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How to Figure Out Which Car You Can Afford

There probably isn't a single person who can drive that doesn't enjoy getting a new car. There's the excitement of going out and looking at all the different models, getting to take them for test drives, taking in that new car smell, almost makes a person giddy until they take a look at the sticker price. Then you suddenly come down to earth. It's called sticker shock and there harsh reality that your personal finances simply couldn't survive that price. Well, try not to get too discouraged, it may take some time but if you consider following the steps below, you should be able to find the right new car for both you and your wallet.

You are going to first need to do some research from home by looking online at the different dealership sites. First pick what kinds of cars you are most interested in like a Chevy or Ford for example. They all have their own websites so you can go and check out their prices for their different makes they offer, find the trade in values and then locate a local dealership. You will simply need to type in your zip code and then the site will give you the name, the address, the web address and the phone number of the local dealer. It's really a good idea to check out the different prices on the local dealer website if they have one than from the manufacturer's website. You also may run into sales by the dealer when you are doing your research.

Next thing you should do is to call your car insurance company. Do this after you think you have found a couple of cars that you might like and then see what the insurance would be on those particular cars. This is a huge factor when you are considering buying yourself a new car. Then you will add the difference between what you are paying now and the new car and try and fit that into your budget.

Now you need to make sure that you make up a budget. You will of course need to write down all of your expenses and then subtract that total from what your bring home pay is. Just because the finance companies go by your gross pay this is not something you should do. Always base your budget on your net pay and not your gross pay. This will let you know if you have the extra money to be able to make a car payment.

If your budget indicates that you should be able to afford a car payment then you should go to the different dealers and talk to a salesperson at the different lots. Let them know exactly what payment range that you can deal with and make sure you are firm about this. You have all the information that you need when you get there, your budget, the trade in value of your present car and the price range you are looking for, so this should go smoothly.

Once you have given him all that information you can start looking around the car lot. Make sure that the salesperson only shows you cars that are going to fit into your payment range. They should tell you about any rebates or specials they have going on, if they don't make sure to ask them because a good rebate or special could make all the difference in the world on whether or not you'll be able to afford the car or not.

By knowing the kind of car you want, how much you can afford to pay for both the car payment and the insurance and already knowing the trade in value of your car is going to make it a lot easier for you to be able to find just the right car that you can afford to buy and it should make looking for a car and getting the transaction done a lot easier.

Note: If a salesperson at one lot isn't willing to listen to you or work with you then simple leave and move onto another dealership. Remember, you are the one in charge, not them. You know what you can afford so don't let them talk you into anything else just because they are trying to make more commission!


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How to Do Your Own Payroll Checks

If you own a business and only have a handful of employees, doing your own payroll will probably save you a lot of money that you could put back into your business, if on the other hand you have employees in even the double digits you may not really want to take on this task yourself and you might find that the task is best handled by a professional payroll service. If you do decided to do it yourself here are the basics on how to do your own payroll.

Of course it will be necessary that all of your employees fill out their W-4 forms, remember this is required by the law and it needs to include their correct name, address and of course their social security number. They will also need to say if they are married and how many exemptions they may have. Make sure that the form is dated and signed by them and then you need to keep these on file in your business office.

The next step if for you to figure out their gross wages. If the employee is on salary you need to take what they make each week and use that as their gross pay and take the required deductions out. If they are paid by the hour you will just multiply the amount of money they make an hour by the hours that they worked that week, then take the deductions out. The sum of this will be their gross pay.

If there are some deductions that are voluntary such as a retirement fund to the employee you need to take these out of the gross pay before you do the mandatory reductions. This type of thing is considered non-taxable and they must be taken out before you do your tax deductions. What is left from that is what will be considered the gross pay and then you can take out your different required deductions.

So once any of the voluntary items are taken away from you take the statutory payroll taxes out and those would be the income tax and the amount you take can be found in the IRS Publication 15 or Circular E tax tables and it all depends upon how your employee filled out their W4. You will also take out state tax if your state requires it. You will also take out FICA Medicare. There may be other deductions depending upon where you happen to live.

Other voluntary deductions like regular savings plans, direct deposits, any kind of loan payments or tuition payments are not deducted until everything else is deducted. You will deduct these types from the net pay. These things must have the written authorization of the employee before they can be deducted.

Once you have done this, you will then have their total net pay and this is what your employee will actually receive on their payroll check.

It's probably a good idea if you use a payroll software package like Peachtree in order for you to do this with ease and to cut down on any errors and just make doing payroll a lot easier and quicker.


