July – August 2019

What's in this issue

Plastic Spending

It seems like people are using checks less, and less nowadays. Check cards have become standard in replacing the old checkbook. Now that everything is going plastic there is still a debate on when it is better to use a debit or check card instead of a credit card.


Check cards have become a very convenient tool for busy consumers. No more writing checks and waiting for them to process. Debit cards have the convenience of a traditional credit card.


You can use it while on vacation or out of the state. Many places will not accept checks from out of state and it is uncomfortable having to travel with large amounts of cash.


Check cards are linked directly to your account and any use of the card reflects itself on your account statement. This can help you keep track of your balance better as you do not have to wait for a check to be cleared and processed and discourages “check floating”.


However, it seems that recently some businesses are treating a check card as a check. There are some car rental places that do not allow you to pay with a check card.


Some hotels will not let you reserve a room without an actual credit card number. This is to ensure that they will be paid instead of wondering if you have enough money in your account to cover the expenses.


There are many benefits that come with credit cards as well, and they should not be labeled as evil things.


Many credit cards have better protection programs against identity theft and fraudulent purchases. If someone did steal your credit card and charged a bunch of stuff, you have more options than if they did the same thing with your check card and drained your personal checking account.


Many credit card companies offer incentives when you use their card. Some of the incentives are gimmicky, while others can help you save on travel expenses if you fly regularly. There are some cash-back programs that are also beneficial.


It is important that credit cards are used wisely, however. You should treat them like a check card in that you should have the money in your account so you can pay off your balance at the end of each month.

Budget Boosters

Summer is coming to an end and school bells will soon be ringing again. Time to start thinking about school supplies.


Shop around. Generally, a week or so before school starts stores will have back-to-school savings on all supplies. This is a good time to stock up on supplies that will be used the year-round. Many times these prices only come once a year. Buy a storage container that you can fill with your stock of supplies. During the year if supplies go on sale you can purchase them at a low price and add them to your supply container.

Also consider storing craft items such as glue, glitter, poster board, and construction paper. This may prevent a late-night run to the store for a project that is due the next day.


Start with the necessities, paper, pens, notebook paper, and folders. Next, wait until your child brings home the teacher’s list of materials specific to their class. This saves you from buying materials your child may not even need.


Just because a notebook made it through a whole year doesn’t mean you can toss it out. Go through used notebooks and tear out any blank pages that could be used as loose-leaf paper. If there are not a lot of used pages, tear out the pages that have material on it and keep the blank pages intact.


Save and use old pencils, colors, and folders. Your kids will survive if they don’t have the latest “gel-cushion” pen or cartoon-themed pencils. You can get rid of any that are too short or uncomfortable for your child to use.

Save promotional supplies that businesses hand out at home or at trade shows. Parades and fairs also can be a source of free supplies. Even around election time free pens and pencils are just waiting to be given out by candidates and political parties.


Some schools have student stores where your child can earn school money for good grades or behavior and then they can use that money to buy pens, pencils, and folders.


Buy the large bottle of glue and fill smaller bottles with it throughout the year. Colored glue can be great for projects. Instead of buying the expensive glue, use a little food coloring and mix it yourself.


Use brown paper sacks for book covers. This way kids can decorate them any way they wish and it can save you from having to pay fees at the end of the year for any damage the book might sustain.


Backpacks can be the most costly single item you buy for your child. It’s best to purchase one that you know will last the school year. Garage sales after the previous school year are a good place to find a bargain backpack. Allow your child to have some say in this purchase. It’s not worth buying a cheaper backpack if it’s not going to carry the load or is uncomfortable to carry.


Being prepared ahead of time will help you take advantage of deals and prevent you from starting the school year in financial detention. 

Penny Pinchers Club

Are you the type of person that comes up with terrific ways to Pinch Pennies? If so please email us and share your ideas.


With gas being ridiculous, a few of us in the neighborhood have started a carpool. By sharing driving duties we are saving ourselves gas money and know that our kids are safely getting to school.


-Bettie D. KS

Refinancing Your Home

Know the Basics

Refinancing your mortgage has become a very common way for people to use their equity to help them get ahead or improve their homes. Some people may have thought about doing it but didn’t know how or if they should. This will be an introduction to the basics of refinancing.


