How To Get $5000 for Your Next Vacation

How much money would you like to have saved for the holidays? Or your next vacation? Or your emergency fund? Whatever your goal, the number probably seems overwhelming.

Trying to figure out where several hundred or a few thousand dollars might come from is tough. Instead, break it down. Find ways to set aside just a little bit at a time — you’ll be surprised how quickly you can move toward your goal!

To help you get started with that first step, here is a 12-month strategy to save money and work your way up to $5,000 in savings a year!

Month 1: Open a New Bank Account and Set Aside $5

Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.

There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of my favorites is Ally Bank because right now they’re offering an interest rate that is around 100 times what a normal bank offers and there’s no monthly fees.

You can open a savings account at your local bank, but my suggestion is to go with an online bank — you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.

I know it doesn’t seem worth it to deposit only a few bucks, but getting started is an extremely important first step! Just trust me.

At the end of the, your balance is: $5

Month 2: Earn $100+ in Passive Income From These Websites

Wouldn’t it be cool to make money just for using a website or mobile app?

Some of these companies collect data to better understand web and mobile usage better — what times of day people browse, how long they stay on websites and use apps, and which types of sites and apps are popular (or not). Some others will pay you for interacting with advertisers, whether it’s by watching videos or just seeing actual advertisements.

Check out the following websites

+ Swagbucks – Did you know you could get paid to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news, along with dozens of other videos? It’s pretty passive work and this company will pay you via Paypal or Amazon gift card. Can you rack up an extra $50?

+ InboxDollars – Google may have become synonymous with “search,” but it’s not the only name in this game. If you’re feeling reluctant to look elsewhere, InboxDollars has a pretty convincing argument for branching out: They’ll pay you to search. They use Bing’s engine, so it’s the same thing you’re used to seeing and you can earn over $50/year.

+ Drop – As an exclusive Drop app user, all you have to do is link your credit and debit cards. When you make a Drop-qualified purchase, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re grocery shopping, hailing an Uber or ordering a pizza. The points will add up, and you can then exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks.

+ Earny — Let this tool search your email for companies that owe you money. It’s free to sign up for Earny, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 20+ retailers listed on its website, the tool tracks the item’s price and issues you a refund anytime there’s a price drop! You don’t have to do anything!

Your balance is: $105

Month 3: Consolidate Your Debt to Lower Your Bills

OK, so this one won’t necessarily help you make money to save. But it could substantially lower payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month.

If you’re being crushed by credit card interest rates that are north of 20%, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.

A good resource is Even Financial, which can help you borrow up to $35,000 (with no collateral needed) and compare interest rates from several lenders.

If you do decide to consolidate your credit card debt, be sure you don’t close your old accounts. A huge part of your credit score revolves around the length of your credit history and closing active accounts can definitely hurt it.

Can you knock your monthly payment down $100?

Three months and you have: $205

Month 4: Let Someone Borrow Your Place for the Night

Have a spare room? Might as well use Airbnb to make some money by renting it out.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

Taking a few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make your space available during high-demand times in your area. Think: concerts, conventions and sporting events in your area.
  • Be a good host, and make sure your place is stocked with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels.
  • Be personable. A lot of travelers turn to Airbnb for the personal touch they won’t find at commercial properties.

If you can rent your place for $100/night just five times this year, you’ll bank a cool $500 this year.

And your balance will skyrocket to: $705

Month 5: Sell All Your Stuff With These Apps

Are your closets and shelves packed to the brim with stuff you never use — or even look at?

You can sell virtually anything on letgo This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s 100% free to use.

But there are also apps for selling more specific stuff to people who might actually be looking for it.

Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Decluttr will pay you for them!

Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods. Plus, enter PENNY10 at checkout to get an extra 10% for your trade-ins!

For old books from college, you can use Bookscouter. Just type your book’s ISBN into the search bar and the site will connect you with more than 25 of the best-paying and most reputable buyback companies online.

Set a goal to make an extra $100 decluttering your place this month, and add it to your bank account — every little bit helps!

Wow you have amased a balance: $805

Month 6: Lyft Your Way to an Extra $2,400

Need a fun, flexible way to earn money this month? Try driving with Lyft or uber!

Demand for ridesharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Work 40 hours a week for one month, and you could bank up to $2,400.

Now we are talking money with a balance: $3,205

Month 7: Earn an Extra $100 by Joining an Online Focus Group

We know you’re not going to get rich joining focus groups, but I’ve been able to pocket an extra $10-$20 a month this way, and that adds up.

Start in Month 6, and that be could up to $100 this year!

