Archive for May, 2009

DOES PACKING LUNCH REALLY WORKS?

You hear this slogan very often these days in many websites and blogs. The matra is strong and clear, “PACK YOUR LUNCH“. I am a full supporter of this saving money strategy and the idea works great to save good amount money of your money which can help fund for your kids education over the years.

Are you jealous of Indian collegues who works with you bringing lunches from home everyday? Let me reveal the truth behind it. First, their wife don’t work so they cook very good food. Secondly, they are money conscious folks who like to save and finally they are used to carrying lunch packs from their school days. It becomes a habit over time so they don’t like to eat outside very much.  If you can try packing lunch frequently, it can become a habit which is good for your health and as well for your pocket.

What do you exactly mean  by “Pack your Lunch”?

Packing your lunch doesn’t have to be a time consuming task. Many of you think packing lunch means preparing the lunch in the morning and pack when you are trying to hurry and get to work on time. It is surely not going to happen and you eventually loose the interest of packing lunch.

No, you don’t have to prepare and pack the lunch fresh all the time. It not about preparing fresh food for lunch which is just one motive. Pack your lunch just means bring lunch from home saving the expense of spending outside. It can be a healthy frozen food which you bought from grocery stores, home made leftovers, freshly made salad or quick sandwich. It can be anything which makes you savior and satisfy your hunger during lunch time. If it doesn’t satisfy you, you will again go towards searching for junk food.

How do I start?

You can start by doing few days a week so you don’t miss out on your restaurant or fast food. By starting slow, you are making a smooth transition helping your body to get used to this new habit. This way, you avoid any upset effect to your body. Just start with leftovers  2 days a week like Monday and Wednesday. Then add one day per month until you are satified with your arrangement to have 5 days from home or keep friday as a going out lunch day.

I bring lunch 3 days a week – 3 day left overs, 1 day frozen food and 1 day submay 6 inch sandwich. Once a month, I go out with friends on friday.

Why many don’t like to pack their lunch?

Many people think that packing their lunch is a shame and crime. They don’t want to heat up or make their food for lunch. They just want to be fed. They also think, it shows your are frugal. Let me tell, there is nothing wrong being frugal. You only should avoid being cheap. There is a lot of difference between being frugal and cheap. According to dictionary.com, frugal means prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.”  cheap is defined as “stingy; miserly.”

I know its more wordy explanation. To be simple in my terms, frugal people spend rightly(for needs), save wisely(for wants) and give graciously. But cheap people, they don’t like to spend even for their needy things. Even if they spend, they tried to save money buying cheap items. They also don’t

So being frugal is not a bad thing at all. Don’t give silly excuses like others here in the website.

Is it really worth packing my lunch?

Yes. It is really worth saving time, money and your health. You save time atleast an hour going out which can be spend efficiently. It helps you to eat healthy and good. Finally the important factor, saves you money. Even if you go out for lunching in cheap chinese buffet, you end up paying min. $10 with tips. For 5 days, its 5 * 10 = $50/week * 4 weeks = $200/ month * 12 = $2400 a year. Thats apx 3-5% of your gross yearly income.

If just reduce to start going out only once a week, it will only cost you $40/month and $480 a year which is a saving of $1920. Thats a good amount to be save up for your kids education or put away for retirement. You can check out how much you can save by packing lunch using our calculator.

If you are bored of getting lunch everyday, you can try going to sandwich place like Subway  once a week. Subway now offers $5 foot long. You can save $2 by bringing your own chips and drinks by buying it bulk from Walmart or wholesale stores.  

If you a reasonably family of 3 or 4, you can consider becoming a member in wholesale clubs like SAMS or COSTCO. Costco is my favorite because of its Quality products and reasonable price range. You might have to pay the membership of $50 but you will sure end saving 2-3 times of the membership cost or even more every year by buying things in patties, sandwich buns and so forth. Be careful and don’t get tempted to buy new items introduced every week in these clubs. 

Food is an important entity in our life which we tend to spend money every day. So it is easy to spend wisely and rightly and see quick savings at this tough times, helping to keep more money in your bank account. 

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Need more budget advice? Visit this moneyreallymatters.com approved friendly website: www.GivingGrinch.com

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Learn lessons from Scams and Scandals

Today, I just heared over the news, there is a new scam emerged out of the Swine flu epidemic. Scammers are selling fake medicine/pills as cure for swine flu or H1N1 virus even there is no current cure available according to medical experts.

What a shame? But for Scammers, there is no shame and they don’t care about others. They always look out for opportunities to make money by implementing their trick and tactics to lure common people taking advantage of  their fear and need.

Scams History

Scams  go way back in history to 16th and 17th centuries. We only know few scams which happened in the past few decades like Barry Minkow,ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company become $200 million dollar giant in 1980s. MCI Worlcomm, Enron in 1990’s. Samuel Israel III, the founder of Bayou hedge fund who pleaded guilty running a $400 million fraud at the Bayou Group, Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme caught for $50 billion fraud, India’s Satyam founder Raju for $80 billion accounting fraud and Allen Stanford CD fraud in recent years. 

Psychologist Stephen Greenspan who specializies in guillability research unveils a much longer history of scams and ponzi scheme in his interesting article. He also noted lot of interesting resumblences of today’s scams to the past ones.


How can it actually spreads?

People are always greedy to make more money of small amount. May be some are not really greedy but they just want to get more and grow the money better instead of putting in the  bank savings account or in away to avoids stocks but still want to make money. Thats why they go to hedge funds, financial advisors and investments firms to help them out.

Not everyone is smart when it comes to money and sometimes we all do mistakes without knowing it.  So the hedge fund managers and investment advisor take this as an advantage and go on a ride playing their bets. These scams works and penetrates the trust worthy groups like chruch groups, local community groups by word of mouth. One person get into it and finds its reasonably trust worthy for a while. He spreads the word to others in the group and slowly everybody gets in the scheme in no time.

