Archive for February, 2011
Times are tough. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. If anything unexpected happens that requires you to have cash available before your next paycheck, then getting a payday loan may be your preferred choice. Many do not want to turn to their families. For them asking for money from a relative, is equivalent to declaring defeat.
Mind you, this is not the type of loan I would recommend to anyone, but sometimes we are just out of options. MyCashNow requires you to have steady employment with deposits of at least $1000 per month. How could you get into a situation of needing fast cash? Here is a fairly common scenario. Imagine you were sharing an apartment and for some reason, you no longer want to remain in that arrangement. Perhaps you broke up with your boyfriend, or your best friend turned out to be an insufferable roommate. In order to rent another apartment, you will need a down payment.
Payday loans are meant to be short-term loans. The fees charged equate to outrageous annual percentage rates, upwards of 400%, but you may just have to go for it. If you have exhausted your credit cards, and family and friends have already lent you all the money they can afford to, this will get you into that apartment quickly. So what do you need in order to qualify?
- Steady employment
- At least $1000 per month in deposits
- A checking account that has been open for at least 90 days
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must not have any outstanding payday loans.
You will need to provide a telephone number so your employment status can be verified. Your deposits will also be verified. The good thing is, if you are approved before 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time you can find the money in your account the next day. Service is definitely fast. They also have customer service representatives available around the clock and they do not require you to fax them any documents which can be a real hassle.
The fees are listed right on their website. The minimum amount of time you will be charged for is 14 days. It comes out to about 20% for those 14 days. This is certainly not money you want to borrow for some sale purchase. It is not worth it. If you are a new customer, they offer a 50% discount on your first loan. At that point, if you need a $500 deposit for that apartment, getting a new place to live may be worth $50, assuming your next paycheck will cover it within 14 days.
The repayment of the loan and the fees due will be withdrawn automatically from your account on the due date. Make sure you have the money by then. They do offer extensions, but from a financial point of view a loan with that kind of interest rate is not supportable for a long period of time. Especially if you weren’t a first time customer. If you have a minimum wage full-time job, which barely gets you to the minimum monthly deposit requirement, you would have to surrender your entire pay for a week to get a $200 advance. Do you really want to take on a $500 loan that will take over half a month to pay off? Remember, that $50 fee is charged every two weeks. There is a place and time for these loans, but do not make it a habit.
The economy is still not zooming ahead. Many areas are experiencing double digit unemployment. If you are not happy with your situation, start doing something about it. A wise person said that you can’t expect things to change if you keep doing the same thing. So start doing something different.
A great place to start is at CollegeSurfing.com. Not only will you find information about traditional colleges, you will find out about technical education, certificate programs and the current job market.
There are certain steps you should take in order to change your circumstances:
Assess your skills and strengths
If you are having trouble with this, visit your local job service and ask for their skill assessment worksheets. You will be amazed how many skills you really have. Sometimes we are the last person to realize just how much we have learned along the way. Not every skill comes with a certificate. Do you realize you could easily list over 100 skills on your ability list? Start thinking. Skills don’t just come from schooling and work. You gain skills by volunteering, running a household, raising kids. Really assess yourself. This could be a very positive exercise. You may discover strengths you didn’t know you had.
Assess your passions
If you really want to succeed, you need to find out what you are passionate about. You can make a career out of anything you are passionate about. If you cannot find a job that would support your lifestyle and your passion, try to find a career that will help you pursue your passion after work. It will make your work much more enjoyable to see it as enabling you to do the things you really want to do.
Assess the job market
The job market changes over time. New careers emerge, others fade away. Check out CollegeSurfing.com for information about current trends. After all, you don’t want to retrain yourself only to find the career you trained for is fading away. If you are going to change your life, plan it out. Know what to expect. Remember, job markets are regional as well. If you plan to stay in the area you are in, be sure to check what the prospects for the career you decide upon are in your area.
Get the background you need in order to succeed in the career you want
You have finally figured out what you want to do with your life, at least the next phase of your life. Most careers need more training than we find ourselves with at any given point in life. Start checking into your options. It is possible that the path you have chosen has multiple steps. That is okay. Our world is changing and people no longer stick with a single career their entire life. In fact, you may find yourself with seven different careers over the course of your life. Relax and enjoy it. Much of the fun in life is in the journey, not the endpoints.
