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Volume 3 Issue 2_____________________________________________________________________________________February 2006

President's Day

This month we celebrate President’s Day on February 20. So we thought we would include some interesting facts about the history of our money and the holiday itself.

President’s Day was originally celebrated as President Washington’s birthday. In the 19th century, traditions of the holiday included balls, speeches, receptions, and celebration. Another prominent president was Abraham Lincoln whose birthday was also in February celebrated after the time of his death. Even though the third Monday of February is officially called Washington’s birthday, it is recognized as President’s Day and is used to honor all the men that have served as President.

Fun Trivial Knowledge

Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. bill. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891 and the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896.

If you have three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies, you have $1.19. You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar.

A quarter has 119 grooves around the edge, while a dime has 118 ridges around the edge.

The following information regarding the average life of a Federal Reserve Note was provided by the Federal Reserve System - please note that the life of a note depends on its denomination:

$ 1 ................. 22 months
$ 5 ................. 24 months
$ 10................ 18 months
$ 20 ............... 25 months
$ 50 ............... 55 months
$100 .............. 60 months

You can fold a dollar bill 8,000 times before it will tear.

A dollar is also called a "buck" because in the early frontier days, the skin of a male deer (or a buck) bought a dollar's worth of goods at the market.

If you wanted to count a billion dollars—one dollar at a time—it would take you thirty-two years if you counted one dollar every second, day and night, day after day, year after year, without stopping.

The government prints roughly 8 billion notes each and every year, enough to stretch around the equator... 30 times.

The approximate weight of a currency note, regardless of denomination, is 1 gram. There are 454 grams in a pound, so one pound of currency would contain 454 notes.

 


 

   
 
 

Valentine's Day

Another month and another holiday that begs for you to overspend. But you don’t have to, here are a few ideas for decorations and fun ways to spend time with the ones you love.

Making your own Valentine’s are not just for kids. A fun, heartfelt, homemade Valentine will have more meaning and save you a little than an expensive card and gift. It is also great for children to make a personalized Valentine.

You can probably use things from items you have at home. You can buy a glue stick, construction paper, and a small box of crayons for less than $3.

Here’s an easy one. Take a sheet of red paper. Fold in half. Decorate with hearts and a loving message. Enjoy the love and admiration you will receive from your homemade heart card.

Instead of using glitter, use a favorite flavor of Jell-O mix. It comes in many colors, and will add some aromatherapy to your homemade card.

Here are a few other clever Valentine ideas:

Valentine’s Day Bookmarks

Cut a 5"x2" strip from red construction paper.

Cut white or pink heart shapes about 1/2" to just under 2" wide.

Paste the hearts onto the bookmark.

Punch a hole in the center of the bookmark, about 1/2" from the top and put red ribbon through the hole and tie.

Valentine's Day Red Hot Ice Cubes

Freeze cinnamon red-hots in water in an ice tray. Serve them in a glass of juice, pop, or put a bunch in a punch bowl.

Red Valentine Heart

Cut out 2 big, identical-sized red hearts; decorate as desired.

Staple edges together, leaving an opening at the top to be stuffed with newspaper.

After stuffing the heart, staple the top together completely; including a red ribbon in the middle so the heart can be hung up (in the window, against the wall, etc.).

Even if you choose to just go out for a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day, you can be looking at around $80 and a lot of hassle, due to the fact that every restaurant will be very busy. It’s hard to be romantic when you have to wait an hour and a half for dinner, only to have the waiters hurry you through your meal.

Find a babysitter and plan a romantic evening at home. Light the candles, play some of your favorite music, and cook a meal together. If you still want to go out for a nice dinner, designate a night around Valentine’s Day, then spend February 14th with your family and share homemade Valentines and goodies.

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Do it Yourself

If you are planning on selling your house in the near future you may have some work ahead of you to insure the best return on the home. Here are some tips that may help you sell your house faster. Though all these tips may cost you money to do yourself, you are actually saving money by not giving a potential buyer a reason to drive down the price.

