Archive for October, 2008
Ok, PFA, it is time for me to make a small confession… last night I committed a deadly sin. But it wasn’t my fault… seriously!
See what had happened was… I was in the kitchen preparing one of my famous 5 minute meals when the DH recommended that we have something a little bit more delectable for dinner. Now any other time, I may have taken offense to his insinuation that my was cooking delectable. But this time we were in agreement… I also did not feel like eating Sloppy Joes again for the 3rd night in a row.
We hadn’t been to the Olive Garden in awhile. And they recently opened a new location within 3 miles of our house. So we decided to go to this new location and this is how we wound up at the Olive Garden. By the way, this was also the beginning my descent into ravenous, sinful and gluttonous ways.
I was not planning to go there and act as if my stomach had no bottom. But it is hard not to. They have endless everything… endless salad, endless pasta, endless breadsticks (I absolutely love Olive Garden breadsticks!) … and no matter how much I wanted to put an end to the endlessness, I just couldn’t… and it seemed as if the food just keep rolling in and we keep wolfing it down. Yes, horrible, I know.
Then for the past few months, I have wanted to try the Olive Garden’s stuffed mushrooms. A friend of mine marveled about it so often that I just had to try. And after tasting them, now I see what her excitement was all about. Mushrooms stuffed with three chesses, clams and breadcrumbs makes for an excellent combination. It was delicious.
But that was only the appetizer… so on to the main dish and deeper into my gluttonous journey. Seafood Portofino…linguine in a butter wine sauce topped scallops, mussels, shrimp… and more mushrooms. Semplicemente Magnifico! Need I say more?
And the descent did not stop there… what better way to top off a sinful meal than with dessert? In my case… this meant a slice of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Oh man… that cheesecake was the ultimate sin. For a brief moment, I tried to rationalize it by reminding myself that there was a swirl of raspberries mixed up in all of that white chocolate and cheesecake. But there ain’t no rationalizing sin… that cheesecake was just bad… so, so bad and yet so good. ~~Sigh!
When we finally left… my belly was full and my pants were bursting at the seam, literally. That is plain awful, I know. But what can I say other than … It’s Olive Garden… home of the best Italian food on this side of the Atlantic.
There it is… my confession… my deadly sin. If you want to get in on the sinful action too… a look at these Olive Garden deals:
- Get discounted Olive Garden Gift Cards and coupons on eBay
- Call Darden Restaurants Gift Card Services 800-248-493 (pick option 1) to get a 5% or 10% on Olive Garden gift cards valued at $500 or more
- Check the ad circular of your local newspaper, occasionally an olive Garden coupon pops up there
Well, for one… the Martha Stewart Everyday collection
The collection includes charming Martha-esque accessories for the bedroom and bathroom, plus other accents for the home. They’ve even got a Martha Stewart Everyday nonstick stir-fry pan for only $21.99. And apparently, the customers like it. It was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars. This pan will get me one step closer to becoming a Martha’s cooking school graduate.
For two… K-Mart pioneered the blue light special
Who didn’t love a blue light special? A surprise sale on pots and pans or whatever else the manager fancied. But you wanna know the odd thing… although I have heard a lot about these blue light specials, I have never actually seen one.
Back in the day, my aunts, Joyce and Sandra, were known as the K-Mart sisters. They went to K-Mart everyday, and occasionally two or three times a day. They probably caught every blue light special at their favorite K-Mart store. And it was easy to tell when they had gotten lucky. They would return bearing gifts for all. T-shirts, silverware, towels, bed sheets… you name it, they had it. And they would boast for days about the how much they saved.
K-Mart has long since done away with the blue light specials, but my aunts, the K-Mart sisters still love them just the same. Actually, when Aunt Joyce retired, she took a part time job at her favorite store. She’s worked there for a couple of years now and she enjoys it. She likes the staff. She likes the customers. And of course, she loves the employee discount.
For three… K-Mart have jobs, and lots of them!
