Posted by: F.E.S.T. | February 11, 2010

Comparison Shop for More Than Just Food and TVs

Saving money is a high priority. Comparison shopping is a given when food shopping or buying a TV, but it can also be applied to a few other areas which can have a big impact on your monthly budget.

Phone, internet and cable:
Phone and cable companies have combination packages but they can end up costing a lot. Consider removing your landline and only using a cell phone, review your minutes usage and perhaps get a plan that is shared with extended family members. Change to a basic cable plan and rent movies monthly through a company like Netflix or check movies out at the library. Once you know what you need for these services, call the providers in your area and ask them for their best deals. For internet service you can contact NetZero for free or low-cost plans or share wireless service with a neighbor. BillShrink.com gives plan price comparisons.

Insurance:
Monthly car insurance can be a big expense. If you have a decent driving record, raising your deductible (the amount that you pay out-of-pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in) can lower your monthly payment. Say you currently have a $250 deductible, you could raise it to $500 and significantly lower your monthly premiums- just don’t have an accident! Then call several insurance companies to compare the policy costs.

Prescriptions:
Believe it or not, there are big price differences in prescription drug prices between various drugstores chains and warehouse stores. First consult with your doctor annually to review your prescriptions and get generic drugs where possible. New medications come out every year. Then compare the prices of each drug at the chain drug and warehouse stores. Also, if you by a 90-day supply online, there is usually a big saving. Drugstore.com is a good site to use for price comparisons. Some prescriptions have small price changes between different dosages, say the difference between 100mg and 200mg pill is slight. You could get the larger dosage pill and split it, but only do this with the approval of your doctor.

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Posted by: F.E.S.T. | February 6, 2010

Cheap and Tasty Menus: Chicken Meal Cooked in a Foil Pouch

Tin Foil Chicken

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces $6.00
4 carrots cut into pieces 1.00
4 small red skinned potatoes (or any baking potato) cut in quarters (skin on or peeled) 1.00
4 tbsp worcestershire sauce .25
4 tbsp of butter .50
Salt and pepper to taste

4 pieces of extra thick tin foil (double layer if using regular foil) 1.50
1 loaf crusty bread 1.50
Total cost $11.75

Place 2 pieces of chicken in the middle of one piece of tin foil.
Add 1 carrot and 1 potato (1/4 of sliced amount).
Top with 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Fold the foil to create a sealed package to make sure the juice cannot escape.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 4 individual servings.
Place 4 foil packages in a roasting pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Serve with bread.

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 31, 2010

Dr. Pat Radio Show Interview January 2010 – Have a Listen!

http://www.thedrpatshow.com/shows/drp-100105-colquhoun.mp3

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 31, 2010

2010 U.S. Census Scam Warning

The 2010 Census is about to begin and the Better Business Bureau wants to caution people about how much and what kind of information they should give to Census takers. The U.S. Constitution requires a census every ten years to establish the correct representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, so the main goal of the census is to count how many people live in each and every household.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising people to cooperate but also to be cautious. After verifying household addresses more than 140,000 Census workers will be sent out across the country to gather basic information on all household residents. Unfortunately this massive effort will also provide opportunities for con artists and identity thieves.
The BBB offers the following advice:
“If a Census worker knocks on your door they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering any questions. Never invite a Census worker into your home and do not give your Social Security number, credit card, banking or financial information even if the worker claims to need it for the Census.”
Census workers may contact you by mail, phone or in person but they will not contact you by email. If you do get an email it is a scam and do not click on or open any attachments. No matter what a Census Bureau worker asks you, the only thing you are required to tell them is the number of people living at your address.

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 30, 2010

Cheap and Easy Menus: Banana Bread

A good solution for ripe, left over bananas.
Warm your house and your insides with homemade banana bread!

