June 2008

In today’s world, making the most of our money is not just a catchy phrase; it is the difference between keeping homes or foreclosure; getting much needed prescriptions or buying groceries; bankruptcy or survival. Growing our money, saving time and being smart about our finances is the only way to make it in our economy.

We hear so much about the importance of saving on the nightly news, and yet very few are able to put any money away for the proverbial ‘rainy day’. The consequences for not having any savings can be dire; if there is no money stashed away to cover those unexpected emergencies, like a larger than expected utility bill or a car breakdown, the money for that has to come from somewhere. All too often Americans find themselves putting these purchases on a credit card with a maxed out limit or a too high interest rate, or taking out a payday advance with complicated fine print. Both of these are risky moves, avoidable with some proper planning and money management.

When it comes to savings, a little bit can grow a long way. If you are able to stash a small amount of a paycheck each month in a savings account that draws interest, you are already ahead of the game. Depending on how much you have in your account, you could be currently gaining upwards of 4% on top of that money. That means for every $100 you deposit in your savings account, add $4.00 on top. That doesn’t seem like much, but in a year of monthly deposits, you could earn almost $50.00 for just having your money sitting in the bank.

Banks even sometimes offer higher introductory savings rates or other perks such as higher rates to those who use online banking, to get new business. Contact your local banker or search the internet to find out what the best rates and terms are. While you are at it, does your checking account draw interest? Many banks now offer checking accounts that accumulate interest on the money you have sitting in the account. Again, rates vary, and banks do run promotional offers for these kinds of accounts, but who doesn’t like earning free money for doing nothing?
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From simple colds and viruses to life-threatening diseases, any kind of health problem can put a huge strain on your pocketbook. By adopting certain habits you cannot only save money on fewer doctor’s visits and medications, you can preserve your cash in other ways.

Below are eight frugal living tips that will actually lengthen your lifespan.

1. Quit Smoking
Although quitting may be easier said than done, it is a no-brainer that doing so will cut costs and help save your life. The CDC actually offers a helpful guide to quitting smoking, which could be a great resource when you decide to put down the tobacco once and for all.

2. Stop Tanning
There is a growing fad for people of all ages and cultures to look bronzed. If you are seeking the warmth of a tanning bed in order to look a certain way, then it is time you stopped. Quitting now will decrease your chances of developing malignant melanoma.

3. Cancel Your Paid Television
It is obvious how this will save money, but you may not see the direct connection to your health. Simply put, it will get you off that couch and encourage you to pursue more active, healthy activities.

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Shaking off the sting of its collapsed deal with Yahoo!, Microsoft bought addressable TV player Navic Networks in a deal that will extend its ad platform to television.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Navic works with top cable companies to provide targeted TV advertising with a nascent ad network called Admira. It works with cable companies like Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter. Dish Network also uses its technology. Its technology is used to run ad campaigns targeted to viewer groups, and also offers interactive features like the ability to click through for long-form content.

“We’re clearly making a commitment to emerging media,” Brian McAndrews, svp of advertiser and publisher solutions at Microsoft, said in an interview here. “In the long run, we want to be a platform across all media.”

McAndrews painted the move as a way to “accelerate” Microsoft’s efforts to build a wide-ranging ad platform that would allow advertisers to place, target and track ads on the Web, mobile, in video games and now TV. It has added capabilities through acquisition, such as the 2006 purchase of video game ad network Massive and the 2007 buy of mobile ad network Screentonic.

Buying Navic is also a way to keep pace with Google, which is making a push to enter the estimated $80 billion TV ad market. McAndrews said Navic differs from Google’s approach by working directly with cable companies versus satellite services, allowing greater targeting and not forcing broadcasters to use an auction. Project Canoe, which recently recruited Aegis Media Americas CEO David Verklin to head it, is attempting to bring ad targeting to TV through a consortium of cable companies.

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Analysts believe it’s “possible” that the software giant Microsoft could acquire an equity stake in eBay’s PayPal and Skype. So are we talking about minority stakes or total ownership? Is eBay even up for the sale?