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How to Go Grocery Shopping on a Tight Budget

No matter who you are, more than likely when you go grocery shopping you are doing it on some kind of a budget. Today it seems that everyone's personal finances are tight to extremely tight so it's important that you watch where every penny goes. This is especially true if you happen to be on a very tight budget. So when it comes to grocery shopping you want to be able to save as much money as you can without sacrificing too much in the meantime. Below are a few tips that should help you stay on your tight budget while shopping.

The first thing you should always do is to make a list off all the things that you need to get for the week. This should be everything from your fruit down to your toilet paper. Then you should try and find all the coupons that you can that go along with the items that you have put on your grocery list. You can find these through store adds as well as going online to a variety of different sites that offer shoppers a choice of different coupons.

Once you have your grocery list complete you might want to go to your phone book and look for salvage groceries. This is a store that sells items that might be in dented cans, boxes that also might be a little bit crushed or even jars of food that simply don't have their labels on them. If you can't find anything like this, always make sure that you look for discounted sections in your local stores as well because they will discount items sometimes for the same reasons.

Go over your list and look for different store ads to see which stores might have the items that you need on sale. Then write down which stores to go to for your different items on your list. Try to get as many discounted items at one store if possible because the less stores you have to travel to is also going to save you on money.

You also need to make sure that when you go to the store that you go and check the different meat specials that might be going on. These are the meats that the store may have had to wrap over again or they may be getting close to going out of date and they want them to be put up for quick sale. These items are still very good to buy it's just that there are rules stores must following when they are selling items to the public. A lot of stores will also have unadvertised sales called “manager specials” so you need to keep your eyes open for those as well. These can range from sales on meats to dairy products. You also might want to take ads with you and if you are at one store that you have found most of the deals at but you see that the same soda is selling for half the price, ask for the manager and see if they can go down to the same price as their competitor.

One really important thing to remember is that you should at all times when you go grocery shopping do your best to stick to your list and not stray. You are not going to be saving yourself any money if you buy things that are not on your list.


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How to Give a Surprise Birthday Party on a Budget

If you've put on a surprise birthday party before, you probably already know that everything from the invitations to the decorations can really get costly if you aren't careful. You may be thinking of doing something like this for a family member or friend right now but because of how much it might cost, you might be leery of doing so because it might not be what your personal finances can really handle at this time. If that's the case you really don't have to give up on the idea. You ca throw a pretty good party for someone even if you are on a tight budget. You just need to do some careful plan, be creative and get help from those family and friends that you are considering inviting to the party.

Very first thing you should do is to set up yourself a budget. Before you decide what the theme of the party is going to be, what the colors are going to be or even what kind of cake you want, you need to set your budget. After you have that figured out then you can sit down and start the planning for the party, but only then.

When it comes to the invitations, don't waste your money on buying some especially if you have a computer, printer and either a word program or a graphics art program on your computer. If you have all of this you can make your own invitations. If you want to have no cost at all you can simply send your invites via email, but if you would rather send them by snail mail, then simply print them out and then mail them. Either way will save you some money.

To save yourself on the cost of party supplies like napkins, plates, utensils and cups simply go to your local dollar store and you'll find an array of colorful supplies that will simply cost you $1 each for each item that you decide to buy. While you are there you'll probably be really surprised at all of the different things they might have for parties like balloons and banners, crepe paper and party favors, all for a dollar.

You can also sit down with other family and friends and make party decorations yourself. Even sit down with the kids and make some colorful paper chains out of construction paper that you can probably find at the dollar store as well. You can also get small tea lights and put them in jars and place them around different rooms in the home or even outside to add a little bit of mood lighting if this is an adult party.

You can also get some cake mix and make some cupcakes for the party instead of going out and ordering a birthday cake for the party. Anyone, even someone who doesn't bake often shouldn't have much problem whipping up some cupcakes. You can then arrange them on plates and decorate them with candles or be creative and decorate them any way you want making sure that one key cupcake is used for the guest of honor by placing a candle in it.

Don't go out and cater any food and don't buy any ready made foods from the store for the meal for the party. Make your own food and ask others that are helping you with the party to contribute some of their own food as well, this will save you a big portion of the expenses if others contribute some of their own dishes.

Instead of having a bunch of different drinks at the party why not just find a homemade punch recipe and serve that instead. This will taste great and will cost a lot less than if you were to buy a variety of different drinks.

Just remember that you don't have to break the bank over this and the more people that you recruit to help out the less you will spend as well as the less time you will spend working on the party as well.