If you need some ideas about where to get the training you need, try CollegeSurfing.com. They provide a wide range of information on schools of all types. From 4 year colleges to culinary schools. You figure out what you are looking for and this site will provide you with some options as to what type of school will provide you with the type of training you need.
H&R Block offers software to help you complete your income taxes at home. All of the packages include H&R Block‘s arithmetic accuracy warranty. Really, this is one of the main benefits of using software. Software will calculate the different sums and differences for you, so you will be less likely to make mistakes. Of course, you still have to enter the numbers correctly. If for some reason, the software still makes an arithmetic error, H&R Block will reimburse you for up to $10,000 for any penalty that resulted from their error.
There are four different H&R Block At Home Tax Software packages:
This package is meant for those of us who haven’t complicated their life yet or managed to simplify it again. You have a job, rent a place to live in and live your life. Many of us envy the uncomplicated tax preparation we had back then, but watching people new to taxes start the process convinced me that it is all a matter of perspective. Even the simplest tax forms look complicated to someone who hasn’t had to work through them before. So the step by step instructions provided are nice to have, so you can feel confident that you are doing it correctly. I would recommend using step by step instructions to any first time user.
This is the one likely to capture the majority of our tax concerns. You have purchased your home and are paying off a mortgage, you own a few stocks or bonds and you donate to some of your favorite charities. The deluxe software will handle your situation and provide you with personalized tax guidance. This level of software also comes with assistance should you be the lucky winner of the audit lottery. H&R Block will help you with correspondence initiated by the IRS and let you know how to prepare for the audit. They will even offer you the assistance of an enrolled agent who can attend your audit with you and provide tax advice.
Are you a budding entrepreneur. Then this one was designed for you. You have gone into business for yourself as a sole proprietor or picked up some rental property along the way. With this software you can handle all of the issues the simpler packages deal with plus the issues that creep up when you run your own business. As an added bonus you can have a session with a live tax adviser with this package. All of these packages allow you to prepare state returns as well for an additional fee.
Premium & Business
This is for those among you who really know how to complicate life as far as taxes are concerned. This software can handle all sorts of business entities, estates, trusts, non-profits and all those pesky payroll and employer forms you have to deal with. With any business that owns property you are likely to deal with depreciation as well, so that is included too. And since many successful businesses cross state lines, you can download unlimited business state programs with this purchase.
If you are a procrastinator, you are in luck. All of these programs can be downloaded, so you can start doing your taxes right away. These four packages range in price from about $20 to around $80. All of them include 5 free e-files for personal federal income taxes. Tax season is upon us. What are you waiting for? Check out H&R Block At Home Tax Software today.
You may not have heard of this travel booking website yet but you are missing out. If you want to save on your travel and have already tried your standard outlets, try CheapOair. This company has been serving travelers on the internet for five years and has won numerous awards. If you still like talking to a travel professional in person, you can do that too. Their telephone number is listed right on their website, but their website is so simple to use, you are not likely to need a personal assistant.
Being an avid international traveler I checked out what deals they found to my favorite destinations and they did not disappoint. They found a fare combination for me that was outstanding, $440 versus the current average of $770 for that trip. Amazingly enough, the trip plan wasn’t even that bad. It is not unusual to be routed along strange paths in order to get the cheapest fare, but this one was even convenient. So what can you save on at CheapOair.com?
As mentioned above, this site offers some great international airfares, but their advertised specials within the United States are great as well. I have been quite impressed with their search engines. This is certainly a site I intend to check for airfares. The service fee for booking flights on this site is currently $26. Please remember when checking airfares, that this site, along with many other similar sites, lists airfares without fees and taxes. Fees and taxes have really gone up in the past few years. They can be just as high as the airfare these days.
