New Student Loan Repayment Program Will Lower Your Payments

Great news, everybody. New federal student loan guidelines that go into effect July 1st will help you lower your monthly payments. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The federal government’s new income-based repayment program, which takes effect Wednesday, allows borrowers to repay their loans as a percentage of their income, lowering payments for those with high debt-to-income ratios. Under the plan, which was created as part of the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, a borrower’s monthly payment will be set at 15 percent of the person’s monthly disposable income. Borrowers who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level will not have to pay anything on their loan debt until their income rises.

The interest rates on student loans are also going to decrease. Read the rest of this entry »

My Financial Implosion: Prioritizing During a Financial Crisis

“Action expresses priorities.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Since my wife’s contract unexpectedly ended last March, I feel like we’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all our bills.  Although we certainly have made some cutbacks, and I’ve taken on extra work, it hasn’t been completely easy.  It’s been difficult and stressful, but somehow we’ve managed to muddle through.

Recently, we got some incredibly good news.  My wife landed a part-time contract as a paralegal.  This is a wonderful development not only because we need the money, but because it supports our goal of diversifying our income streams.

Of course with every silver lining, there is an ugly cloud.  During the past month, we’ve had several emergencies come up, and my wife’s new gig won’t bring in any significant income until August.  As a result, we are now facing a small financial crisis brought on by the following unexpected expenses:
Read the rest of this entry »

Pay Cuts And Furloughs…

Nothing totally coherent today folks… just some rambling thoughts that I’d like to hear your responses to!

Everyone I’m sure has been reading about how many governments and businesses are cutting pay and giving unpaid furloughs to employees in order to save money and avoid layoffs.

California… the drunken sailor with the migraine hangover and empty wallet… seems to be the one most in the news about this.

Pay cuts and furloughs. Admirable? To a point. But only if the pain is shared by everyone including the bosses… which doesn’t happen all that often.

Most people will accept a lower paycheck in lieu of no paycheck when they still have mouths to fee and bills to pay but if they don’t see everyone sharing the pain it devastates morale and will send the brightest on a search for a more “equitable” employer.

Has anyone here been subject to pay cuts or furloughs?

If so have your bosses “shared the pain” or just ordered in lunch instead of going out? Read the rest of this entry »

High Yield and Healthy Meals

I’d like to add my own spin to Serena’s excellent Stretch Your Food Dollar series. One of the reasons I recently launched a mircroenterprise to feed my friends as well as my family is that I was getting into the habit of making high yield and healthy dishes to nibble on over the course of a few days rather than prepare each individual meal prior to eating it. Like most people, I want to maximize the value for the invested dollars and effort. I’ve learned that making twice as much is not twice as costly.

Of course there are twice as many raw ingredients but if you put a value on time spent in prep and clean up then you are far better off making a couple of large dishes at the same time. I’m surprised at how inexpensively I can make a large variety of healthy dishes. Often they are less than $1/serving. There is typically less waste as well. In the past, even with the best intentions, I’d frequently have to toss out the ½ onion, ½ bunch of cilantro or ½ other perishable good.

Even when I was working full time, I’d spent a few hours on a Sunday preparing meals that would provide lunches and dinners through the better part of the week. I know there are food purists out there cringing right now at the thought of 3 day old lentil salad but the secret is really in choosing those dishes that will keep, and usually improve, over time. A traditional salad, for example, without tomatoes or dressing will last a couple days in the refrigerator. Hearty greens such as kale or collards are great raw but dressed with the juice of a lemon, a combination of sesame and olive oil, salt and pepper. This easily provides a few days of nutritious side dishes for two. Read the rest of this entry »

Is title insurance worth buying?

Ever been stuck at a cocktail party with a blowhard who’s leaning in a little too close? Just launch into a monologue on the relative merits of title insurance and even the most booze-fogged windbag will go running for cover.

Title insurance. How boring.

How boring, indeed, until two days before closing on the purchase of your first home, and your attorney calls saying that your mortgage has been approved, the former tenants were removed by the sheriff, the radon’s been remediated, and oh, by the way, do you want title insurance? “Huh?”, you say. “What tenants? I thought those were the owners? And what was that about insurance?”

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects you in case there’s a problem with the title to the property. Problems happen when ownership of the property is not clear, when there is fraud or forgery, or (most commonly) due to simple clerical mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »

Use it or lose it – your health and your wealth.

In keeping with my recent post about how I often find myself disagreeing with the standard penny-pinching tips, I’ve got another one for you to chew on: don’t cancel your health club membership. Yes, even if you never use it. There is a bigger issue going on here that urgently needs to be addressed.
Your health is your biggest wealth factor. Why are you neglecting it? Sure, you could cancel your membership and pretend you’ll jog in the park instead, but that’s going to go about as well as your plan to Do Yoga Every Day.