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How You Can Fix Your Debt Problems

When you don't have enough money to pay your bill every month, this is definitely not a good thing. When you get into this situation this is when you start falling behind and eventually you begin to miss payments or may even stop paying on certain bills all together. However this is a horrible thing to do and could end up in bankruptcy. If you don't want to end up in bankruptcy and you are motivated enough, you may be able to repair your bad credit on your own.

One of the most important things you need to remember when you want to repair your credit is that you must learn to spend less. Spending too much after all is what got you into this situation to begin with. So, this could be difficult to do especially since some overspending has nothing to do with your own choice to over spend. Sometimes the over spending comes from emergencies like medical bills. Lucky thought that emergency spending doesn't happen all the time. It's the over spending that you personally do by choice that needs to be addressed.

Take a good look at what you owe and then take a look at what you make. If it turns out that you owe far more than what you make then you are going to need to take steps to fix this as soon as possible. You can't just sit there and think about it. This is going to require immediate action.

General rule of thumb is that you probably need to make about 10 to 20 percent in income over what you owe in bills to be able to get your debt caught up. So this means your target should be to get some extra income that will cover that percentage needed to help yourself to rise above the debt. This means you might have to take on a 2nd or 3rd job then so be it. It's a far better way than filing for bankruptcy. By doing this you might be able to get rid of some of the smaller debts quickly. Remember you don't want to be damaging your health while you are trying to fix your debt issues. So, you are not going to be wanting to work all of these extra hours for too long of a period of time.

If taking on more work is not going to help the problem then this means you can't sit around and mope about it, you need to take action. So what you should do now is start calling all of the people that you owe money to and see if you can't get them to at least reduce the interest on your loans. You should even try to get them to come up with a different payment plan in order for you to be able to get them paid. This type of thing can give you some temporary relief and give you a chance to get caught up on some of your debts. If you own a home you might also want to see if you have enough equity in it to take out an equity loan and use that to pay off all of your debts and then you will just have the one loan to pay back.

If your creditors are not willing to work with you and you can't get an equity loan then you may have to break down and contact a debt management company. They will be able to figure out if they can work with the creditors or not, or if you will have to file for bankruptcy. They are trained to be able to help you learn how to repair your own credit.
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Personal Finance Tips - How to Get a VA Loan if You are a Veteran!

If you happen to be a person who is on active duty right now or are considered a qualified veteran you could have a valuable resource available to you in order for you to get a loan for a home. VA loans are for those who qualify to get a home loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are a department of the government that actually will keep your interests at heart when they are processing your loan. So it's a good idea to research your VA loan possibility before you go looking for other lenders.

You can do a self screening to see if you are a qualified veteran or if you are on active duty. However, if you are a veteran you need to have received an honorable discharge or you may not be considered eligible. So you should take whatever military identification that you have, down to your local Veteran's Administration office to see if you are truly eligible before you get your hopes up.

You will need some sort of proof that you serviced in the military. This would be your DD214, Military ID Card, Military Record and any awards you might have for proof that you served in the U.S. Military. Even though your local VA may already have any of these items you still should make sure that you have your own copies.

You can also, if you wish, go to the website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs if you would rather try to apply online. You will click on the “Veteran Services” option on the website where you will then click on “Home Loans”. Then you can click on the “Certificate of Eligibility Veteran Registration Instructions” this way you can register for the site. You will need to do this in order to be able to apply for a loan online.

After you have done this you then go back and login. Go back to the “Veteran Services” and click on that, go to “Home Loans” and click on that. Once back to the options page for home loans you can then click on the “VA Loan Electronic Reporting Interface”. Once you are there you will need to follow all of the directions they require for you to apply for the loan.

You will then need to go to your VA Office when the site directs you to. This is so that you can complete the entire loan processing. You will give the rep all of the paperwork that they are going to need like proof that your served, your real estate agent's contact information (understand that you already need to have a house in mind so that if they need to ask questions your real estate agent can answer them for you) and any other information that they might require. It's probably a very good idea for you to call them ahead of time to see exactly what they need from you to continue processing the loan.

After that, you will just need to wait for your loan to be processed and while you are waiting make sure to continue to update your agent about how far along the process is. They need to know that it's still in process so that they don't think that you've decided to not go through with it.
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Personal Finance Resources - Understanding What a Structured Settlement Is!

The process of the structured settlement has been around for decades and have basically become the actual choice in most legal cases. Probably the most common kind of structured settlements result from many different workers' compensation cases or very severe job related health injuries or issues.