When you refinance your mortgage you are replacing your old home loan with a new one. The purpose of the refinance loan is to obtain a better loan, usually through a lower interest rate. Refinancing may be able to reduce your monthly payments.


Here are some reasons why you would consider refinancing your mortgage.


As was mentioned before, lower interest rates are what appeal most to people looking to refinance their mortgage. Interest rates may have been considerably higher when you took out your original loan and you may be able to lock in a much lower current rate. This should be the first thing you look into if considering refinancing. If the interest rate is not lower than your current rate, then there really is not a great reason to continue.


Another popular reason people may refinance is to switch from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage. ARMs can be very enticing if you start off at a lower rate but can be stressful when dealing with a roller coaster of changing rates. Switching to a fixed rate can help ease your worries by ensuring consistent monthly payments. It is not very common to switch from a fixed rate to an ARM and should be preceded with caution.

Some people with ARMs may want to renegotiate the terms of their adjustable rates by refinancing. There is a maximum that an ARM can increase in a year and you may be able to find one that has a lower increase cap.


Some people may choose to refinance for a shorter term. This will increase the monthly payment but the loan will be paid off sooner and will save you in the long run. Borrowers that have had a significant increase in wages and can comfortably make higher payments may choose this to cut from the interest they will pay. You could also opt to pay more on your principal balance without having to refinance and would see similar results.


You can also refinance to extend your payment term. You will be paying more in interest, but this will help reduce your monthly payments. This is an option if you find that you are stretching your paycheck from month to month.


Cash-out refinancing involves taking out a loan with a larger principle in order to receive money from your home’s equity. For example, let’s say that you bought your home for $135,000 and you currently owe $70,000. You can refinance for $100,000 and take the $30,000 to pay for home improvements or a child’s education. You are extending your loan, which will mean more out-of-pocket expenses for you in the long run.


Before you consider refinancing you need to realize that there are some upfront costs that come along with it. More than likely, you may not see the effects of the refinance right away. The savings from a refinance will be most beneficial down the road.


Refinancing is more beneficial if you don’t anticipate moving anytime in the near future. There are many fees that come with refinancing. Many of these you have seen before when you took out your original mortgage. You need to be in a stable financial position to accrue these costs.


Shop around for different lenders who can give you an array of options for refinancing. This way you can find the best deal and work with a lender that you feel comfortable with.


There can be quite a few benefits from refinancing your mortgage. Like many things, however, it is not for everyone and requires research and a considerable amount of time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t rush into anything if you are not comfortable with the situation.


FOR MORE INFORMATION : – A great resource for you to find more financial information, including mortgage refinancing. – Another good source where you can get your questions answered.

Grocery Store Tricks

It’s something that each and every one of us has to do, and that’s grocery shop. Grocery marketers spend a lot of money and research to ensure that you spend more than you originally intended. Maybe some tricks that grocery stores use are conspiracy theories but many have been proven to be true and standard.


Location, Location, Location
Have you ever noticed how the items that you need the most are usually located in the back of the store? Things like eggs, milk, and meat are all located at the end of a maze of aisles. It’s easy to see why they do this. You are more likely to purchase more items if you are exposed to them and if you have to walk through other aisles to get to your intended purchase you are going to end up with a lot more in your cart.

Product Placement
It’s not a coincidence that you will find all of your name-brand products at eye level. Many distributors pay good money for their products to be placed on specific shelves for better exposure. So they pass those costs onto you. Items that appeal more to children are placed within their reach and sight. You will notice that the highly advertised cereals will be usually placed on the second shelf from the bottom, which makes it easier for your child to identify the brand’s cartoon character that they see on television.


Waiting in Line
Do you ever get frustrated when your grocery store is really busy and there only seems to be a couple of registers open? Stores are not trying to upset you by making you wait, but they also set you up for it. Many stores have registers that are close to the aisles. When the lines are long many people are forced into the aisles where they have time to sit and stare at more items that they may not need but might find their way into their carts anyway. Some of the store’s best deals are on the end caps of aisles located near the registers. So, if you happened to miss the deals you will probably find them while waiting in line.