When I last looked, they were advertising almost 500 vacancies. K-Mart offers a variety of employment opportunities ranging from entry level to professional. And because K-Mart has thousands of stores and distribution centers across the United States, great K-Mart job opportunities are likely near you.
On the West Coast – a Recruiter opportunity in Sacramento – Recruiters are responsible for hiring new employees, conducting new employee orientations, and various other human resource functions. The average pay for employment recruiters in this area ranges from $46-$62,000 a year.
In the South – a Loss Prevention Manager opportunity in Miami – Loss Prevention Managers are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures that will safeguard a company’s assets. The average pay for Loss Prevention Managers in this area ranges from $59-$79,000 a year.
In the Midwest – Assistant Store Manager opportunities in Tulsa – Assistant Store Managers help the Manger with the daily operation of the store. They are usually the first line of management contact for employees and customers. The average pay for Assistant Retail Store Managers in this area ranges from $29-$40,000 a year.
On the East Coast – a Pharmacist opportunity in Niagara Falls – Pharmacists are responsible for running the pharmacy, deciphering doctors scribblings and dispensing medication. The average pay for pharmacists in this area ranges from $92-$114,000 a year.
Search for more K-Mart job opportunities here.
Plus, K-Mart offers its employees many benefits, such as medical and dental insurance, disability benefits, stock options, employer matching 401K and paid time off. Oh, and did I mention the employee discount?
If you are looking for a great career opportunity, be sure to consider K-Mart.
It seems like only yesterday that I embarked on the journey of home ownership. The beginning of the journey was both exciting and nerve wrecking. At the time I did not know much about the ins and outs of buying a home… I just signed where I was told to sign and was handed the keys.
However, my experience has taught me that there is much more too it than that. Within six months of buying my home, I found myself in a legal melee with the inspector and previous owner.
Granted I purchased the house “as is” but the owners were obligated to complete a disclosure which detailed all material issues involving the home. As I soon found out… they we not as truthful in their disclosure as they should have been. They failed to mention the shifting foundation.
But even though they did not mention it… my inspector should have caught it, right? Well, he pointed out some of the signs… like cracks on the exterior and doors that did not quite fit… but he attributed these things to another smaller problem and told me not to worry about it.
Taking the disclosure at face value and trusting the inspector’s opinion, I purchased the home. It was only a few months after living in the home did I realize that I had been duped. I sought legal advice and then fight began…
Since I have gone through this negative experience, I now have an idea of some of the legal questions I should consider when buying my next home:
1 – Disclosures
The seller is required to disclose certain facts about the home to potential buyers. Those certain facts may vary from state to state… but generally, any issues that may have significant financial impact the buyers should be disclosed… such as crumbling foundations or water leaks.
These types of problems may affect whether a buyer purchases the home. For this reason, many sellers are not as forthcoming in the disclosures as they could be. But disclosures do not always contain negative information. For example, the seller should also disclosure that the air conditioning unit or hot water heater was recently replaced. Just keep in mind, sellers are more apt to include the positives and leave out the negatives.
Have a licensed inspector inspect the property. And considering my experience… you may want to have two or three inspectors check out the property. It may costs a bit more, but in the long run… it is worth it.
2 – Zoning issues
Make sure you know all of the zones that affect your new home. Is it in a flood zone… earthquake zone? What is the building zone… can you add on a room and put up a fence without getting in trouble? Is it near a commercial zone? When I was looking for a home, I saw a really nice house. However, I noticed that the back yard was adjacent to a vacant lot. I asked the realtor what was on the other side of the fence. She told me that it was the area that was going to be the parking lot for a restaurant. I am not sure about you, but I am not interested in living that close to a commercial area. Just as easy as they could build a restaurant, they could have built a nightclub or any other noisy business that fell within the confines of that zone… right in my backyard!
3 – Title issues
If you are financing the home, most banks will require a title search. But whether it is required or not… you should always have a title search done. This will reveal everyone who has a claim to the property… banks, other individuals, governments… If the person was involved in a civil suit, a lien can be placed on the property. If the owner fails to pay property taxes, the local government may impose a tax lien… the lien is on the property, and can be passed down to a new owner. If a person fails to pay federal taxes, a lien can be placed on the property. Again, if the property is sold, the lien can be passed down to the new owner. Therefore, it is important to do a title search and make sure that the current owner settles any claims on the property before you sign on the dotted line.
