How Much Does Watching TV Really Cost You?

by John Kiernan on June 6, 2011

American RuleTelevision is a big part of most of our lives.  We watch it to relax; we watch it when we’re bored; we watch it live; we watch it recorded; we watch it on our computers, phones, and tablets; in short, we watch it all the time.  In fact, the average American watches over 35 hours of TV a week, according to The Nielsen Company.  Now, television is great; don’t get me wrong.  It can be both entertaining and informative, but it can also cost you—both directly and indirectly.  Television, commercials in particular, directly influence our purchasing habits, and it also represents a significant sunk opportunity cost.  But how much does television consumption really cost us?  And how can we limit the financial impact?

Opportunity Cost

How Much Do I Need To Retire?

by Guest on May 25, 2011

dollar-weightIt’s the #1 question consumers have about their personal finances: How much do I need to retire? If you ask 10 different financial advisors this question, you’ll receive 10 different answers, only because the answer depends on many different variables. Putting the variables aside however, we’ve outlined a simple, but effective strategy to help ensure you’ll have enough to retire.

How Much Do You Need Save to Retire?

8 Reasons Why You Should Use a Credit Card

by John Kiernan on May 13, 2011

New Credit CardsThroughout the financially tumultuous past few years, the credit card industry has been the subject of a great deal of attention in the press, Congress and the court of public opinion. The system admittedly was broken. Shady credit card companies, hiding behind a conspicuous lack of transparency, were using bait-and-switch tactics and confusing policies to take advantage of their customers. Now that the Credit CARD Act of 2009 has eliminated most of these issues, we can again being to appreciate just how useful credit cards can be. So, without further ado, 8 reasons why you should use a credit card as long as you trust yourself to spend wisely.

1. Credit building

American Express Bursts Back Into Cash Back Market With Revamped Blue Cash Offerings

by John Kiernan on April 28, 2011

amex blue cash credit cardOh how quickly things change. For years, the American Express Blue Cash was my credit card of choice. It offered 1% cash back on gas and groceries and 0.5% on all other purchases up to $6,500 in annual spending, but that’s not what made it so impressive. After $6,500, bonus cash back terms kicked in, taking the base cash back rate to 1.5% and the gas-and-groceries rate to an impressive 5%. Needless to say, the Blue Cash was hard to beat…at least until something in the market changed and the Blue Cash lost its appeal.

You see, other products emerged that had rewards structures able to not only compete with the Blue Cash’s earning rate but also beat this once-dominant spending vehicle in terms of rewards earning simplicity. There’s the Bank of America Accelerated Cash Rewards Card, which offers 1.25% on all purchases; the Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards Card, with 2% on gas and groceries and 1% else; the Chase Freedom Visa, with up to 5% cash back on rotating spending categories; and last but not least the Capital One Venture Rewards card, which is basically a 2% cash back credit card when miles are redeemed for any travel-related purchase.

Why Pay for Finance Software?

by Guest on April 26, 2011

financial-tipsPersonal finance software takes ideas from big business to help you save time and money. Chart s of accounts, tables, and graphs can help households better understand their cash’s inflows and outflows, but does that understanding lead to better decisions and ultimately savings? Often, knowing where your money goes can help you curb extra spending and save on expenses. If you’re not dealing with business-scale revenue and expenses though, how necessary are all of these software packages’ extra features? Do you really need three charts and a graph to tell you that you shouldn’t have spent $300 on ice cream last month? In the worst case scenario, you may find yourself spending more time and money than you save.

So, how can you guarantee that your personal finance software is paying dividends for you? Ultimately, you need to judge any software package by two criteria: price, and ease of use. Any software that comes recommended by anybody and that you are likely to come across is going to have the features you need, which are essentially expense tracking and categorizing, so what you need is to guarantee that you won’t lose more than you save in the process of using it.

Why You Should Care About the Health of Your Bank

by Guest on April 1, 2011

financial-healthWhen deciding where to keep your money, it is a good idea to consider the health of your bank. There was a time, not too long ago, that it seemed as though banks were failing left and right. While the rate of bank closures has slowed, you still need to think about what it could mean if your bank were to fail. It’s true that, if your bank is protected by the FDIC, you will get your deposit back, up to certain limits. However, just getting your deposit back isn’t always enough.

Issues Associated with Bank Closures

Did a $12 fee Increase Really Make AMC’s Rewards Program More Rewarding?

by John Kiernan on March 29, 2011

AMC rewards programIf you enjoy going to the movies, as I do, you may be aware that AMC Theatres is restructuring its rewards program.  While the replacement of the MovieWatchers program with the new AMC Stubs system is being billed as an improvement made in response to customer feedback, the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.  Why?  Well, I’m not thrilled that I now have to pay $12 a year to belong to a movie theater rewards program.  Movies, at 10-plus dollars a pop, are expensive enough as it is; what am I getting for my extra $12?

Why don’t we compare and find out?

