Week 6 of Budget 101

Part 6: Save on the Special Things

Vacations.  Birthdays.  Holidays.  We know they’re coming, and yet it is so easy to blow our budgets just because “it’s a special occasion.”  If you’re still with me after all this time, you should be starting to feel pretty good about your budget.  After all, you’ve been able to make a distinction between your wants and needs, you’ve set a budget for yourself, and hopefully found ways to save some money on the big things (like housing & insurance), the necessary things (like utilities & groceries), & even the fun things (like shoes and wine!)

(NOTE: Before we go any further, if you are new to my blog or missed out on the last five weeks, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)

If there is no leeway in your budget for those things that only come up once in a while, you may find yourself seriously strapped for cash when the time comes.  Since holidays, birthdays, & vacations are terrible times to be worried about money, it is best to plan ahead.

This week’s assignment:

Keeping your online buying hidden

1. Set a Special Occasions Budget.

Sitting down and actually writing down how much you can afford to spend is a giant step towards saving money in this area.  Too often we get caught up in wanting to “splurge” for something special, but those splurges can catch up with us!  After all, there are a LOT of special occasions throughout the year!  By looking at them as a whole, rather than a once-in-a-while thing, it is easer to see the big picture.  It is also easier to set limits for ourselves when we are not caught up in the moment!

2. Find ways to save throughout the year.

I realized during my college years that coupons DO work. The key to saving lots of money with coupons is to buy things when they are at their rock bottom price, then stock up for when you need them.  This method of shopping has easily been carried over to the rest of my life, and has saved me a lot of money in the long run.

The more you plan ahead & buy things when they are cheapest, and not when they are most convenient, the better off you will be.  Stock up on items for the next year in the post-holiday clearance sales or buy toys & other gifts in bulk when you find a great special.

You can also keep in your purse or wallet, a list of people or occasions you know you will need to buy gifts for in the next year. Make sure it includes how much you have budgeted to spend.

3.  Be on the lookout for good deals!

Once again, this is more of an ongoing assignment, and once again keep in mind there are always going to be more bargains available than you can afford to spend. Stick to the list and to your budget. Last week I listed several of my favorite places to score great deals; those same places apply here.

4.  Shop around & compare prices

This almost goes without saying, but is especially important when you are booking vacation travel!  Because prices fluctuate so much, there are no hard, and fast rules about where to find the best travel deal.  The only constant is that prices change a LOT, so shop around!

If you are traveling to a specific destination, be sure to price out all your different options, and to check a variety of travel sites before you book.  Don’t assume that package prices will be cheaper–sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t– be sure to check smaller, independent airlines in addition to larger travel sites when booking flights.

On the other hand, if you just want to get a great deal on a vacation but aren’t too particular about where you go, you may want to check out some of the daily deal sites like Groupon, Eversave, Totsy, & Living Social that offer vacation deals.  Additionally, Jet Setter is a daily deal site that exclusively offers high end vacation deals for a fraction of the normal price.

5.  Start Working On Handmade Gifts

Consider handmade gifts for as many people as possible.  With more time to plan, you also have more time to put together something really special.  Even better, those gifts will probably mean a lot more–it truly is the THOUGHT that counts!
Even if you’re not that creative on your own, the internet is full of amazing handmade gift ideas.
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And that’s all for this week!!!!! Stay tuned for next week’s saving challenge next Sunday.

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Week 5 of Budget 101

Part 5: Save on the Fun Things

Finally, a topic that we actually WANT to think about.  Or maybe that’s just me! 🙂 Saving on the all the things we MUST spend money on, is in all actuality as important as tedious, to say the least.

(NOTE: Before we go any further, if you are new to Through The Eyes Of I, or missed out on the last four weeks, you might want to start at Week 1: Stop Spending before starting this week’s assignment!)
 

If we’re being perfectly honest, which of these two scenarios would make you do the happy dance:

a.) You were able to negotiate a .3 percentage point drop in your mortgage rate

b.) You found the cutest pair of designer shoes that ever existed on clearance for 90% off AND you had an additional 10% off coupon AND the only pair left was in your size.  It was like the heavens opened up and the shoe gods named you the Chosen One.

(Hint: If you picked (b), this might be the wrong guide to savings for you.)

But there is a very important distinction between (a) and (b).  The first scenario is an actual savings–additional money in your pocket that would otherwise be gone.  The second scenario, while a “good deal,” is NOT really saving you any money.  Those perfect shoes will still cost you something, even if it is far less than the original price.

You are spending, not saving.

Last week we methodically tackled saving on all those pesky things we have to spend money on each month–food, utilities, & gas–whether we want to or not.  Hopefully once you started looking, you found that there were plenty of tweaks you could make to squeeze the most out of your budget.

This week we are going to focus on saving money on the things we want to buy, but don’t necessarily need to buy.

Remember the exercise from Week One? Well let’s face it, although the most obvious answer to saving money in this category is simply to stop spending money on things we don’t need, it’s probably not a very realistic option for most people, including myself.

So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?  As hard as it may be (especially for those of us who want instant gratification), there is a very simple way to save on everything you buy:

Wait for the best price.

Everything goes on sale eventually, it is just a matter of being patient. It is such a simple concept, and yet so hard to follow sometimes for many people.

This week’s assignment:

  •  Stop shopping mindlessly.

If this one doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip to #2, but for some of us (and WE know who WE are), shopping is more than just a means to an end, it is how we fill our time. Regardless of how much we try to convince ourselves that we’re “just looking,” or “window shopping,” eventually the temptation becomes too great, and we buy things we not only don’t need, we end up with things we don’t even really want.  No matter how good the sale, if we buy something we don’t need OR want, it isn’t a good deal, and we are NOT saving money!  Save your pennies for the things you want, and find another way to fill your day! We do not want make any more poor decisions.

  •  Figure out what you really want

Make a list of all the things you want to buy.  Clothes, shoes, new TV, car, blender, professional family portraits, house, new couch, etc. Next to each item, indicate how soon you want/need it, (i.e. “sometime in the next 5 years,” “for my cousin’s wedding next week,” “this October.”), as well as how much you want to spend.  The goal is to aim low, not high, giving yourself a goal to shoot for and a reason NOT to spend more than you have to.  Try to limit your list to no more than 10 items at a time.  If something doesn’t make your top 9, then you probably don’t want it that badly!  Save your money for the things you truly want.

  •  Be on the lookout for good deals!

This is more of an ongoing assignment.  Wish list in hand, you are now free to search for bargains.  But BE CAREFUL.  There are always going to be more bargains available than you can afford to spend.  Stick to the list and to the things you really want.  Diligence truly does pay off, and if you continue looking, you will almost always find what you want at a price you like.  The internet and the use of apps are almost an endless source of bargains, but here are some of my favorite places to look for deals:

Amazon Gold Box –I have found some of my best deals this way. There are Deals of the Day and Lightning Deals which often feature products for 75% or more off the regular retail price.  Even better, you can sign up for Amazon Mom (for free!) and get FREE 2 day shipping on almost everything including 20% off diaper subscriptions.

Amazon is also one of my favorite places to find great deals. You can find almost anything, and if you sign up for Amazon Prime, you get access to thousands of movies, and music for free and the ability to enjoy FREE 2 day shipping.

Ebates– If you do any online shopping at all, using Ebates to get cash back on all your purchases is simply a no-brainer. However, Ebates also frequently features “Daily Double” specials that can mean huge discounts on a wide variety of items.  When you Sign up you will automatically receive their daily email, which is a great way to keep track of the specials!