The 2008 Monopoly game is back at McDonalds! The game began in stores on October 7th. To win, all you have to do is collect game stamps. The stamps will reveal that you have either won an instant prize (like a small fry or Big Mac) or the name of a location on the Monopoly game board (like St. James Place or the Reading Railroad). There are also guaranteed bonus stamps which offer discounts or mini shopping sprees at Foot Locker. But… if you collect the right combination of stamps (Boardwalk and Park Place), you will win the grand Kahuna of the prizes… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Winning a large sum of money (such as a million dollars in a Monopoly game) is a one in a million chance. (One in a million… get it? Sometimes I just crack my self up. ~~ Alright maybe I am no comedian, but I thought it was funny.) Anyway on occasion, it has been known to happen. Someone’s got to win the grand prize, right?
Sigh! This is me exhaling as I fantasize about all the things I could do with a million dollars. I have always wanted to vacation in Morocco and take cooking lessons in France. A million dollars would sure help me live out those dreams. If only I were so lucky as to been given a million dollars.
But the weird thing about winning it big… apparently it is not all that its cracked up to be. I’ve heard stories about folks who won grandiose gifts, but are now destitute. But how could that be?
Well it is simple. We all know what money is… but we all don’t know what to do with it. Take this analogy for example… I know what an airplane looks like and what it is used for. I have even been a passenger in one a time or two. But just because I’ve flown in a plane… does not mean I know how to fly a plane.
Same principle applies with money. We all know how to spend it. But there is a lot more to money than spending it. Winning a truckload of money can be useless, even harmful… unless you know what to do with it.
So what would I do if I won a million dollars? Well fat chance that’ll ever happen because I am not the gambling type and I rarely play these sweeps-type games. But just in case… if by some miracle a million dollars showed up at my front door… I figure I ought to have a plan. I don’t have all the details hatched out just yet. But I sure know two things that I would not do.
1 – I would not quit my day job.
Although rolling off my tongue, a million sounds like a lot… in actuality, it is not much at all. And plus, once Uncle Sam gets his take, I’d be fortunate to be left with $400,000. But don’t get me wring, I am not complaining. I’d still be very grateful… it is $400,000 more than I had yesterday.
2 – I would not tell my family or friends.
Bad as it may sound… sorry, nope, ain’t doing it. I think discussing your personal financial situation with others leads to problems. It can lead to envy and jealousy. And it can lead to abuse… not physical abuse, but more psychological and financial abuse. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will likely come with their sob story and ask for a hand out. Now granted, you hadn’t seen Tom, Dick or Harry since kindergarten, but now they are the now your best friends. When you have money, it is hard to know who to trust.
I am not saying that you should not be charitable, but do keep in mind that you are not a charity. And you can’t save the world. If you bailed everybody out of their financial woes, you yourself will soon be in financial woe of your own.
When my parents bought their first home in 1954 they paid $8,000 for it. Today, you can’t even buy a new car for $8,000, and you certainly can’t buy a new SUV for $8,000.
Or, maybe you can!
With gas prices headed toward $5 a gallon and a barrel of oil up three and a half dollars in a single day (again!) as I write this, many people have discovered that they cannot unload their formerly beloved Sport Utility Vehicles at any price. Vehicles that once cost over 30K new off the lot now have trade-in values of pennies on the dollar. If you’ve already tried to trade down to something more fuel efficient, and you still owe on your auto loan on the SUV, you know what I’m talking about.
Not to worry. A nice SUV is good for lots of other things besides driving. You just have to use your imagination and go with the flow. Get your bike down from the garage rafters, buy a public transit pass, and consider the following ideas for that beautiful gas hog:
1) Use it for a vacation home. Around here, a cabin on the lake rents for upwards of $600 a week. That’s a mere fraction of even the highest SUV payment. Park your baby somewhere beautiful, plug in one of those mini-fridges, and watch the sunset for a truly creative and economic stay-cation. When your week at the lake is up, rent your SUV out to friends and family members and use the income to pay off that loan and get the hybrid your budget craves.