Two of our favorites are Ipsos Panel and Harris Poll (both rated A+ with the Better Business Bureau).

Your Balance: $3,305

Month 8: Earn a $100+ Bonus by Opening a New Credit Card

As long as you pay down your credit balance in full each month, rewards cards are a great way to make some extra money. We’re not advocating that you open 1,497 credit cards like this guy, but taking advantage of a sign-up bonus here or there can definitely help your bank account!

Check out this list of seven credit cards with no annual fee that offer a $100 bonus or more when you open a new account.

New Balance: $3,405

Month 9: Earn $250 By Opening Another Bank Account

Now that you’ve got some money saved, you could get paid just for putting a few bucks in another bank account.

Check out a list of banks that will pay you just to open one — some will pay you up to $250 for it!

There’s no harm in having multiple bank accounts. In fact, I often find it’s helpful to have multiple places to save (I’m less likely to touch the money), so I have savings accounts for my Christmas fund and my vacation fund.

The top bank bonus is $250 right now — head over to this list to see all of the banks in your area that are offering free cash.

And your Balance: $3,655

Month 10: Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy

Anytime I shop online, I use a cash-back rewards site like MyPoints. It’s a smart way to earn cash for the shopping you’re doing anyway!

And it works at most of my favorite retailers. Once you sign up for a free account, you can get 2% cash back on purchases at Target and a whopping 4% at Walmart.

There are more than 1,000 stores on the list, so you can purchase nearly everything you need through the cash-back site.

Plus, when you spend your first $20 through the portal, MyPoints will give you a free $10 Amazon gift card.

Try to average at least $10 in cash back for the last three months of the year.

Keep working on Balance: $3,685

Month 11: Ditch Your Unused Subscriptions

We all sign up for stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to put subscriptions on a recurring payment and forget about it — looking at you Netflix.

These kinds of payments can be smart for paying bills and chopping down debt, but getting rid of the subscriptions you’re not using and socking away the savings could help you roll over the $5,000 mark this month.

If you can’t keep track of them all, check out an app called Trim. Once you sign up and connect your bank account and phone number, it analyzes your transaction history for recurring payments.

When it finds one, the app sends you a text and cancels any subscriptions you don’t want to keep.

Just make sure you actually save the savings. Can you save another $100?

Your Saving Balance: $3,785

Month 12: Sign Up for a Clinical Trial to Earn Up to $1,150

Do you live with a chronic condition like arthritis or migraines? They’re a serious pain in the neck… or wrists… or head…

But they may also make you eligible for clinical studies that can really pay off. These studies help medical professionals learn how to better treat chronic conditions.

Payment varies by study, but we found some that offer pretty killer compensation:

  • Cluster Headaches — If a doctor has diagnosed you with a cluster headache, you could qualify for a variety of studies that pay up to $300, depending on the study and number of study visits. You may also receive no-cost study-related care for the length of the study. (Learn more here.)
  • Osteoarthritis: If you’re suffering from osteoarthritis and qualify, depending on the study and the number of study visits, you may earn up to $1,000 for participating. (Read more here.)
  • Crohn’s disease – Have you been diagnosed with this chronic gastrointestinal disease? If you’ve had Crohn’s for at least three months, you could qualify for one of the local studies that may offer payment that varies by study up to $750. Plus, you may receive no-cost study-related care from local doctors for the length of the study. (Learn more here)
  • Sleep – The first step is filling out surveys with information about your sleep patterns and overall health. If you qualify, you’ll be required to complete both physical and psychological exams — and then it’s time to get down to snoozing, er, business. Though it might sound like a perfect gig, Shea notes “it’s not all comfy pillows and sweet dreams,” and cites challenges including isolation, unusual positions and needles or other medical devices. Interested in sleeping on the job? Follow this link to find sleep facilities near you.
Balance: $5,000+

The Truth About Retirement’s “3-Legged Stool”

For decades, financial planners have used the analogy of the three-legged stool to illustrate the three principal sources of funds most of us will have available to support our retirements: Social Security, work-based pensions, and personal savings.

The basic strategy offered up by the financial industry to ensure we never run out of money can be described as follows: Before retirement save like crazy; work as long as we can to delay retirement; after retirement, slash spending.

At least that’s my takeaway from a recent Merrill Lynch study of the financial preparedness of various generations for retirement, from baby boomers to millennial. It references this classic three-legged stool, noting that almost no one gets a pension anymore. From the start the study observes:

“Preparing for and funding retirement is more than ever a personal responsibility, and many Americans are worried that a financially secure retirement may be out of reach.”

n other words, a secure financial retirement is in reach if only we take responsibility and save early and adequately. They then offer up this nugget from the survey results:

“While respondents report that they should be saving 25.3% of their income for retirement, in fact they are only saving 5.5%.”