The current rates advertised on the site start at just over $10 per day. You aren’t likely to find a car rental any cheaper than that. One of the unique features I saw on their site was that they actually listed a SUV rental rate in Denver. It certainly is the kind of vehicle you may want to rent in Denver depending on what you plan to do. The only thing you may want to check on is any discounts you are eligible for as a member of a particular car rental agency. CheapOair.com does not automatically give you your discount. You have to contact the rental agency in question yourself. A small effort to make for additional discounts.
The deals abound here as well. With room upgrades, last minute deals and discounts negotiated on 100,000s of hotel rooms, you are likely to find a hotel room in the price range you want with the amenities you were hoping for. You are not limited to the United States here either. You will find discounted hotel rooms in many foreign countries as well, so whether you are a business traveler or planning the trip of a lifetime, you have a good chance of finding what you want on this site, even resorts. Of course, the site charges a service fee for their services. Just make sure you add that in when you are comparing prices. From what I have seen, you will still be impressed with the deals.
This site tries very hard to earn and keep your business. They are guaranteeing the lowest fares to the point where they actually pay you the difference if you find a lower fare on the same itinerary within two hours of booking your flight. The customer reviews seem to be quite positive as well. Give CheapOair.com a try.
CarsDirect has been in business for at least a decade now. With the expanding use of the Internet CarsDirect jumped into the online business and has become the top site for online car sales. What can you expect when you visit their site?
Easy search tools
Their search for your new car leads you through a series of choices such as new or used, make and model. In my test the website responded quickly and presented me with prices for the models I chose about as quickly as I could select them. Just enter your Zip Code and you are on your way. Isn’t it nice to get upfront pricing? No haggling with sales people. If buying a car online still makes you nervous, you can try being matched with a member of the CarsDirect authorized dealer network. Here you will be in contact with a local dealer who can assist you in buying the best car for you.
When you use the tools on the CarsDirect site you will be able to find out the specs of the vehicle, customer reviews, price ranges, safety information, the colors it is available in and any rebates that are currently being offered. I don’t know about you, but safety is very high on my list of requirements. Browsing the user reviews is a great way to spot any issues you may not have thought about if you are looking at purchasing a vehicle you haven’t previously owned. For example, I have owned low clearance vehicles that had a tendency to lose a small section of the front bumper in the winter time, because ice would catch it. It wasn’t an issue that deterred me from buying the vehicle, but it is nice to know in advance what to watch out for.
Not sure which vehicle would work best for you? Use the CarsDirect comparison tools to look at two vehicles side by side. This is quick and easy. Just select the two models you are interested in from the drop down menus and you are on your way. The specs will appear right next to each other, so it will be easy to pick out the data that is important to you. If you are unclear about what really is important to you, this is a great way to find out. There is nothing like two numbers staring at you side by side, to find out whether it makes a difference to you. If the gas mileage for one says 25 mpg and the other says 32 mpg, do you really not care? The only way to find out is to try it. Stare at those numbers and discover whether the look you want is more important than the efficiency. It may be.
Easy financing tools
There are tools here to help you figure out what price you can afford to begin with and once you have found your vehicle, there are tools to help you finance the car of your dreams. I particularly like the car loan calculator. Simply enter the monthly amount you can afford to pay, the down payment you are willing to make, choose the length of the loan, and it tells you your maximum purchase price for a vehicle. If your budget does not let you purchase the car you need, try adjusting the length of the loan. The longer you make those payments, the more expensive that vehicle can be.
Basically CarsDirect is a one-stop site for your car buying needs. It is hard to imagine it getting any easier than this.
Sharebuilder has been around for years. It is now owned by ING DIRECT. They have built their business based on helping people invest regularly at low rates. Sharebuilder allows you to set up regular stock or mutual fund purchases on a weekly, bimonthly or monthly basis and pay just $4.00 per purchase. If you prefer to diversify your investments, they have a plan that allows you to schedule up to 12 different purchases for just $12.00. I have not seen another plan that can beat that price.
So why should you invest regularly?
Steady stream of investment
Let’s face it. It is one thing to decide that investing money every month would be a good idea and quite another to act on it. Sharebuilder takes care of this for you. When you schedule the dollar amount you wish to invest, it will automatically be invested for you in the security you specified. Scheduled investments always seem to occur on Tuesdays. You can set up an automatic monthly payment into your Sharebuilder account and watch your investments accumulate. No more forgetting to invest.
