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August 2012 - Posts - Dollar Stretcher Guest Blogger
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August 2012 - Posts

  • 3 Simple and Easy Ways to Build Your Credit

    by Eryn Greene

    Having a strong credit rating comes with many benefits. You don’t have to worry about credit checks affecting your ability to rent an apartment, be approved for a mortgage, or qualify for certain jobs. It also makes it possible for you to get loans with lower interest rates. If you’re trying to give your credit score a boost, there are a few easy ways for you to do it.

    1. Gas and Retail Cards

    Using cards from gas and retail companies responsibly can help raise your credit score. These cards work much like unsecured credit cards, except you can only use them at one of the company’s stores or gas stations. Paying them off in full on a monthly basis helps improve your credit, as long as you make your payments on time. Many retail store cards also have the added benefit of making you eligible for special discounts. You should be aware that gas and retail cards usually have low credit limits and very high interest rates. Also keep in mind that some gas cards with open terms don’t show up as revolving accounts, so the payments you make won’t have an impact on your credit score. Bankrate.com

    2. Secured Loans

    Secured loans are another good option for building credit. You can get a secured loan by having some type of collateral on it, such as your car, your house, or a Certificate of Deposit. You should keep in mind that you’ll need to make your loan payments on time or risk losing the collateral attached to the loan. One big advantage of these loans is that they usually have lower interest rates since they’re not considered as risky as unsecured loans. When you make your monthly payments on time, this will help raise your credit score. Although you can pay these loans off early, you’ll lose the benefit of having the monthly payments boost your credit score.

    3. Credit Cards

    Using your credit cards wisely can help raise your credit rating. Don’t carry large balances on any of your cards. You also need to make sure that you make all of your payments on time. The best strategy is to carry a small balance that you pay in full every month. Put small purchases on your credit card or use it to pay a monthly utility bill. Each month that you pay off your balance on time improves your credit score. Doing this month after month is a great way to build your credit steadily. Don’t close cards you don’t use, especially ones that you’ve had for several years, since this can hurt your score and erase the progress you’ve made bumping it up.

    As you work on building your credit, don’t forget to keep an eye on it. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to receive one free credit report every year. Look it over carefully, and make sure that there are no errors on it or any information that needs to be updated or corrected. Checking your credit report lets you know what your score is and helps protect you from identity theft.

    Eryn Greene is a guest writer for netloans.co.uk where you can find out more about net loans.

  • The Love For Food vs. The Love For Beauty: Why Not Have Both?

    by Joyce Del Rosario

    How many times have you seen even the most beautiful celebrity splattered all over the internet just because they gained a few pounds?

    Within minutes, the photo evidence has been shared all over the world, and everyone is sharing their opinion. This type of thing has a huge effect on our modern day culture. It causes people to obsess about their looks, even if it means giving up some of the foods they truly love.

    But why not have that beautiful body you want, while still allowing yourself to indulge in some of the flavors that make life worth living? If you follow a few important tips, you can have both.

    Tip #1: Moderation.

    Whether you’re talking about food, drink, television, or anything else in this world, moderation is always a big key. Most things done to excess are bad for you, and food is right at the top of that list.

    If you want to stay in shape, let yourself have that piece of cake… just cut it in half and have it less often. If you do this, you will lose weight and your treat will taste even better.

    Tip #2: Avoid Binge-Eating.

    Stress. It causes us to do all kinds of things we normally wouldn’t do. One of these things is binge-eating. After a tough day at the office, many people artificially make themselves feel better by gulping down whatever fried, fatty, junk food they can get their hands on. You must be conscious of this and avoid it.

    When you’re feeling stressed, try going to the gym and getting a workout in. You’d be amazed at how well that will make you feel.

    Tip #3: Switch to Water.

    Simply put, water is the healthiest beverage you can put into your body. It helps stave off dehydration, digest meals, and can even make you feel full when you are craving a snack. If you replace sugary drinks like soda with water, the pounds will immediately start to melt away.

    Tip #4: Eat Smaller Meals.

    We were all raised on three square meals per day, but that is an outdated concept. By eating smaller meals more often throughout the day, your body can digest the food much faster. This will not only result in a thinner body, but it will also steady your blood sugar and make you feel better on the whole.

    Tip #5: Limit Your Carbs.

    I know you love that fresh bread. We all do. But carbs are a big no-no when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. However, it is not necessary to go on a complete no-carb diet. Again, it’s all about moderation. You can cheat once in a while to fulfill your urge, or even have meals that are low in carbs. Just don’t do it all day, everyday.