Don’t forget all the little fun things you can find in the checkout lane. Candy, gum, batteries, ChapStick, cookbooks, and anything that they want you to throw onto the counter before you are done being rung up. Entertainment and gossip magazines are probably the best-known checkout lane purchases. I highly doubt anyone has People or Entertainment Weekly on their grocery lists, and yet many people will throw it onto the conveyor belt at the last minute.


(Don’t) Use your Senses
A friendly voice comes over the intercom and says “Stop back in the bakery, where we just pulled a batch of warm fresh bread from the oven.” You may think that that sounds pretty good, but then you get a whiff of it as the smell of oven-fresh bread fills the store. Next thing you know you have a loaf of warm French bread in your cart.


Many stores play wonderful music during your shopping experience and if you are paying attention you may find yourself humming along to a great classic. Studies have shown that people tend to buy more items when they are in a good mood, and music helps play a part in setting your mood while shopping. Tucked inside the classics are commercials that usually interrupt the song and may just blend in without you even noticing.


There isn’t a grocery store in the country that doesn’t have in-store savings. But without doing your research ahead of time how do you know that you are actually getting a deal. What’s on sale at one store may be that item’s regular price at another store. Keep track of the prices of all the items that you buy so you can compare it their sale price to find out how much you are actually saving.


Here are a few things to remember before you go shopping.


Always make a list and stick to it. When you make your list ahead of time you should be able to estimate how much you are going to spend. Never go to the store hungry. Everything will look appetizing and will probably end up in your cart. Try and leave the kids at home. This will help you avoid them throwing fits over items they want.


Grocery stores are not in the business of trying to scam you; they are just trying to maximize their opportunities to make more money. Many times it is not even your local stores decision, but that of the product retailers. It is your responsibility to have a plan and stick to your list. A sale is not necessarily saving you money if you were not intending on buying it in the first place. Make wise decisions and resist the urge to stray from your list and you can overcome the tricks of the trade.


It's Back!

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  1. What does ARM stand for?
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  3. Should you keep some things from your attorney?

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My Financial Journal

Did we ever have some articles that hit home this month? I am an admitted victim of the grocery store conspiracy theories. I grocery shop like a five-year-old would if he had his parent’s checkbook. Sure my wife and I have the best of intentions and she is a master of list-making. I am a guilty snack smuggler as I throw unneeded candy and chips in the cart while nobody’s looking. Whenever I see 2 for 1 I can’t help myself and into the cart, it goes. While waiting in line I all of a sudden realize that I don’t have enough gum, good thing it is conveniently in front of me.


I have even gone to the store by myself with no list and would plan meals based on whatever was on sale. I could usually find one or some of the ingredients on sale but would have to pay regular price to complete the ingredients for the recipe.

I have never been a real fan of grocery shopping, so maybe I am sabotaging my shopping skills by being bad at it. This way I may not get asked to go anymore so we can eventually put our daughter through college.


The best part is that I know all of the tricks, and have practiced them myself. I spent the better part of my teenage years bagging groceries, stocking sugar-filled cereal eye level for kids, and setting up eye-catching displays that will get you to buy more mustard than you could ever need. My mother is even a manager at a local grocery store, and yet I can never get what is just on my list.


I have another embarrassing confession. I can NEVER buy only one item when I go into a grocery store. Here’s a familiar scenario. My wife will say, “Honey you need to run to the store we need some baby food.” Forty-five minutes later I show up with a few jars of baby food, a 2-liter bottle of soda (89 cents THIS WEEK ONLY!), some microwaveable egg rolls (They’re just so tasty as a late-night treat), and a bag of fresh roasted peanuts (whenever I see peanuts I must buy them, I’m close to seeing a doctor about my peanut problem). My loving wife will do no more than maybe roll her eyes, as she only expected that I would come back with a variety of unnecessary groceries.


That felt good to get that off my chest and I hope you all got a good laugh, and I promise I am trying to improve. We have been planning our meals and sticking to our list quite well. Besides, if I do find something that wasn’t on the list I tell my wife that I meant to put it on the list. Baby steps.


There are some commercials on TV right now that kind of bother me. They are the ones where there are many consumers paying for something and they resemble a well-oiled assembly line. Customers wave their key-card and the line continues smoothly until someone either tries to write a check or pays with cash. The assembly line comes to an abrupt halt and the perpetrator is stared at uncomfortably until his purchase is processed and he is gone.


