Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How To Save Money When Customizing Your Home

Customizing your home can be a challenge. If you’re on a budget the challenges can seem overwhelming. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be. You can customize your home with a little creativity and planning. Using a few strategies you can make your overall cost low and your home project less stressful. 

Do It Yourself

Do it yourself or DIY projects can save a lot of money. Many projects are as simple as adding a flower bed to your front yard or changing out your old mailbox to add curb appeal. You can also use inexpensive items to create custom art pieces inside of your home. These little details can make a huge statement without costing a lot. Because you do the work yourself, the only cost to you is materials and time. 

Add Little Details

Updating the outside of your home can make customization seem daunting. But small changes can have a big impact. Adding something new like custom plantation shutters or a new door can make your home seem new for very little. If your budget doesn’t allow for new shutters or a new door, painting can have the same impact. 

Yard Sale Finds

The old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is true. Yard sales are a great way to find new furniture or art for less money than you would pay anywhere else. A brand new wooden bedroom set could cost thousands of dollars to buy in a retail store. Buying one at a yard sale may cost you less than one hundred dollars. That savings can be used in other parts of your home. 


If you have items that you don’t use they can be made into something new. An old dresser can be turned into a TV stand or a storage cabinet by removing the drawers and adding decorative baskets. An old wardrobe cabinet can be turned into a desk by adding a sliding shelf. These pieces can add a lot of character to your home without costing much. By using an old piece in a new way, it creates a uniqueness to your home’s d├ęcor. 


One of the best ways to have your personality show in your home is through color. Similar to the idea of painting your door or shutters for the outside of your home, you can make the same changes on the inside. Choosing a color that is unique to you can change a room from boring to beautiful. Many paint companies will help you to customize your paint color to better suit your vision. 

Small Changes

Little things inside your home can make customization fun. Items like drawer and cabinet handles can be changed out for newer ones. By changing them out, you can make a statement of your personality. You can use new hardware on your doors to make your home more formal or more casual, depending on your personal choices. Using paint or wallpaper on your light switch panels or outlets can have the same effect. Putting a decorative charm on the chains of ceiling fans can also add a unique touch.

Home customizing doesn't have to break your budget. By doing some planning and a little extra homework, you can help make your vision into a reality. Not being afraid of doing things differently will keep money in your pocket. That extra money can be spent on more customization. Making your home a statement of your personality can be easy, fun and very rewarding. Using your imagination, you can make your home more beautiful than you may have thought possible.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Truth About Identity Theft: 6 Tactics To Keep You Safe

The problem of identity theft is growing worse every year. Criminals with the smallest amount of personal information can now steal an identity and cause damage that could take years to repair. Criminals are also finding new and inventive ways to steal identities. Six tactics will help to protect anyone from identity theft.

Manage Passwords and PINs Carefully

All passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) for credit cards should be managed carefully. The passwords and PINs should not correspond to numbers or words that could be guessed by a criminal. Passwords should be changed every 30 to 60 days to something completely different. You should also not keep all your passwords and pins the same across the board. This can be just be inviting a thief to access more information then they originally could have.

Shred Documents or Go Paperless

Picking bank statements and other papers out of the trash is still an effective way to steal an identity. It is important to shred all documents that contain personal information or account numbers. It could help to sign up for paperless billing with banks and utilities to eliminate printed documents from the trash completely.

If you choose the route of going paperless, the only other idea you have to worry about is keeping your passwords safe. Considering that you should have a different password for each and every account, sometimes it is good to have these passwords written down somewhere in case of an emergency. But you want to be careful with where you store these passwords and make sure they are out of sight and reach of anyone looking.

Store Wisely

For documents that cannot be shredded, think of a secure location for them. There are safety deposit boxes at every bank or you could invest in a fire safe to keep in your home. The point is, you want to make these documents unreachable to anyone outside of your family.

Check Accounts and Credit Reports Regularly

All accounts should be checked regularly for any usual activity or changes in information. This should include bank accounts, credit card statements and accounts with utilities or other companies. They should be checked to ensure the address and other data is correct. They should be checked for unauthorized activities. This is especially important when looking at a credit report.

Protect Incoming and Outgoing Mail

Identity thieves can steal mail directly from a mailbox. It is important to use a locking mailbox or to have a mail slot that leads into the home. Outgoing mail should be put in a secure mailbox and never left in an unprotected location for pickup.

Never Respond To Unsolicited Requests for Information

Unsolicited requests for information should be ignored. This includes emails and mailed letters. If the request seems legitimate and is from a known source, then it is best to find the official number of the institution and contact them directly to see if the request is valid. Be especially leery of websites that ask for personal information. The only thing you should be giving out to a site should be an email address. Never give any numbers of your social security number out over the internet. This is an easy way for criminals to get their hands on your information.

Scan For Spyware and Malware

Spyware and malware can extract personal information from a computer and record keystrokes. Computers should be scanned for spyware and malware once every week or month depending on usage. Installing active antivirus software will help as well.

