Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Polar Plunge Winter Festival - Va. Beach, 2013

It's that time of year again (this weekend Feb 1 - 2, 2013) when the "crazies" come out for a winter dip in the Atlantic ocean to raise money for charity. (Polar Plunge for Special Olympics) Ok, I get the fundraising aspect but swimming in the near freezing water in "costume" with thousands of other "crazies" at the same time?  That practice eludes my sense of reason. It's really just a reason, any reason, to get out of the house where we have been stuck all winter. Aside from the freezing weather, the artic water and that cold north wind which is sure to be blowing, it looks like real fun! I certainly wouldn't do it myself but maybe next year I will volunteer to help behind the scenes. If you are in or near Virginia Beach this weekend, get involved! Come see the spectacle and if you can ... donate. Check the link I provided for other Polar Plunge celebrations, some maybe coming to a city or town near you! And above all, have fun, it's for a good cause!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Unwanted Gift Cards?

Unwanted Gift Cards? Swap Them!
          Even though gift cards are the new go-to gift, as with anything new, there are sure to be misfires. That’s when sites such as Plastic Jungle, Gift Card Rescue and Card Pool come to the rescue, allowing recipients to trade the coveted plastic cash cards for stores of their choosing. “People get their cards and want to make sure they get value from them,” said Kristin Morse, a spokeswoman for Plastic Jungle, a gift card marketplace that allows users to swap, sell and buy gift cards at reduced rates. The average gift card offered a savings of up 10 percent, Morse said.
          Gift cards remained the most coveted item on Christmas lists for the fifth straight year in a row, with the typical consumer spending a cumulative $155.43 on gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation. That adds up to approximately $27.8 billion. Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said convenience and technology had made gift cards a more popular gift than ever before. “Consumers are looking to these not only as last-minute gift ideas but also as a practical item for their loved ones, who may have had something on their radar all year long but didn’t want to get it for themselves,” Grannis said. “Gift cards can be sent online and even through Facebook. There are more options than ever. But those on a tight budget, watching their dollars, including their gift-card spending, can turn to the online marketplace to make the most of their dollars. “Certainly in this economy, people are trying to save money wherever they can,” Morse said, adding, “We are staffed up significantly.”                                       - by Alyssa Newcomb           Did you get any gift cards you will not likely use? Check out the websites to see if you can make a trade for something you can use or sell them outright for someone else to use and get a little money back. I was lucky, I can use all the gift cards I got and I am so thankful to the loved ones who sent them. But for those to whom I sent gift cards ... hey, if you can't use them, let someone else or get some money back, on me! I promise not to take it personally, money is money. Now get to swapping!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"After the Holidays" Finance Planning

     Ok ... so how was your holiday season? Did you stick to your budget or are you just waiting for the credit card statements and all those holidays bills to arrive? If you have more bills than you wanted, take the time to make a quick (and I do mean quick) finance plan.
     Everyone is entitled to 1 free credit report (yes, really, with no strings attached and this is not the one that tries to sell you some "protection services", I promise) so if you haven't seen yours in a year, request one now. FREEannualcreditreport .  Take a few minutes to go over it. Make sure the accounts listed on it are: yours ... correct and contain accurate information. If you see things that need correcting, all the contact information you need is right there for you. Call your creditors or write to them to get the information corrected or updated (like if you have paid something off or it's not yours). Every thing matters on your credit report and small things can make a difference. You want the best credit score you can get to have access to great rates on loans, other credit sources and even landlords check credit! Fix what you can then with the rest, make a plan.
     Try this webpage: CNNmoneydebtplanner.   They have a calculator that can show you the fastest ways to pay off those debts and you can even set a deadline to pay them off and it's all figured out for you! Hey, every bit of info helps.
     To do it yourself: Figure out which (revolving, credit card or store) debt is costing you the most (either in amount of payment or interest) ... put this on the top of your list. (Yes, make an actual list.) Which debt is next largest? Put it second and so on until you have all your debts listed. Now, find a way to pay extra on the "top" debt. Can you pay more than the minimum? Do it! Ask for birthday, anniversary, graduation money instead of gifts. Have a yard sale, sell some stuff, cash in your broken jewelry for the weight of gold! Get a second job, do odd jobs, even if it is only temporary. The secret is this: When you pay off that 1st debt, (that bill disappears, so no more payment needed there) ... whatever (amount) payment you've been making ( to #1), now make that same (amount) payment on the next one down (#2)! You will never miss the money, you been sending it away anyhow, keep going! So debt #2 gets paid off in a hurry with the "extra payment" going on to it now! Once #2 is paid off do it again ... roll the payment you were making on #2 over onto # 3 or (#3 and #4) since they are getting smaller and smaller!  You will have those bills paid off in no time and be living a "cash" lifestyle again while your credit will be climbing back up to where you want it. Ready for your next fiancial endeavor, at the best rates going!
     Hope this helps, I want you to have great credit when you are ready to come see me and buy that next home!