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Our Current Monthly Nut

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I haven’t kept up with a monthly budget in several years.  I do keep an eye on our credit card totals at the end of each month before paying them off in full to make sure we aren’t losing our minds.  Since our expenses are lower than our income, and we are hitting our annual savings goals, I have been pretty laid back about the specifics.   But our daughter in due in June, we’ll both be taking a few weeks off at least, and I wanted to know how much per month we actually spend. Our Monthly Spending Has Changed But Not Increased Surprisingly, it’s about the same as the last time I worked out our numbers.  Our medical premiums went down but we increased our monthly mortgage payments.  Cell phone bills have decreased by about 50% with Ting but car payments went up.  Our gasoline needs have decreased but our water rates increased, so those balanced each other out.  We no longer have housekeeping services but our property taxes increased when our values rose, and that ate the extra. Our Monthly Nut is Between $5500-$7000 In short, we still need about $5500 a month to simply cover our monthly … Read more

Property Tax Appraisals Matter

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For the last few years, I’ve been getting more involved in my local community mainly through Nextdoor.com and our neighborhood’s Facebook group.  I wanted to feel more connected to the people who exist around me.  What does this really mean?  I spend WAY too much time on social media.  AND, I get to see questions that I no longer see in personal finance blogs.  It can get a little stale preaching to the choir. Getting Blind-Sided by Property Taxes For example, one of my neighbors from Nextdoor.com got walloped by her bank for a couple of extra thousand dollars because her home’s appraised value zoomed up, she escrows, and the bank didn’t take enough every month last year to cover the property tax increase.  She knew in passing that the appraised value increased but didn’t know to protest it.  She also didn’t know what that would do to her property taxes.  So now she feels blind-sided. Crystal’s Take on Official Home Appraisals and Property Taxes Here was how I replied: It looks like a few people have already summarized the process. We receive our annual property tax appraisals from in the first 3rd of the year. They can increase the … Read more

Mantras for Getting Out of Debt

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If you can imagine it, you can do it. After all, everything human beings have ever created was first an inkling in someone’s imagination. Here’s the thing though, before you can do anything, you have to believe you can. In other words, the way we think ultimately determines our ability to achieve. This is true for many aspect of our lives, including eliminating debt. With that in mind, repeating these mantras for getting out of debt will help you learn to believe you can live free of debilitating financial obligations. “I Will Stop Borrowing Money.” This one is key. Making a conscious decision to stop financing your lifestyle with borrowed money will help you get rid of debt and stay out of it. This means no more signing up for “hot” credit card deals and no more buying furniture and appliances “on time”. Once you make the decision to live within your means, you’ll find many ways to enjoy a satisfying life without borrowing. “I Will Save at Least $1000 as an Emergency Fund.” We often wind up getting into debt to stave off an unexpected expense, such as a car accident for which we must pay a deductible or … Read more

Is It Enough: How Much Coverage Should You Have for Your Business?

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Even if your business is small, it’s generally recommended that you err on the side of being over-insured. One little gap in coverage can lead to collapse, particularly if you’re the sole owner of your business. If you want to avoid closing for good, the very first step is making sure you have the right amount of business insurance.   How Do You Determine Coverage? Look at the nature of your daily operations. What kind of business are you? If you have a store or restaurant, there are many opportunities for your employees to be injured, whether it’s a burn in the kitchen or a fall on a recently-mopped floor. Do you make or manufacture goods for sale? What would happen if your equipment failed, or you were unable to get the materials necessary to create your finished product? Here’s another place where insurance could be the difference between a major loss and a temporary setback. While it’s crucial to really work to identify every single scenario, which can pose a risk to your business, it’s equally as important to speak to an insurance agent. They’ll be more familiar with the laws where you live, which will tell them where … Read more

A Look at VantageScore and FICO’s Credit Scoring Methods

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When it comes to good personal finance habits, knowing your credit score is key before making any large purchases to avoid high interest rates. There are two main players that lenders use to distribute scores and that’s VantageScore and FICO. Here’s a little background on both. The VantageScore credit scoring model is a collaboration between all three credit reporting agencies (CRA) Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. It’s their attempt at presenting an alternative against the Fair Isaac Corporation’s (FICO) method of determining creditworthiness. FICO’s dominance had run for years (since 1956) and led to FICO’s predictive analytics, introduced in 1989, being the standard lenders used to assess risks associated with specific borrowers. Currently, FICO is still the most widely used method creditors use to assess risk. However, VantageScore is gaining their share of the market. This is especially true thanks to free online credit scoring services like CreditSesame and Quizzle which use the VantageScore 3.0 version to let consumers monitor their progress. Scoring models FICO has its credit scoring models based on credit reports of millions of unspecified consumers obtained independently from each of the CRAs. A separate model is then built for each CRA and this is based on data … Read more

When is Enough, Enough? Stop Settling for a Mediocre Bank!

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Banks just aren’t what they used to be. A generation ago, competition between banks was fierce and customer service was excellent. Today, things have changed. The Great Recession has consolidated the market and consumers have fewer choices than ever before. However, just because there are fewer options, doesn’t mean you should settle for Mr. Wrong Bank. Bad customer service Not all banks are equal. Large banks have so much of the market that customer service doesn’t need to be a priority – the bank simply exists and, if you need access to your money from a lot of different places, you’re probably a customer of a bank with a lot of branches and ATMs. Luckily, with an increasing number of virtual banks in America, you don’t need to put up with poor service just to have access to your money. Virtual banks often have partnerships with brick-and-mortar banks, allowing their customers to access their money through a large network of ATMs or via cash back opportunities at local stores. If you’re fed up with long lines and rude tellers, tell your bank you’ve had enough and move on. Too expensive Not too long ago, the mere idea of a bank … Read more

How to Spot a Really Great Checking Account

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You’ve had enough! Your current bank and checking account just aren’t doing it for you anymore and you need to find something new. In this case, it’s definitely not you, it’s them. Millions of Americans change bank accounts every year and the banks are getting wise – they’ve begun offering lots of discounts and promotions to get you to sign up. But, do you know how to spot a really great checking account? The account The first thing you need to look for when trying to spot a great checking account is to find one that’s free. Don’t be fooled by promotions saying the account will be free for three-months or if you have a minimum balance of $5,000 – find an account that has no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum fees and no hidden fees. If the checking account you’re eyeing pays out interest, make sure that you understand the rate and how it’s structured. Some promotions will offer you a great interest rate for a short period, but will end up decreasing the rate once the promotional period is over. Read the fine print and only choose a checking account that has a rate structure you can understand. … Read more