summer is over, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re looking for hot shopping deals. June, July and August are actually among the worst months of the year to find great sales.

In September, though, retailers work harder to get shoppers into stores, with the hope that they’ll also return later in the year to do some of their Christmas shopping. September is also a month when shoppers – for a variety of reasons – are in a better position to negotiate and save money on big and small purchases alike.

We’ll start with a big one, and move on to less pricey purchases you should consider making this month:

New cars. Most 2013 model year cars have been delivered to car lots by September, and this is the month when car dealers start working hard to make room for them by getting rid of the older models. The good thing for new car buyers is the “old ones” are 2012 models. They might be considered a year old by car dealership standards, but they should be brand new, with fewer than 100 miles on their odometers. Many of the 2012 models can be had for at least 10 percent less in September – and the discounts grow more substantial as the year wears on. On the other hand, if you wait too long, the lots could be well picked over and selection is likely to be limited.

Cars (again). Don’t want to buy? Lease prices tend to be lower in ... Read the entire article.


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Avoidable Job Search Mistakes

The phrase "shoot yourself in the foot" didn't create itself. In fact, job seekers probably coined it.

Every day, thousands of people look for a job -- and almost every single one of them makes at lease one mistake (or 10) in the process. The worst part is, many if not all of these blunders are completely avoidable.

"It never ceases to amaze me when people make mistakes, then slap themselves on the forehead and say, 'I can't believe I did that.' I feel the need to pop them on the head," says JaLynn Hudnall, of Ravenwood Forest Consulting.

Here are 20 dumb job search mistakes that experts say you can avoid with a little thought:

1. Not using a professional e-mail address.

"It is wonderful that you are proud of your heritage and cultural roots. However, please don't use 'juicygapeach' as your e-mail address," Hudnall says. "There are enough free e-mail hosts out there that you can set up a plain first.last account that is professional and non-descript."

2. Jumping into the fire without your fireproof undies.
"[Don't start] your search without a plan or much thought as to where you want to go and how you plan to get there," says Julie Bauke, author of "Stop Peeing On Your Shoes- Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw up your Job Search." Also, make sure you can answer these three key questions: Why are you in the job market? Tell me about yourself. What are you looking to do next?

3. Not checking yourself in the mirror before walking into an interview.
"I once interviewed someone who had a giant piece of lettuce hanging off his mustache," says Mario Schulzke, founder of CareerSparx.com. "I should have said something to him, but it was just too awkward and instead I spent 30 minutes staring at the guy's ... Read the entire article.


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7 Ways Stores Get You to Make an Impulse Purchase

Retailers rely on a host of tactics to get you to purchase stuff you don't want, don't need and never intended to buy.
And their ploys often work: 9 out of 10 shoppers make impulse purchases, buying items that weren't on their shopping lists, according to a recent survey by The Checkout, an ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by retail branding firm The Integer Group.

Impulse buys are a ... Read the entire article.


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Social Security - The Windfall Elimination Provision

It seems like many of you have questions about Social Security. Lately, I've been getting several questions from people with government pensions who didn't have Social Security taxes withheld. I asked Tiya Lim, who wrote the section on Social Security in our book The Only Guide You'll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan, to weigh in on the topic. Here's what she had to say:

There are two provisions that could reduce or eliminate your Social Security benefits if you're also eligible to receive a government pension:

The windfall elimination provision (WEP)
The government pension offset provision (GPO)

Today, we'll talk about the WEP. If you receive a pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where you didn't pay Social Security taxes, part of your Social Security benefit may be reduced (but not eliminated) by the WEP. If any family members are eligible for benefits based on your work record, their benefits may also be reduced.

Why the Reduction? The Social Security system is progressive, meaning lower-paid workers get a higher percentage of their pre-retirement earnings than high-wage earners. According to the Social Security Administration, lower-paid workers could get a Social Security benefit equal to about 55 percent of their pre-retirement earnings, while highly paid workers may receive about 25 percent.

Without the WEP in place, people who primarily worked in a job not covered by Social Security would have their benefits calculated as if they were long-term, low-wage workers. Thus, they would not only receive their pension, but also receive Social Security benefits that represented a higher percentage of their earnings.

How Much Is the Reduction? Your benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of earnings, adjusted for wage inflation and weighted according to a formula from the SSA. The WEP uses a modified formula to calculate a reduced benefit amount.

The maximum reduction possible is based on ... Read the entire article.


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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Travel Discounts You Can Score on International Trips

My wife and I recently returned from two glorious months of traveling through Eastern Europe. That's the kind of extended international travel adventure we like to treat ourselves to at least every year or two since we became semiretired. But it's also something that sometimes gets me accused of being a cheap-fake, as opposed to a cheapskate.

However the reality is that this trip ended up costing us only about $100 per day, total — for the two of us combined — including all transportation, lodging, food, incidentals and sightseeing.

When you consider that when we're at home we have living expenses as well (including a couple of hundred dollars a month just to keep gas in the car), a trip of that length doesn't cost us a whole lot more than we'd spend if we stayed home in Maryland. In fact, sometimes when we've traveled for protracted periods like this we've managed to rent out our house while we're away and actually turn a profit on our trip!