First impressions will be very important for attracting potential buyers. Start outside. Keep your yard clean and free of toys and unnecessary clutter. You may want to throw a coat of paint on the house if it has been awhile or if you notice chipping or fading. It may just need a good pressure wash. Clean and shine windows and screen doors. Patch and repair any damage with screen doors. Paint or replace house numbers and your mailbox. These minor changes can have a positive effect on buyers. When it comes to being clean, the things that are not noticed can be a good thing.

In the summer, keep the lawn mowed and trees pruned. Remove any dead branches or flowers and try to fill in any areas where the grass might be patchy. If you have any animals, clean up after them to avoid any embarrassment when a potential buyer is viewing the yard.

Remove as many items as you can while showing a house. You want the potential buyer to imagine their stuff in the house and it might be hard to do if the closets are overflowing and you have boxes stacked in the corners. Personal collectables can also be a distraction that causes a browser to miss some important features of the home. Space is essential for prospective buyers. You may want to move as much of your stuff out as possible. It’s important to utilize the size and space of living areas and closets.

Deep clean and deodorize the inside of your home. This is especially important if you have pets or smokers. Smells that are common to you will be one of the first things that someone else will notice. Start smoking outside and use candles and potpourri to help alleviate strong odors.

Rent a carpet steam-cleaner and use it on all the carpets. You may consider replacing some of the carpet if it is older. The cost of putting the carpet in yourself can save you from losing money to a carpet allowance that a potential buyer may request.

A fresh coat of paint inside is almost always necessary. Choose light, neutral colors that will go with everything. Also consider removing any wallpaper that you have up.

There are not many people who want to put a lot of work into a house they are going to buy. By doing repairs and sprucing the place up with paint, you are making the house ready to move into and eliminating problems that may drive the price down on offers you are receiving.

An interested buyer will hire an inspector to examine the home for any potential problems. It can be a good idea to hire one yourself when you first think about selling. It won’t prevent the buyer’s inspector from looking for problems, but it will give you a heads-up on any problems. Then you can repair or hire someone to repair them for you and save you money in the overall price of the home.

When you begin to show the house, it is a good idea to not be there when potential buyers are viewing the home with an agent. This will give them the ability to discuss and explore the home without feeling like they are intruding, or discuss things they might change. It is important to not take anything personal. The blue carpet in your first child’s room has a lot of memories for you, but it may not fit the taste of a new buyer. Don’t be offended if they make ill comments about it.

Once you have made all the necessary repairs you will want to meet with a prospective realtor. Ask to see houses that they have recently sold and how fast they sold. Ask them what they will do for you to help you sell the house faster. After you have chosen the right realtor for you, you will get ready to list and show the home. This means that the house needs to be clean and ready to show at any time. Many potential buyers work during the day, so you may have to show the house in the evenings and on weekends.

When you have a showing, leave the lights on and doors open. Leave the information sheet and even perhaps a little treat, like candy or cookies, on the kitchen table or somewhere where it is easy to find. Then once again, it is best to go for a drive or leave the home while potential buyers are there.

Selling your home takes a lot of work, but when you do it right you can see a good return on your home and use it to upgrade yourself into a nicer home.

 

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Start Now!

It's February, which means you have two months to get everything ready to file your taxes. Why wait until the beginning of April to get everything done? You are more likely to make a mistake when you are trying to fill out your taxes in a hurry.

If you haven’t already started, use this month to prepare yourself for the April 17th due date. (Since April 15 falls on a Saturday this year the tax deadline is Monday April 17.)

Start to gather all your forms that you have received after the New Year. Keep them in a folder or envelope so that they are all in the same place when you begin to fill out your taxes. Here are a few of the forms you should have received in January or that will soon be mailed to you.

W-2s – You will need to receive one of these forms from each employer you worked for during the year. These forms include how much money you made, how much was taxed, and how much was taken out for Social Security, Medicare, and any other contributions. These are by far the most important tax documents you need.