If managed carefully structured settlements can be a really good options for the claimant but in some cases it isn't the best option. If you understand the background as well as the purpose of these settlements may help a claimant to make the best choice about this kind of a settlement.

First off, these kinds of settlements were designed to pay out funds periodically and over a certain amount of time instead of handing out the settlement all at the same time. There are two reasons for paying the settlements this way. One being the person or party that has to pay the settlement has the choice to provide payments over time instead of all at once and the claimant can be assured on ongoing payments that will arrived at a scheduled time. Even in some cases the settlement can be passed onto an heir if the claimant dies before all of the payments have been paid.

These types of settlements first came about and were used in the United States back in the 70's. Up until then, people would receive their settlements all at once. Originally these kinds of settlements were only offered in cases where the claimant was owed a very large sum of money after some sort of major injury. Over the past 30 or so years, these types of settlements have become the normal way of handling settlements instead of being the exception to the rule.

There are two different kinds of structured settlements. The first one is a basic financial arrangement. This is where the party who has to pay the settlement will give periodic payments to the claimant. Whatever the terms are of the settlement will indicate how often they have to pay the claimant.

The other variety comes in the form of insurance annuity payments. The money from the settlement is used to buy life insurance annuities that an insurance company will hand out to the claimant over a certain amount of time.

In some cases the amount of time to get the settlement paid will have a certain year in which the payments will stop coming. Other situations the claimant can request that they get payments every few years. For example the claimant will receive a certain amount of money every 5 years instead of perhaps on a monthly basis.

These types of settlements have both pros and cons just like anything. Probably the biggest pro would be that the payments are subject to very little taxation and sometimes they don't even get taxed at all. These kinds of payments also help the claimant have a more secure financial life instead of letting them have it all in one large sum.

The biggest con is that the claimant sometimes feels that this kind of settlement is a bit unfair and keeps them locked int payments when they might rather have all of the money up front so they can do what they want with it, like investing the money in property or other types of money making investments.
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Personal Finance Tips - How to Start Investing in the Stock Market

If you are looking for a way to add to your financial security for the future, there are a lot of things that you can do. One of those things would be investing in the stock market. If you have never done this before you will need to learn how to start your own investment portfolio. Just remember that whenever you deal with the stock market you are taking a risk with your money, so it's a good idea for you to learn as much as you can before taking such a big step.

The first and foremost important thing is to educate yourself. You should read about the stocks as well as the market. You should consider taking several seminars or even take a class that teaches investing. You can also go online to a variety of different online financial websites that can provide you with a wealth of information.

You will also need to create for yourself some financial goals and an investment and stock picking strategy. You will need to take time to research different stocks by reading their annual reports, their quarterly reports and any other information there might be on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You can also look these up at various websites (Tip: Google freedgar)

Make sure that when you invest that you only invest in the stocks that you have studied and feel that you know. You might want to start by looking into the stocks of companies in your area, companies that you are somewhat familiar with and ones that you might have a little bit of confidence in.

Another thing you need to do is to make sure to check the holdings of some very successful mutual fund companies and if they appear to be doing well with certain stocks then it might be that you could do well with those same stocks.

Make sure that you try to be diversified. You want to try to stay away from investing your money in just a couple of stocks. It's better if you have a handful that you have investments in. When you do start buying your stocks you need to try and find a discount broker to buy the stocks for you, however, if you feel confident in yourself then you might want to just do the investing yourself and you will save yourself from having to pay out any commissions.

Make sure that the stocks you buy you are going to feel comfortable holding onto for 3 to 5 years, you need to try and resist dumping your stocks the minute you see them dipping in price a few points. You need to give the stocks a chance to do something.

Another way you can invest and it's a lot easier for you in the long run is if your company offers any 401(k) plans, retirement plans or Keogh plans consider investing in those. Here you don't have to worry about picking the stocks yourself and there are different tax breaks that come with these types of investments.

Note: Avoid thinking that when you invest your money today that you are going to become an instant millionaire. You need to be thinking of the long term picture not the immediate picture. Besides very few people become millionaires off the stock market, if that were the case everyone would do it. You can however, if you are patient and invest wisely, make a good nest egg for later in life.
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Personal Finance Tips - How to Set Up a Financial Power of Attorney To Help Handle Your Affairs

If you have a good deal of money or assets it is probably a good idea that when you are planning your estate that you also consider setting up a financial power of attorney. What this is, is a document that will give another person the legal power or right to handle all of your financial affairs. To do this you don't even have to go to court. You just need to be of sound mind when you set up this type of an arrangement.