  • Daily Deal Sites – More & more of these deal sites seem to pop up every day, but my favorites thus far are Beyond The RackGroupon, and Zulily.
Target Online Daily Deals– who doesn’t love Target?  Their daily deals are often nothing short of amazing AND shipping is free!
Craigslist– I have found some amazing deals on Craigslist, but usually only after a LOT of searching. I have the most success when I am looking for something specific, and then search daily until I find it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate either, even if the price is low. Unless it’s free, it can always go lower!

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 See, wasn’t this week a lot more fun?  (That’s because shopping under the guise of “saving money” is always more fun than cracking down!)  Stay tuned for another week’s saving challenge next Sunday, and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!

Week 4 of Budget 101

PART 4: SAVE ON THE NECESSARY THINGS

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that getting your financial life in order is hard work!  I wish I could say it will be a cakewalk from now on, but alas, there is still much to be done.  Don’t let that discourage you or make you give up.  If you are feeling overwhelmed (a perfectly normal reaction), then just stop, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break.  Wait a week or two to pick up where you started.  This series will be here for you when you’re ready.  I promise you CAN do this, and it’s okay if it takes you longer than 8 weeks to get there.
(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)
Last week we focused lowering our major expenses–housing, transportation, & insurance.   Hopefully you were able to find a few ways to save, and if so, YAHOO!    If not, take heart, there are plenty of other areas left to save.
This week we are going to focus on lowering your expenses for the necessities in your budget.  Do you remember the exercise from week 1, where we focused on separating our wants from our needs?  Well, this is where that comes into play. There are certain things we simply can’t live without– groceries, utilities, gas –but we most likely CAN pay less for them.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with coupons, there are still many ways to reduce your grocery bills simply by changing the way you shop. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. ANY savings is better than none!

Unless you have already been trying to cut your expenses in this area, your utility bills should be one place you can find lots of opportunities for savings!  Small tweaks can make a BIG difference in your final bill, and if you are anything like me, you probably have a whole pile of utility bills to deals with each month–everything from water to electricity, cable to phones,  the list goes on and on, and seems to get longer all the time.

Gas is a hard expense to cut significantly. We obviously have no control over gas prices, and we usually need to travel where we need to go. But there are a few things we can do to make sure we are making the most of our gas mileage, and again, small tweaks can make a big difference over time.

This week’s assignment will be pretty straightforward.  We’re going to methodically go through those things we MUST spend money on, whether we want to or not, and then look for ways to cut those expenses.  A little here, and a little there really does add up.

This week’s assignment:

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1. Develop a strategy for saving on your groceries

If you are already saving money with coupons, great!  Look for ways to stretch those savings even more, perhaps by committing to a few meatless meals a week or by getting more proficient at “shopping” and cooking from your own stockpile. If you are not using coupons and don’t want to, there are still a lot of ways to reduce that grocery bill by planning your meals & shopping list around what’s on sale, and stocking up when you find things at a great price.

2.  Reduce Your Utilities

Make a list of all the utilities you pay each month, and make an active commitment to reduce each one. For instance, you could commit to reducing your electric bill by setting your A/C a few degrees lower and by turning off the lights during the day (and keeping them off.)  You could decide to eliminate your landline in favor of cell phones, downgrade your cable plan, or switch internet providers.  Remember, every little bit helps, but whatever you decide to do, WRITE IT DOWN!  Then do it!

3.  Commit to Saving Money on Gas

Once again, be specific.  Write down at least 5 things you can start doing right away to help lower that expense every month, whether it be planning your errands better to make them more efficient, carpooling, walking when possible, or even checking to make sure your tires are properly inflated. That’s all there is for this week.  That wasn’t so bad was it?  Compared to all the big stuff, it was a walk in the park, and maybe it was even a little fun!  It is amazing how much money we literally throw away each month, just because we don’t pay attention to the details in all these different areas.  It really does add up.

 
Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!

9 Smart Ways to Save on Car Insurance

Understanding Auto Insurance Basics Liability Collision Comprehensive

Much like having to pay for utilities or car repairs, paying for car insurance is one of those annoying expenses that we all have bear, even if we don’t really want to. But while purchasing auto insurance may be unavoidable, paying too much to insure our vehicles are something to watch out for.

Although most of the time we simply just pay the bill without really thinking about it, there are actually some clever ways most of us can decrease our car insurance rates, at least a little.

Don’t believe me? Here are nine smart ways to save on car insurance that are well worth reviewing. Even if you’ve heard some of them before, taking the time to make sure you are following them could save you hundreds with just a phone call or two:

1. Review Your Policy Annually

Like with home insurance, it is important to be vigilant about reviewing your auto insurance policy on an annual basis to make ensure you are getting the best rate and to find out if there are any new or additional discounts available. Your insurance agent will not do this for you, at least not without you asking him to. Instead, you must be your own best advocate when it comes to paying less for insurance.

2. Shop Around

While it is easy to get attached to a particular agent or agency, particularly one who has served your family for years, it always pays to shop around.  Even if you decide to stick with your current provider, comparing prices and getting multiple quotes will give you a much clearer idea of what you could or should be paying, and will also give you more leverage for negotiating rates.

Interestingly, according to the Allstate policy specialist I spoke with, choosing the cheaper premium may not always be the best route to take. He suggested determining what coverage you need or expect to require as well as researching claims procedures (such as time to respond, special benefits, etc.), and then determining what type of relationship you want (face-to-face, web only, etc.) Once you’ve researched all these factors, and created a list of companies that offer what you are looking for you will have a much better way of comparing cost to value.

3. Combine Insurance Policies

While shopping around is important, it can also payoff big time to carry all your various insurance policies with the same carrier to take advantage of a multiple-policy discount.  Furthermore, bundling policies can not only cost you less money, it can also make life easier by giving you one reliable contact (your agent) for your insurance needs and questions.

4. Be a Safe Driver

One of the most effective ways to pay less for insurance is to be a safe and conscientious driver, as the best premiums and rates are offered to those without speeding tickets or accidents tarnishing their records. On top of that, many insurance companies give bonuses and credits for every additional year of safe driving.

But what if your record is already tarnished? Is there any way to redeem yourself once you’ve made a mistake?

Surprisingly, yes. While you can’t magically erase a bad driving record, you can vow to become a better driver from now on, and the longer you can go without any driving infractions, the more likely you will be to get a discount. Turn off your cell phone before getting in the car, eliminate other distractions as much as possible, and obey the speed limit and other traffic signs. Furthermore, it is sometimes possible to go to traffic or driving school to keep tickets from appearing on your driving record. Be sure to inquire if this is a possibility in your area!

5. Increase Your Deductible

Increasing your deductible is a quick and easy way to get a lower rate. Yes, your deductible will cost more if you ever need to file a claim, but as a good driver you may never need to. Even increasing your deductible by just a few hundred dollars can save you thousands over the long run. Of course, as our Allstate policy expert reminds us, just make sure it’s still an amount you can afford in case there comes a time that you do have to make a claim. Remember too that changes you make don’t have to be permanent—if the deductible feels too high you can always lower it again later on.

6. Drive an Older or Safer Vehicle

Insurance is often the last thing we think about when shopping for a new vehicle. We become distracted by all the beautiful colors and the shiny bells and whistles, and it isn’t until we actually have to write that first insurance check that we consider how much our pretty new car is really going to cost us.

Thus, before purchasing a new or used vehicle it is important to do a little research in order to factor in the cost of insurance. Older vehicles are generally much cheaper to insure than new vehicles because their value is greatly reduced. But, according to our Allstate analyst, age and value are not the only factors that come into play: The type of car could impact your insurance rates. For example, safety aspects of certain vehicles may end up costing less, while an expensive car could cost more to insure because it can cost more to replace. You also may be eligible for discounts if your vehicle includes certain safety features or is deemed an economical car.