Less temptation to spend the money on something else
We all have emergencies that seem to appear out of the blue. We all have birthdays or special occasions we didn’t remember until the last minute. Don’t be tempted to spend the money you designated for your future on immediate needs. You should be putting money away into an emergency fund for those occasions, investing for the future should be a separate budget item. Keep them separate by automating the process. Sharebuilder has no account minimum. So get started now.
Dollar cost averaging
The benefit of investing regularly is that you won’t be tempted to time the market. If you have chosen the stocks you would like to own, you can build your position in them over time. Let us say you designate $200 per month to purchase shares in stock A. If stock A happens to cost $50 per share in the first month, you will purchase 4 shares. Now assume that the price went down to $40 during the second month. That means that you will purchase 5 shares that month. So now you own 9 shares at an average price of $44.44. Obviously you chose a stock that you believe will rise in value over time, so let us assume the price went back up to $50 the third month, then you will buy another 4 shares at $50, so now you own 13 shares at an average cost of $46.15. At this point if you had set a fixed number of shares to purchase, let us say 4 to keep it comparable, you would now own 12 shares of stock A at an average price of $46.67. Assuming your stock has a positive trend over time, dollar cost averaging is a great way to build up your position.
What if you discover that the stock you chose isn’t a good long term investment. You can sell your stock in real time. The fees for this are reasonable. With Sharebuilder you will want to consider, how you intend to withdraw funds from the account when the time comes. Some of the methods of withdrawing funds come with significant fees attached. Now that they are owned by ING DIRECT, there does seem to be a free method of accessing your funds. You can open a free account with ING DIRECT and transfer money in and out of your Sharebuilder account with it. The withdrawal fees were my major objection to Sharebuilder in the past, but this seems to solve that problem. So start investing today.
When I check out new shopping sites, I look around to see whether they carry products I haven’t seen anywhere else. The product that immediately caught my attention was an electric shovel snow thrower.
Any shopping site that can distinguish itself from all the others is worth checking out. You may not live in an area where an electric snow shovel would come in handy, but at least the uniqueness of this item should give you hope that they also carry something that would be perfect for you.
This particular shopping site offers three payment options for any purchase, so if you need to space out your payments you can. You will know right when you are ordering just how much you will be paying for your purchases. This can come in handy when you truly need something, but you hadn’t planned on it in your budget. Just make sure you include it in your budget until it is paid off. The site will allow you to make four partial payments instead of one total payment.
Another unique feature at gettington.com is their virtual goodie bag. Sales are nothing unusual, but this company alternates them with freebies in order to keep you coming back. They do expire, so you have to keep coming back in order to get your freebies.
So what do they sell? Quite a variety of products. You will find products in the following categories:
- Health and Beauty
Just in case you aren’t the world’s most experienced shopper, this site offers a gift finder. You can search for gifts by occasion and by price. How much easier could it be? The gift ideas I saw were quite nice. Sometimes, companies will suggest items, you couldn’t possibly imagine giving as a gift, but that is not the case here. The selections are varied and the price ranges are acceptable.
Need a housewarming gift? How about a personalized door mat? A unique, personalized and thoughtful gift you are not likely to find someone else bringing. They have many other personalized gifts. This is not a feature unique to this site, but it is a nice feature anyhow. We all buy so many gifts for so many different occasions, sometimes it is nice to get some help narrowing down the choices.
Sometimes you end up paying rather high fees for shipping, but the items I tested were a pleasant surprise. The shipping rates were quite reasonable. This is definitely a shopping site worth checking out. The people at gettington.com are doing a good job at locating products to offer at reasonable prices. They currently claim to offer over 20,000 items. That certainly cannot compare with walmart.com that claims to offer over half a million products online, but they make up for it in uniqueness.
Sometimes the numbers aren’t as devastating as they first appear to be. What this site doesn’t have in quantity they make up in uniqueness. After all, we wouldn’t all want to wear the same shirt or dress, why would we all want to shop at the same place.