The truth is that most of us don’t save enough because we have competing needs throughout life: pay off college debt, buy a home, raise children (increasingly including college), illness of a family member, loss of a job. The miracle is that we find a way to save even 5.5%.

There’s a reason financial planners pay so much attention to this particular leg of the stool: if we focus rigorously on saving, delay retirement, and cut spending to the bone thereafter, we will maximize our savings—and financial advisors make their money on how much of our money they are managing for how long.

I have nothing against financial advisors—on the contrary. If we have some savings and either lack the expertise to manage it or don’t want to take the time to do so, those are the folks we can turn to for this service.

Merrill Lynch’s study suggests that Social Security will provide an ever-decreasing share of retirement funding. After noting that the “Silent Generation” relies on their benefits for half or more of their income, they introduce this observation based on the survey:

“Each younger generation in turn anticipates less reliance on government programs and employer pensions, and more on personal sources.”

But this sentence is seriously misleading. Younger generations may “anticipate less reliance on government programs,” but that doesn’t make it so.

It’s no surprise people have low confidence in Social Security, given how politicians of both stripes keep shrieking that the program is going broke. But whenever I speak with audiences of all ages, I have no problem convincing (almost) all of them that the fix for any future shortfall is fairly painless and that in fact the benefit amounts get better and better for younger generations.

In other words, Social Security will be more and more the foundation of our retirements. This leg of retirement’s three-legged stool isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s a little-known fact about Social Security: not only will the benefits be there for future generations, but the benefit amounts will be substantially higher in constant dollars (income adjusted for inflation). Why? Because our benefits are based on average wages around the time we reach retirement age. Since average wages go up steadily over the decades, this results in higher benefits.

My father and I had roughly comparable lifetime earnings adjusted for inflation; my benefits will be over 50% higher than his were. In other words, benefits are roughly doubling over two generations. What was a more modest retirement benefit for my father will be a much more substantial one for me and even more so for my children.

Most financial advisors continue their mantra of work-save, work-save to accumulate enough savings for our retirement. While most of us put away some savings, it’s not nearly enough for our advisors.

There’s a better alternative that you are not likely to hear from many financial advisors: Find out where you might live in luxury and style on your age 70 Social Security benefit—the world is full of such magical locales where your U.S. dollars can go so much further—then find a mix of spending from your savings or other sources of income to support your lifestyle until you reach 70. That’s putting your savings to work for you, not your financial advisor.

The Retirement Strategy Financial Advisors Won’t Tell You About

Financial advisors will argue about how much income we will need in our retirement. It used to be that planners would say around 80% of our pre-retirement income. Why? We will no longer pay payroll taxes (8% to 9%) and we no longer need to be saving for retirement anymore (another 10% to 12%). Unless our income and assets are high in retirement—a happy worry—we probably won’t owe any income tax either.

Some advisors even suggest that we will need 100% or more of our pre-retirement income. Why the higher amount? Well, we want to enjoy our retirement and that means spending much more on travel, home improvements, special events—and when we get too old to partake of these, we’ll need much more for healthcare…

The thinking goes like this: subtract other sources of income—like Social Security and pensions—from our anticipated monthly retirement spending and the remainder is the amount we need to finance from our savings. And in case we live a very long time, we should have enough savings to cover that possibility as well. A common rule-of-thumb is that we should be able to withdraw about 4% from our savings each year with low risk of ever running out of money.

Do the math and the amount of required savings can be huge.

Consider this example. Gina wants to retire at 62. She could receive a Social Security benefit at that age of $1,500. She doesn’t have a pension. Her current income is $4,000 a month. If we follow the old rule which says she’ll need about 80% of her income in retirement, then she needs about $3,200 a month. Subtract Social Security and her shortfall is $1,700 a month, which will have to come from savings. We can use the 4% rule to approximate how much she will need: divide the annualized shortfall by 4% and the amount is $510,000.

Here’s the problem: Gina only has $300,000. If Gina is 50, she will need to save over $1,000 monthly (and hope for a good rate of return on her investments) to approach that goal. That’s 25% of her income.

Maybe she can scrimp and save to do it. But what if Gina is 62? Her financial advisor will suggest she keep working—otherwise she will have to drastically cut her spending to around $2,500 a month, around 60% of her pre-retirement spending. That assumes that she can keep working and won’t get laid off… It also assumes she wants to keep working.

She doesn’t.

One option almost never mentioned by financial advisors is to consider relocating someplace where fewer dollars can offer a top-shelf standard of living: that could be any one of dozens of places overseas—one or more of which could be perfect for Gina.