2) Put your mother-in-law in it. Building codes often prohibit separate mother-in-law quarters on your residential property, but you can park your SUV anywhere you want in your own yard. Get one of those prefab, concrete porch stoops, push it up to the hatch back door, plant some flowers, and presto! Instant mother-in-law apartment!
3) Turn it into performance art. Apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Fill your SUV with foam peanuts and set fire to it in front of Ford Motor Company in Detroit while pretty girls dressed in Japanese “Hello Kitty” outfits dance around it and roast marshmallows. Use the NEA grant money to pay off the loan, and film the performance with your mini-cam to put up on www.YouTube.com for passive income. Retire early, drive a Tesla.
4) Give it away at the office Secret Santa exchange this December. This only works if you don’t actually commute to work in it. If your coworkers are on to you, you might have to make your spouse do it.
5) Drive it to New Orleans, donate it as temporary housing. Take the tax write off for a charitable contribution, and if your loan company comes after you, call the local papers and make sure it looks like they don’t care about hurricane victims, at all, not even a little bit.
These are just a few, simple ideas to get you started. I’m sure that with a little effort you can think up lots more. Probably readers of this blog have some they will post for you free of charge. Make a game of it. Get your friends to help you brainstorm other creative ways to use their SUVs too.
When you get to 100 creative ways to use your SUV, write and publish these ideas as a book: 100 Ways to Use Your Useless SUV. In fact, if you go to www.lifetips.com and join as an author, they will publish your book for you (as long as it is 100 tips on, you know, anything) and sell it in bookstores and at Amazon and cut you $2 per copy sold, which really isn’t that bad for something your friends actually did most of the work on. Keep all the money for yourself.
Retire early. Drive a Tesla.
Here are some carnivals that we participated in last week. There have been really good posts at every carnival, so head on over and have a look.
The website for the Oklahoma Tax Commission http://www.oktax.state.ok.us/ has everything you need to file your state taxes if you live in Oklahoma, including online income tax filing, 2007 downloadable state income tax forms, state sales tax information, proposed tax rules for 2008, information for tax preparers and professional, and new business and development workshops.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission website also lists employment opportunities and job postings, including current openings for seasonal tax workers. You can check the status of your state refund if you are expecting one with an easy-to-use feature that will tell you if yours has been mailed or when to expect it by direct deposit.
Oklahoma’s Quick Tax online filing system also allows small businesses to file and pay a variety of business taxes online, including sales tax, withholding tax, non-resident withholding tax, use tax for vendors, use tax for consumers, waste tire taxes, mixed beverage taxes, and quarterly estimated state taxes for self-employed persons.
Hot link to various tax assistance sites are also available at the site. Some of the links posted are for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), Assistance for Military Personnel and their Families, and a downloadable list of Oklahoma tax assistance sites by city.
Also posted at the Oklahoma Tax Commission website are the 2008 Oklahoma Tax Commission Withholding Tables for individuals and businesses. This document includes plenty of useful information such as how to compute your 2008 withholding, and how to set up payroll withholding for single or married persons for weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, and annual payroll.
Withholding of state tax in Oklahoma is required for any but the following: services paid for an employee in connection to farm activities when the amount paid is less than $900 per month; domestic services in a private home, local college, club, or local chapter of a fraternity or sorority; service not in the course of an employer’s trade or business performed in any calendar quarter by an employee unless the cash remuneration paid for such services is over $200; services performed in the state by a person who is not a “resident individual” and whose income in a quarter is not more than $300; and services performed by a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church in the exercise of his ministry or by a member of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by that order.