    And while we’re on the subject of cutting carbs, here are a couple of great low-carb recipes for you to make right at home.

    Low-Carb Chicken Kiev

    4 large chicken breasts
    4 toes crushed garlic
    4 tablespoons butter
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    2 cups bread crumbs
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    A couple dashes of dried parsley

    Pound the chicken until it’s of even thickness throughout. Place butter, parsley, and garlic in the center and roll the chicken up tight. Seal it with toothpicks. Mix eggs and milk until smooth. Mix together the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and garlic powder. Dip chicken in the milk/egg mix, then roll it in the bread crumbs. Bake on 350 degree for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and firm.

    Low-Carb Lemon Cheesecake

    1 lb. softened cream cheese
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup Splenda
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon lemon zest

    Beat the cream cheese until it is creamy, then beat in the Splenda and eggs one at a time. Beat in the salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir in the cream. Pour mixture into large glass pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then at 300 degrees for another 20 minutes or until done. Cool to room temperature, then serve chilled.

    Joyce Del Rosario works at outsourcely.com, a platform where hiring and working remotely is made simple. When not working, she engages in photography and event planning at Del Rosario Events. Aside from that, she also has a heart for writing.


  • 4 Ways to Save Money on Home Security

    by Maryann Owens

    Jephson Housing Association CCTV system

    If you have a home, pets, family, or valuable belongings, you have probably already spent some time thinking about home security options that will protect you and your loved ones. Home security systems are often the perfect solution for making residents feel safe and protected, but they can come with a hefty price-tag and then pricey monthly payments on top of that. If you want to have a top home security system in your own home but also want to save money, then use this guide to find four helpful tips for doing so.

    1. Check Your Sensors

    Many home security systems are more than just alarms for burglary or sudden entry. Some systems also boast sensors that monitor water, carbon monoxide, and fire. While these features can be incredibly handy, and may be exactly what you are looking for, make sure you speak with the protection provider to understand what costs are involved for each. You might be surprised to learn that you are paying a monthly carbon monoxide monitoring fee even if you don't have that particular sensor on your home system at all.

    2. Use Free Features

    Most home security providers offer free features to attract new customers, which are actually more useful than the alternative or upgraded features that you must pay for. For example, one company may offer you a special email address devoted to receiving alerts or emails regarding your home for a few dollars a month. Instead of paying for this extra feature, you can have them send alerts directly to your phone as a text message. Not only will this be more effective in many cases, but it will also save you money each month.

    3. Differentiate Between Need and Want

    Deciding what is truly vital and which costs can be cut is hard in any situation, but the difficulty is even more pronounced when it comes to your home's security. Although you might think that no cost is too high when it involves your family, you also need to be realistic. Write down what you need, such as a home security system that contacts the police when breached, and avoid things that you want, such as a video monitoring of intruders sent to your cellphone.

    4. Determine How to Verify Alerts Affordably

    Most home security systems will call the landline of the home whenever there is an alert or intrusion that comes up on their monitoring system. If you don't have a landline phone, or if you simply use your cell phone more often, then ask about free conversions that allow you to use a different phone to verify reports and alerts. Some companies may try to charge you for this change, but since it costs them nothing, you can usually negotiate your way down to a free service.

    Choosing a home security system, along with a monthly monitoring service, is a great way to protect your home, your belongings, and your family. Unfortunately, this great service also comes with fees. By using these four tips, you can save money on the costs involved with protecting your home. Make sure you shop around to find the system and service that best meets your needs and budget.

    Maryann Owens blogs about eco-friendly home solutions. Maryann recommends looking in to eco-friendly conservatory designs and DIY conservatories in order to be make your home more environmentally-conscious.

  • Overspending? Four Ways to Start Budgeting Right Now

    by Carol Wilson

    There is no such thing as a perfect budgeter. Each and every one of us feels a shade of remorse when we go a little overboard on our personal spending budgets. It's okay if you let yourself slip here and there; we can all recover from a few financial stumbles. The most important thing, however, is that you don't turn your occasional splurges into a risky lifestyle habit.

    I know firsthand how hard it can be to budget. After I graduated college, I struggled to make ends meet. I had buried myself in student loans and entered a field that paid very little. I cried every time I had to pay my bills at the end of each month, and I started to imagine myself living as a pauper for the rest of my life.