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft has a lot to gain if eBay is willing to sell off any of its moving parts.

We can’t argue against the notion that Microsoft could swallow eBay whole. This was suggested as much three months ago. Such a move would make sense, especially since PayPal and Skype are good fits in Microsoft’s online strategy.

Microsoft once had dreams of taking on PayPal. It was hoping to transform its Passport platform into a transactional medium for third parties.

PayPal was too big to compete against back then, and it’s even bigger now. The only real threat to PayPal these days is Google Checkout, and not even that race is close. If Microsoft wanted to buy Yahoo! so badly, imagine how much it would love to own the micropayments standard that’s trouncing Google, which itself is smacking Yahoo! around these days.

Skype is another good fit. The leader in online chat dovetails nicely with Microsoft’s Web-based communications efforts through Windows Live Messenger.

Then we have eBay itself. Microsoft is no stranger to the leading consumer-to-consumer auction-listings website. eBay is part of the program, through which Microsoft rewards buyers with rebates.

Perhaps the most important aspect eBay can offer in Microsoft’s quest to take on Google is that eBay’s website traffic consists of consumers with a predisposition to spend money online. And Microsoft needs quality traffic, not simply the sheer volume of poorly monetized pages it would have gotten on a Yahoo! deal.

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You may find that you have been spending too much in the supermarket. It will be a good idea if you can save money while shopping in the supermarket. In fact, there are ways to help you to avoid spending too much. The followings are some tips for you.

Try your best to avoid impulse buying. This is usually the main reason for spending too much in the supermarket.

You should only purchase what you really need. And never buy something if you do not need it.

You have to try to make a list of items before you go shopping. Pre-plan shopping can actually help you a lot in terms of saving money. You should only buy what you have planned to buy. This is the way to avoid impulse buying since you will only buy the thing you really need. You have to keep reminding yourself that you should only purchase according to the list.

No matter how attractive an item is, you should never buy it if it is not on the list. You need to train yourself to follow this rule.

You should also try to eat before you shop. Experience shows that if you have a full meal before you shop. You will not be tempted to buy the snacks. On the contrary, if you feel empty when you are shopping, you will be very inclined to put some cookies, chocolates or even ice-cream in the basket.

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Soaring petrol prices helped drive up US consumer prices last month at the fastest rate in six months, the government said yesterday, but core prices remained tame, easing inflation fears in financial markets.

A separate report showed US consumer sentiment tumbling to a 28-year low this month, with some lessening of expectations on inflation one year out and a steady reading on long-term inflation expectations, which held at a 13-year high.

The Commerce Department said the Consumer Price Index rose a steep 0.6 per cent last month, a touch more than Wall Street had expected, after a modest 0.2pc gain in April.

However, so-called core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy cost, edged up just 0.2pc. Surging petrol prices and soft labour market conditions have depressed consumer spirits.

The Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index for this month dropped to 56.7 from 59.8 last month. Wall Street economists had expected a decline to only 59.5.

“Today’s inflation numbers do not put any additional pressure on the Fed to hike interest rates,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The Fed is not nearly as behind the curve as some people currently believe.”

The reassuring data followed a series of inflation warnings from central bankers around the globe, and capped off a week in which expectations of higher US rates had climbed sharply.

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If you are applying for a credit card, mortgage, car or personal loan, you should be familiar with the information included in your credit report. You are issued a number, known as a FICO score, which is calculated based on your previous payment history, number of debts with a balance, recent credit inquiries, and balance to available credit ratio.

I often hear remarks about ones Beacon Score for Credit Cards being low because of poor credit management. The Beacon Score (also called Fico Score) is one of the major factor in a credit analysis. Whenever you apply for a credit card, a mortgage, a personal loan or a line of credit, the financial institution will pull out a credit report and look at your score. If it’s not high enough, you could be declined base solely on this information.

Many consumers are aware that they can obtain a credit report, for a fee, from the three major credit reporting agencies. These include TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and they provide your credit report to loan officers, credit card companies, financial institutions and anyone whom you give permission to obtain a copy of your credit file. While many consumers know that credit reports can be obtained for a fee, many do not know that everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus each year. Once every 12 months, you can visit and gain instant access to your free credit report online no fee needed.

