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Don’t Pay to Manage Your Money

Don’t Pay to Manage Your Money

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    Bank fees, software, tax preparation: if you aren’t careful, your money can wind up costing you a pretty penny. I’m of the opinion that in most cases, you really shouldn’t have to pay to manage your own money. As long as you’re an individual (as opposed to a business), I can’t see the point of paying for a whole list of things that are available for free with just a little hunting. I’m not talking about options that require extra work on your part, either — while some of the open source budgeting software can be pretty cool, I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t the best option for the average person.

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    1. Banking Fees

    In addition to an intense dislike for fees I can avoid, I really don’t see the point of paying my bank for the privilege of letting them use my money — which is what banking fees amount to. Most banks have at least one free bank account available, although it may not offer every bell and whistle. Credit unions can be good options for finding a free account, as well, as long as you qualify to join the credit union.

    There are also several banks that have built their reputations on offering only free banking, like ING Direct and FNBO Direct. Personally, I use ING Direct and have found it to be ideal — if you’ve used another bank with a great free account, please let me know in the comments.

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    2. Budgeting software

    With sites like Mint.com and Quicken Online offering free money management and budgeting software, I have a really hard time thinking of a reason to pay for budgeting software. In fact, the only concern that I’ve seen with online money management applications is the question of privacy. Sites like Mint have gone to some pretty significant lengths to protect users, but if you’re still worried, you might consider downloading an application. There aren’t as many solid software packages that you can download for free, I’m afraid, but I know there are a few options out there. If you’ve got a lead on a good one, please share it in the comments.

    3. Tax Preparation

    While there are a fair number of people who do need some help with tax preparation, it’s amazing just how many people can actually avoid paying to have their return prepared and e-filed. If you earned less than $56,000 in 2008, you’re automatically eligible for the IRS’ Free File program. Even if you earned more than that, you can get your taxes prepared for free with online options like TaxAct or TurboTax, as long as you have a relatively simple tax return.

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    You may need to explore other options if your tax return doesn’t look like it will be so simple: if you have a business, unusual deductions or income from a wide variety of sources, a free filing option may not be able to correctly complete your return.

    4. Credit Counseling

    There are so many companies promising that they can get you out of debt or avoid foreclosure, for a reasonable fee. The fact of the matter, though, is that such companies are shady at best. You are able to access free credit counseling, as well as consumer debt and bankruptcy help through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The NFCC offers referrals to local credit counseling agencies.

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    It’s worth noting that while you can avoid credit counseling fees, there are often fees associated with specific services offered by an agency. While these organizations are typically not-for-profit, they are still self-supporting.

    5. Personal Finance Books

    One of the librarians at my local branch told me that while our local library district has a huge collection of personal finance books — including many best sellers and new releases — they still don’t get checked out as often as you might think. If you’re working on straightening out your finances, and want to read a particular personal finance book, check your local library. If you’ve already got a library card, you can usually check a book’s availability online. You can have books brought to your local branch, add your name to the waiting list (if there is one) or even request that the library consider purchasing a particular book online in most library districts these days.

    6. Your Credit Report

    There’s actually legislation in place stating that each credit agency must provide you with a copy of your credit report each year. The three main agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, provide copies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also arrange for free copies of other reports, such as your ChexSystems’ report. ChexSystems is a reporting agency used by banks to report problem customers. You’re entitled to one free report each year from each agency.

    More Than A Little Savings

    You can save a surprising amount of money just by taking the time to find a free money management option. Whether we’re talking about banking or credit reports, there are plenty of free opportunities out there — and there’s not as big of a trade off for making the switch as you might think. In other areas, choosing a free option over a costly alternative usually means that you’re giving up an element of service or a few features. But with the monetary options I’ve listed above, there isn’t that much of a difference: you may even find yourself in a better position by avoiding services meant only to take your money.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

    Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

    Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

    1. Just pick one thing

    If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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    Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

    Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

    2. Plan ahead

    To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

    Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

    Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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    3. Anticipate problems

    There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

    4. Pick a start date

    You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

    Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

    5. Go for it

    On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

    Your commitment card will say something like:

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    • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
    • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
    • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
    • I meditate daily.

    6. Accept failure

    If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

    If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

    Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

    7. Plan rewards

    Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

    Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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    Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

    Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

    Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new?

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