7. Drive Less

Most auto insurance companies will offer discounts for vehicles that incur low annual mileage, which means that if you own a car that doesn’t get driven much or if you can find a way to drive less, you can save a bundle. There are many ways to do this, including carpooling to work (which can also provide additional carpool discounts), moving closer to work, walking, bicycling, or taking public transit when possible, or becoming more efficient with your errands by bundling them as much as possible. The added benefits of driving less include less wear and tear on your vehicle, significant gas savings, and less risk of accidents. 

8. Install Safety Features

While most newer vehicles come pre-equipped with standard safety features, installing additional safety features to older cars can help greatly decrease your insurance premium. Vehicles equipped with safety features such as automatic seat belts, running lights, an alarm system or anti-lock braking system can all save you money on your policy.

If your car doesn’t already have ABS installed in it, check to see if it would be worth the cost of installation. Insurers love the anti-lock braking system because its been tested thoroughly as a safety device and has a track record for effectiveness. Anti-lock brakes are highly effective in driving conditions where you may need to brake hard. You can keep control of the vehicle better especially when it comes to stopping on ice in a pinch.

Likewise, installing an anti-theft device may also help reduce your premium. Check with your insurance agent to be sure.

9. Take Advantage of Special Discounts

In addition to safe driver discounts, most insurance companies offer a variety of other discounts on auto insurance. While these do vary by state and company, just a few of the discounts that you may be able to take advantage of include Good Student Discounts, Senior Discounts, Retired Discounts, and Resident Student Discounts. At Allstate, Teen drivers can even take a TeenSmart driving class to lower their premiums.   There can also be significant discounts available for paying early, paying in full, or paying through automatic withdrawal.

Furthermore, while some occupations are not at all favored by insurance companies, others may qualify for discounts. You can end up with a higher rate of insurance for jobs in such fields as journalism, real estate agents, sales representatives and even entertainers, but giving your insurer information that is as specific as possible can help lower your rate. A journalist for example may get a high premium but if she is listed as an editor then she can get a lower premium. In any case do NOT be dishonest about your occupation or you may hurt your chances of qualifying for future claims. The occupation you state has to be reasonably close to what you do for a living.

While taking the time to review your auto insurance policy may not be the most enjoyable hour of your life, the thrill of saving a couple of hundred dollars should more than make up for a few minutes of tedium. These nine smart discounts are certainly a great place to start, but always remember be your own advocate and to seek out the best possible rate no matter what.

12 Smart Ways to Save on Home Insurance

Key chain: Home shape and car keys

Few of us would consider the possibility of not having homeowner’s insurance.  Like paying for health insurance or utilities, it is just one of those annoying-but-necessary expenses we simply have to put up with, whether we want to or not, or whether we ever actually use it or not.

But have you ever stopped to consider whether you might be paying too much to insure your home?

The problem with expenses like insurance is that because we accept them as a fact of life, we don’t always think about making sure we are getting the best possible rate.  The truth is that homeowner insurance policies can vary a lot, and even if you shopped around when you first purchased your policy, new options or reductions may have become available in the meantime.  The most important thing to remember is that it is not your insurance provider’s job to make sure you are getting the best rate.  YOU must be your own best advocate when it comes to paying less for insurance.   As such, it is best to be vigilant about re-checking your policy once a year to make sure you are always paying as little as possible.

Still not sure where to start?  Here are 12 very smart ways to save on homeowner’s insurance that you may not have considered:

Shop Around

While it is easy to get attached to a particular agent or agency, particularly one who has served your family for years, it always pays to shop around.  Even if you decide to stick with your current provider, comparing prices and getting multiple quotes will give you a much clearer idea of what you could or should be paying, and will also give you more leverage for negotiating rates.

Take Advantage of Special Discounts

Many insurance companies provide special discounts for a variety of factors, including age, driving record, student report cards, and more.  They will not automatically apply these savings—you have to ask for them!  Be sure to review an updated discount list each year to see if your family has qualified for any new discounts.

Raise Your Deductible

One of the quickest ways to lower your insurance payment is to raise your deductible—the amount you would have to cover before your insurance kicks in.  This works because the more you have to pay out of pocket in case of emergency, the less risk the insurance company has to assume.  Of course the flip side is that in the event of an emergency, you would need to cover a much larger deductible, which means that this is only a good option if you are willing and able to keep an emergency fund in place. (In a sense, your emergency fund is like your own mini insurance policy.)

Only Insure the Cost to Rebuild

Most home insurance policies will automatically cover the total value of the home, rather than the cost to rebuild.  If you live in an area where the property values are higher, this means that you may be paying a premium to insure your land, when all you really should be insuring is the cost to rebuild in the event of emergency or disaster.  It is important to note that changing the amount you have insured may or may not be an option depending on your mortgage company.

Combine Policies

While shopping around is important, it can also payoff big time to carry all your various insurance policies with the same carrier to take advantage of a multiple-policy discount.  Furthermore, bundling policies can not only cost you less money, it can also make life easier by giving you one reliable contact (your agent) for your insurance needs and questions.

Make Your Home More Disaster Resistant

While prepping for a disaster won’t necessarily lower your insurance rates (though it might), it could save you from having to make an expensive claim.  In other areas, smart ways to prepare might include cutting down tall trees close to the house

The best way to prepare for a disaster is before it happens. In addition to taking precautions for protecting your house, it is a smart idea to create a disaster preparedness kit and household emergency plan just in case.

Improve Home Security

Installing a home security system is not as difficult or expensive as it might sound, and many insurance companies will offer a significant discount for homes with a home security system.  Adding additional locks, motion sensor lights, and other home security features can help as well.  Check with your provider for specific details.

Maintain A Good Credit Score

While this is not always the case, your credit score can have a big impact on your insurance rates.  Some insurance companies will consider anyone with poor credit “high risk,” which will ultimately result in a higher rate.  While not all insurance companies use credit as a gauge, it is definitely a smart practice to use credit wisely in any case in order to avoid potential red flags.

Ask for a Long Term Discount

While it is not necessarily a good idea to stick with the same old insurance carrier you’ve always had, there might be a way to make that loyalty work in your favor.  If you have been with the same insurance company for more than five years, be sure to ask about long-term discounts, which are rate reductions based on the number of years you have been insured through a particular company.  Again, these discounts won’t happen automatically, so you do still have to be vigilant, but it never hurts to ask!

Switch to Private Insurance

If you live in a high-risk areas that has been susceptible to flooding, hurricanes, or other natural disasters, you may have been told that your government insurance is your only option.  However, this may not be the case!  Be sure to check with a local insurance provider to see if there is a private insurance option available at a less expensive rate.  You may be surprised at what you find.

Buy a Cheaper House

While it might not be practical to move just to save on home insurance, the house you live in does have a huge impact on your insurance rates.  It goes without saying that the more expensive your home, the more expensive your insurance will be.  If you are in the market for a new house, consider downsizing to a smaller house or cheaper location.  Also look for features to your new house that will help keep rates down, such as added security or features that make it more disaster-resistant.

Compare Insurance Rates by Neighborhood

All neighborhoods were not created equal when it comes to homeowner’s insurance.  Proximity to the ocean, elevation, flood risk, and any other claims common to your neighborhood all play a factor, and, according to the Allstate policy expert that we spoke with, things like how close you are to a fire hydrant and fire station, environmental issues, theft and more are also considered.

This means that even just a few blocks can make a huge difference in what you will pay for your policy.  If you are shopping for a new home, be sure to consider location in your decision, and to find out what your insurance rate would likely be before you make an offer.  (Allstate has a tool you can use called Calm and Costly Claims  that helps identify the most common and costly claims in your zip code.)  The “perfect” house might not be as good a deal as you think!