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Physical AND Financial Health

by Guest on February 1, 2011

financial-healthImproving some aspect of one’s health is a popular resolution. Whether it’s a promise to stop smoking, shed those extra pounds or ditch the remote and stop being such a couch potato, being healthier is often at the top of our To-do lists. Keeping our bodies in optimum condition, however, can be a costly proposition. Nutritional supplements, gym memberships or doctors visits can pack a pretty heavy punch to your wallet. Good thing there are healthy choices you can make that will benefit your bank account just as much as your body.

Here are five things you can do to become more physically and financially fit:

A smarter way to save on stuff you actually buy

by Guest on January 26, 2011

Avoid the savings clutter

[Editor's Note: We recently started using a new service called Offermatic and thought it was great; so we asked the good people at Offermatic.com to write a guest post for Wallet Blog and tell their story]

The deal and offer market is overflowing with group buying companies throwing around offers and deals and coupons and vouchers – you can’t swing a dead cat around the room without hitting a new player in the space. But is anyone really innovating, or are all these companies just different shades of the same? And how much value really exists for the average consumer in daily offers to save on exotic travel, manicures, spa treatments, and cupcakes?

Roth IRA

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on January 12, 2011

roth-ira-retirementSometimes when individuals start using ‘financial talk’, some of the rest of us get lost in the dust. Phrases like “401(k), 503(b), Traditional IRA, and Roth IRA” sound like another language. As a result, many people are overwhelmed by the many options, and so they choose a terrible alternative – to do nothing.

This is not a strategy I recommend. Instead, slowly wade through all the options and make an informed choice. When it comes to saving for retirement, any choice is better than doing nothing.

Carnival of Personal Finance: 2011 New Year's Resolution Edition

by John Kiernan on January 10, 2011

new-year-resolutionsWe’ve counted down.  We’ve toasted the champagne.  We’ve kissed our sweethearts.  The New Year is upon us, and with this turn of the calendar comes a chance for a fresh start, a cleaning of the slate.  While your goals for making 2011 better than its predecessor most likely pervade all aspects of your life, financial New Year’s Resolutions are particularly popular, especially considering the current financial climate.  Perhaps you want to finally get out of debt.  Maybe all of the ads on TV have psyched you up to improve your credit score.  Or you might want to increase small business profitability or invest more wisely.  Hopefully, whatever your goal may be, this financial resolution will fare better than previous pledges that have fallen by the wayside.  Commit to making this year different, to helping your personal finance objectives outlast the “honeymoon period” after which so many New Years Resolutions die.  The first step in doing so?  Reading the New Year’s Resolution Edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance.  Look, you’re already on your way!

Editor’s Picks

Credit Card Applications: After Three, Think Security

by John Kiernan on November 23, 2010

New Credit CardsI recently got a call from a college friend who wanted advice on how to get approved for the best credit card possible . He said he had applied and applied but for some reason had still not been given use of a single card. What should he do differently, he wondered, when applying for cards in the future?

My advice to him: immediately stop applying and open a secured credit card because it provides both guaranteed approval and a safe way to rebuild credit.

Your Kids and Money

by Kimberly Cole on October 13, 2010

kids-moneyThe recent financial collapse was enough for us to know that we never want it to happen again. But how can we ensure that future generations will learn from our mistakes? A sensible place to start is with our kids.

In an interview with personal finance expert Jean Chatzky, the author of Not Your Parents’ Money Book, she suggested that when it comes to talking to your kids about money, the sooner the better.

9 Tips to Avoid Coupon Scams

by Guest on July 30, 2010

couponingToday’s guest post is from the team at CouponSherpa.com.

A sweet coupon is tough to resist, but offers that appear too good to be true can be fraudulent. Coupons are easy to find and have become so popular that scammers regularly reared their ugly heads with sophisticated cons. With a little experience and the following nine tips, you can spot these con artists and avoid being taken for a ride.

How to Save Money on Life Insurance

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 27, 2010

InsuranceIf you have kids or someone in your life who will need to be supported in the event of your untimely demise, you should have some life insurance. But how much is enough, and how can you make sure you’re getting the right rate? Here are some important facets that I recently had to consider.

When my husband and I had our first child, we went to talk to a life-insurance agent. Our agent suggested that term-life insurance would be the most affordable option for us. We were new parents, and therefore paranoid, so we covered my husband for $600,000 and me for $500,000. This would be enough to support us in a manner in which the survivor would like to become accustomed, while also saving enough for Babykins to head to an Ivy-League school in 2018. Good plan.

Sell Your Gift Cards at the New Gift Card Exchange

by Kimberly Cole on April 21, 2010

gift-cardAccording to TowerGroup, the gift card industry was worth $87 billion in 2009 alone. However, 6 percent of this huge figure – nearly $5 billion – was wasted due to gift cards that went unused. To help consumers take advantage of this five-billion-dollar untapped resource, CardHub.com is pleased to announce the launch of the Social Gift Card Exchange. This is the first gift card marketplace to cut out the middleman and provide a trustworthy environment for direct user-to-user interaction.