Of course when we travel the world we don't stay in five-star resorts or fly first-class. But we do typically enjoy a level of ... Read the entire article.


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10 Things College Students Should Know About Credit Cards

College students are like chum in the water for the sharks than run credit card companies. Many students get suckered in when creditors begin flooding them with offers in the mail or even set up booths on campus pitching the virtues of credit cards, and though it's often a necessary evil to hold and use a card, many students aren't given the right information about how to use credit properly. If you're a student learning to navigate the waters of credit or a graduate looking to get your spending in shape, these guidelines will get you where you need to go.
  1. You Need Them Less Than You Think You Do: Legions of sob stories have been born by fresh college graduates getting in over their heads with credit card debt. But the plain truth is you need a credit card a whole lot less than creditors want you to believe you do. Sure, you'll need to open a line of credit to help boost your credit score, and life-threatening emergencies can call for one, but really, that's about it. In the words of Louis C.K., people used to run out of money and, rather than charge purchases, say, "Well, I can't do any more things now." The moment you start to realize that life's better when you spend less than you earn, you'll be free. 
  2. Interest Rates Are Murder: College students are among the most susceptible to the lure of easy credit thanks to the magical phrase "low introductory APR." The key is to remember two things: "low" is a relative term, and "introductory" means that you'll soon find your smaller rates swapped out for big ones. If a card offers zero percent APR for six months or a year, it's just the company's way of getting you hooked on easy spending before hitting you with rates that could be as high as 20 percent. Think about that: you'll be paying interest worth one-fifth of your balance, and that's not even the principal. Always, always, always know what the real APR will be.
  3. Always Make More Than the Minimum Payment: One of the provisions of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (or, cutely, the Credit CARD Act) is that creditors are required to disclose how long it will take you to eliminate your debt if you only make the minimum monthly payment. The minimum payment will keep you out of trouble but not do much of anything to knock out the principal amount you owe. If you owe several thousand dollars, it could take decades to get clear if you only pay the least amount possible. Statements now also display how much you will need to pay each month to eliminate the debt in three years. It's best to pay as much as ... Read the entire article.


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Questions: Share Your Tips and Ideas

We have several questions on the Frugal Life Forum that could use your help.  These are Frugal Lifers, like yourself, that want to save money if they can.  Just click on the topic and it will take you to the forum to comment/reply.

Cleaning

1.  How do you remove tape residue from a vinyl door?

Clutter

1.  How to keep computer desk and office clutter free

 Critters

1.  By placing old tennis balls on your patio or porch, will they keep birds away?

Miscellaneous

1.  Do you know of any coffee cans that do not have the plastic lining?

2.  I just bought and received a Chiapas Folkloriko costume, The skirt is made of stiff colorful embroidered netting. Is there a way to soften the netting without damaging the embroidery?

Utilities

1.  Is there a way to make vents in the floors without duct work to heat my main floor?
 
2.  Is it ok to leave water running while soaping the body during a shower?
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

How Stress Shatters Your Memory

Let's try a quick experiment. Read the following list of random words:
water, first, people, although, sound, little, place, after, different, another

Now grab a pen and paper, look away from your screen, and write out as many of the words as you can remember. If you want, you can re-read the list to make sure it's fresh in your memory.

I got five out of ten (water, although, different, people, and place). What's your score? Some studies have claimed that the average is about seven, while others have said four is more typical - and still others have pointed out that it all depends on variables like word length, familiarity, and similarity between words. And of course, if you're startled by a fire engine screeching by the window, the number's likely to take a sharp drop.

Tests like this one - along with similar games involving individual letters, numbers, sounds and so on - help scientists measure the capacity of what they call... Read the entire article.

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Trading Grass for Cash: When it comes to water, Augustine is no saint

With Austin five years and counting into a drought, it can be galling to watch water being sprayed on dying lawns. Now Austin Water has launched a new campaign to get homeowners and businesses to kill off their water-guzzling Saint Augustine grass – not a war on lawns, but rather an offensive against particular kinds of grass.

Through Oct. 14, the utility is offering a cash incentive: $10 for every 100 square feet of lawn that a homeowner allows to die off and, after the drought ends, replant with other varieties of grass – like buffalo or Bermuda – that need little or no watering. By turning off the sprinklers, customers will reduce their load on the water system. And by waiting until the drought ends to replant, the new turf will have a better chance of rooting properly. AW Conservation Division Manager Drema Gross said, "For those customers that are still struggling and trying to keep lawns alive on our restricted schedule in this incredible heat, we want them to stop watering."

This is not full-blown xeriscaping, where traditional gardens that depend on extra irrigation are replaced with drought-resistant native plants and bushes. Austin Water is already piloting a program for that: For the last year, the utility's conservation program has offered landscape conversion incentives, where homeowners can receive a ... Read the entire article.


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"Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world." Duane Elgin

"Do what is good with your own hands, so that you might earn something to give to the needy." Ephesians 4:28