The common theme running through all these ideas is that YOU as a homeowner must be vigilant about making sure you are always getting the best insurance rates.  Your insurance agent will not do this for you!  Set a date on your calendar to review your policy using the ideas on this list, then make sure to repeat the process annually.  You just be pleasantly surprised at how much you are able to save!

What Every Mom Needs to Know About Insurance

As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids are cared for. We go out of our way to keep our kids safe, from buying bicycle helmets to Band-Aids to winter coats, right down to holding their hand when they cross the street.

Most of us worry endlessly about our kids’ well-being. I know I do! But as much as we worry about the little things, it’s sometimes easy to let the big things, those risks and dangers that are a little more intangible—slip by ignored or unattended to.

A big part of protecting our kids, as well as securing financial peace, is making sure our families are covered for the big things including natural disasters, an injury or illness, job loss, or worse. Even so, it can sometimes be hard to determine exactly what coverage you need, especially when it seems like most insurance salesmen only want to play on your emotions.

When money is tight, you certainly don’t want to overspend on coverage that you don’t need, but you need be protected from major catastrophe. The best approach is to do your research ahead of time and be aware of the state of your family’s finances before you get a sales pitch.

It is important to remember that it’s not the insurance agency’s role to make sure you’re getting the best deal on insurance. It is up to you to be your own advocate and to get the best rate. Insurance isn’t something you can put on the back burner and just pay each month.

To get the best rates, you must continuously (at least once a year) revisit your insurance policies and do some comparison shopping. Plans and offers are constantly changing to meet the needs of the market. Rates can fluctuate as your family’s needs and situation change as well. Adding another driver, building on an addition to your home, changing your security system, or bringing a new member of your family into the world can all raise insurance questions and call for a little guidance.

There are seven types of insurance that you NEED: Homeowners/Renters, Auto, Health, Disability, Long-Term Care, Identity Theft, and Life.

Other insurances you should consider is also boat, farm and travel.

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Home

If you’re paying a mortgage, the lender requires homeowner’s coverage, but even if you’re lucky enough to own your home outright, you want to be sure that you’re protected.

For renters, insurance protects your possessions in case of fire, theft and, in some cases, flood. Renters insurance is often thought of as optional, but as a parent, you must cover yourself in case of tragedy. Renters insurance is often really quite inexpensive (less than $20/month!) and it’s very important if you have big-ticket items that might be difficult to replace, such as audio equipment, collectables, exercise gear, televisions and appliances. Take inventory of your household and make a list of those larger items that could be damaged or stolen, and would result in major financial hardship if you’d have to replace them.

There are several ways to save on homeowner and renter’s insurance. You can raise your deductible, combine policies and do some home improvements and emergency preparations to raise the protection level on your home. Improvements to home security can also help you save, as can new windows, doors, and extreme weather protection.

Auto

 When we think insurance, auto insurance is often the first thing that comes to mind. Driving is possibly the highest risk activity that any of us do almost every day, and we all know the importance of having liability coverage. In many states, it’s now illegal to operate a vehicle without liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility.

In our litigious society, unfortunately, coverage is mandatory to protect yourself from financial ruin in case of an accident or driving mistake. One moment can change your life and the life of another driver forever. Trust me, your mind will be at ease when you know you’re protected.

When it comes to auto insurance, the value of your vehicle is important when you’re determining the amount of coverage and type of insurance you need. If your car is in its twilight years, you may feel comfortable with less coverage or just liability. If you have a newer car (or if you’re paying off a car loan), you need to have full coverage to keep your investment safe.

There are several other ways to save on car insurance. Shop around, compare rates, and don’t become too loyal to just one agency or provider. There are good driver discounts, multiple car discounts, and even good grade programs for driving teens and students. Installing safety upgrades or attending defensive driving courses can also help lower your monthly payments and save you when it comes to paying for coverage.

family health insurance coverage

Health

Health insurance is so important. As parents, we know we must take children to the doctor for regular checkups. We also know that serious health issues can come out of nowhere, and without coverage they can leave households financially devastated. For the many of us just surviving in todays middleclass, we make enough to pay all our bills, not enough for the extras, and too much for any assistance such as government plan health insurance such as Medicaid, family health plus and their attached HMO plans.

Many employers offer health insurance at a cost which also requires deductibles and co-pays, but if yours does not, or if you’re independently employed, private insurance providers are available. Under the Affordable Care Act, you may qualify for low-cost coverage based on your income. Keep in mind though, low-cost means anywhere from $200-$400 per person a month with deductibles and co-pays which is low cost for health insurance.

Consider a Health Savings Account and/or a high deductible plan to save the most. An HSA can save families thousands of tax-free dollars every year, which you can use toward your deductible, so your monthly premium will be lower. You can use your HSA for prescriptions, and depending on the plan, eye exams and preventative care.

Disability

Disability insurance should cover 65% of your income, and most employers offer disability coverage. It’s often something that’s overlooked, but one in seven workers will face a disability before retirement.

You should be sure your disability insurance is long-term. My personal opinion is that you should have 3–6 months of expenses saved up, which would cover your needs in the case of a short-term or minor disability. It’s the long-term scenarios that you should plan for. Most disabilities (90%) are not covered by worker’s comp or social security.

The effects of a disability can financially ruin a family if you’re not properly prepared. Many workers facing disabilities can be out of work for three years or more. Consider what would happen to your family should they face an unforeseen accident or tragedy that leaves you unable to work.

Long-Term Care

As a parent, long-term care is not necessarily something that’s on any of our minds, but it’s a necessity for anyone over age 60. If your parents cannot afford long-term care insurance, this may be something you want to consider.

Consider the scenario of a parent who is facing a condition like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and requires long-term care. This situation can quickly eat up your parents’ retirement savings and even dip into your own savings and accounts. Those who qualify for Medicaid will receive some assistance, but it often leaves patients with limited options and plans for complete care.

As you near your 60s, long-term care should be on your horizon and part of your post-retirement financial plan. It’s a way to make sure you don’t financially burden your children or spouse and ensures you won’t leave them unable to make ends meet.

Identity Theft

If you’ve never faced the horror in dealing with having your identity stolen, then consider yourself very lucky. With data breaches on the rise among major retailers, it seems like everyone is at risk. Identity theft can cost you big-time in terms of time, money, effort, and just general headaches. In a worst-case scenario, identity theft can damage your credit and make recovery very difficult—even if you’re an innocent victim.

Part of your insurance portfolio should include identity theft protection. You should be sure it includes an identity restoration service that can fix the damage and get your identity restored and safe once again. Teaching your family good identity-safety habits such as limiting your exposure online and protecting your passwords can help protect you as well, but should the worst happen, insurance will be a lifesaver.

Long Island Insurance Company

Life

Life insurance can be a little confusing. The general rule of thumb is you need term, not whole life. Cash value insurance can sound like a great way to invest and save money, but truth be told, it doesn’t offer high returns at all and generally is a poor performing product.

Term life insurance, on the other hand, is a way to cover yourself until you’re debt free and in a position to invest. It offers a way to help your spouse or children settle your estate and survive in relative comfort should something happen to you.

Term life insurance can help you cover burial costs and the costs of paying off your debt, plus further support of your family, particularly if you’re the sole breadwinner.

Facing uncertain scenarios in life is always unsettling, but having the proper insurance coverage can ease your mind and allow you to sleep a little easier at night. Look into the faces of your children and think of all the ways you would love to keep them safe. Insurance is one of the most simple, practical, and logical ways to protect your loved ones. 

Week 2 of Budget 101

PART TWO: MAKE A BUDGET

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going? Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to. Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you WANT and the things you NEED.