Here’s a better financial plan for Gina. Relocate to one of these countries now, where $2,000 will deliver a first-class lifestyle for a single person. She can live on her savings until age 70, when she will still have a bit over $100,000 left. Her benefit at 70 will be 76% greater: $2,640 per month, adjusted annually for inflation and guaranteed for life. She could take the extra $640 a month and replenish her savings in about 12 years. Or, she could just up her spending for an even more luxurious lifestyle. Or she could do something in between—she has options.

Bottom line: financial advisors want to see your savings grow and last and last. They make more money if you have more savings over a long period of time. They tend to steer us to work longer, live frugally, and grab Social Security and pensions first before touching savings. That’s not always in our best interest. Gina can live at a luxury standard of living right away and arrange to eventually have her spending fully covered by her guaranteed Social Security benefits. That works for Gina. It can probably work for you too.

Target Funds and 401K Millionaire

Amassing a million dollar  is nothing more than a matter of committing and sticking to a systematic savings and investment plan. For the first twenty years, the companies I worked offered 401K with 100% matching fund. I put $500 and my employers contributed another $500, totaling $1000 a month.

After 20 years of working, I broke free but still continued savings $1000 a month in IRAs and invested in a 2025 Target Date Fund. A target date fund (TDF) – also known as a lifecycle, dynamic-risk or age-based fund – is a collective investment scheme, often a mutual fund or a collective trust fund, designed to provide a simple investment solution through a portfolio whose asset allocation mix becomes more conservative as the target date (usually retirement) approaches.

A modest savings of $1000/month for 30 years invested in a Target Fund has made me a cool million dollar this year. Target funds generally have low maintenance fees. I pay around $25/month. I will start drawing Social Security in 2023 and a 2025 target fund is perfect for my situation. If you’re young, you may aim for 2060 or 2050 target fund.

Yes, you can become a millionaire without winning a lottery. It is possible to become a millionaire by cutting your small expenses and getting into the habit of saving regularly. It is not only what you make but also what you spend that determines if you would be a millionaire or not when you retire. We all want to make big bucks as quickly as possible and retire early, but that is not always possible unless you win a lottery. However, with a long term saving strategy most people can become a millionaire by the time they retire.

Can you believe that 70% Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck? You may think that those small items, like coffee or candy, that you spend money on everyday are not worth your considerations when it comes to realizing big money in your bank accounts. You will be surprised to know that by cutting $100 every month from your expenses and investing that money for 30 years, you will net close to a quarter million dollars at an average 10% rate of return. If you are an one-pack-a-day smoker, you are just throwing away a quarter million dollars by smoking for 30 years.

Have you ever heard of the “Latte Factor”? It is the money you spend on small items everyday that add up to a considerable chunk at the end of the year. Invested wisely, that money will grow to your wildest imagination. You do not have to give up your favorite coffee and spend your days miserably. Just cut down on your everyday small item purchases by at least 50%.

Start an expense book and, for one month, write down every penny you spend everyday. At the end of the month, add up the money you spent on small items like coffee, candy snacks, muffins, power drinks, power bars, etc. Now, here is what you need to do. Budget your coming month’s small item expenses at half the level you spent in the previous month. At the start of the month, take 50% of the money you plan to spend on small items and stash it in a newly created savings account. Do it for one year and at the end of the year, take the money out from the savings account and buy some index fund using a discount online broker like

Besides savings on small items, you should also have a monthly retirement account, for example a 401K account if your employer is offering one. It will save you big on taxes till you retire and start withdrawing money from it. If your employer is matching your 401K contributions up to a certain percentages, it will be like throwing away money if you are not taking advantage of that match. Put two to three thousands dollars in a Roth IRA because returns from a Roth IRA is tax free.

If you are short on cash, get a newspaper delivery route. It will provide you a nice chunk of money at the end of each month. Start a website on your favorite topic, for example a discussion forum for paper delivery persons. You can generate a small income from advertisements on your website. Research selling opportunities in e-bay to generate small incomes every month.

If you pay your credit card purchases over several months, you are making the credit card company rich. Settle the entire amount of your credit card balance when the payment is due to avoid exorbitant interest rates charged by credit card companies. If you are not able to pay the entire balance at the end of the month, do not purchase on credit. Wait for your purchases till you save enough money. Except your house and cars, avoid all debts.

There are plenty of opportunities to amass wealth and become a millionaire when you retire. Use the Internet to educate yourself in saving, investing, and earning extra money.