    When I confessed my fears of drowning in debt to my mother, I remember her saying something that changed my life, as well as my views on money, "There is never an excuse for being in debt. You can make a penny and still save it." At the time, I thought she was rather naive. Yet as the years went by and I started making myself budget more often, I realized that she was actually right. There is always a way to stay on a budget if you fully commit yourself to the endeavor. For those of you looking to get back on track with your spending, here are four tips you can integrate into your spending right away to see some improvements.

    Forgo All Luxuries

    Oftentimes when we are struggling to stay within our budgetary limits, it's because we are spending too much on luxuries we shouldn't be wasting our money on. If you want to cut back on those pesky luxury expenses, try this: write out a list of all the necessities vs. luxuries in your life and compare them. Now, don't purchase anything on the luxuries list for at least four months. I'm not kidding. Not only will you notice more savings hitting your account, you'll also develop much more disciplined spending habits that will aid you in the years to come. So go ahead and let go of all those luxuries; they really weren't worth jeopardizing your financial future in the first place.

    Pay with Cash

    Debit cards and credit cards are wildly efficient, but they are easy to abuse. Whenever we swipe our card, we can't visually see the money leaving our account. By witnessing the cash leave our wallet, we will be better able to change the way we choose to spend our cash. So, instead of depositing a check into your account and spending money you can't see, pull out cash once a week and set a limit for how much you are allowed to spend day by day. By doing this, you'll be less likely to go overboard with your personal spending.

    Log Your Expenses

    Journals aren't just great tools to write down your feelings and emotions in. They can also be great for keeping track of how you spend your cash. When I first started keeping a spending journal, I was surprised to see how much money I was letting slip away from my account so frivolously. I'd buy gum, soda, movie tickets, hair products, nail polish, and numerous other ridiculous things without thinking twice. After I started keeping my receipts and writing these expenses down, I realized how much money was going to foolish items. If you're looking to cut back on expenses right away, keep your receipts and start logging them into a spending journal. Don't be surprised if you find yourself cringing from time to time about your spending habits, but don't worry; you'll eventually become a much more savvy spender.

    Make Saving the Priority

    It's never a good idea to spend all your money and leave nothing for savings. In fact, saving money should be a chief priority in your life. It will not only keep you financially stable in the present, but also it will help see you through to a strong financial future. If you haven't started cultivating a savings account, start right away. You'll take solace in the fact that you are deciding to be more financially savvy, and as the months go by, you'll see more money being built up for you to access in the future.

    Budgeting isn't something most people enjoy to do, but it's an important habit to utilize in your life. If you discover that you need to start budgeting better, try out these four habits and see how much money you are able to save in the present and onwards to the future.

    A small business owner herself, freelancer Carol Wilson believes that entrepreneurs and small business owners should know about the proper types of business insurance available to help their projects grow. She encourages your feedback at wilson.carol24@gmail.com.

  • What I Have Learnt from the American Way of Life

    by Chrissy C. Christiansen

    I lived as a student for nearly two years in the US and really enjoyed it. It was a different culture and a very different way of life, networking and outlook on opportunities. Not only did my language skills improve, but I was able to take a few things I learnt about the American way of life and merge it with the European way of life.

    Living:

    I had enjoyed living in a house with a garden in the US. I liked the largeness of a house and the space, and it felt so relaxing just to sit in the garden in the evening and read a book. When it came to choosing a living space back home, I decided for a small apartment. I did miss the space and the many rooms, but it was so much easier to clean and not clutter up the place. It still had everything I needed: kitchen, bathroom, shower, washing machine and storage space. I knew I would not have time to care for and enjoy a garden. The balcony was enough for warm summer nights and to read a bit in the fall.

    Storage Units:

    My first contact with storage units was in the US. We drove there by car and I was surprised to see how well organized the unit was and how much stuff you could get into it. So when I moved into a new apartment back home that did not have a storage unit in the basement, I got myself storage. I choose one close to my home, so I was able to go there easily whenever I needed something out of it. I also selected the smallest one possible. I feared I might actually store things that I would no longer need instead of getting rid of them.

    Food:

    In the US, I was amazed how much food was bought in bulk. This might be the case because of larger fridges and freezers. I also got the impression that quite a lot spoiled and had to be thrown out, because the fridge and could never be organized efficiently enough. So in my own kitchen, I put a fridge-freezer combination. I store the food that is lasts longer in the back and the one that spoils faster in the front. I mark what I buy with a date. If I know I will not have a chance to eat it, I do not buy it in bulk, even if it is cheaper per piece. Something important that I have learnt about food in America is that you can freeze a lot, including leftovers, fruits, vegetables, even bread and milk. I also try to make lists before going shopping and not to shop when hungry to eliminate impulse purchases.