In his article, Greenspan also talks about four important factors on why we keep falling for financial scams. They are Situation, Cognition, Personality and Emotions. You can read more about his analysis at my post in the Jan news section.

What can you do to avoid?

1. If it is too good to be true, it is too good to be true. If somebody promises to sell land in Houston where the temparature will never go up above 70 anytime in summer. That’s what you should suspicious. Similarly if somebody promises in an informercial you can lose weight by just sitting in your couch and doing some jingles. You shouldn’t dump enough to believe it. You should out right know that is not going to work. If you not knowledgeable, try to gather information from internet and other friends who knows better. Don’t go alone.

2. Find the right financial advisor.

There are different kinds of Financial advisors. One who get paid as fees for investment advise, one who gets paid commission for the selling the investment product and last one who gets both.  These days product selling comes first than advice. So find an independent advisor who has knowledge of all products and not just one and only sheds light and advise you to take action instead of selling the product. Choose an advisor who gives importance to giving you advice first and look out for the betterment of your asset.  You can find the certified advisors at cfp.net

3. Not all CD’s are made equal.

I still see in papers that many CD’s(Certificate of Deposit) who promises to return 4-5% when banks can afford to give 2% for 1 year. That is still comparable and achievable thru other instruments but be careful who promises 8-10%. Also try to check on the investment companies whom you are investing and whether its insured or not. Try to ask their FDIC insuranced before you put lot of your money.

4. Avoid Costly Mistakes

Don’t go overboard in putting all your money with one bank or single advisor investment portfolio. Try to distribute it. CDARS is another safe heaven to distrubute your savings in many banks so you don’t end up in one bank if its get  screwed. It is insured as per FDIC regulations in each banks.

5. Finally, you are the right person to manage your money.

As I always say, its your money and you are the best person to look after it. You worked hard enough to earn every dollar and you know the worth of each dollar. It is good get some valuable advice but you are the single most credible person to manage your money and grow for your bright future.

I hope you learned some good learns out of this bad scammer episode. Every walk of our life has some thing to teach us. Watch closely and learn to be wise.  Please do share your thoughts and comments.

Stimulus Bill 2.0 & Taxpayers Tax credits and more – Final Part

We been looking at Obama Tax credit in series of blogs (Taxpayer Tax credit, New Home buyer Tax credit and Energy Credit) adding my personal view on each of them and how we tax payers can take advantage of it. This is last part of the blog series which talks about unemployment insurance help and other credits.

Unemployement Benefits: Jobless get a little extra help

Many of those who are unemployed will get a boost from the stimulus bill,including a $25 increase in weekly benefit checks through 2009 that should help not only those who are out of work but the broad economy as that money gets spent.

Currently, the nationwide average weekly check to those receiving unemployment benefits is $295.05, ranging from $179.08 in Mississippi to $408.28 in Hawaii, according to the National Employment Law Project. Increasing payments is a good way to stimulate the economy, because, “You can get money into the hands of people right away” as per analyst.

And people who are unemployed are likely to spend it. More than 4.8 million people were collecting unemployment benefits at the end of January, up 78% from a year earlier and the highest since records began in 1967, the Labor Department said.

The bill includes other measures to help those who have lost their jobs. They are:

•Lengthen the period in which people can be eligible for extended unemployment benefits. The program, which provides up to 33 weeks of extra jobless benefits after workers exhaust the regular 26 weeks received in most states, was passed last year and was set to expire at the end of March. Under the stimulus bill, the extended benefits would be available through the end of 2009. The NELP estimates this will help about 3 million people.

•Provide money to states that agree to make benefits available to more workers. That would help at least 500,000 people, including some low-wage and part-time workers, who wouldn’t otherwise receive unemployment benefits, the NELP says.

•Suspend the taxation of unemployment benefits up to $2,400.

The measure also helps the unemployed and others by increasing the maximum monthly food-stamp benefit by 13%, which lawmakers estimate will help 31 million Americans, half of them children. And the bill provides a subsidy to cover 65% of a worker’s COBRA health insurance premiums for up to nine months. COBRA lets workers continue their former employer’s coverage for at least 18 months.

Vijai’s 2cents:

It is really a much needed help the unemployed. Unless you experienced the unemployment, it hard to understand how each dollar values. So I would give 100% kudo’s to Obama adminstration on this benefit. Adding on top of it, suspending the taxation upto $2,400 is a bonus. Every dollar adds value to these jobless folks.

Other tax provisions in the stimulus package:

•An expanded earned income tax credit and child tax credit for low-income families.

•A higher education tax credit. Parents of college students would be eligible to claim a tax credit of up to $2,500. The credit is more generous than the existing Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, which maxes out at $1,800 and is available only for the first two years of college, says Amy McAnarney, executive director of H&R Block’s Tax Institute. The tax credit, which would be available in 2009 and 2010, phases out for single taxpayers with AGI of $80,000 to $90,000 and married taxpayers with AGI of $160,000 to $180,000.

•A stopgap measure designed to prevent the alternative minimum tax from hitting more than 24 million households in 2009. The AMT was designed to prevent extremely wealthy taxpayers from using loopholes and deductions to avoid taxes. But because it was never indexed to inflation, it has expanded to encompass more upper-middle and some middle-class taxpayers. About 4 million owed the AMT last year.

These are just few other credits which many of can take advantage either in this year tax return by filing an extension and save for next year.

Here is a nice article from kiplinger on 7 misconception about tax credit.

I hope this series of blogs about obama’s tax credits with my detail insights on how you can make use of it were helpful. I will come back later with an interesting topic from my valise.

Some content source courtesy: usatoday.com

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