How to Improve Your Credit History and Credit Score

As you know, the FICO (Fair Isaac Company) score is one of the most important things in obtaining loans of any type – be it personal loan, home loan, business loan or credit cards. Many times you could get a loan but the interest rates are higher if the credit score is low. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. A credit score of 850 is almost never heard of. These credit scores of individuals are checked from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax companies.

Credit score of 700 or higher means excellent credit.

Credit score of 680 to 699 is considered good credit.

Credit score of 620 to 679 is considered average or OK credit.

Credit score of 619 or below is considered poor credit.

Typically, for a credit score of below 619 may or may not get a loan but the terms will be very attractive. Creditors who provide loans for such scores usually make a lot of money from the borrower by offering higher interest rates, various fees like loan origination fees, closing fees and many such hidden fees.

Many lenders especially credit card providers monitor individual credit scores and whenever a cardholder’s score drops below a certain level, they will decrease the credit limit drastically. While a credit score may not always indicate the individual’s credit worthiness and ability to repay a loan, it is one of the indicators of the individual’s responsibility. A person who pays the debt on time is considered to be a more responsible person.

First, you need to obtain a credit history. Once a year your credit history can be obtained for free from all the three companies at the following website:

At the time of this writing, this is the only legitimate website that will provide your credit history once a year for free without requiring you to give out your credit card details. If you need your credit score, then there will be a fee for that.

Credit scores can be increased easily unless there is a bankruptcy on your history. For removal of bankruptcy from credit file, you may have to talk to an attorney.

Here are 5 ways to increase your credit score:

1. After review of your credit history, go to the section, where it says items that may affect negatively. Normally, negative items on your credit history will remain there for 5 – 7 years. If there are items that are more than two years old, then you can request removal of that item by stating that the item is too old. Therefore, request removal of all negative items like late payment of credit cards, collection items, settlements, non-payment of bills etc. that are more than two years old by writing to Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

2. If you ignored a payment because you were out of town or travelling and later it went into collection, then you can write to all the three companies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) requesting removal with an explanation. Lookup addresses of these companies online for writing to them. Many times, the credit card companies will oblige unless there are too many collection items. If you have legitimate explanation for a collection item other than that you simply did not want to pay the bill, then you can request removal. The companies that will help individuals increase their scores do this as well and claim that there is a specific format for writing these letters, special forms and also that it has to be written by a professional only otherwise they will get rejected. They also claim that they have very good relationship with these companies so their success rates are pretty good. The fact is that you can write an explanation to these three companies as if you were writing a letter to your boss! You do not need to be a professional to write these letters. They just need to know what explanation is and they do not care about the format. Of Course you have to respectful in the letter but there is no specific format or a special document or a form required for this.

3. If there is a collection item that has been falsely entered or if the amount is too small (below $100), then again you write some explanation to the three credit score companies requesting a removal. If the amounts are too small, then the chances of removing this from your credit file is greater.

4. If there is a credit card whose balance is more than the half of the credit limit, then pay off that credit card so the balance is less than the credit limit. Having balances more than half of the credit limit is viewed by credit card companies as bad and this will decrease the credit scores. Maintaining a credit balance less than half of the credit limit will greatly increase your credit score.

5. Setup automated payments of minimum amounts with all the credit card companies so if you forget, then at least the minimum amount is paid off on time. This will greatly increase your score. Later you can pay off as much as you can. If there are no late payments for more than a year, that will show some improvements in the credit score.

If there is a bankruptcy on your credit history, then it may be difficult to remove it although you may try to by writing to the three credit score companies. Alternatively, if your financial situation has improved considerably, then you can talk to a credit attorney to remove bankruptcy. While credit consolidation affects negatively on your credit score, you can still expect a reasonably good credit score. Changes to credit scores will take a few months to take affect so after you have made some changes for the better you have to wait for a few months to see the the results on your credit scores.

Next Time, Try a Debt Free Vacation

Happiness is a state o mind but it is hard to be happy when you are saddled with debts, loan collectors are calling you at dinnertime and you are worrying about your next mortgage payments. If you keep paying your $5,000 credit card bill at the minimum payment, it will take you two decades to pay off your credit and you will pay almost $5,000 in interests. So what should be the higher priority, paying the credit card bill or taking another vacation to increase your happiness? Many people will take a vacation and justify their credit card financed getaway as a payback for their hard days word. Your priority should be to formulate a pay-down plan to get out of debts as soon as possible.

If your credit is good and you are able to get a low interest credit card, get one and transfer all your higher interest credit card debts to the low interest one. If you have paid you bills in the past on time and your income is sufficient, you should be able to get a low interest credit card. If you are not able to get one, list down the annual percentage rate of each loan you have and sort them from the highest to the lowest. Take a newspaper delivery job in the morning, and start paying the highest interest rate cards as much as you earn from your newspaper delivery job.