When looking at a copy of your credit report, you will be able to view payment histories as submitted by each of your creditors, current and previous addresses along with any information included on public record. This may include civil judgments, bankruptcy or foreclosures, etc. If any of the information contained in your credit file is incorrect, you have the right to dispute that information directly with the credit bureau. At the time a dispute is submitted, the credit reporting agency will investigate and correct any errors that are made.

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Before the year is over, you always have a list of New Year’s resolutions. It could be about an oft-repeated promise to lose weight, quit nicotine addiction, or to budget your paycheck and get out of debt.

But even before the first month of the New Year is out, you give up. These useful but practical tips will bail you out of the overspending trap. Budgeting a slim paycheck can be frustrating, especially when unexpected money emergencies crop up. If you are receiving less than $1000 every 14 days, the prognosis is grim. Cutting back on some regular expenses can be very inconvenient for you, especially if you have kids to consider; but better the one-time inconvenience than a lifetime of never ending debt.

For emergencies like this, it’s best to be prepared. Instead of dividing your money into the usual groceries and food, bills and utilities, and rent, add one more money envelope or money clip – this time, one for savings. Impossible, you say, because you can barely survive on your paycheck.

You are right – it is downright impossible to save money when you’re already penny-pinching. Here’s how to stretch your budget some more. Go over your previous expenses and trim down the fat, and say goodbye to impulsive shopping.

Make the budgeting fun. Consider the amount you save as points, and these points should go into the savings envelope. You’ll marvel at the way your savings envelope grows, slowly but surely.
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My basic money-saving strategy goes like this: Decrease your expenses, and increase your income. That’s really all there is to it.

While the concept itself is not at all complicated, in reality it can be difficult to actually put into practice because it requires you to change your poor spending habits. But complicated? No, not at all.

So how do you actually go about following this money saving technique? What, specifically, should you do?

Let’s use the following analogy. If you were trying to lose weight, you could accomplish that by going on a diet and not doing any additional exercise.

You could also accomplish the goal of losing weight by eating the same as you’re eating now, but doing a lot more exercise to ensure weight loss. However, the best, fastest and healthiest way to lose weight would be to do both: eat healthy food in moderate proportions AND exercise regularly.

Similarly, you’ll get out of debt and maximize your financial results most effectively if you reduce your expenses AND increase your income at the same time.

Reducing your expenses is fairly self-explanatory. Spend a day or two reviewing the past 60 days of expenditures in your check register, or if you haven’t kept good records, start tracking every single penny you spend, thus compiling a list of your ACTUAL expenses.
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Even if Washington is still hesitant to use the “R” word, we all know how things are headed. Most of us remember the drill from 2001 and the early nineties. At least that should be one comfort to us all — the fact that a slumping economy is indeed cyclical and the most recent recessions were short-lived.

Yes, we will eventually find our way out of this mess. The trick is to make it through the recession unscathed so there won’t be too many broken pieces to pick up.

Here are five tips for getting through a recession with nary a mark on you:

1. Increase Your Emergency Fund – You have probably heard this advice many times before, but it is more important now than ever. You should have three to six months worth of living expenses saved for an emergency. Is this realistic for the average debt-riddled American? Perhaps not, but now is the time to become frugal and start saving as much as possible.

2. Reconsider That Second Home – One of the worst things you can do right now is buy a second home before you sell the first one. The housing market is going to get worse before it gets better. Even if you qualify for a second mortgage and can eat two mortgages for a while, do you really want to live with that situation for an indefinite amount of time? The truth is, mortgage lenders are being extremely careful these days. Even if you can find willing buyers, it is hard to find buyers that qualify for a loan.

3. Start Training for Additional Job Skills – The most recession-proof industries are health care, education, security, energy and the environmental sector. Whether you work in one of those industries or not, you should try to increase your “hireability” by training for additional skills. Perhaps your company offers additional job training or there are adult education courses you could take at night.

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