Ingredients:
1 cup shortening $2.99
1 cup sugar .50
2 eggs beaten .50
2 cups flour .50
1 level tsp baking soda .20
3 very ripe bananas crushed 0 (left over)
1 tsp Vanilla .50
1/2 tsp salt
Total cost : $5.19

Combine and cream shortening and sugar.
Add in eggs and mix well.
Add salt, baking soda and flour.
Fold in the bananas, vanilla and walnuts.
Pour into a greased 9×5″ loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hr and 15 min.
Serve warm or cold.
Add vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or cream cheese (optional).

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 24, 2010

Cheap and Easy Menus: Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes (Latkes)

Ingredients:
1 egg .25
½ medium onion coarsely cut .25
½ tsp salt
2 1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes (use 4 large Russet potatoes) 2.00
2 tbsp matzo meal .25
2 tbsp vegetable oil (for cooking) .25
16oz sour cream 1.79
24oz jar apple sauce 1.99

Total cost $6.78

In a blender put egg, onion, potatoes, and salt (do not cover).
Blend on liquify until the last all potato pieces have been chopped.
Turn off the blender and add the Matzo meal to form desired consistency. (Should not be soupy)
In a skillet put oil and heat, then drop spoonfuls of potato mixture into the hot pan.
Cook until brown and flip to brown both sides.
Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

Makes 12 Latkes
Great for Breakfast or Lunch!

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 24, 2010

Resource Tool for Your Financial Survival Kit

On Friday, the government reported that in December unemployment rose in 43 out of 50 states and that throughout the country 600,000 people left the labor force last month. New Jersey’s unemployment rate hit a 33 year high of 10.1%. So, the U.S. economy is still casting dark shadows over the lives of many people; new jobs are not appearing on the horizon.

It is a scary time to navigate the financial quagmire of dropping market values, income loss and debt, and to find a good way to overcome budgetary problems. Whether it’s locating cheap emergency healthcare centers, getting free help filing a tax return, locating affordable college loan sources, coping with life-changing events or becoming aware of frauds and scams, there is a great financial assistance site that was created to help you through most financial tight spots.

The U.S. Government operates a financial education and consumer information website called MyMoney.gov. It offers a wide variety of articles and useful links to help with budgeting, taxes, home ownership, education costs, retirement planning, social security questions and calculators, starting a business, setting up savings, and consumer alerts, and much more. This information is provided by twenty different federal agencies partnering with state and nonprofit organizations such as the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and the Federal Citizen Information Center.
Take a few minutes to navigate through the pages, articles and links. These days, everyone can use a multi-faceted resource tool in their financial survival kit.

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 20, 2010

Three New Resource Sites Added

AddleBrain.com – info on free internet services
CampusBooks.com – search engine for cheapest books (textbooks)
MakingHomeAffordable.gov – site for homebuyers, homeowners and info on refinancing and loan modification plans

See the Financial Help Websites Page for the full list.

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 19, 2010

Cheap and Easy Dishes: Pizza Your Way

It is quick and easy to make a pizza. Then add your favorite toppings and Bon Appetit!

Pizza dough:
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (in Dairy or Baking Section) .50
1/4 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 tsp. olive oil .25
3/4 tsp. salt
2 cups all purpose flour .25

Topping:
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes 1.59
1 (8oz) block mozzerella 2.99
1 tbsp. dried oregano or 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil .50
salt and pepper to taste
Total cost= 6.08
Additional topping ideas:
sliced mushrooms, pepperoni, onions, green or red pepper,cooked diced ham, diced pineapple, zucchini, cooked broccoli,cooked chicken .

Directions:
Dissolve yeast and sugar in a bowl with the warm water.
Let stand for 5 minutes.
Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture, (do not stir).
Place flour and salt in a large bowl.
Pour the yeast mixture slowly into the flour and mix until a ball forms.
Place the dough in a plastic bag in a warm place, away from drafts, and let the dough rise (about 45mins.).
Coat the dough with olive oil, (this helps make the crust crispy).
Roll out and stretch the dough to make two 9″ pizzas or one 14″ pie.
Place flattened dough on a baking pan.