(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Budget 101 Part 1: STOP SPENDING before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “WANT” instead of a “NEED” doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s okay to want a pretty comfortable house with all the amenities, vacations or cute shoes. What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being,  your marriage, relationships, your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff. It’s okay to WANT, but not to GET if you are not at a stable financial stance to do so. ***Don’t go on vacation, then come back and not pay your electric and gas bills. Don’t go out shopping with your friends and then go and tell your family you’re struggling*** If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings, life & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, have great credit and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.  In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right. I have multiple bills including a retirement and savings account, life, funeral and health insurances that I pay towards monthly, and I don’t have school or credit debt so I say I am pretty financially stable BUT…… most of us, including I struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area. Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement. This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my stepson, never neglect to do something just because it is hard, because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most. Don’t let fear stop you either. It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it. And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business:

HERE IS THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT:

                      CLICK TO DOWNLOAD MY PERSONAL BUDGET WORKSHEET

1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.  Use worksheet number one to list all your sources of income, as well as all those key fixed payments you MUST make each month

Use worksheet #2 to add up all the subtotals of your fixed expense categories, then subtract that total from your income.  The remaining number is what you really have to work on creating a budget for.
In the coming weeks, we will work on finding ways to lower both your fixed AND variable expenses, but we need a place to start from, and this is it.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Complete worksheet #4 and make some concrete decisions and goals based on what you’ve discovered through this budgeting exercise.

Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

The last page of the PDF packet is an expense tracker.  Print out as many as you need, and use it to keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

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Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?
Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better

About Budget 101

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on a sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. It is my personal guide, a beginners budget 101. Each week we will tackle one specific area for us to work on, and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. Keep in mind, just as anything you need to do in life, following this series will take some effort & commitment on your part. There are many ways to budget your financial life, and this is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. Okay, well maybe no blood 🙂 Every Sunday will mark a new week towards a better budget. Come join me and save! Click on Budget 101 in the menu scale, and use the drop down to view the series by week.

Disclaimers: 

  • I am not a financial expert or certified financial planner.  I have degrees in business administration, criminal and business law, have studied accounting, and am a certified tax preparer and tutor.  I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money.  There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to.  My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites.  Yes, this is the baby steps guide to saving. This is my personal guide, and it has worked for me.

Week 1 of Budget 101

Welcome to My Beginner’s Guide to Saving!

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. Being that you are reading this, you are starting a lifestyle to a better you, and  better financial situation.

Part One: Stop Spending!!!

Saving is not easy. We live in a crazy consumer driven “have to have it” society, where the latest electronics, cars, fashions and cars are constantly being promoted; and we are made to feel like we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest or the best.  The sheer quantity of stuff available to purchase at any given time is pretty much a bottomless pit.  There is always more, more more! So we want and spend more, more, more!

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Well, it’s pretty simple really:  STOP. BUYING. STUFF.

At least in theory it is simple…….

In practice, it is sooooo much harder……

Our reasons for spending money on stuff we don’t need are plentiful and varied.  It makes us feel good.  We want to look better.  We want our house to be pretty.  We want what everyone else has.  It’s fun.  We’re bored.  We’re lonely.  We want people to like us better.  We want to be “ahead of the curve.” We’re “tech junkies”.  We can’t pass up a “good deal.” We think we might need it someday.  The sales pitch worked.  We’re stressed.  We’re trying to fill a void.  It was on sale.  We’re addicted to Starbucks, tobacco, scrapbooking, shoes, video games, books, fun, etc.

Sound familiar?

The truth is that whatever the reason, much of what we spend our money on is unnecessary, a want rather than a need.  I need to eat, but I want to drink my Keurig K-Cups coffee every day. I need to wear shoes, but I want to have dozens of pairs in every color and style imaginable. I want to get my hair done, but I have student loans and bills I need to pay. I want to take dance classes, but I need to pay for health insurance every month (why is insurance so much anyways?…347.00 a month!)  😦  So much for AFFORDABLE in Affordable Care Act.

It is so very important to realize the distinction between what we think we need and what we actually need. But its not an issue of wants Vs. needs, but wants Vs. Priorities.

It is the first critical step on the path to savings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never spend money on anything, and live an austere and boring life, void of pretty things, entertainment or yummy coffee drinks.

But for the sake of this series, we are going to start by curbing all spending so that down the road we can figure out how to get those things we want in a way that fits our budget.

Which brings me to this week’s assignment:

1.  Stop spending!

Try to go these next seven days without spending money on anything except what is absolutely necessary, as in matter-of-survival necessary.  No clothes, no candy, no quick stops at McDonalds, no craft supplies, no nothing.  Don’t worry, it’s only a week.  You won’t die.  I promise. It is a great way to get your budget back on track in a hurry!

2.  Make a list of wants and needs

Spend your time reflecting on all the things you spend money on in a months time, and divide those things into a “needs” list (i.e.  I need to pay rent, pay utility bills, pay health and life insurance bills, buy food, make car and insurance payment, etc.) and a “wants” list (cable, , Starbucks, etc.)

  •  Don’t just make a mental list.  Sit down and physically write down every single thing you can think of that you spend money on, from the mundane to the major.

3. Get inspired

Read a few financial articles to get yourself motivated.  It will give you something to do while you’re trying not to spend money.

4.  Find new (free) ways to fill your time

Think long and hard about the reasons you spend money frivelously.  If you are using shopping as a way to fill a void in your life then you need to seriously explore other hobbies that don’t cost anything.  Go to the library and check out some new books, make it your mission to explore every park in a 20 mile radius, set a goal of organizing every closet and cupboard in your house by the end of the summer, or better yet, have a yard sale and make some money off the things that you already have that you don’t need.

I think the thing that surprised me the most when I stopped spending money out of boredom was how much more creative I became.  The world is full of free activities. You just have to look a little harder.

And that’s it for this week!  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  If you’ve decided to take this 8 week challenge, or if you have any ideas for fun free activities you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.  Saving money is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Beginners Budget 101

 

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. It is my personal guide, a beginners budget 101.

Each week we will tackle one specific area for us to work on, and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. Keep in mind, just as anything you need to do in life, following this series will take some effort & commitment on your part. There are many ways to budget your financial life, and this is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. Okay, well maybe no blood 🙂

Every Sunday will mark a new week towards a better budget. Come join me and save! Click on Budget 101 in the menu scale, and use the drop down to view the series by week.

Disclaimers: 

  • I am not a financial expert or certified financial planner.  I have degrees in business administration, criminal and business law, have studied accounting, and am a certified tax preparer.  I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money.  There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to.  My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites.  Yes, this is the baby steps guide to saving. This is my personal guide, and its work for me.

Don’t Sign That Lease Yet

When looking for a living rental, whether being an apartment, loft or house; you may have a lot lingering in your head such as, questions, expectations, plans and maybe even excitement or stress. Perhaps you’re excited about turning your new place into a home and decorate (which is my favorite), or you are nervous about your move. No matter what your situation, when shopping for living rentals, the most important thing you must do is to thoroughly study your lease before signing it. Aside from reviewing the lease, always ask your landlord or apartment manager questions about renting, or about any other aspect of life in your perspective new dwelling. He or she should be helpful and must address all your queries, and more importantly, put what you’ve discussed into writing in case you have to return back to it for reference. Whatever you do, always read your lease, and don’t adjourn it for after you sign it.

Image result for read lease first

So, what are some important questions to ask when looking at rentals before signing a lease???