TransUnion is one of the big three firms that provide credit reporting services to consumers and the financial services industry. They offer credit monitoring services to the general public as well as access to your credit scores, identity theft protection and alerts. They also have a bonus service that can monitor your financial accounts for fraud. In case you’re unsure about them, they offer a free trial to try out their services before you commit to a long term relationship with them. TransUnion is a powerhouse in the credit report and monitoring industry and their services live up to their reputation.
Try Before You Buy
The free TransUnion credit score & $1 credit report are available as part of a 7-day trial. You may cancel at any time during the trial period. At the end of your 7-day trial, you will be billed $17.95 per month.
Basic Plan – $17.95 per month
Includes 3 bureau monitoring, TransUnion credit score, instant alerts and TrueIdentity protection.
Premium Plan – $29.95 per month
Includes all the features of the basic plan and TranUnion Plus services to help you with financial accounts protection and monitoring.
- 3 Bureau monitoring.
- Transunion credit score.
- Unlimited access to updates of your Transunion credit report and credit score
- Credit protection, including Instant Alerts – emailed the moment TransUnion finds out someone applied for credit in your name.
Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft is an increasingly common occurrence in today’s world. TransUnion gives you piece of mind in this area with a proprietary service called TrueIdentity which monitors several high risk areas for possible breaches of your personal information. These include:
- Court records
- Change of address
- Non-credit loan applications
- Unusual changes to your credit report
- Lost wallet assistance
- Identity restoration services
- Neighborhood monitoring
You also have the option to upgrade to TransUnion Plus Money Manager where you can view and track all your spending, savings and daily account transactions which are updated every 24 hours. Account types include:
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Auto, student or real estate loans
- Credit cards
- Utilities and more
If all that wasn’t enough, they have excellent protection for their members which includes up to $1,000,000 in identity theft protection insurance in the event that something does happen.
You can contact their support team through their website, call them at 1-800-888-4213 or write them at:
TransUnion LLC 2 Baldwin Place P.O. Box 1000 Chester, PA 19022
TransUnion has more to offer than their competitors and it’s no surprise since they are one of the largest credit reporting agencies. Their plans include all of the features that you’ll find with other providers like 3 bureau credit monitoring and credit score checks but they also offer a few bonus features that I haven’t seen everywhere. Their TransUnion Plus service and TrueIdentity services seem to be above and beyond what you can find at other competitors sites. You can also be sure that Transunion will be around for a long time and will be there to assist you if anything does go wrong with your credit report or identity.
CreditReport.com provides consumers with access to their credit reports and scores, a credit monitoring service, as well as easy and inexpensive access to credit profiles. As a member of the Experian family, you could say that CreditReport.com is the daughter of Consumerinfo.com and granddaughter of Experian.
ConsumerInfo has been in operation since 1995. While Experian, with a presence in over 60 countries, has been around for even longer. As an industry leader, Experian has delivered over 20 million credit reports to over 3 million members.
The main aim of CreditReport.com is to provide products and services that help individual consumers understand their personal finances and provide access to monitoring services for consumer peace of mind. The latter is the key to identifying abnormal activity quickly which is essential in preventing fraud.
The information available through CreditReport.com is also useful, as it tells you where you stand financially in one simple number – your credit score. This magic number will determine whether or not you qualify for a loan or credit card, the interest rate you are granted and sometimes even if you make the shortlist when applying for a job.
If you want a peek at the service without any major commitment, you can purchase a 7-Day trial membership for just $1. Just to add the feel good factor, that $1 is actually donated to DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that offers funds to classrooms in need.
With this 7-Day ‘peek’ you will not be restricted in anyway. You will have unlimited access to your credit report, credit score and the credit monitoring service for 7 days, as well as daily monitoring of your credit reports from the main three credit bureaus:
Your trial membership at CreditReport.com also provides unlimited access to an analysis of your credit history and email alerts whenever there is a change to your credit history. These changes could range from late payments to a credit card charge dispute.
You may cancel anytime within the 7-Day period without charge.