Everyone else who works for money in the state of Oklahoma is required to have taxes withheld from his or her paychecks. Monthly figures on the collection and disbursement of Oklahoma sales taxes by month to various cities throughout the state are also posted at the tax commission website. A new business registration packet is available for download at the site and includes: business registration workshop information, bond information, registration forms, tax information, and information and instructions on how to apply for a federal employer tax identification number.
Government home loans can be a good way to get into a house if you have limited resources that make conventional financing difficult. The US government assists new home buyers in a variety of ways under a variety of conditions, and while the paperwork and red tape can be more copious than what comes with conventional financing, (which is already a lot of paperwork) you can find some very good deals if you have the patience and the inclination.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains a webpage that contains a wealth of information on how to purchase a low-cost home with government assistance. The HUD website http://www.hud.gov/buying/ explains in detail what is involved in obtaining an FHA or VA mortgage and which properties might qualify, as well as information on federal mortgage lenders Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and various rural housing loan programs,
Free calculators and articles are available at the site to help you determine how much house you can afford and what kinds of loans would be best suited to your needs. Advice on how to find a lender and how to recognize predatory lending practices are included. Information on understanding your rights as a home buyer is highlighted; including sections on Fair Housing, Real Estate Settlement Procedures, borrower’s rights, and federal rules and regulations and regulations that apply to lenders.
You can also search home buying programs in your specific state at the HUD site at http://www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm and also browse fixer-upper properties and HUD repossession properties at http://www.hud.gov/homes/homesforsale.cfm.
Another good online resource for government home loans is http://www.govloans.gov/govloans_en.portal. There you can research options for government backed loans for buying and rehabilitating inner city property, properties in depressed rural areas, mobile home and manufactured homes, homes in disaster relief areas, and lots of home improvement loans backed by federal assistance programs.
Special government-backed housing loans are available for low income Americans, American Indians, and veterans, as well as survivors of natural disasters.
If you are handy at do-it-yourself projects or rehab, you can purchase a property repossessed by the US government inexpensively and then borrow money through the US government to fix it up. The only requirement in most cases is that you live in the property yourself and complete the repairs within a given timeframe.
Another resource for finding federal money to help with the purchase of a home is http://www.fedmoney.org/, a site that also provides links to information on other kinds of federal grant and loan programs.
In addition to federal money, many local communities provide low cost loans to low-income persons who are willing to move into rehabbed properties in blighted neighborhoods and live in them as their primary residence. If you live in an apartment or in public housing, these programs can be great for getting you into your first house, and they have the welcome (and intended) side effect of bringing damaged neighborhoods back to life.
Often the community feeling in these rehabbed areas is very strong and friendly, and the homes are far superior to what you might find through a conventional source because they are required to be brought up to code when they are rehabbed for resale. It can be almost like getting a brand new house for next to nothing, the catch being that then you have to live in that neighborhood.
To purchase a locally rehabbed home, contact a licensed realtor to determine if you qualify. Usually maximum income limits apply, meaning that if you already have plenty of money, you probably won’t qualify, but if you don’t have plenty of money and are having difficulties finding a way to buy a home, this can be a golden opportunity,
Forget about grades. Forget about fitting in. One of the biggest challenges to attaining a higher education is financing your degree. There are a number of options to consider, including a Citibank student loan.
What is a Citibank Student Loan
Citibank student loans are federally guaranteed loans financed through the bank with which many of us are familiar. The subsidiary of Citibank that manages these loans is called the “Student Loan Corporation.” You can find out more about the program at: https://studentloan.citibank.com/s/slcsite/.
Why Consider a Citibank Student Loan
There are many advantages of borrowing for college through a large financial institution like Citibank. First of all, it is unlikely that you will have any problems with your financing institution going bankrupt or being forced to sell your loan to another vendor.
Second, you are able to take advantage of many of the services that Citibank can offer, such as its tremendously useful and accessible website.
Finally, and perhaps most important, while the term “Citibank student loan” generally refers to the loans the Citibank makes on behalf of the federal government, be aware that Citibank, the institution, offers CitiAssist loans for those who need funding beyond what’s available from the federal government.