  • How much is the rent?
    • Questions about rent cost are very basic yet very crucial, as the apartment must fit your budget of course. You may be able to even negotiate a change in the rents price, but some landlords are settled for what they want to rent their property for. Keep in mind that it may send a red flag that you may have difficulties in paying your rent if you ask to lower the price.
  • When is the rent due?
    • Usually rent is due on the first of every month, but it may be different due to your move in date. Sometimes an extension is available, so ask if there is one, and if there is interest or a fee attached to your late payment.
  • What is the length of the lease?
    • Some leases are month to month, every half year or yearly. If you are renting a room, a lease is normally weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or yearly. It is also important to be aware of what happens when your lease is up since some landlords do renew the lease, and some may just void it and allow the tenant to stay as long as they continue to pay their rent.
  • Under what circumstances can I break the lease?
    • Some landlords allow their tenants to break their lease once they prove that they have been relocated for work or have purchased a house, keep in mind that not all do. Some landlords or agencies may even allow you to break your lease due do crime such as a burglary. A few years ago, my apartment was robbed while I was at school, and my landlord allowed me to break my year lease since I was worried I may be targeted again because I was barely home and lived by myself. Leases can also be broken if the landlord does not keep their end of the bargain as well.
  • Which utilities am I responsible for?
    • Utilities make a big impact in apartment costs, so be sure to gather as much information about them as possible. If you are responsible for electricity, heat, trash and/or water, you want to make sure you can afford those payments within your budget. If utilities are included, you should know if there are any limitations. Some places have a set thermostat with a limit temperature and timer included when heat is included.
  • What is the cost of the utilities for the apartment I would like to rent?
    • To help budget your cost, ask the property owner what is the normal monthly rate for utilities. If he or he is unaware, you have the ability to call your local utility companies, and request an estimate based upon the past usage of previous tenants.

Image result for utility cost

  • Is the heating electric or gas?
    • Generally it is cheaper to heat water with gas than with electric. Electricity costs about four times as much as natural gas for the same amount of heat. If a dwelling is heated by electricity, it’s especially important to call the utility company to find out about past electric bills at that address.
  • Who is responsible for hot water?
    • Sometimes the landlord pays for hot water, and sometimes tenants pay. Hot water is often the second biggest part of your utility bill, so it’s important to ask this question before renting. Again, call the utility company to find out what past gas and electric bills have been for that address.
  • Am I provided with cable, satellite service or internet?
    • Some places include internet with a monthly limit of GB usage while cable may only include only certain channels.
  • Who is in charge of yard work?
    • Some rentals include yard work such as snow plowing, and mowing of grass as well as bush trimming in the rent. Not all rentals include these services and it is the tenants responsibility to care for the properties yard. My rent includes all yard work, except my own personal gardening of course 🙂

Image result for street parking signs

  • What is the parking situation?
    • This is a very important question if you own a car. Check if you will be provided with your own parking spot, and ask whether your guests can use other parking spaces when they visit your place. If there are no off street parking spaces available, it’s good to know where parking on the street is available, the distance from there to your dwelling, as well as the city/town laws in regard to parking on the street. Some cities have alternating parking days while others may not.
  • Can I make improvements in the apartment?
    • We sometimes may not like how the sink or shower spits out water, and may want to change faucets. Check and see if there is anything in the dwelling that you would like to have changed, and see if you can change it. Some landlords may even deduct from your rent if you show proof of cost for your efforts.
  • Can I re-paint or hang décor?
    • This is important as well. You might have found the perfect location, but what if its walls are painted in a dreadful color? Some landlords will allow you to re-paint while others won’t. Some rentals also will not allow to have anything hanging on the walls due to the potential damage from drilling holes or hammering nails. Details about redesigning should be included in the lease.
  • Is there a lot of noise? Are there rules to noise?
    • If noise is a huge issue for you, you better make sure you know if other tenants or neighbors make a lot of it. If you are one who creates the noise, ask what are the limits, and if it will be a problem. You have to show neighbors respect no matter where you move. Having company shouldn’t be an issue, but when it’s loud company, it can be.
  • Can I have pets?
    • Ask about the pet policies. Each place will have its own set of rules and regulations about pet ownership. Some will allow pets while others won’t. Some communities are very particular and will even look into a pet’s breed type and weight. Additional security deposits may apply for your pet, and you should be aware, just as the landlord should be aware of your pet’s presence.
  • Can I sublease?
    • In some rentals, you will be allowed to take in a roommate or perhaps, add another name to the lease after moving in. Make sure this option is available in case you are in need for the extra help with expenses or just want to help out a family or friend.

When looking at rentals and asking questions, try to think in both the long and short term. There are lots of rentals out there, and asking the right questions is key to choosing the best one for you.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

My Fashion Apparel, Mixing Tips and Sketches

Fashion Apparel, Mixing Tips and Sketches
Samantha Jonas-Rongo
I haven’t met a woman who doesn’t like or appreciate good fashion, but then again, fashion is in the eye of the beholder as beauty is. So ones fashion sense may not be another’s pick of choice. For example, even though mixing print is trending, I rather keep my look more matching. I enjoy a more classy, patterns on minimum, soft tone colored and chic look for my wardrobe. I can put together and pull off a great outfit that is mixing and colorful, but I tend to see many mistakes that other woman make while attempting that creative trend.
 I personally don’t wear too busy of clothing so I can finish making a statement with my jewelry, scarf if wearing one, and especially with my shoes, but still have space to do extra work with my hair and makeup. I like to even out my style so I won’t look like a puzzle put together with 8 different puzzle’s pieces. I don’t want my outfit  to look disoriented and dysfunctional. Pairing together an outfit with pattern leggings can also be great, but when the whole outfit is properly pulled off. So again, be careful with the print and color.
how to wear tights
One person I know personally comes to mind when I think of all the mixing Don’ts, along with adding too much color and brightness. When she believes she looks great, I’m on the other end thinking, “Please don’t wear that again”, but since her and I don’t get along that great, and she had the audacity to speak upon my clothing after I had a traumatic fire that damaged all of my things except the clothes on my back, and any money I had earned from work I spent only towards my basic needs and housing, I don’t mind laughing inside and joking later of her fashion failure. It may sound cruel, but trust me, she deserves it. What woman, and one who’s a  mother, picks on a beautiful, talented, intelligent, achieved, and successful woman who just lost everything? Not just that, but whose priorities are straight enough to put getting a new home in a month, over living from house to house for months, buying clothing? Yes, she was the real joke. I may have not been the best dressed, but I rather have a new home, which I did in only a month.
Anyway,  I also see this individual over wearing leggings, creating almost every outfit wearing a pair, but wearing them very wrong at that. Not to be continuously picking on this gal, but her fashion sense, needs some sense. I’m actually still trying to figure out when did leggings stop being worn under skirts and dresses, or while working out or doing yoga, and becoming the next replacement for pants. Yes wearing them with a long shirt, long jacket/sweater or long button up looks great, but a t-shirt or short shirt or fleeces/ hoodie as an outfit not for working out……. NO!!! Please stop!!! Wearing leggings needs to be paired with either a dress, skirt, or shirts and jackets/sweaters whose lengths go NO HIGHER than 5-7 inches above your knees, anything shorter, must be for working out purposes ONLY!!! If wearing any shirt that’s shorter than 7 inches above your knees, and especially above your buttocks, save for regular pants or jeans. Based upon a survey of 100 men, 97 agreed that woman look desperate for attention and are not one to take home to their mother all simply because of how and where they wear their leggings, ….Interesting! So when thinking it is appealing for men, it is, but not in a good way.
Now enough about leggings, I am not a fan of many bright, multi colored and mixed patterned outfits because they can be too much clash and not enough class. It screams, “I’m here, hey can you see me?, good because thats the point, and I’m trying to make a statement”…. All attention isn’t good attention and how could you be missed? Imagine walking into a room where every piece of furniture was a different color and/or pattern.
 