Another benefit of CreditReport.com is that you can sign up for the website’s newsletter and you don’t even need to be a member. This newsletter offers credit-related news and tons of beneficial information regarding credit and related topics such:
- How to raise your credit score
- How to avoid becoming a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft.
Main Membership Benefits
If you do decide to sign up for a full membership, you will need to part with $29.95 every month. If after signing up you decide the CreditReport.com service is not for you, you can cancel at anytime. Cancellation does not mean all ties are cut however; you will still receive daily as well as bi-monthly credit monitoring and alerts.
Other benefits of the service include:
– Fraud resolution support
This service offers access to CreditReport.com representatives who can assist you if you become a victim of identity theft. With this service, you could be eligible to receive a customized fraud resolution kit, as well as access to a toll-free number where support staff will walk you through identity theft resolution options. The staff can even help you place a fraud alert on your credit report.
– $50,000 product guarantee
If you fall victim to identity theft because of the failure of CreditReport.com to provide identity protection services, the company will reimburse you up to $50,000 for expenses incurred that are directly related to your identity theft and/or its resolution. Please note that you have to prove you were actively using the service as described in their terms and conditions for this to apply.
With this service, you can enroll any/all eligible children and CreditReport.com will be on the alert for any credit applications or use of their personal information.
CreditReport.com provides a fairly in-depth FAQ database on their website. If you have more complicated questions, or prefer to speak with a live representative, CreditReport.com offers both telephone and email support.
The Bottom Line
CreditReport.com is most beneficial if you want to access credit monitoring services and regular updates of your credit score. If you want a more all encompassing identity theft protection/resolution service then there are other products in the market that protect against the various elements of identity theft.
For example, if you want protection that will recover lost or stolen debit and credit cards, with CreditReport.com, you will need to sign up for the CardSafe program which is an additional $19.95 per year in addition to the regular monthly membership. Other services offer this protection and more as part of the package for a comparative cost.
Overall, the company offers a great credit monitoring service for the price and there is ample customer support to assist you along the way.
Bankruptcy has had a negative connotation for a long time, but sometimes it is the only way to turn your life around. If you are wondering if it is an option for you, you can get a free bankruptcy evaluation. Not only will you know whether you qualify for a bankruptcy filing, you can learn just what the different options are. Since whether you can file for bankruptcy depends on the state you live in and your level of debt and income, you will be asked for your zip code as part of the process.
ClearBankruptcy.com has a wide range of information on their site. These are some of the things you can find out:
The difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy
Each of these options is appropriate for different circumstances. Filing for bankruptcy does not mean that all of your debt is automatically wiped out. Sometimes, it is a restructuring of your debt, so you have a chance to repay it.
The median income for your state for different household sizes
Did you know that the median single earner income varies between about $32,000 and about $58,000 depending on which state you live in? Whether you qualify for filing for Chapter 7 depends on how your income compares to the median income in the state you live in.
Alternatives to bankruptcy
These should be looked at before you decide to file for bankruptcy. Even if you find out that these options no longer work for you, you should learn everything you can about budgeting, money and debt management and saving.
Facts about the bankruptcy law
It is never too late to learn about the laws that affect you.
Bankruptcy’s legal protection against creditor harrassment
This is the benefit most people think of first because of all the movies that have been filmed featuring ruthless debt collectors. You do gain protection from such practices when you file for bankruptcy.
How do people get to the point where they are considering filing for bankruptcy? The four main reasons that lead people down that path are a medical event, such as an unexpected illness, job loss, a sudden reduction in income and excessive outstanding balances on credit cards. Do any of these sound familiar?
There are many organizations willing to help you deal with debt before you get to the point where only bankruptcy will work. If you have exhausted debt reduction ideas, it may be time to try the free bankruptcy evaluation. If you find out that you are not a good candidate for bankruptcy, rejoice. That means you overlooked an option you still have open to you. If you find out that you are a good candidate for filing bankruptcy, it is time to learn more about it.
Bankruptcy is a significant financial event. It will show up on your credit report for years to come. Don’t expect to be able to get new loans any time soon. On the other hand, you may be able to save your current home, your car and your furniture by filing for bankruptcy now.
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