Top with:
Crushed tomato
Salt and pepper
Oregano
Mozzerella
Add additional toppings as desired

Bake in pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 20 mins. or until the crust is brown.

Posted by: F.E.S.T. | January 18, 2010

Defaulting on Your Mortgage, It’s Not Good Business

The morality of not honoring a contract can spark a heated debate. But the negative economic consequences for the homeowner and mortgage holder who decides to “walk away” from their house and mortgage obligation can be substantial, regardless of how a business or investment manager would behave regarding their financial contractual commitments.

According to the First American Loan Performance Index, U.S. home prices doubled on average between 2000 and 2006, and have since fallen about 30%. Zillow.com reports that approximately 20% of homeowners with mortgages are now “under water,” meaning the home is worth less than the mortgage balance. But the decision to “walk away” from the mortgage and give up the home cannot be made based on a pure business calculation.

Paying on debt that is higher than a home’s value might not make business sense, but a business doesn’t have to worry about the same consequences that people do. If a homeowner decides to “strategically default” meaning not pay even if he or she can pay, there are very negative consequences which could be greater than the cost of continuing to pay a higher mortgage on a devalued house.

The following are three very negative personal financial consequences of defaulting on your mortgage and giving up your home to the mortgage lender:
1. Foreclosure or “deed in lieu” where you allow the lender to take possession of your home, has a severe impact on your credit score. You are not paying back what you owe. In an article by Elizabeth Weintraub, About.comGuide 2009, she interviewed David Steep, manager at Vitek Mortgage in California, who stated that if a homeowner is having difficulty paying on a mortgage and elects to “walk away,” the drop in that person’s FICO score could be 200-300 points. The average FICO score these days is mid to high 600’s, so that is a devastating drop.
2. Each state has different laws concerning deficiency balances if a homeowner stops paying their mortgage and gives the house keys to the lender . When the lender sells the home in an auction or to another party and the amount received is lower than the mortgage owed, the difference is called a deficiency balance. In some states the bank or lender can go back to the homeowner/mortgage holder and demand payment of the difference. Some states have anti-deficiency laws that protect the mortgage holder from having to pay that difference, but it may only cover the “purchase money” mortgage or the mortgage that was taken out when the residential home was first bought – the first mortgage. However, if a person bought a house with a “piggy-back mortgage”, meaning 80% of the purchase was paid with a first mortgage and the remaining 20% was funded with a second mortgage or home equity loan, then the homeowner could be liable for the money owed on the “hard money” second mortgage or home loan. Even worse, in some states the lender can get a judgement and place a lien on a person’s other assets if the deficiency balance isn’t paid.
3. When you give back your home to the lender, that notation stays on your credit report for up to seven years. It will be extremely difficult to buy another home within two years of foreclosing and sometimes the waiting period can be up to six years, depending upon your credit status prior to foreclosing. This will also affect your ability to rent an apartment, get a job, qualify for another loan, obtain low-cost insurance and utility rates. After a year or two you may be able to get a loan but your interest rates will be higher because of your poor credit history. These days your life is closely tied to your credit report and score.

So, it is imperative that you contact a real estate attorney and understand the laws of your state, before making the decision to walk away from your house and mortgage. You can visit http://www.lawhelp.org for general information on mortgages and to locate an attorney, and http://www.ForeclosureLawFirms.com for state anti-deficiency law information. The financial merits of staying in your residence and paying your mortgage versus giving it up cannot be viewed through the same eyes as a portfolio manager. Besides, you have to live somewhere. Having good financial health is important in many aspects of daily living, and market values aren’t static, they go down and up. As an alternative, you may want to consider doing a short sale or loan modification. Go to http://www.fanniemae.com to find out the current guidelines, consult with a reputable realtor, and if you need help locate a nonprofit housing counseling agency to act as a mediator at http://www.nfcc.org .

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