September – October 2018

What's in this issue

Bonus Income

Many people get paid weekly or every other week. If this payment schedule applies to you, then a few times a year you will receive an extra paycheck. There are four months out of the year that has five weeks in them, which can mean an extra pay period for you.


So if you are paid every week you can receive four extra paychecks a year and if you are paid every other week you can receive two extra paychecks.


Most months your budget is planned according to a regular four-week pay schedule so when you receive an extra check you can use this money to help you pad your savings, eliminate some debt, or allow for a little shopping.


Here are some things that you can do with that extra paycheck.


You can put the money into an extra account where it can be used to pay for Christmas gifts. This will be a nice break from having to worry about coming up with money and using credit cards around the holidays.


You can also put it into an account that you can use for a family vacation. If you need a break this will help you enjoy your time off without the worry of overspending.


Pretend like you never got it at all. Your budget may be based on either two or four checks per month. So take the extra check and put it right into your savings instead of your checking. This will help you resist the urge to over-extend your budget because you know that there is extra in your checking account.


Consider making extra payments to your creditors to pay down your debt. If you have any debt that has high-interest rates you are doing yourself a favor by paying them off as fast as you can.


You may even consider making an extra mortgage payment. Call your mortgage company and ask if you can make a principle-only payment, which will save you money in the long run.


There are plenty of options that you can choose from. Review your finances and prioritize what is most important for you to take care of. Budget accordingly and these extra paychecks can help your finances.

Budget Boosters

When yourself or a family member gets sick, you want to do all it takes to get better. That often means that you will have to spend a lot of money on prescription drugs. There are some tips that you can take that will help you save money when it comes to prescriptions.


Start off by checking with your insurance company. They may offer prescription plans that are separate from your other health insurance. For a few extra bucks a month you can save on prescription medicine.

The next time you are at the doctor and he gives you a prescription ask him what the generic equivalent is. Many drugs have cheaper counterparts that work the same for a fraction of the price. You may also want to look into the generic forms of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines as well. Generic store brands of headache relief medicine have the same active ingredients as nationally advertised medicines and only cost half the price.


Doctors receive many free samples of commonly used medications from drug representatives. You can ask your doctor if he has any samples of the medicine he was going to prescribe you. Even if it does not fulfill an entire prescription it can help minimize the amount that you will have to purchase from the pharmacy.

Shop around at different pharmacies to see which one offers the best prices. Some stores may even offer discounts to members who frequently get their prescriptions from their stores. There are some differences between locally-owned small pharmacies and the national chains that are popping up all over the country. You will need to weigh your own pros and cons in determining where the best place to fill your prescriptions. Club memberships can sometimes be worth the price if you are saving a lot of money.

Another popular option has been purchasing through online providers. You can save money by ordering some prescriptions in bulk. Medicines such as allergy, asthma, or contacts are examples of some medicine that you can purchase for up to a 3 months supply. Many prescriptions can only be purchased for the amount prescribed by your physician. It is important that you know that the company is a reputable pharmaceutical company. Ask your doctor if they know of any online distributors they would recommend.

You can also try and see if there are any other discounts offered through other memberships. Perhaps you are a member of AARP or TREA and they may offer discounts on prescriptions for their members.


Ask your doctor if you can split a higher dose pill so you will not have to buy as many. For example, instead of a prescription of 60 (15mg) tablets per month, ask if he can prescribe 30 (30mg) tablets per month. Many pharmacies will even split the pills for you. However, this may not work with all types of medication so your doctor will determine if it is allowable.


Medicine can take a lot out of your pocket but with a little research, you may be able to help minimize your costs.

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.


Not every ailment needs prescription medicine. I make sure and ask my doctor what I can take over-the-counter that will work just as well as a more expensive prescription.


-Dave H. GA

Know the Basics of Debt Settlement

When debt seems to be piling up and you are beginning to feel like you are running out of options you can be easily tempted into programs that are too good to be true. Debt settlement may sound like a great solution but before you decide on this make sure you understand how it works.