Never ever you should delay your payment. You will be charged with a hefty late fee on top of your interest fees. The credit card company may also jack your APR a few percentages just because you were late on a payment. Make a budget in the beginning of the month to figure out if you will be able to pay all your loan obligations for that month. If your budget says no you are not able to meet all your loan obligations, you should look at your other expenses and cut them as much as you can, including your coffees, candies, muffins, soft drinks, etc. Take a sandwich lunch to your work, instead of buying lunch from the expensive cafeteria. Your goal should be to pay 10% of your income toward your credit card payment and be debt free.

If your credit is good, call your credit card companies and ask them for reduced APR. Tell them that you have other options and you will transfer all of your balances to another card if they don’t reduce the APR. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it will not. But it is worth a try.

Find out your FICA score by obtaining your free credit report. Don’t be surprised if there are erroneous entries in your credit report. It is happening more and more and credit bureaus are not consumer friendly. Report all erroneous entries in your credit report as soon as possible and be on top of that till they are removed from your credit report.

Make it a goal to get rid of all your debts. Once you are debt free, you will find that you have more money to spend. You may not realize, but all those money that you are giving away to credit card companies in the form of interest may buy you nice vacations and in turn, happiness.

How to Sell Your House without a Realtor

Do you want to sell your house without paying a commission to a realtor? And why should not you? With the median house price in the USA at $223,000 in 2006, a 7% commission is $15,600. This may be equal to 50% of your appreciated house value. But, selling your house using a realtor is hassle free because the realtor does all the hard works. A realtor also provides a marketplace for your house where hundreds of potential buyers participate. However, if you want to pocket that extra chunk of money that would have otherwise gone to the realtor, you have to do the hard works, including marketing your home. Follow these simple strategies to fatten your pocket.

The first strategy is to price your house accordingly. How do you do that? Don’t tag an unrealistic price to your house because you had replaced those old kitchen cabinets a few years ago or you have stopped your roof from leaking. Your house is not worth more than the market value of comparable houses in your neighborhood. Go to to get an instant valuation of your home. Type in your street address and the zip code, shows a “zestimate” of your home value and the actual selling prices of all the houses in your neighborhood.’s “zestimate” value is only a guide. You need to do more digging at to figure out the actual price of your house. One way to do this is to check the assessed taxes of all the recently sold houses in your neighborhood and their selling prices. Comparing the assessed taxes of your house with that of the recently sold houses, you will be able to figure out the market value of your home.

What did you do when you bought your home? You hired an inspector to point out problems in the house you wanted to buy. Hire an inspector to find problems in the house you intend to sell. Any potential buyer of your house is going to do the same thing. Take proactive steps to discover problems in your house and fix them before a potential buyer finds them using a home inspector. You can immediately take care of the small things like sealing all cracks, fixing leaking faucets and electrical wiring issues, etc.

The appearance of your house from the outside and the inside is the most important selling point. So, take care of it before the first potential buyer drives by your house. If you are selling the house during the peak summer “house purchase season”, regularly mow your lawn and keep it neat and trimmed. Also, don’t forget to water your lawn regularly and take care of all weeds. If your house has a vinyl siding, wash the outside of your house using soap and a pressurized water jet. If your wood sidings require a fresh coat of paints, paint it. If you have not painted the inside of your house in the last five year, do it now. Remove all clutters from the basement, family room, kitchen, counter tops, and closets. Tidy up all the closets and put excess furniture in a rented storage room.

Using a good digital camera, take plenty of pictures of the outside and the inside of your house. Write down details of your house, e.g. number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage size, number of stories and square footage. Also mention items that appeal to today’s home buyers like a separate formal dining area, an island or breakfast area in the kitchen, whirlpool in the master bedroom, etc.

For marketing your house, use a variety of methods. Use paid websites like,, or completely free web sites like or, etc. to list your house with pictures and details. Use classified ads in your local newspaper or speciality publications dedicated for real estate buy and sell. Use signs in the free bulletin boards of your local supermarkets, grocery stores, churches, work places, etc. And don’t forget the word-of-mouth. Tell all your friends and folks and request them to tell their friends and folks about your house. Print a few hundred business size cards with a few details of the house and urls of your house listing in the Internet along with your email and phone number. Give few of these cards to all your acquaintances and request them to pass those cards to their acquaintances.