Card Hub brings a new level of innovation to the industry with its Social Gift Card Exchange that not only includes the primary functionality of other gift card depots, but also provides a platform for users to trade their gift cards directly with their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and trusted companies.

Save on Taxes, Now and Next Year

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 26, 2010

TaxesSo, April 15 is right around the corner, and with it, the dreaded looming day to pay Uncle Sam. If you earned too much money last year and are looking for some ways to trim your tax bill now, as well as next year, look no further.

If you need a break now and have a few extra thousand dollars kicking around, now is a great time to invest that spare cash in a traditional IRA. Make a regular (NOT a rollover) contribution and see how it reduces your adjusted gross income. This will lower your tax bill across the board, though the maximum deduction is dependent upon your modified adjusted gross income total and also your filing status and cohabitation situation (where applicable).

Save Money by Understanding the Economics of Bottled Water

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 12, 2010

save-money-on-waterBack in August of 2009, Yian Mui of the Washington Post reported that “sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years.” Its meteoric rise to popularity was astonishing: sales of bottled water “swelled 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages.”

So, economically, if you owned shares in a company that sold bottled water, you probably received a tidy return on your investment.

Citi Offers High Yields to No-Risk Customers

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 8, 2010

citi-secured-credit-cardI pay my bills on time, have a cushion in my savings account, and don’t spend-and-burn. I’ve also worked with Card Hub since the beginning of time. So, I can honestly tell you I know that secured credit cards can be a super way to build or repair your credit history, and that I never imagined having one in my wallet, given that I have excellent credit.

This goes to show that one should never say “never.” Citibank has a cute little offer going, one that rewards account holders with a 4.07% annual rate of return, and rewards itself with a new base of no-risk credit card holders.

Buy Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)

by Brian Johnson on August 4, 2009

wb_chartGiven the recent economic upheavals, as well as the unprecedented manner by which the government is handling these dilemmas, a lot of people are worried about what inflation will do to our savings and investments.  One option that investors have to safeguard against inflation is to put money into Treasure Inflation-Protected Securities or TIPS.

Basically, the principal investment for TIPS is adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (measures inflation) + A Fixed Yield that is unique for each TIPS (recently it has been around 2%).  This means that your investment primarily rises or falls along with inflation.   To use a simplified example, if you put in $100 in a TIPS that has a 2% ‘Fixed Yield’ and the nation goes through 5% of inflation in a year, then the value of the TIPS will raise from $100 to $105 over that year (as a result of the 5% inflation)+ 2% of $105 to a total value of  $107.1. 

Want Better Yields? Try a Credit Union

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 30, 2009

High-Yield Checking AccountI recently found a great high-yield savings account. United Federal Credit Union has introduced a 6.01% APY Interest Plus Checking account on balances up to $25,000 for qualifying members. The rate is guaranteed “until at least 2010,” and the account also includes “free ATMs nationwide.”

Unfortunately, I don’t qualify for this credit union. I can’t become a member based on this list, nobody in my family is a member, and I don’t do business in their geographic area on a regular basis.

FDIC Restricts Interest Rates on Weak Banks

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 25, 2009

FDICThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, aka FDIC, has voted to bar shaky banks from hiking up interest rates to attract more customer money. This change is known as Section 29 and will go into effect on  January 1, 2010. Section 29 says that banks that are struggling to stay in business will only be able to offer interest rates with a top limit of 75 basis points above the national rate.  The national rate is an average of all rates paid by reporting banks.

As a result, you will be getting the best interest rates from well-capitalized banks and we should expect around 3 percent of banks to be affected by Section 29. Some higher-yield banks, such as  Ally, the institution formerly known as GMAC Bank, which has been advertising all over the place and boasts of high capitalization, will likely be able to continue offering high interest rates to its depositors.

Open a Checking Account, Get a $200 Savings Bond

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 15, 2009

$200 Checking AccountLooking for some free money? Ask and you shall receive! Wainwright Bank (of Boston, MA) is offering a free $200 savings bond to new customers who open a Value Checking account with Direct Deposit. You do not have to be a Massachusetts resident to apply, and you can complete your application online.

The skinny: You only need ten dollars for an opening minimum balance, but Wainwright bank requires that you have a $500 minimum balance to avoid a $6 monthly service charge. If you link your account to Direct Deposit, though, the account is “free with no minimum balance required and unlimited check writing.”

Unlimited FDIC Insurance

by Brian Johnson on March 24, 2009

FDIC UnlimitedLet’s face it: one of the things that we’ve learned from the current economic crisis is that the U.S. government isn’t going to allow any significant number of depositors to lose their money when a bank fails (which we completely agree it is the right and smart thing to do).  If this is the practice, then, wouldn’t it be better to make this the official policy?

If the government is already unofficially insuring savings accounts, regardless of size, they would do well to turn this practice into public policy, and let Americans and the rest of the world know that, no matter the size of their savings account, their money will be safe in a U.S. bank. 

Most Popular Topics

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe

Receive the latest advice and deals:

Wallet Hub Facebook Twitter Google Plus

Submit A Post

Want to be a guest blogger? Submit a Post