You being the principal in this document will then choose someone called the agent who will handle your affairs should there come a time in which for whatever reason, you can't. They can also be asked to handle your affairs if you are going to be gone and won't be able to take care of your affairs while you are away.

When you sit down to figure this out you are going to need to decide upon just how much authority that you are going to allow the agent to have. You may decide to give them general powers to handle all of it or you may just give him power to just take care of certain kinds of transactions like your stocks and bonds. They can even be asked to take care of financial issues while you are away on an extended vacation if need be.

You also need to figure out just how long you want their authority to last. It can be durable or it can be nondurable. A nondurable agent will lose their authority the minute you should become incapacitated in any way. So if you want to have them to continue on should you not be able to take care of things if you were incapacitated then you would want to make sure that you made them a durable agent.

You also need to figure out when the power of attorney will take effect. Understand that it will go into effect immediately as soon as the document is signed unless you set down a date in the document when it will take effect. Some documents with durable agents will not kick in until you might be declared incompetent or incapacitated by a doctor. You will also need to make sure there is a stipulation in the document that dictates when the power of attorney is ended, for instance you might stipulate that once a doctor says you are going to be OK and will be recovering, then the power of the agent will end.

Once you have your document written up you will need to have it signed by all parties involved and most states will require that you have the document notarized in front of two witnesses. If you don't want to do all of this yourself, you can always pay an attorney to write up your document for you.

When you decide to write up this kind of a document, the person that you pick needs to be someone you really believe that you know and trust well enough to honestly take care of your affairs for you whenever you might not be able to. Also remember that anything is possible so you might want to also name a second agent in case something should happen to the first one. Also make sure that if you would like to pay this person for performing their agent duties to state this in your document, otherwise they don't get paid for doing this.

Once you have your document written up and signed you should give a copy of it to your agent, a copy for yourself and you should also make sure that any agencies or businesses you do business with have copies as well and that would be banks, brokers, IRS or SSI.

Note: You can revoke your power of attorney at any time during your arrangement with them as long as you are mentally stable and you make sure that you send them a letter in writing stating you are going to revoke the document.
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Personal Finance Tips - How to Set Up a Financial Power of Attorney To Help Handle Your Affairs

If you have a good deal of money or assets it is probably a good idea that when you are planning your estate that you also consider setting up a financial power of attorney. What this is, is a document that will give another person the legal power or right to handle all of your financial affairs. To do this you don't even have to go to court. You just need to be of sound mind when you set up this type of an arrangement.

You being the principal in this document will then choose someone called the agent who will handle your affairs should there come a time in which for whatever reason, you can't. They can also be asked to handle your affairs if you are going to be gone and won't be able to take care of your affairs while you are away.

When you sit down to figure this out you are going to need to decide upon just how much authority that you are going to allow the agent to have. You may decide to give them general powers to handle all of it or you may just give him power to just take care of certain kinds of transactions like your stocks and bonds. They can even be asked to take care of financial issues while you are away on an extended vacation if need be.

You also need to figure out just how long you want their authority to last. It can be durable or it can be nondurable. A nondurable agent will lose their authority the minute you should become incapacitated in any way. So if you want to have them to continue on should you not be able to take care of things if you were incapacitated then you would want to make sure that you made them a durable agent.

You also need to figure out when the power of attorney will take effect. Understand that it will go into effect immediately as soon as the document is signed unless you set down a date in the document when it will take effect. Some documents with durable agents will not kick in until you might be declared incompetent or incapacitated by a doctor. You will also need to make sure there is a stipulation in the document that dictates when the power of attorney is ended, for instance you might stipulate that once a doctor says you are going to be OK and will be recovering, then the power of the agent will end.

Once you have your document written up you will need to have it signed by all parties involved and most states will require that you have the document notarized in front of two witnesses. If you don't want to do all of this yourself, you can always pay an attorney to write up your document for you.

When you decide to write up this kind of a document, the person that you pick needs to be someone you really believe that you know and trust well enough to honestly take care of your affairs for you whenever you might not be able to. Also remember that anything is possible so you might want to also name a second agent in case something should happen to the first one. Also make sure that if you would like to pay this person for performing their agent duties to state this in your document, otherwise they don't get paid for doing this.

Once you have your document written up and signed you should give a copy of it to your agent, a copy for yourself and you should also make sure that any agencies or businesses you do business with have copies as well and that would be banks, brokers, IRS or SSI.

Note: You can revoke your power of attorney at any time during your arrangement with them as long as you are mentally stable and you make sure that you send them a letter in writing stating you are going to revoke the document.
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