Debt settlement usually starts with a call to a debt settlement company. You will talk to a representative and explain your situation to them. They will ask you for all of your creditors information along with the amounts that you owe. They will give you an new estimate for what they believe they can negotiate with your creditors.


If you sign up with them they will figure out what your monthly payments will be and what fee they will charge you. They will also inform you on what they will be charging you for their services.


The debt settlement company will then advise you to stop making payment to your creditors. You will be making payments to the company, but they will not be paying your creditors right away. The first payments you make to them will be collected for their fees. Then the payments will be collected and accrued in your account until they are ready to pay your creditors.

The debt settlement company will then be negotiating with your creditors for a settlement. However, your accounts can only be settled after they have been charged off. Accounts are usually charged off after at least six months of missed payments. So if you are current with your payments or even a month behind you will have to wait 6 months until anything can be discussed in the matter of settlement.


During the six months prior to charge off you will be receiving collection calls from your creditors pressuring you to make payments to them. If you were to make a payment then the six-month period will start over. Your creditors will also be reporting your delinquency to the credit bureaus which will negatively affect your credit report.


Creditors will only agree to a settlement if you can prove that you are having significant financial hardships. If they think that you are trying to take advantage of them they may try to take you to court to collect what you owe.


If everything goes smoothly your creditors will accept your settlement proposal and your account will be noted as “Charge-Off Settled” or “Paid-Settled”. Settled accounts also have a negative effect on your credit reports.


Why would your creditors agree to a settlement that can be significantly smaller than the amount you owe? Because if you were to file for bankruptcy chances are you may not receive any money. Still, they do not encourage anyone to wait for a charge off. They want to get as much money from you as they can. That is why they will continue to try and get payments from you.


There are plenty of healthier options besides debt settlement.


First of all, you can try and negotiate a payment plan with the creditors yourself. It may not be a settlement but they may be able to reduce your interest or allow you to make smaller payments.


They may have hardship programs that you may qualify for if you have had some financial setbacks. You can never know how much a creditor is willing to work with you if you don’t contact them and discuss your situation with them. Many creditors want to reach a solution with you before you explore other options.


You can enter a debt management program, where credit counselors will negotiate with your creditors to arrange for better interest rates and a more comfortable repayment schedule. You make one payment a month and it is distributed among your creditors. Consumers can also receive valuable financial education that will help them prevent future financial downfalls.


This is the best option for both consumers and creditors. The consumer continues to make payments without major damage to their credit while creditors receive the total amount owed to them.


So debt settlement may be a better option than bankruptcy, but there are still a lot of negative marks that will haunt your credit report. Explore all of your options and try and find a solution that is best for you.


Save on Your Cell Phone

There are not many people who don’t own a cell phone anymore. Too many people tolerate the number of fees and extra charges they find on their cell phone bills each month. There are things that you can do to help you reduce your costs.


You want to find a service provider that gives you the best coverage. There is no reason to try to save money on a cell phone if you can’t get reception in your own house. You probably know people who carry different providers. Ask them what they like and dislike about their service and test their phones to make sure they work in your home or other places that you frequent.


It’s a good idea to find out what carriers your friends and family have because many companies have a plan where you can call people with the same provider without using any of your minutes.


Once you choose a provider make sure you ignore the hard sales pitches for the best phones. You want to find an affordable plan, not an expensive phone. Many cheaper phones have the functions that you need without all the extra fancy options.

Resist the urge to add extra fun things to your phone. Many people have trendy music ring tones or can play solitaire on their phones at any time. However, there are fees that come with downloading the ring tones or even monthly charges to keep the games on your phone. Use your phone as just a phone and you will reduce your extra monthly charges, even if you are sick of hearing your Beethoven ring tone.


There are plenty of different calling plans to choose from. If more than one person in your family has a phone or is planning on getting one, then you may want to look at the family packages. These can include discounts on phones or shared minutes. Some companies have plans for up to 5 family members.