Where’s a good place to start? The Frequently Asked Questions page on the site offers many insights into the Citibank student loan process. At the site, you’ll learn the answers to questions such as:
- Who is eligible for financial aid? The FAQs clarify that, among other things, US Citizens (or eligible noncitizens) with High School diplomas or GEDs are eligible. In addition, for certain loans, you will need to be enrolled at least half time at an eligible institution of higher learning.
- What is the FAFSA form? This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you fill out the form and you’ll get free student aid. This is simply the form that you fill out to identify your financial need and eligibility for various programs.
- When should you start applying for financial aid? The answer, in general, is as soon as possible, but no later than the December before you decide to enroll.
Through the Citibank student loan site, you can also learn about special offers from Citibank for your school. Just click on the special offers link and type in the name of your school – who knows what you’ll find!
In addition to the Frequently Asked Questions, you’ll find a range of resources at the site for planning for college – many of which go beyond the simple question of financing. Some of the topics explored include:
- What colleges look for: For example, did you know that a wide mix of activities is almost as or sometimes more important than academic performance?
- Choosing a school: Have you considered retention and graduation rates of the schools you’re considering? They’ll tell you a great deal about how much students enjoy their experience.
- Taking standardized tests: Not all schools require the same tests. Learn the questions to ask through this site.
If you’re ready to make an investment in yourself by attaining a post high school degree, look at some of the ways a Citibank student loan might be able to help you.
The first thing to understand about cheap payday loans is that rarely, in the long run, are they truly “cheap.” However, if you’re having some cash flow problems and are in need of some funds quickly before your paycheck comes, they can certainly be an option to consider.
The reason why cheap payday loans wind up costing more than you might think is because of the interest rates lenders charge for the convenience of allowing you access to the funds you expect to get through your check early. In essence, they are taking a small risk that you might not get your check.
How do Cheap Payday Loans Work?
When first working with a payday loan provider, you will find that while they will probably need some key pieces of information before they agree to make the loan. Specifically, they’ll ask for paystubs from your employer and my even need to do a credit check depending on the terms of the loan.
Once they agree to make you a loan, you will generally have to agree to have your paycheck direct deposited to the lenders’ account. That way they can be guaranteed that they will receive at least their principal back, and will also collect any fees associated with the loan.
What are the Interest Rates?
As mentioned earlier, cheap payday loans are actually one of the most expensive sources of money out there. Rates and fees will be determined by two principle factors, specifically:
- How much you’re borrowing
- How long you keep it for
If, for example, you borrow a relatively small amount (say $250) for seven days, you will probably pay anywhere from 20 to 45% rate (calculated yearly) on those funds. At the end of the seven days, that $250 could cost you $350!
If you borrow a higher amount for longer (say $1,500 for 31 days) the interest rate can be as high as 500% (calculated yearly)! Your $1,500 could quickly become over $2,500 or more!
Sources of Cheap Payday Loans
Despite the high interest rates, you may find yourself in a situation where a cheap payday loan in the only option — perhaps you have an unexpected medical expense or unexpectedly high utility bill. If you are going to look in to these types of loans, here are some sources to consider:
- First, before looking to the many vendors offering payday loans, consider whether you can approach your employer for an advance on your paycheck. Many employers have policies for just these types of situations and are more than willing to help out their loyal workers – at much lower rates than other lenders!
- A second option might be to contact the bank where you have your personal checking and/or savings account. Many financial institutions offer short term loans to their customers at far more reasonable rates than you might find with payday advance companies.
- Third, consider looking at your existing sources of credit. While cash advances from your credit cards will carry high interest rates, they will almost always be less expensive in the long run.
- Finally, if you are going to pursue a cheap payday loan, shop around for good interest rates. Some of the vendors to consider include:
In general, if you can find a rate of 20% or less with no other unfavorable conditions, it’s likely to be the best you’ll be able to get.
As you’re considering cheap payday loans to deal with unexpected expenses bear in mind that these should be short-term solutions. If you find yourself turning to payday advance services again and again, it’s probably time to take a more comprehensive look at your financial situation.
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