It seems like they want to insult you for having the nerve to pay with a check or cash. Instead, use your credit card for all of your purchases and we have conveniently provided you with this key card that you can swipe. We won’t even bother you by signing anything or asking for ID.
So now I don’t have to worry about someone stealing my wallet but now my keys can be used to go on a shopping spree. (How many people have lost their keys) I don’t think that I am a big fan of credit being used so discreetly. I am sure there are security protections but I would like to think that people have enough patience to let someone pay how they please. Unless it’s over $5 and you pay in change, then we may have a problem.


What worries me most about the phasing out of checks is that there are still so many people who still use them regularly. Take my dad for example; he went to a local restaurant to purchase a gift certificate. The nice hostess accommodated him with a ticket, but as my dad started writing out a check for the purchase, the nice lady informed him that they don’t accept checks. My dad told her it was a local check and was still told that they can’t except it. He refused to believe that a national chain restaurant would not accept a check and told them that he did not have any cash on him. They then said that he could pay with a credit card. Well, my dad doesn’t have a credit card, and laughed as he left without the gift card.


I hope that all places don’t start assuming that everyone has a credit card.


Please, don’t become impatient if someone chooses to pay with cash or even a check. There is probably a very good reason why they are doing so.


Until next month, good luck and have fun.

Questions to Ask Your Attorney

There may not be a scarier word for someone than Bankruptcy. Many people take a lot of consideration when it comes to making this tough decision. There are many people who have questions that they can’t find the answers to. When searching for assistance from an attorney you will want to come prepared with your own questions so you know that you are retaining someone that you trust and who will help you through this impending storm.


Here are some questions that you will want to ask your potential attorney.


What type of bankruptcy should I file?

Under normal circumstances, you will have to choose between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7. There are variations of each, and you will want to know what you qualify for. You may have more than one option for filing. A consultation with your attorney will help you determine which is your best option.

What are the costs and fees associated with filing bankruptcy?

You will want to find out if the attorney will charge by the hour or if they have a standard flat rate for bankruptcy services. Many attorneys will offer a free consultation to determine what services will be needed for your situation. The attorney may be able to tell you how much additional court fees will cost. You also need to find out an arrangement for payment and find out what needs to be paid ahead of time and what changes will come at a later time.


Are there other options besides bankruptcy for me?

A good lawyer will present you with plenty of options, some of which may not include bankruptcy. Bankruptcy should be an option after you have exhausted your opportunities for a repayment plan.


What is your experience with bankruptcy cases?

Some lawyers specifically specialize in bankruptcy cases, while some may take cases on without as much experience. You may find that those with the most experience will make the process easier for you.


Ask them how many cases do they handle each month? Have them introduce you to other members of their staff so you know who you are leaving messages with if your attorney is out of the office. You may also work with more than one attorney and it’s important that you know that ahead of time.

How do I file for bankruptcy?

A good lawyer will explain to you the process of filing bankruptcy and will assist you with any questions that you have. It is good to have a lawyer that can help you understand the entire process by speaking in familiar terms. Make sure they walk you through all the paperwork and ask them questions when there is a part that you do not understand. Having a lawyer that is both efficient and personable will help you through the difficult process.


Here are some other things that you will want to keep in mind when meeting with an attorney.

Be honest and disclose all the information needed.


You will have to disclose all of your financial information to your lawyer. Neglecting to provide them with all the information can forfeit your bankruptcy and you could even be charged with bankruptcy fraud. When you provide them with all the information it makes it easier for them to assist you through your bankruptcy.


You will want to disclose all of your creditors to make sure there is not a conflict of interest between your attorney and any lenders. If your attorney represents a company that is a part of your bankruptcy they may not be able to represent you.


Make sure that you have all of the necessary paperwork that is requested of you. This could be an original or copy of loan agreements, default letters from lenders, interest and tax statements, bank statements, or anything else you may feel that might be needed.


Bankruptcy involves many deadlines that have to be met to successfully proceed. You will want to keep a detailed calendar of deadlines and make sure that you and your lawyer are on the same page so you do not have to make urgent decisions.