Even if you are happy with your current phone plan make sure you take a look at your last phone bill. Are you being charged for things that you don’t use? Are there charges on there that shouldn’t be? Phone companies can and will make mistakes sometimes. They may also put add-ons without you knowing it. It is a good idea to review your bill and discuss any discrepancies with a customer service representative.


Text messaging is becoming a huge hit, especially for teenagers. Text messages can also cost you a lot per text unless you have a pre-paid allotment per month. If you or someone under your plan texts a lot then you need to find a package that fits the number of texts you make. It’s a hard number to hit accurately. If you don’t text enough you are wasting money on the package and if you text too much you will be billed for the extra charges. If text messaging is not for you make sure that you are not still being charged for a text message package that could be attached to your phone plan.


Avoid dialing 411 unless you really need to. 411 may be able to get you a number quickly but can cost you each time that you use it. Some companies charge $1.50 per use plus airtime. You can dial 1-800-free411 for the same service without there being any extra charges besides airtime.


Take advantage of the free night and weekend minutes. If a friend calls you to chat ask them if you could call them back after your night minutes kick in. You don’t have to schedule all of your calls for the evening but it’s a good idea if you want to catch up with someone and you know you are going to be on the phone for a while. Of course, if you have mobile-to-mobile service then it doesn’t matter when you talk to them.


Another popular option that is catching on is rollover minutes. How it works is any minutes that you haven’t used for the month will roll over to next month’s bill. This is good if you find that your used cell phone minutes are not consistent from month to month.


There are also pre-paid cell phones or pay-as-you-go services. These work well if you don’t use a cell phone very often or would like to have one for emergencies or when you travel. Another benefit is that you do not have to sign extended contracts and don’t have to worry about paying fees if you want to bail out of your contract.


If you have a cell phone with plenty of minutes you may want to cancel your landline. This can save you a few dollars each month.


Never be afraid to ask for any discounts that they can offer you and pick a plan that is right for your situation. The more questions you ask the more you can be saving.

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Pioneer is not responsible for any advice given in The Pioneer Pilot. Everyone has a different set of circumstances that would determine if an idea or plan is the best one for them. Information provided should not be intended as legal advice.




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My Financial Journal

I have always been a big fan of the fall. You have the cool weather, changing scenery, and of course football. What any of this has to do with money is beyond me; I just thought everyone would like to know this about me. Anyway, it was a pretty uneventful month for us, which is usually a good thing.


As usual, I have a few personal reflections based on this month’s articles. I will start off with the effect of a “bonus” paycheck. I get paid bi-monthly and receive an extra check twice a year. I sure gave a lot of good advice in this month’s article and once again I am not afraid to say that I need to follow my advice a little better.

There was one time when my car broke down just out of town on the highway. I called a tow truck and the tow truck guy picked me up and hauled my car into his shop. After some time in the garage, he came out and said, “I got you all fixed up.” I responded by asking what was wrong and all I got in return was that it was “a couple of things” and he handed me a $230 bill. Not only was I shocked but also I was both mad and confused. I told him I didn’t have that much money and if I would have known it was going to cost so much I would not have got it fixed.


The mechanic could care less and even threatened to undo whatever it is he “fixed” and tow me back to the highway. Being younger and naïve I felt I didn’t have much of a choice and borrowed some money in order to get my car back. I never did find out what the exact problem was but made sure I never came close to returning to him. This was unfortunate for him as I had quite a few other car problems throughout the years and if he provided honest service would have probably made more in the long run than taking advantage of me once.


I got some good news that the interest on my student loans dropped and my payments would be lower. I thought that this was a pretty good deal, and then I had an idea. Why pay them less monthly when the previous payment I was making was already budgeted for. So I decided that I would continue to pay the same amount on both the loans.


My previous monthly payment was $249 and my new payment dropped to $205. So by continuing to pay $249 a month I am essentially paying an extra $528 a year, or over two payments. It’s like making 14 payments a year.