When it is the time to close the deal, use a title company, A title company will make sure that all legal entities get all the legal papers of your house sale. Also, a title company helps you go through the legality of selling a house. The legal aspect of selling a house is more complex than anything else. Make sure that you don’t break the laws in the process of selling your house.

How to Pay for Your Home Improvement

You want to add a deck to your home to enjoy your evenings outside with your family and friends. You have cash sitting in your bank or you have a few credit cards that you can tap into to finance your home improvement. What is the best option? Should you get a Home Equity Line of Credit? Making the right decision is based on knowing various pros and cons of different ways to finance your project and your current situation. Even if you have cash sitting in the bank, it may not always be the best option.

If you have cash at hand, it should be earning at least 5% in a savings account. If you are not earning 5% from your bank, dump them and go to a bank that will give you at least 5% on your money. Search the Internet and you will be able to find a few online savings accounts, offered by well known banks like Citibank, Emigrant bank or HSBC that will give you a 5% return on your deposit.

If your credit is good and the project is small, search for a credit card that will give you 0% interest rate for a year. Apply online and get approved instantly. Within a couple of weeks, you will get your card and you will be able to use it for your home improvement project. You can use the same technique for store credit cards, Master Card or Visa. When you get a loan on 0% interest rate, make sure that you don’t miss a payment. To avoid missing a payment, use online payments offered by many banks for free or the online payment option of the credit card company. Using an online payment, setup a scheduled payment plan for the monthly payment to the credit card. If you miss a payment, your credit card company will withdraw your 0% rate and may even impose a high rate on the remaining balance. So it is very important that you don’t miss a single payment. Be aware that when you use a credit card to finance your home improvement project, you cannot claim any tax deductions on the interest you pay. Hence, it is extremely important that you retain your 0% interest rate till you pay off the loan.

If your home improvement project is a large one and you want to do it in stages, HELOC, or Home Equity Line of Credit, is a good option. Search the Internet to get the best rate. Find a bank that not only offers the best rate but also waives the finance charges. When you take a HELOC loan, you are essentially putting your home as collateral and the interest you pay may be tax deducible.

Refinancing your home is a good choice if you have a large equity in your home or you want to reduce your existing mortgage rate. Also, if your home improvement project will add substantial equity to you home, refinancing is an attractive option. You will also get tax benefits on the interest you pay.

Obtaining a second mortgage to finance your home improvement project makes sense if you get a low fixed interest rate and the interest rate on your first mortgage is even lower than the second mortgage. A second mortgage involves less paper works than a full refinancing.

Are you thinking about getting your money from your company’s 401 (K) plan? Forget it. Don’t use your 401 (K) plan money for your home improvement. A 401 (K) plan is for your retirement not for your home improvement projects. If you are not old enough (59.5 years or more) to take a distribution, you will have to pay tax and 10% penalty for any withdrawal from your 401 (K) plan. Borrowing against your 401 (K) savings is also not a wise choice because 1) you have to pay it back with the above average interest rate 2) money borrowed from your 401 (K) plan will not earn anything in your 401 (K) plan till you pay it back completely. On top of that, if you are laid off you will be hit with the tax and a 10% penalty unless you pay the remaining balance in one lump sum.

Don’t make a decision on haste. Weigh the pros and cons of various methods discussed above and your current situation. Find the best way to finance your home improvement project using other people’s money and without hitting your pocket book hard.

Forget Latte Factor, Learn How to Save Money in a Digital World

So you want to save a few hundred dollars but don’t want to give up your morning latte? While it is easy to preach how to cut your daily habits to save a buck, it is difficult to practice the same for most folks. However, there are other ways to cut your expenses without sacrificing your daily habits.

In today’s technology driven society, we spend a lot of money buying electronics gadgets and accompanying services to make our life easy. Sellers know that we have disposable incomes and they push many services that we absolutely don’t need.

When you sign up for a cell phone service, they will try to push the loss-damage warranty for $5 a month. When did you last use that warranty to claim a new phone? In most cases you don’t need the service. In the worst case, if you loose or damage the phone, buy a cheap phone from eBay to carry you over till your contract expires.

If you are an occasional mobile phone user, get a pre-pay phone. Using a pre pay phone card that charges 10 cents per minute for talk time, you will be able save a few hundred dollars every year.

If you are in the market for a computer, buy the one on sale in your local electronics store. Every week, all national retailers have laptop and desktop computers on sale. Avoid mail-in rebates. Go for instant rebates.

Today’s cheap computers provide most functionality for majority of users. Don’t buy a high-end computer because the sales person says that the one on sale has slow Internet speed or other such nonsense.

