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The repayment of the loan and the fees due will be withdrawn automatically from your account on the due date.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.
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.
Got internet? Of course, you do, you are reading this. As long as you are not still stuck with a dial-up connection, Magic Jack could save you a lot of money. This little device that you plug into your computer and a regular telephone comes with free unlimited local and long distance calling within the United States and Canada for the first year. You can call landlines and mobile phones and what is even better, they can call you!
What else does it come with?
Free directory assistance
Won’t it be nice not to be charged when you need to call directory assistance to find out the telephone number of your favorite restaurant?
Free call waiting
This is a nice feature whether you are living at the Grand Central station of incoming calls or whether you receive so few calls that every one of them is a call you simply cannot miss. You know if you are expecting two calls in a given day, they will both come at the same time.
Free voice mail
So what happens when you turn off your computer? It is as if you simply aren’t home. Your voice mail will answer the phone. From the outside, it will seem like nothing changed, unless you didn’t have voice mail before, then people will just think you finally upgraded.
Free caller Id
Are you getting tired of those pesky sales calls? You will be able to tell in advance whether you want to accept the call or not.
Free phone number
Every Magic Jack comes with a free telephone number. You can choose from a large selection of area codes available, or even pay extra to get a custom number if it is available.
Free calling to the United States and Canada from abroad
Do you travel a lot? This little device will even work from abroad. It works in most countries. You can find the list at their website. This is a great device if you are on a business trip and want to stay in touch with your family. You know you will have to travel with your laptop anyhow, and you are likely staying at a hotel with internet access, so this will let you call home or even Aunt Sally or Uncle Jim who haven’t joined the electronic age yet without it costing you any extra.
If you have internet, this device will certainly make you wonder why you are still paying for a land line. Just two months of a typical land line charge will pay for the Magic Jack and a year’s worth of unlimited local and long distance calling. That even includes calls to Canada.
And if you really like the feel of a house phone in your hand, relax. Simply plug it into the device, attach the other end of the device to your computer and you are set to go. You can talk on the phone just like you used to.
For those of you wondering how to stay in touch while spending a year in a foreign country, this may be the answer. While Magic Jack is only available for purchase in the United States and Canada, it works in many countries, so you could take one with you and you will be able to chat with all your friends as if you were still in your home town. How amazing is that?
Perhaps you have finally decided to work on your credit history. Consider applying for an Onyx Card. No, this is not another secured credit card with monthly fees to hold you down. This is a credit card limited for use at American Octane, a shopping website. The interesting spin on this one, is that they are advertising that they report to major credit bureaus. I normally don’t recommend spending more in order to establish a good credit history and with it a high credit score, but this one just may work for you. What do you get?
Your payment history is reported to major credit bureaus.
Without this, having a credit card does you no good as far as your credit history is concerned. This company shows a sample customer credit report on their website, so they must be committed to actually following through on this.
You can get a $2500 credit with no credit check.
In order to increase your credit score, you have to show responsible use of credit. So having a $2500 credit limit is nice, definitely higher than many of the secured credit cards out there, since you can purchase something on American Octane and still have a lot of credit left, showing that you don’t have a tendency to max out your credit.
No annual percentage rate on your purchases.
It is nice not to have to pay additional interest on your purchases. Looking at their site, some of those costs appear to be built into their prices. They certainly won’t be competing with the deep discount stores any time soon, but if you can find something at a price you are willing to pay, this is a great way to go.
No monthly or annual fees.
This is a big benefit. If you have looked around for credit cards for those who haven’t established a credit history or have ruined theirs, the monthly fees can be exorbitant. There is not much risk involved with an Onyx Card when most of the fees are waived.
Possibly some products you were planning to buy anyhow.
The site where you can use this credit card has everything from clothes over electronics to housewares. The product selection is a bit limited but hopefully they are working on expanding it.
Low minimum payments.
With this credit card you are required to pay at least $10 per month or 5% of the outstanding balance, or the entire outstanding balance if it is less than $10. Make sure you make those payments. This is how you improve your credit score. The few fees that you can be charged apply when you fail to make these payments. Let’s face it, if you cannot afford to pay $10 per month, you should not have a credit card. Most of the products currently on the website cost less than $100, so you won’t trigger the 5% rule if you only purchase one product at a time.
For those of you who have ruined your credit history some time in the past, this seems like a nice way to add to your recovery measures. Most banks will not give you credit, but with the Onyx Card you can improve that history to the point where they will start considering you an acceptable risk again. And you will already be in the habit of paying your bills every month. This company definitely came up with a unique way to make their products attractive to customers. Whether it works for you depends on whether you can find any product you want to purchase from them.
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