By doing this I will cut down the repayment time on my loan, saving money and interest in the long run. Another option is I know that if for some reason the money is tight I can make a payment of $205 and have that extra go towards something else, but I don’t plan on that happening.


So if you have been paying your bills comfortably each month and come across a scenario similar to mine I encourage you to try this technique. This would also work in other ways. Say you paid off a debt, the next month take that money and put it right into savings. If you get a raise you can take the raise amount and put that in the bank as well.


I’m assuming my last month of summer will pass by with velocity as my wife and I are super busy from here on out and it will have an impact on our expenses. We have two weddings, one in which we have to travel a few hundred miles and pay for hotel accommodations. We are also going to try to squeeze in a couple of nights camping and are anticipating the roar of the Sturgis Bike Rally & Races. If you have never heard about Sturgis, it’s one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world and brings in a lot of fun people and events. I’m sure I will have more to report on next month. So, until then good luck and have fun.

The Best Time to Buy Stuff

Finding the right time to buy something cans save you some big bucks. Shopping for items when they are on clearance, during the off-season is a smart way to purchase some higher-priced items. Here are some suggestions for the best time to buy important products.


The major appliance is high on everyone’s wish list. Many major suppliers release their new lines of appliances in the fall. This means that they have to make room for all the new models. So if you don’t mind buying last year’s trend of the model you can save yourself money by purchasing the clearance appliances.


Certain seasonal items like air conditioners, lawn mowers, grills, and snow blowers should be bought in the opposite season they need to be used. So look at buying a new air conditioner or grill when the weather starts to cool down and fall and winter are upon us.


This should make sense, figuring the demand for an air conditioner in the fall is low so they will need to lower the price to move more of them and make space for the current seasonal items.

Retailers get ready for the holiday toy season in October and November. They also saturate the market with great toy deals. It is a good idea to do your shopping early and by searching the ads in October you can find a lot of two-for-one deals. Toys like board games don’t go out of style so you can take advantage of the deals and use them for gifts the entire year.


New cars begin arriving at dealerships in the fall. Starting in September you will begin to see many deals on new cars and the previous year’s models. Many dealerships will be trying to clear their lots to make room for the new models.


You will have more negotiating power when you know that they need to make room for the new models. You can also negotiate for new models, as many dealerships will give you deals in order to move new models off the lot.


You can also negotiate better deals if you shop for a vehicle towards the end of the month. Many dealerships are trying to hit quotas and are more eager to negotiate in order to move numbers.


Computer upgrades and technology makes it difficult to keep up, but if you are looking for a new computer the middle of summer generally has the best deals. Many companies are trying to market to students and will have back-to-school sales.


You can also pay attention to the technology news to find out when the newest models are coming out. You can then take advantage of lower prices by purchasing a computer with slightly older technology.


Airline ticket prices fluctuate often. If you need tickets for the holidays it is a good idea to get them well in advance, as this is the busiest time for them. During the non-holiday times, you want to look for tickets within 90 days of your departure date. You can find more affordable rates if you are willing to fly in the middle of the week. Check rates often as they are updated up to three times a day.


If you need new cookware take advantage of sales that coincide with graduation and weddings. This means that late spring or early summer is the best time to find good prices on things like cookware. You may also want to pay attention to early holiday sales in the late fall.


If you are planning on buying some nice jewelry for yourself or a family member don’t wait to buy it around the holidays. Many jewelers make most of their money around the Christmas holiday and of course Valentine’s Day. Mother’s day is the other popular holiday that you will want to avoid. That’s not saying you can’t buy jewelry for someone on these holidays just buy the jewelry after the holidays when the prices are more affordable.


Most furniture stores receive their new products in February and August. By shopping after the holidays you can take advantage of inventory clearance sales in January. You can also wait until July to purchase items in January’s inventory.


When shopping for items it is still important that you plan ahead and make sure that your budget can afford it. It is still best to pay for items with cash and avoid using a credit card. If you plan accordingly and take advantage of timing you should be able to save some money.