Also, wearing only bright or light colors due to a lighter or darker skin tone does not change the color itself, its still the same. A soft cream orange rather than bright orange or soft pink rather than a hot pink compliments both dark and light toned complexions. Some people with paler skin don’t like to wear white or cream but that doesn’t mean wear all dark clothing and stay completely away from light colors. Some dark toned individuals, including a few in my family, don’t wear a lot of black or purple, but that doesn’t mean they go for bright. A softer color brings a softer tone. I’m tan complexioned, some may call it “honey”, “yellow” or “light skinned”, but it doesn’t mean I’m too light for yellow, but a soft yellow is such a better compliment for any skin tone rather than a bright, obnoxious yellow. Check the photo below for example: I personally love yellow!
 Color Me Courtney . - Kate Spade Lady Marmalade Bracelet, J. Crew Tipi Sweater, Kate Spade Necklace, Kenneth Jay Lane All Eyes On You Necklace, Kate Spade Recital Farrah, J. Crew Pave Link Bracelet, Tom Ford Nikita Glasses - Bee Bright
Don’t be confused, I like mixed patterns and brighter colors, but in variation. You don’t want to over do it. In my opinion, there is a such thing as having too much color and pattern in an outfit. When that is the case, or the colors are not matching, the outfit itself not only looks too busy and tacky, but also looks dysfunctional. Some may disagree, but as I said, fashion is in the eye of the beholder.
Mixing prints, much like mixing same or close colors and denims is possible, but must be done with caution. Just like mixing these pieces, it is important to note that you can’t just throw any combination together, there are methods to pulling this trend off. You could either come out looking fabulous or end up looking like the neighborhoods next wacky dresser.
 
My Tips for Mixing/Matching print:
 
If you are new to wearing bold choices and crazy colours, I recommend keeping it simple. Don’t go for a full head-to-toe print.

  Mix larger prints with smaller ones: A great way to remember this is to know that opposites attract. When you’re mixing print using this rule you don’t want to go overboard with the size of the print. Try wearing a combination of large and small print. The small print against the larger one creates a balance and gives a beautiful contrast. For example leopard print comes in different sizes; you could mix a large leopard skin print skirt or trouser with a smaller leopard skin print shirt or top. You would notice that people may not even know they are not the same because of the balancing illusion they create. A quick tip is if you decide to do this use the larger print at the bottom and the smaller print at the top. The large print tends to make parts of the body seem bigger and the smaller print makes parts look smaller. Blend prints that have the same color characteristics: Another great way to mix print is to make sure your prints have similar color  When they share one or two colors that are close or the same they look like they compliment each other. Vision automatically picks things that look alike and places them together. This way when someone takes a look at you, they see a well put together outfit instead of a bunch of mixing and matching. The common color pulls. In the photo, the yellow jacket compliments the gold on back of heel. Love that jacket! Not that warm but very chic! In the print universe stripes are just like one toned or white apparel; it goes with almost anything. When you are mixing print, treat the striped item you are incorporating  like a neutral toned print. Stripes are the easiest to mix with prints and go great with graphics, floral prints, polka dots, geometric prints, animal prints and much more. I understand mixing theses prints might be a little scary so you could start your mixing with a simple stripe and graphic print combination. You could do this in monochrome or ensure the stripes and the graphic print have colors in common. In the photo below, added accessories to a bland outfit showcased in a magazine worn by a professional model creates an even more stylish look. Accessories….my favorite wardrobe!!! Make sure print accessories contrast the outfit: This is print mixing 101. If you decide you want to start small by mixing printed accessories with other prints instead of going all out with the entire outfit, make sure the accessory stands out. Use members of the same color family:

Just like having similar colors when mixing prints, you could also go all out with the same colors. Great examples of this are monochrome prints, red & black prints etc. You could wear a black & white polka dot skirt and balance that with a floral print top or a white tank and a floral print jacket. This pattern creates a great sequence that make your outfit, even though has a variation of prints, look uniform and well put together.
Accessorize Your Style: Alternatively, you can use accessories such as shoes, belts and clutches with prints on them as your starter items before transitioning into clothing. Pair Items Together: Don’t get worried about how they match each other but instead, what pairs well with another. Look for one common denominator that ties the entire look together such as the spectrum of colours or an accessory. You don’t have to mix print garments. A print shoe will look amazing with a print bag or accessory. And remember, just because you’re mixing prints doesn’t mean you can’t have some solid colours in the mix. A solid red belt for instance will create a fabulous focal point for any outfit. Color Me Courtney: denim && dots
Check out these sketches. As any good designer knows, don’t expose or allow to show full detail until the product is done so these sketches are partially finished but I as well as others still like them and so I figured why not share what is done thus far.
These are really great, I hope to one day have a pair myself.
Animal print high heels fashion illustration, girls room décor, fashion wall art, animal print fashion sketch
 
 Pattern is good, just not too much
 
 Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Credit Does Matter

Credit Does Matter                                                                                             Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Majority of people are becoming increasingly dependent on using credit to make purchases and decisions. These days, good credit is used for more than just getting a credit card or a loan……Samantha Jonas-Rongo

If you think bad credit isn’t a big deal — think again. The truth is, credit issues can have a crippling effect on all facets of your financial life. So, before you shrug off a low score, think again and work towards building a higher one.

The “American Dream” isn’t cheap. Having a family, purchasing a new car, building or buying a house all cost lots of money. Chances are, you won’t be able to pay cash, (in full), for some of the bigger things your family wants and needs. That is why credit is so essential to not only your current living, but building a better, efficient future that Is reachable due to your past and present spending responsibility and behavior.

Have you ever wondered why you were turned down for an apartment or car loan? Or why you did not receive a job offer you applied for, even though you thought you had nailed the interview? Perhaps it was due to your credit record.

Your credit score, also known as a FICO score, can range from 300 – 850, 850 being the best possible score, (your Vantage score can go up to 990 at max). Your credit score is monitored and reported by three main credit bureaus known as Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Your credit history begins the first time you apply for credit. The action initiates a credit inquiry to the credit bureaus and also establishes a profile in the system. Credit scores are determined using five types of information about you:

  • PAYMENT HISTORY = 35%

Lenders need to know how reliable you have been in the past, and your payment history illustrates just that. This section covers:

  1. Your payment consistency
  2. Collections and charge-offs
  3. Bankruptcies, tax liens, etc.
  • OPEN ACCOUNTS AND BALANCES = 30%

Contrary to popular belief, debt can be a good thing when utilized correctly in proportion to your overall credit limits. This section covers:

  1. Your total number of active loans (e.g., mortgage, student debt, etc.)
  2. Your credit card debt and credit utilization. The healthiest credit scores are born from using 30 percent or less of your monthly credit allowance. For example, if you have a $10,000 monthly credit limit, you should never use more than $3,000 during that month.
  • LENGTH OF TIME ANY ACCOUNT(S) HAVE BEEN OPEN = 15%

In addition to reviewing your track record, lenders want to be sure you actually have one. A credit history of seven years or more is ideal when establishing clean credit, so make sure to keep your oldest accounts active.

  • TYPES OF CREDIT USED = 10%

Smart planning is key in every financial realm, and spreading out your spending is a great way to illustrate this concept. Lenders want to see your experience with numerous credit types. If you only have installment loans, consider opening a bank credit – (Not a bank debit card that’s affiliated with your bank account), or another line of credit. Broadening your horizons will demonstrate your flexibility and success with multiple credit forms.

