Archives For January 2013

Increasing the value of your home

Corey —  January 31, 2013 — 2 Comments

We are thinking about buying our next house in 2014. We bought our current house almost 4 years ago, and while it sounds bad, we are ready to move into our forever home. We have been thinking about how the economy has probably tanked the value of our house, and how we would like to see our house with at least somewhat of a gain, or as little of a loss as possible.

There are many things that you can do to increase the value of your home. Looks do mean something, and it can mean that your house will sell for a little higher, and possibly a little quicker. No one wants to pay for a house longer than they need to and incur additional charges.

Ways you can increase the value of your home:

1. Remodeling the bathroom(s)

When we were first looking at houses, we always looked at the bathroom. If the bathroom was severely outdated, then we always thought twice about the house. Both of our bathrooms are pretty well updated, but there are other things that we can do to them to increase the value.

We need to replace the mirror in the bathroom, preferably something with a frame and a bigger mirror. Then we also want to change the lighting as well. I’m guessing that this will cost around $500 if we do this ourselves. I have read that changing things like this will recoup most of the value when you do sell your house. Other things we could do is get rid of the sliding bathroom door and change it into a better glass and something that is more modern.

2. Adding more curb appeal

Right now, everything in our yard is pretty much dead. Last summer there was a heat wave and we were told not to use our water or water lawns because it hardly rained and we had many above 100 degree days. This means that EVERYTHING outside died and is brown.

We need to replant grass seed, plant some flowers, and make everything more green. Who wants to buy a house with spotty grass? We also want to make a nice garden in the backyard as well. We have many ideas and a lot of things that we need to start this year, if we want to put our house on the market next year.

3. Having a nice basement

We currently have a nice basement. It is finished, has a big laundry room, a big storage closet, a bedroom, and a living area. It’s the same size as the upstairs of our house and is a nice addition. We looked at many houses, and the ones without basements we pretty much through out of the picture. We wanted the extra space badly.

If you don’t have a finished basement, then the cost may be substantial if you cannot do it yourself. My friend was able to pay someone she knew $10,000 for her basement to be completely remodeled. It was well worth it for her though. She has a home built in the early 1900’s, and basements back then are not the same as unfinished basements today. Everything had to be gutted. They built a bar, bathroom with a hot tub, and a play area. It is very, very nice and definitely increased the value of their home greatly.

4. Paint

A little paint can go a long way. Painting the walls inside your house, trim, baseboards, and the exterior of your home is always a good idea. Fresh paint nearly always makes a house look a lot better, and is a relatively cheap fix compared to other things you could do to your house.

Have you tried any of these ways to increase the value of your home?

If you’re a novice in spread betting or any other form of trading, one of the biggest anxieties you probably have is losing money.

When you’re making profits, everything seems to be going well, but what would happen if your trades were to go in the other direction? For those who like to trade cautiously, they can make use of a range of tools which can minimise the damage done by a losing trade.

 

Traders of all levels of experience can use stop losses and limits to help put an end to any trades that begin to turn sour, but what exactly are these tools, and how do they work?

wallet

There are opening orders and closing orders that activate when they’re at a level that’s acceptable to you, all of which are worth using if you want to make sure you have enough money to trade with in the near future.

When opening a trade, you could choose from the following options:

  • Limit Order – This automatically opens a trade at a better price than the current price of a market, but only if the market price reaches a certain level.
  • Stop Order – This one instantly opens a trade when the price is worse than the current level a market is at, but only if the price is at a level you specify prior to trading.

As for closing a trade before any losses become too excessive, you could either:

  • Activate a Stop Loss order. This will automatically close a trade at a higher price than the starting one when you’re first activated your trade. This can also be used straight away if your trade heads into negative territory.
  • Use Contingent Orders, which come attached to some limit or stop orders.
  • Consider Guaranteed Stop Loss Orders – they’re useful if trading in a volatile market and you’re more anxious about losing too much money than usual.

If you’re unclear on how to stop a trade when it’s acceptable for your finances, City Index has a range of aids in the form of videos and PDFs that explain them all in greater detail. Each of the above methods of stopping a trade can help to lock-in profits as well as make any losses more manageable.

4 Ways to Save Money in College

Corey —  January 24, 2013 — 2 Comments

College can be very expensive. Whether you are going to a local community college, local public university, private university, graduate school, getting your doctorates and every other possible thing you can do in order to further your education, it all adds up. I know first hand, I finished my Finance MBA with nearly $40,000 in debt (altogether, two undergraduate degrees and one masters degree).

Even though I did graduate with a decent amount of debt, I could have had a lot more. I worked full-time throughout college and had no help from parents, as my dad (and the sole provider of our family) passed away when I was 18. I moved out right after high school and had to find a place to live, and ended up moving into a house that I rented.

I worked 40 hours a week and took 21 to 24 credit hours a semester. I was super tired, but it was all worth it in the end when I graduated with TWO degrees in only 2.5 years. I then went on (after a 6 month break) to get my Finance MBA. It took one year to get and is the majority of my debt, as the graduate schools around here do not give any scholarships if you decide to work at the same time (yup, not a single one, I called them all).