Just buy the computer and don’t buy any software or warranty even if the sales person insists that you absolutely need that anti-virus and word processing software for an additional $300. Check with your broadband provider or the company you work for if they provide anti-virus software for free to install in you personal computer.

Use the Google search engine to find open source anti-virus and word processing software. The key word here is open source. You will find a few excellent open source word processing and anti-virus software. For example, Open Office for word processing and spreadsheet and clamWin for anti-virus.

Don’t buy any computer accessories like memory or hard drive from your local retailers. They charge way too much compared to online stores like newegg, ecost, etc. Sign up with newegg and ecost to get their newsletters full of items on sale every week.

Before you decide to buy a gadget, visit price comparison sites like pricegrabber, bizrate, pricescan, shopzilla, mysimon, etc. Also regularly check out bargain hunting sites like techbargains, dealtime, etc. Don’t forget to search for the item you are looking for in amazon, the grand daddy of all online retail stores.

Drop all those premium movie channels that your cable company has sold you as savings if you purchase them in a bundle. You only need one premium channel. Why subscribe to three and pay an additional $5 to $8 every month?

If you are renting your broadband cable modem for $10 or more every month, buy a new modem for $50 to $75. These modems last for long time and you will recover your money within six months after you drop the modem rental. You will be on you way to savings of at least $10 a month.

If you are paying more than $20 a month for your land phone line, drop it immediately. Get a cheap VoIP phone from lingo for $10 a month. If you are a heavy land phone line user, you will still save by switching to a VoIP phone.

If you frequently drive in unknown places, get a car navigation system. But don’t buy a factory installed in-car navigation system. A car navigation system gives driving directions and suggests alternate routes to take to avoid traffic congestions due to accidents, road constructions, etc.

Factory installed systems are over priced. The price of a portable GPS navigation system has dropped below $200. You can also move your portable system to another vehicle that does not have a navigation system.

We will be spending a lot of money in the years ahead on more gadgets to improve our productivity, make life easy, and for the sheer joy of living. Knowing how to squeeze every penny from those expenses will definitely improve your personal finances.

Discounted Cruises – Things You Should Know

What is the same thing did 11 million people worldwide do in 2004? They took a cruise. Of course, some extremely rich people did not take a cruise technically but they used their yachts and spent days in opulence in the midst of the ocean. But for people like you and me, we have to be content with a cruise package offered by various travel agencies. If you think cruising is for old people or your parents, than you are wrong, my friend.

Before you hurry up and buy your discounted cruise tickets advertised in the Internet or one of those travel magazines, you should be aware of the reality. Cruise prices are going up every year. Rooms are filling up very fast. So, bargains may not always be available. However, bargain prices can be found just before or after the holidays, or in shoulder seasons. Shoulder seasons vary from region to region, for example September for Alaskan cruises.

Get ready for some unexpected problems in a deep discounted cruise ship. But, hey, don’t forget that you also saved a bundle by purchasing a discounted trip. Engine problems are very common and some port of calls may be cancelled due to engine problems. If a port of call is cancelled you may have little recourse for a partial refund because your discounted ticket may have small prints that say that the cruise line can change their itinerates at their discretion.

Imagine thousands of people in close proximity in a cruise ship. What do you expect? Well, how about viruses? Yes, a cruise ship is an idle breeding ground for all those nasty viruses. Check the CDC (center for Disease Control) web site for worldwide virus outbreak. But that should not dampen your cruise going spirit. Just stay healthy, exercise, wash your hands frequently with disinfecting soap and you will be fine.

Don’t pay a premium for airfare purchased through the cruise lines even if they promise you that they will hold the ship if your flight is delayed. Shop for your own airfare and the connections you prefer. Most of the time you will be ahead of the game and you don’t have to fly red eye or use lousy connections.

If the cruise line is promising an all-inclusive fare, try to understand their language. They are saying, hey, we will cover your foods, non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainment. You are on your own if you want to get intoxicated. But that should be fine because there is not much opportunity to spend a fortune in a discounted cruise ship.

Don’t fall for the gourmet food hype. Realize that it is a buffet style food, plenty, good but definitely not gourmet. There may be alternative restaurants besides the buffet style food. Sometimes, you have to pay in those restaurants. So be prepared for that.

When the ship arrives at a port of call, either you can purchase their excursion tour or explore on your own. These excursion tours are money maker for cruise lines. If you want to purchase travel insurance, shop at and try to avoid the insurance offered by the cruise line. Don’t get upset, if you find beer and pretzels, instead of, champagne and caviar. Enjoy your cruise and be happy that you are not spending a fortune for your vacation.

If you know what to expect when you buy your discounted cruise ticket, you can minimize your frustration and increase your cruising pleasure.