1098 – If you own a home you will want this form. Your lender is required to send you this form if you paid at least $600 in interest, which is tax deductible. It will also include the amount you paid towards points for real estate taxes and property insurance.

1098-E – Interest paid on student loans may also be deducted. Your lender will send you this form if your interest is over $600. To figure out what and how much that you might be able to deduct use the instructions in your Form 1040 or Form 1040A worksheet.

You should also receive your filing packet from the IRS. Make sure you check that they have provided all the information that you need. If things have changed for you over the year, you may need additional forms. If you need different forms or have misplaced a form, you can pick up most forms at the post office or library. You can also download and print the forms from the IRS web page.

Like always, it is important that you verify that the information on your forms is accurate. You should always double check that your personal information on the forms is correct, especially your Social Security number. Check and double-check yours, your spouses’, and any dependents that you are claiming. A simple error in a Social Security number can cause you headaches and delays in the processing of your tax return.

Now that you have all your tax papers and you reviewed them thoroughly, you will want to decide who is going to do your taxes. You may have no problems handling your taxes yourself, or have always gone to a tax preparer. If you do them yourself consider any changes that may lead you to have questions or difficulty filing on your own.

Consider signing up to have your tax return set up on direct deposit. Check with your financial institution to make sure that there will be no problems. There is line on the 1040 Form where you fill out your account information and that way you don’t have to wait for your return to be sent through the mail or the fear of it getting lost or stolen. You will also notice that you will have the money sooner than if you wait by mail.

The web has countless articles and helpful websites full of information. Refer to some of the links provided at the bottom of this article for additional help.

Starting to prepare your taxes now will help relieve the stress. If you do find a problem you will have more time to correct it and avoid the panic that millions of Americans endure around the second week of April.

ONLINE RESOURCES:

www.irs.gov - provides you with any tax forms and questions you may have.

www.finance.yahoo.com/taxes

www.moneycentral.msn.com/tax/home.asp

www.money.cnn.com/pf/taxes/

www.forbes.com/taxes/

 
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Well, hopefully everyone made it through the holidays. Between my wife and I we had nine people (my 3 brothers, her 2 sisters, and our parents) to shop for. We set a limit to $15 per person and $30 for each other for a total of $195. We spent $70 over our gift budget and another $75 on groceries for Christmas Eve dinner. Not to mention an additional $50 on a Christmas tree and decorations.

How did this happen? Aren’t I suppose to take my own advice and save over the holidays? Yes, and I’m guilty as charged. I found a few nice things for people not on our list. Oh, and I spent a little extra on my wife and made the mistake of telling her so in turn she spent a little extra on me.

I guess that I can take comfort that we bought all our gifts with cash, and were not coerced into using our credit cards. We also gave homemade bread (which cost us a bag of flour) as gifts. Like I’ve said before, conquering your bad financial habits are not easy, but you can take pride with improvement. So even though we went over our gift budget, we paid for them with cash and did not rack up credit card debt. The money was sacrificed from elsewhere in our budget, as we couldn’t put as much into savings as we had hoped.

A goal for us now is to stick to our spending limit for Valentine’s Day and save as much as possible. We are going to give each other the twenty dollars we would use for gifts and put it into savings.

New Year’s resolutions are always fun to make, but hard to keep. My wife and I have resolved to aggressively pay down our debt, that way we can look for a house and afford the monthly payments.

We have recently looked at houses in a price range we are comfortable with. We then included what the monthly payments would be into our budget. We figured the house payment with utilities would be around $1,500 a month, while we are currently spending just under $1,000 for rent and utilities. So we are going to practice paying $1,500 a month, to see if we can comfortably afford it. Did I lose you, how do you PRACTICE spending money? Well I will tell you.

We will pay our regular rent and utilities, then take the extra $500 and use it to pay more toward some of our loans. That way we are making extra payments on our debt and can see if we can survive committing that much per month.