My undergraduate school was around $30,000 a year I believe. I received around $20,000 in scholarships every year which was definitely a blessing. Without the scholarships I would not have been able to attend. It would have been more but I decided not to live in the dorms, as it was around an extra $10,000 to $15,000 a year to live on campus.

Here are some ways for you to save money while in college:

1. Don’t take out more in student loans than you need.

When you get that letter in the mail that states how much you are approved for in student loans, do you usually take the full amount or just take enough to cover what you actually need for school? Most people just take the full amount and pocket the rest. This is a mistake! You might think you need that TV or those new clothes, but you don’t. Try to reserve your student loans just for your actual schooling costs.

I did fail at this one time. I took out more than I needed. I wasn’t thinking and used it on stupid extra spending. I still regret it and I have nothing to show for it!

2. Apply for scholarships.

Most schools offer scholarships. Make sure you apply to these. Apply for both scholarships directly at your school and also private scholarships as well. Scholarships can add up, and even an extra $100 is something that you did not have before.

Like i said above, I received a little less than $20,000 a year from scholarships. None of it was private scholarships though. All of it was directly from my university. I bet I could have applied for private scholarships and received some of those as well.

Many online universities offer financial aid as well, so remember to apply regardless of where or how you wish to take your classes. You can easily access free additional information on any official college’s website, and from there you will be presented with plenty of useful information about how to apply for FAFSA and other forms of financial aid. They even provide you with a phone number for an admissions representative or financial aid officer just in case you have additional inquiries. Remember, always be on the lookout for additional financial aid.

3. Look for a job that will pay a part of your tuition.

There are many jobs out there that ask that you only work full-time, and then they will pay for your tuition (or at least a part of it). This is something that I did not do while in college, but I still regret it. If a job is willing to pay $2,000 per year for 4 years and all you have to do is do your normal job, then take it!

4. Buy textbooks cheaply.

Textbook prices can add up very quickly. If you go to your university’s book store, I can almost guarantee that the prices are much higher than what you would see online. So rule number 1, try not to buy at your school’s book store. Look online first and compare prices.

Rule #2? Try and buy used textbooks. Most of these are probably in decent condition. I’ve always had good luck with this and the cost is almost always much, much cheaper than buying a brand new textbook.

How did you save money in college?

How to get the raise you want

Corey —  January 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

Asking for a raise can definitely be difficult. You don’t know whether your manager/employer will say yes, no, wonder why you’re asking and so on. You don’t want to feel embarrassed either. The best thing to do is prepare yourself! You should do your research, know your accomplishments, practice, respect your employer and also be realistic.

Everyone knows that the economy isn’t the greatest. Some companies are laying employees off while other companies are thriving in this economy. There are also many other factors that should be kept in mind when you are asking for your raise.

Below are tips on how to get the raise you want and deserve:

1. Research.

What are people who are in similar positions as you earning per year? Try to look at similar industries and companies. Look at their responsibilities and everything that you can possibly find out.

Also, think about what you make altogether already. If you compare yourself to someone else in a similar position, but don’t take into account the different benefits that each position offers, you are not being honest with yourself and your employer. Fully total everything together: salary, bonuses, commission, life insurance, health insurance, perks such as freebies, and so on. It is said that they “extras” in you job can be worth around 20% to 30% of your actual position pay altogether.

2. Make a list of your accomplishments.

This is a big step! Going into a salary negotiation meeting and not knowing what you have done for the company recently or in the past year is a mistake. Try making a list and adding to it whenever there is a worthy addition. Review what you have done and possibly make copies of this for the people who you are negotiating with.

3. Practice.

Practice makes perfect. Practice what you are going to say. Think about any questions that they might ask you and practice saying why you are worth the raise. Sounding confident is key when asking for a raise. If you don’t sound or seem confident, then why should they have confidence in you?

4. Try not to threaten your employer.

What a lot of people do is throw things in their employer’s face. They might tell their employer that they can do better elsewhere or that they’ve already started applying for other positions at other companies. This is most likely not the best decision for you.

Some employers will take this as that you will continue to threaten them into the future. Also, that you will take the next best thing, and that you are not in it for the long-term. So before you throw something threatening at your employer, really think about it and what you want to do.

5. Be realistic.

Asking for a 100% raise when you are already topped out in your position and everyone else in your position is making way less than you is probably not realistic. Asking for something too high that you might not deserve might result in you not looking the smartest, and it might make you look like you’re trying to take advantage of the company.

Also, if you’re company is not currently doing the greatest financially, think of other ways that you can get a “raise.” Maybe you want a couple more vacation days and that’s all that will make you happy. Truly think of what exact you want out of your salary negotiation.

Be realistic with your worth and know what skills you bring to the company.

What tips do you have for getting the raise you want?