The trick to managing your wealth, and health, is learning to apply different strategies for different situations. Once you’ve triaged your economic situation and made some plans, the very next item on your list should be a triage of your health status and imminent health issues. Your health impacts you economically in two fundamental ways:

1. Health crises incur expenses.
2. Those expenses arrive when you are usually too sick to work.

That double whammy has plunged many individuals and families into poverty. It can take decades for your health and financial state to recover from a crisis. It’s the real cause behind the financial decline of the elderly. It’s something that should worry you. Read the rest of this entry »

Trading on the faux stock market

Until I read this book, I believed that individual investors shouldn’t be buying individual stocks. Jumping into the market can be daunting, especially this particular bear market.

So if you’re interested in learning more about buying and selling stocks or still learning like me, then here’s an excellent site that simulates the online trading experience. It’s called WeSeed and it’s designed to help people develop their investing skills without the risk of losing real money.

Everything else about it is real:

WeSeed has real stocks, real prices, and real companies. It’s the money that isn’t real, which means you don’t have to worry about that pesky thing called risk. By creating a safe, risk-free area that has all the other real parts of the stock market, WeSeeders can explore and feel free to make mistakes.

They encourage you to start with something you know and the home page breaks up companies into mini-markets: Read the rest of this entry »

Queercents Weekly Roundup: Summer Solstice Edition

Happy Saturday everyone. The summer solstice has come and gone and still it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done. Ok, ok, the summer solstice on means more daylight hours but daylight is key. I’ll be spending much of my weekend scurrying about frantically and I hope your weekend proves fun and exciting  as well (or relaxing and low-key, whichever you prefer). Now, the round up.

  • This list offers a number of things I’m sure none of our readers do, but nonetheless it’s an interesting read to read about 47 Simple Ways to Waste Money. (Read it at Wise Bread)
  • Sometimes personal finance advice can get routine so every now and then nice reminds of why you’re saving are nice. Here, Trent reminds us that avoiding spending is not the same as saving money. (Read it at The Simple Dollar)
  • Several authors distilled psychology into a readable collection of 50 ways to be more persuasive. If you can see through the sneakiness of advertising, it’s harder for advertising to work on you so give this a look. (Read it at Alex.Moskalyuk via Consumerist)
  • Ramit has a great article about the perils of mental accounting and some of it’s pitfalls. (Read it at I Will Teach You To Be Rich)
  • Sometimes just saving isn’t enough to cut it. In his Personal Finance Hour series, JD and Jim offer their own experiences trying to supplement their incomes. (Read it at Get Rich Slowly)

Read the rest of this entry »

What is Your Networking ROI?

Whether you have a job, own a business, or are looking for a job, chances are you are networking now more than ever. Networking is placed on a pedestal like no other and you can barely go through 24 hours without someone telling you “it’s all about networking” and “you have to be out there networking”. I agree networking is immensely powerful but if you don’t do it consciously, strategically, and authentically, you are probably just wasting your time. Anyone who has been in business longer than a few months knows the power of building relationships with other people. Networking (online and off) is an excellent way to do that. Job seekers who only look at ads or attempt to find a new position the passive route are missing the boat because according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking.

So we all intuitively know that networking is important but are you clear on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what results you are seeing? It is very easy to just hop from event to event or from one social networking site to another and find that all you accomplished was passing time, money, and miles.I like Elisa Camahort’s definition of networking from her personal blog:

My definition of the purpose of networking: to connect two or more parties for their mutual benefit, with the understanding that you may not be one of the parties, and the benefit may not occur now.

Networking is like planting a garden. Read the rest of this entry »

4 Elements of the Perfect Price List

Are you able to spot a bargain when you see it?  Can you look at a sales flyer or a coupon and know that it’s a good deal?

I can’t.  Or, at least, I couldn’t until fairly recently.  What helped was putting together my own – perfect – price list.

The concept of a price list is old and simple: it’s a list of grocery items (or items purchased regularly from any store) and how much they cost.  The idea is that you take your list with you when you’re shopping and, if you find that the price has gone down, you can stock up.

The old way of doing it is rather tedious and potentially a waste of time.  To get started, there are lists of “standard” items you should track so you print out a list, grab a pen and clipboard, and then head to the store for a fun-filled afternoon of writing down prices.  By the end of your trip, you have a hand-scrawled page of numbers (for items you may never purchase), and you’re supposed to remember to bring it with you every time you go shopping.  Oh yeah, and if you lose that list, you can start over! Read the rest of this entry »

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