If we run into problems, we can stop the extra payments on our debt and reassess our budget and find places where we need to save. If we find that we are still struggling then we will look into a different price range of a home and try it again.

So if you are in the market to look for a home, practice makes perfect. Find one that you think is in your range and practice. On top of everything, by paying down extra debt, you may qualify for more money or a better interest rate. It’s best to take an extra look at your finances before you commit to anything. Remember, banks may qualify you for more than what you can comfortably pay back.

I’m sure next month I will have more financial adventures in house buying, tax paying, and other things that cost us money. Until then, good luck and spend wisely.

 

 
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Math Heart Match-ups

Cut an equal number of pink and red hearts.

On each pink heart, write a simple mathematical equation.

On red hearts, write corresponding solutions.

Place all hearts face down.

The kids try to collect pairs of matching hearts.

 

Guessing Game

Fill a variety of jars with a different type of candy for each. Use candy of different sizes and shapes; candy hearts, M&Ms, Hershey Kisses, etc.

Have the kids guess the amount of candy that is in each jar.

The kid who comes the closest, will win the contents of the jar. (Just make sure they enjoy the candy in moderation.)

These are two very fun and simple games that will also teach math lessons.


 
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Free Money?

Many high school seniors are starting the last stretch before heading to the guts and glamour of college life. It is also around this time of year that scholarship applications are due. Why would anyone want to pass up the chance to receive free money? Well not really free, there is some work involved, but it’s a lot better than stacking up student loans. We will follow with some tips for seniors and even juniors who want to get a head start.

It is a good idea to contact the financial aid office of the schools you are considering attending. They may have certain policies concerning outside scholarships. They also will have information on scholarships that you can apply for.

Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. There is generally a scholarship for every type of person who is planning on going to college. So you want to use some of your personality traits and activities you participate in. The most common are academic and athletic scholarships, but there are also scholarships for persons with disabilities, talented musicians and artists, and children/grandchildren of veterans of foreign wars. There’s no limit to the amount of scholarships available to each individual.

You will want to start researching any and all possible sources for scholarships. You might be surprised how many are out there. Start by getting organized. Have all your personal information handy, and obtain your transcripts.

If you know what degree you want to pursue in college you may have a few more options. Many universities have scholarships specific to each academic school. Again, check with your school and the department you plan to study in.

Check with the counselor at your local high school. The school may offer a scholarship, or an alumnus of the high school may have one for qualified students.

Next, check on the local level. The town or city that you live in may have scholarships for their residents. Some have scholarships for students who choose to attend a local or in-state college, or that agree to return to their town after graduation. Many local businesses and organizations give out scholarships; like churches, local VFW’s, or fraternal organizations. Parents may want to check with their employers to see if they offer any scholarships or tuition assistance for children of employees. You would be surprised how many businesses give out scholarships and how there is not much competition in applying for them.

The local library offers information on local and national scholarships. They offer an ample amount of informational material for financial aid and scholarship guides. You can also use the Internet for a large source of scholarships. Use the links below to help you search for specific scholarships.

National scholarships generally have more people applying for them, but that’s because they usually offer greater amounts of money. It’s generally a good idea to apply for them, because you really never have anything to lose and the payoff would be most beneficial.

Even many credit card companies provide scholarship opportunities. MBNA has the MBNA Foundation that provides scholarships and grants to qualifying students. There is the Discover Tribute Award Scholarship that distributes up to a million dollars for high school juniors who plan to continue their education after graduation.

For students who have already started college, many schools have grade specific scholarships for sophomores, juniors, seniors, and grad students. Ask your academic advisor or department head about the specific scholarships that you may qualify for. Even if you have never applied or received a scholarship, there is no better time than the present to start. The money you save now will only help you get a better start once you graduate.

 

For more information:

WEB
www.scholarships.com
www.fastweb.com
www.collegescholarships.com
www.guaranteed-scholarships.com
www.scholarshipworkshop.com

BOOKS
Winning Scholarships for College - Marianne Ragins
College Boards Scholarship Handbook

 

 
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