Part of avoiding identity theft is quickly recognizing anomalies and staying out of uncertain situations. It is important to scrutinize everything before providing personal information over the phone or online. Personal information needs to be protected at all times as if identity thieves were waiting around every corner.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Six Items Or Services You Didn't Realize Are Draining Your Wallet

One of the best ways to get control of your finances is to focus on products and services that are not needed or you are simply spending too much money on. Once you become aware of your spending habits, you will most likely recognize issues specific to your own finances. The following are only six ideas, and some of them may apply to you.

Impulse items at the supermarket

Most of us waste money at the supermarket. Often it is due to not knowing specifically what you are going to buy, and you impulsively purchase something you could do without. The way around this is to make sure you have a list before you go to the store. 

Too much fast food

Getting into the habit of buying fast food is costly. Although it may seem cheap to buy fast food, making your meals at home and even making a lunch for work is lower in cost. It is healthier when you choose your food carefully, and quick meals can be made at home as well. 

Bottled water

It is difficult to convince people, but tap water can just as healthy as bottled water. While bottled water may be more convenient in some situations, using that as your only source of water can be very costly. Not only is it a drain on the wallet, but those plastic bottles are polluting the planet. Find yourself a good sports bottle that can be reused. If you prefer bottled water, consider getting a large, refillable cooler instead of buying cases of water bottles. 

Use your dealer for car repairs

Car dealers have certified mechanics, so they have the specific skills and parts needed to fix your car. They use the genuine replacement parts and honor all manufacturer warranties. Having the job done right the first time is a big money saver. Click here for more information about how you can save money in car repairs buy going to a dealer. 

Banking fees

The number of banking fees that a typical person experiences is high. Even when they are low, by the end of the year, they can add up to a larger amount than expected. The best way to reduce this drain on your wallet is to open an account with a credit union. The fees are lower, and in some cases, they will waive some of those fees. When the time comes to get a loan, you will find out that they have lower interest rates than banks. 


Consumers often pay too much for their insurance policies. This is especially true with car and home insurance. One reason you may have too much insurance is that there are specific types of coverage that are not needed, or the value of the policy is greater than the asset. One of the biggest issues with paying too much money is not getting quotes. People get into the habit of paying for insurance with the same company year after year, not realizing there may be a much better deal with someone else.

These ideas are only a few possibilities. You need to take a look at your own expenses and search for possible money burdens on your wallet. Making simple changes to your spending habits can make a big difference in the amount of money you can save.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Retirement Questions: Four Things You Need to Know About Annuities

retirement (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
There are so many questions most of us have about retirement, and often, we just push them to the backs of our minds and wish we didn't have to answer them. However, it's important to get prepared as soon as possible. Many looking to prepare for retirement don't know much about annuities, or even know that they exist. This is an important option that should be looked into. Annuities are forms of investments that provide investors monthly payments during retirement. It is important to learn about annuities before purchasing an investment contract. Find out as much as you can about this type of investment. You can learn more by asking the right questions from annuity providers to avoid making bad decisions.

1. Are there fees involved with Annuities?

While annuities are designed to provide investors with ways of creating regular payment during their retirement years, investors have to pay certain amounts of money to purchase annuity contracts. The fees charged for this type of investment vary and are determined by the insurance companies. Investors may have to pay different types of fees including mortality and administrative fees among others. When investing in annuities, research the fees and charges of different annuity providers to make an informed decision.

2. What type of investment is this?

Different types of annuity contracts are available for purchase including fixed, variable, and equity-indexed annuities among others. Fixed annuities offer fixed interest rates on retirement and fixed payment during retirement. Variable annuities offer investors greater control of their investment options. The returns of variable annuities are tied to investment returns of the annuities. Finally, equity indexed annuities are tied to financial indices.

3. How do Annuities affect Investors’ Financial Rating?

Many people view annuities as guaranteed investments. While this is true, the investment is guaranteed by insurance firms themselves. This means that investors have to choose insurance companies with good financial ratings.

Various tools can help investors compare insurance companies. Examples of such tools include financial ratings provided by reputable financial rating entities. These entities provide data on how companies are performing financially and whether investors should be worried about their retirement investments.

4. What Happens to your Money when you die?

Some annuities come with death benefits while others do not provide any form of death benefit for beneficiaries of deceased investors. People should find out if their annuity contracts obligate their insurance companies to pay their beneficiaries for a certain amount of time after they die.

Some annuity investments provide lump sum payments to beneficiaries upon the death of an investor. If an investor’s annuity contract does not have this provision, the insurance company will keep all the money paid in the investment if the investor died before using the money. This can have a significant impact on the financial status of the beneficiaries. Annuities become very important as you prepare to enter retirement. If you set up a fixed annuity now, you would be able to receive the benefits during your retirement period. Fixed annuities offer stability, guaranteed interest, and a set amount of money each year that those who get them can rely upon. It can be difficult to know what exactly is the best place to start with planning for retirement, and even then, it's tough to know what choices to make. Educating yourself more thoroughly on your options is a great place to start, and you should certainly look for answers to all your questions regarding annuities and retirement. Once you're satisfied you at least have an idea what your ultimate goals are, you should likely talk with a professional that can help you sort out how best to treat your personal finances now to be as well off during your retirement as possible. 

Information credit to PNW Annuities Services Seattle.

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