    Couponing/Sales:

    This is something that I have really learned in the US as the concept of couponing was unknown to me. As it is now also emerging in Europe, it gives me the advantage to already know what to look out for: mainly not to buy everything I have a great coupon for, but only what I really need and will use and to compare prices (sometimes it is not such a great deal after all and generic brands are still a lot cheaper). The same goes for "buy-1-get-1-free" or "buy-2-get-3-free" deals. I have also started to observe the cycles of sales. Once or twice a year, certain things (like toiletries, cans, etc.) go on sale and these are usually at the same time each year. This gives me time to observe how often a year I need a certain product. Also the combination of coupons and discounts is something relatively unknown in Europe and can save a lot of money on essentials.

    Credit Cards:

    Before I came to the US, I did not have a credit card. I paid cash and therefore never overspent. I could not spend what I did not have. In the US, I had a credit card, and I had a hard time keeping track of my spendings. Not only was it “easier” to spend, but I could also buy more than I needed. At home, I can only pay cash or with a cash card, but not with credit cards in supermarkets. As I was able to do that in the US, I bought not only more than the essentials, but also non-food products I would otherwise have left there. It was also the first time I learnt about minimum payment. It takes time to sit down and calculate through a bill to find out that minimum payment is not really paying off the credit card bill, but adding up in the long run, especially as you charge something “new” every month. When I came back home, I decided to cancel my credit card and start paying in cash again. This way, I do not overspend, though sometimes I also have to say “no” to myself and differ between wants and needs.

    Taking Opportunities/Networking:

    I found the US to be a country of networking, opportunities, and lot of chances if you work harder than the Joneses. Opportunities and chances are everywhere and this is one of the major lessons I have learnt. Building up networks, getting to know new people, and taking every chance for widening your knowledge, but also helping others has given me unbelievable chances in private and professional life. Also being very open to ideas and listening to others is something very American. This is the major “something” I have taken from my stay in the US.

    Chrissy C. Christiansen comes from a frugal background and enjoys saving money and resources.

  • Now or Never? The Right Time to Buy a House

    by Kathryn Rinaldi

    The American housing market is either in the doldrums or in the beginning stages of a solid recovery, depending on who you choose to listen to. When the housing bubble of the early 21st century began deflating mid-decade, no one expected the severe economic aftermath we have been dealing with over the last few years, but the silver lining of the housing collapse has never been more prominent than now.

    The Current Climate

    Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, and the United States Federal Reserve System (the Fed) has vowed to do everything in its power to keep them that way. Various reports from real estate analysts and financial news media outlets indicate that the slide in home prices has finally reached a bottom, despite an ominous backlog of pending foreclosures. There seems to be an uptick in real estate sales activity, at least in some regions, and construction crews in some areas of the country are busy erecting new houses.

    The Right Time?

    With the above in mind, the bottom line for consumers seems to be the perennial real estate question: Is it time to buy a house now? Real estate agents will more than likely always provide a wishy-washy answer, but there are quite a few arguments in favor of acquiring a home right now, although the ultimate decision depends on the financial means and goals of each prospective buyer.

    A common theory behind the housing collapse is that it was precipitated by an economic perfect storm. The opposite can be said of housing right now, at least in the sense that several factors have combined in certain regions to create great buying opportunities. Imagine buying a condo in trendy Miami Beach for $150,000 with 20 percent down payment and a 15-year fixed interest mortgage at 3.10 percent annual percentage rate (APR). Assuming that you meet today's strict credit requirements and have the financial means and solid work history to qualify, you would pay the bank about $850 per month and your condo would be free and clear before the year 2030.

    In Conclusion

    Real estate investors look for opportune points of entry to the housing market and develop exit strategies. Prospective home buyers should not apply this hurried philosophy; instead, they should be acquiring a new home with the intent of living in it for at least five years. One of the issues that prompted the bursting of the housing bubble was boundless speculation and the lack of financial planning. If you are going to buy a home, do it now to take advantage of pricing and favorable loan terms, but don't worry about fluctuations in real estate values for the next five years.

    Kathryn Rinaldi is a freelance blogger who writes about real estate. If you are looking to buy a home, you may want to visit personalhomeloanmortgages.com to find the best mortgage rate available to you for your credit history and loan type.

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