How to Get the Best Price on a Car

Corey —  January 19, 2013 — 3 Comments

Cars are expensive, that’s pretty much a given. Whether you buy a brand new $60,000 car or a used $5,000 car, it will most likely put some kind of a dent in your wallet. Getting the best deal is key when searching for a new car for yourself. The best deal doesn’t just apply to the dollar amount, you also want the best value and something that will not break in a couple of weeks.

Now that my fiance is a sales consultant, I feel like I know all about cars and all of the tactics that can be used. Not all salesmen are bad people! I will say that now. This is something that I believed before he became one, but now that I personally know one, I feel like I know how a dealership runs.

And while I will say that most of these will probably work for you, I also want to say that most car dealership are not making a lot of money off of your actual car purchase. Most of the time his dealership takes a loss on cars when selling them to customers, and that’s because customers these days seem to research the car buying process so much (hopefully like you!).

Car dealerships are mainly shooting for repeat business, such as with you coming back to the service department for routine maintenance and repairs.

Below are some tips so that you can get your best deal and value when buying a new car.

Plan your visit

This is a important step in the car buying process. Just going into a dealership with no plan will usually result in you leaving with an expensive car that you most likely could have bought for cheaper.

Usually at the end of the month, dealerships are trying to beat their goals and therefore will try and give you the best deals in order to get there.

Also, most believe that they should wait until the beginning of the year so that they don’t have to pay sales tax twice, however, most dealerships will take that property tax total off your car purchase if you buy in December anyways if you just ask and explain to them that if they can’t give you an equivalent discount, then you’d rather just wait until January.  And since December tends to be one of the slowest months because of the misconception of extra property tax payments, they will also most likely give you a big discount in order to get you to drive off the lot in their car.

Also, in December most car dealerships tend to try to clear their old inventory. Some car dealerships are not allowed to place the new year’s cars (such as when it’s 2013 and there are still 2012 cars on the lot) until ALL of the old cars are gone. Therefore they will most likely give you a good deal so that they can start placing new inventory on the lot.

Just ask

Now, I’m not going to say that car dealerships NEVER make any money from selling new cars, because they obviously do every now and then or they would rather just operate as mechanics and an auto body shop. However, sometimes people go into dealerships and just take the price as is and don’t even try to haggle.

One time a customer came in and was telling my fiance that she wasn’t sure about the car because of the price. He then said “well ask me for a discount and then I can ask my manager.” She said “oh really you can do that?” He then explained that unless she asks, he’s not allowed to ask for anything lower of course. So he then went and asked and she got a discount.

The only thing bad that could happen when asking for a discount is a simple no, but most of the time they will say yes and counter with SOMETHING. Something is better than nothing right?

How did you get the best price on your car?

Last week we talked about various ways that a person’s identity could possibly be stolen. This week we will be talking about what to do if it does end up happening to you. Identity theft is on the rise, and with the economy not at it’s greatest point as it has ever been, then there is an increased possibility that it could happen to you.

It seems as though identity theft is happening left and right, and even the littlest things can be hard to remedy if you don’t try enough. Knowing the correct steps can really help you out!

Whatever happened to you, whether it be someone charged something on your credit card, someone opened a mortgage in your name (like me) or someone stole your whole identity and is living your life, there are basic steps that you must take. Of course with bigger cases, then there are more things that must be done, and the process is usually longer because there is more money involved and banks usually do not cover everything.

Below are some basic things you will want to do:

1. Call your bank or credit card company.

If someone stole your credit card or bank information, be sure to call your bank or credit card company AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so that you can get it all straightened out. I’ve had my credit card information skimmed a couple of times, and my bank luckily always refunds me the full amount. Not all banks do this, so make sure you check your transactions as frequently as possible.

Since my credit card information has been skimmed so many times, now whenever I make a purchase that is over $400, I have to have the cashier call my credit card company to verify that it’s a real purchase. It is a pain, but luckily I don’t spend $400 on one purchase too often :)

2. Call the credit bureaus. 

Call the three major credit bureaus and have them place a flag or fraud alert on yourself. This is so that if anyone tries applying for something that requires credit (such as a new credit card, car loan, mortgage, etc.) then the company will have to go through extra steps in order to issue any credit to yourself. It never hurts to stay extra safe!

You can also place a freeze on your credit as well so that no one can issue your credit to your identity.

3. Watch your information.

Now that your identity and information has been compromised, make sure you keep an eye out of your information. Watch your incoming mailbox and make sure nothing is stolen. Also, check on your bank and credit card accounts often and make sure all transactions are correct.

Also, keep an eye on your credit report as well. Read through them thoroughly to make sure that nothing wrong has been added because of the person who stole your identity. If something is wrong on your credit report, remember to get it fixed as soon as possible so that it does not hurt your credit score or be any further harmful in your life.

4. File a police report.

And last but not least, make sure you file a report at a police station. Tell them everything you know and anything that might happen as a result of your identity being stolen. Remember to not leave any details out. Keep all information related to this as you will most likely need it later if the  person who stole your identity is found.

Has your identity ever been stolen?

What was the first thing you did when it happened to you?