  • CREDIT INQUIRIES (DENIED OR APPROVED) – NEW CREDIT = 10%

Every new account will likely depress your scores. Of course, you can’t increase (or even have) a credit score without having a track record to begin with. Just know that, with every new account, your credit score will probably get worse before the longer term scoring benefits are realized. Creditors fear those who appear to depend too much upon acquiring new credit accounts.

To maintain a good credit score, it is important to avoid all of the following actions:

  • Making late payments (even one month)
  • Utilizing more than 30% of the total credit limit on any credit card(s)
  • Closing credit cards you have not used for some time
  • Frequently opening new credit card accounts
  • Routinely transferring payments between credit cards to obtain rate advantage

Delinquencies on your credit report will have an impact on your credit score and so does the length of time which has passed since your last major delinquency. A bankruptcy may stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, but additional credit may be acquired once a two-year timeframe has passed.

Some of the basic things that we would like to purchase can be placed at a halt or become more expensive and difficult to buy due to your financial responsibility. However, having good credit and containing it can make these purchases more convenient and obtainable.

  1. MORTGAGE:

    Having good credit is important when it comes to where you live. Mortgage lenders want to know that you won’t default on your mortgage. If you don’t have good credit, the lender will consider it risky to give you a mortgage loan. Unless you have a lot of money saved and are planning on purchasing a house or thinking of buying a foreclosed abandoned one at a cheap cost of $15,000 and spending at least another $50,000 to renovate it, you will need to pull out loans and mortgages to do so. This could result in a higher cost of borrowing or worse, a denial of the loan. Your credit is used for rental decisions, too. Landlords consider your lease as a loan.  You’re being loaned a place to live and the landlord wants to know you’ll pay back this loan. If you don’t have good credit, you can get denied for an apartment especially if you have any evictions or late utility payments on record. More than often, good landlords want good tenants so they will check your credit report.

  2. VEHICLE FINANCING:

    Unless you have all the cash to purchase a new car, you’ll have to get a loan. I’m not speaking in regards of a used car that you purchase from someone else, but a used and new car from any lot or dealership. The cars that come with warranties and are fully approved and checked for safe performance, mobility and consistency unlike those that can be bought from an individual. Your credit not only affects whether or not you qualify for a loan, but also the amount and interest rate of the loan. A lot of people believe you will pay double or more than what the car is worth, but the amount you pay depends on the interest rate which is reflected from your personal report. Generally, loan applicants with good credit qualify for larger loan amounts with lower interest rates. Regardless if a loan is from the dealership, credit union or your own bank, your credit score will be scanned and your finances and cost will be reflected.

  3. ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

    business-startMany people have dreams of starting their own business. Business startups require a sizable amount of cash that you might not have available. In that case, you’ll need to obtain a small business loan or a personal loan to get started.  Among other things, you need to have good credit to qualify for the business loan. It is near impossible to  qualify for a business loan if your credit is poor, especially if you have evictions on record as well. Unfortunately, with a low credit score, your chances of getting any type of loan are slim to none. You might qualify if you have a co-signer with great credit and plenty of collateral, but expect a higher interest rate than someone with an excellent credit history. Your availability to have a co-signer with great credit may be a difficult task as well because that individual may not be able to trust you and your financial stability and responsibility.

  4. EMPLOYMENT:
    Open sollicitatieMany employers conduct credit checks as a part of the hiring process. If you haven’t demonstrated financial responsibility, a prospective employer might be hesitant to hire you. Why does your credit rating count? Employers in the financial sector often use it as a part of the pre-employment screening process to check out an individual’s character, decision-making skills and of course as a way to measure whether or not they can handle money. It can also be used to make sure new employees aren’t distracted, or stressed out, by financial issues.  Its simply standard operating procedure for many companies to do a credit check, along with checking out your work and education references, or even doing a drug test or checking to see if you have a criminal history. When you sign on the dotted line, you may not realize you’re authorizing a credit check, unless you read the fine print. According to federal law, individuals in the pre-employment process must give their prospective employer permission for not only a background check, but a credit check as well. So it pays to read exactly what it is you’re signing.
  5. UTILITY SERVICES:
    It might be somewhat shocking to learn that your credit is needed to establish utility service. Your electric company contends that you’re borrowing one month of electric service. So, before turning on your electricity, the company will check to see if you have good credit. This applies to most utility services including cable, telephone, water, and even cell phone. You may still qualify for a contract or services, but you may need to put down a security deposit when others with great credit do not.
  6. HOME/AUTO INSURANCE PREMIUMS:
    Insurance companies are in the business of risk management. the lower your credit score, they higher you are as a risk and the higher car insurance rate you will likely payInsuring your life’s most precious possessions is another segment of life that is controlled by your credit score. Insurance companies check your credit and price for risk when determining annual premiums. Insurance companies want to make sure they get paid for their services of insuring your assets. Not only that, but insurance companies see a correlation between low credit scores and insurance fraud when putting in a claim. Some auto insurance providers run credit checks and charge higher premiums to those with low credit scores. The thought behind this is that people with good credit are usually more responsible drivers and those with higher credit scores are more likely to make on-time payments. You can maintain low and affordable premiums by improving your credit score.
  7. RELATIONSHIPS:                                                                                                      Love me, love my debt? NotWhen you enter into a committed partnership with a significant other, in which you share everything, that does not exclude your credit histories. Granted, even a spouse is not legally responsible for debt you incurred prior to the marriage. However, any major purchases you want to make together, as a couple, will be negatively impacted if you have bad credit. This not only makes it difficult to buy a house or a car together, for example, but it puts an unwelcome strain on the relationship in general.

Believe it or not, but your credit habits can affect your children’s lives as well. If bad credit prevents you from buying a house or buying an automobile, this affects where and how you raise your children, and whether you’re able to have reliable transportation for your family. Also, if you have a low credit score, you might not be able to co-sign for your child(ren) to get a student or auto loan, or help your child financially in other aspects of his or her life. If you pass away with debt, your debt will rollover as your child’s responsibility and if you have life insurance, the debt will be deducted from the payment as so before being issued to your dependents.

Yes that is correct, landlords, insurance companies, and employers etc.; not just banks and car dealerships, check credit records. Your credit report allows these companies to look into your personal spending habits, your payment history, whether you have been sued, evicted and whether you have declared bankruptcy. Not only do they check, they also report. Having a good credit history is an important part of maintaining a secure, healthy, and financially fit life.

If you have no credit or have experienced some financial setbacks in the past that have negatively affected your credit, lenders won’t be very eager to loan you the money you need, which can keep you from buying that car, paying for school, or investing in a home. Good credit, on the other hand, means you can get the financing you need, and usually at a better rate, which will save you money in the long run.

Even if you never had a credit card you can damage your credit before you apply for one and therefore, you will not be approved and may need to settle for a secure credit card where you need to place a security deposit down. Secured credit cards can help build credit and impact your score, but it will take longer to build and fix your credit. You can monitor your score for free but some free websites such as Credit Karma may only track your actual credit card usage and not reflect your actual score. If you never had a credit card, sites such as Credit Karma may state you do not have enough credit when in actuality, you may have poor credit but not enough credit card usage to higher your real credit score and enough to have been tracked by these sites.

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It takes time to rebuild your credit history and positively impact your score. Don’t get discouraged if your report doesn’t immediately reflect the work you’ve put into rehashing your credit file. Just be patient and continue working to gain more control over your finances.

In addition to keeping an eye on your credit balances and accounts, you may want to consider other methods of getting control of your personal finances, such as reducing household spending or creating a detailed budget.

You can also write a personal statement for your credit report. It won’t impact your score, but it can be read by anyone checking your credit report, from prospective employers to potential lenders.

With a little patience and discipline, you can positively impact your credit score and credit file.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo