• Lower your monthly payments
  • Reduce stress and live your life
  • Avoid personal bankruptcy court

Tips for College Students: Save and Manage Your Money Better

If your child is one of the millions of college freshmen headed off to school soon, you probably have a lot of shopping, textbook gathering, and packing that’s on the brain coming up in the near future. Yes, you and your child may be knee deep in figuring out the dorm decor to go with but there is deeper, more pressing subject matter just below the surface of the college experience: like your kid’s personal finance plan and crucial tips for college students. As their parent, it’s your responsibility and obligation to prepare them for the challenges that are sure to come as a college student on a budget trying to navigate strategies for smarter spending. You have to give them the tips for college students that will make the difference in their undergraduate lives.

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Your kid might roll their eyes, they might moan and groan and they might even exclaim that they know things will be difficult. That won’t change the fact that they’ll need to have a basis to work from. The following tips for college students will be paramount in their successes with money from an early age.

Create a Budget

High school students without too many cares feel free to spend whatever money they have at their disposal while they live off of part-time job earnings or a parent’s generosity. It might be a hard pill to swallow, but that can’t be the attitude of a college freshman. Sit down with your child for a serious talk about the value of budgeting. Outline the streams of income he or she will have coming in from money you’ll provide, wages they’ll earn working a job and student loan and grant money. Show them how important it is to categorize their expenses so they can easily trace where all of their money is going. Of course, you can’t force your prospective student to use a budget, but knowing that you’ve given them the tools they need to create one to realize what’s affordable. These tips for college students can mean a lot.

The trick to a budget is sticking to it. It doesn’t do much good to go through the process of creating one just to wind up not even using it. Educate your kid on the value of smart money choices that work with their budget. Help them find out more about low-cost or free entertainment options in their area. As a parent, you know your child and their habits best. If they have a knack for spending loads of money on expensive coffee or clothes, let them know about the benefits of shopping at outlet stores where you’ll get the same brand names for cheaper or simply brewing their own coffee drinks at home that are comparable to the expensive ones they like. It can be hard to try not to control your child’s budget, but college is the first glimpse that most kids get of life on their own and you want them to start building on the principles that will make them responsible with money as they grow further into adulthood.

Check in with how their finances are going from time to time, but let them take the lead.

Utilize Online Services

Most college students won’t feel like they have to time to sit down and review Excel spreadsheets to keep track of a budget, especially when there are other options for them to go with. Put your kid on the right track with a smartphone app or online provider that makes managing their money easy and pretty painless. These kinds of services generally also provide personalized tips for college students that work well since they’re always on their phone anyway! Mint is one of many money management apps that keeps the busy and sometimes forgetful college student on their toes. You upload your bank account and expense details and you can manage each of your accounts from one place with no hassle. In addition to an app like Mint, an online banking service app will go the extra mile to make sure that your child can access or transfer money whenever they might need it. Mobile deposits make it easier to get cash fast if your kid ever finds that they’re in a bind and need to tap into a balance.

Keep Those Debts in Check

You want to minimize your student’s debt cap as much as possible, so you want to go over these principles with them thoroughly before they leave the nest. Spending money on the right things is crucial. It goes without saying that spending financial aid money on a pizza night with friends is a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean that the temptation to do so will fall away.

Educate your kid with these tips for college students and they should be well prepared for the long road ahead!

All about Debt Settlement

There are many TV and radio adverts that play late night and promise that you can get debt relief by simply paying pennies on the dollar for your debts. These adverts are for debt settlement which is a process designed to get the creditors to accept a lump sum payment for less that you owe them, your account is then said to be paid off and you no longer have the

These ads are for debt settlement, a process designed to convince creditors to accept a lump sum payment for less than you owe them. Your account is closed and considered paid off, and you no longer have burdensome debt payments to make, however the settlement can be noted on your credit report and may have an impact on your credit score.

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Debt settlement however comes with downsides that can cause you untold amounts of hassle even when you are dealing with a reputable company. ResponsibleLending.org issued a report called “State of Lending: Debt Settlement,” which is a debt settlement program that actually increases the consumer debt by 20% on average.

The following are cons of debt settlement that can end up causing you to have more debt, instead of less.

1. You Have to Stop Paying Your Debts

The majority of debt settlement will not work unless the creditor is under the impression that you will not repay the debt without a settlement figure, in order to convince the creditor though you have to stop making payments to the debt. Nearly all of the debt settlement companies will require you to make regular payments to them, instead of your creditors. They will then keep this money in an account and use this to make lump sum payments to the creditors who have agreed to settle.

For obvious reasons this kind of activity does not fare well on your credit score. As you are now missing payments, fees, penalties and possibly the interest are accumulating and therefore if no settlement is reached you are in even more debt through the costs involved with missing the payments etc and this is one of the cons of debt settlement that you need to be very aware of.

2. Some Creditors Won’t Work With Debt Settlement Companies

There are a number of creditors that are not willing to work with debt settlement companies therefore if you stop making payments this becomes even more problematic and the creditor may choose to send your account to collections. This will result in further black marks against your credit score and this is just another con of debt settlement that can see you adding to the debt through fees, penalties and accrued interest. As your credit score drops further it becomes harder for you to get credit at a good rate and you continue to pay more as a result of your bad credit rating and this is not just for financial matters but also for the likes of insurance.

3. Creditors May Sue

Another con of debt settlement to be aware of is that sometimes sending your account to collections is just the beginning, creditors that will not negotiate with debt settlement companies may decide to sue you for your debt. This in turn can see the debt increasing and now you have the fees and costs relating to the lawsuit to find.

4. Debt Settlement Fees

Debt settlement companies are not allowed to charge upfront fees as instructed by The Federal Trade Commission. They are supposed to charge a fee when the settlement has been reached. However another con of debt settlement is that there is a loop hole and they are more than happy to use it!  To get around the requirements that have been put in place many debt settlement companies claim that they employ attorneys and form an association with those willing and then they can charge you an attorney fee. Technically this is not a debt settlement fee and therefore it can be charged.

5. Paying Tax on the Settled Amount

The IRS considers forgiven debts to be income. Therefore if you owe $15,000 but settle the debt for $8,000, you are required by the IRS to report the $7,000 you were forgiven as income. You don’t have the money but the IRS taxes you as if you do. Here is another con of debt settlement because even a good experience can result in costly tax debt and if you have a big settlement you could even end up in the higher tax bracket.

6. Bad Credit Habits

The final con of debt settlement is that whilst the debt might have gone you may not have addressed the underlying problems that you have with money and therefore could easily wind up back on the same road again. Once their credit recovers they take out credit again and even those that have gone through debt settlement can get a credit card fairly easily.

At the end of the day there will always be some that use debt settlement effectively but the truth is that there are a lot of downsides to this process and most people just end up owing more. This is particularly true where the debtor has mixed responses from their creditors with some agreeing and others not, then there are the additional tax liabilities that could come into play.

For those thinking about debt settlement it is important to think through the options and consult a financial professional that can help you to put together a realistic way for you to repay your debts and better your overall finances.

5 Signs that you’re living beyond Your Means

Many people in the United States are in the habit of living beyond their means. Between 1993 and 2008, the rates of saving have declined increasingly and they hit the lowest levels they’ve ever seen since the Great Depression in 2006: they literally fell into negative territories. But by 2009, they had risen again about 7%: the highest rates had been at since 1993. Why did things change so drastically? When a recession swept in and left us all in financial gloom, consumers found that they had acquired more debt than they realized was possible and they should have paid attention to the signs that you’re living beyond your means. It took the global economic system almost crumbling to bits to get Americans to stop overspending. A lot of people ignored what has happening for far too long, and the National Bankruptcy Research Center shared that the number of bankruptcy filings had almost doubled by the time the year 2008 came to a close.

Are you worried about your financial state? Learn more about the most common signs that you’re living beyond your means.

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Your Credit Score Is Lower Than 600

It’s the job of the credit bureaus to keep track of your payment history, loan balances and debts. They use the information the compile to arrive at a specific number that lets potential borrows know your creditworthiness. A credit score can go from a low of 300 to a high of 850. The higher your number is, the better. Generally, if your score is lower than 600, you might have a more difficult time getting loans. If you haven’t checked your credit score before and you don’t know what it is, you can get in contact with one of the major credit bureaus–TransUnion, Equifax or Experian–for a copy of your credit report. Improve your credit score by paying down debts and judgments and don’t apply for new credit cards: you might even want to consider closing a few accounts while you’re at it.

You’re Not Even Putting At Least 5% Into Savings

The average rate of personal savings in 2006 was a staggering -0.5%. This illustrates that most people were not only spending just about all their money, but they were also most likely dipping into their savings for funds to spend. Saving money can never be too much of a priority and in the crazy lives that we lead today, there will always be another expense to address that creeps onto our radars somehow. There are so many emergency situations that arise and you have to be as prepared as possible. When your retirement age comes around, you don’t want to have to struggle or depend on Social Security alone. Saving at least 10% of your gross income can create a very well-stocked savings account that will give you peace of mind. Stop ignoring signs that you’re living beyond your means!

You’re Not Attacking Your Credit Card Balances in Full

If you’ve heard somewhere that making the minimum payment on your credit each month is the right way to go, you’ve been told a terrible fib. Avoiding paying those credit card balances off in full only make the interest on the balances rack up with a vengeance. If you can’t seem to get together more than enough to pay tiny pieces of those balances off, you’re probably facing signs that you’re living beyond your means!

You’re Using More Than 28% Of Your Income for Housing Costs

What percentage of your monthly income goes to paying your mortgage, insurance or property taxes? If you’re coming up with a figure that’s more 28% of what you make, that’s probably one of many signs that you’re living beyond your means. Conservative lenders have always believed that using a rate that sits at 28% still allows everyday people to pay their mortgage and enjoy a standard of living that gives them wiggle room. You have to make it a priority not to get involved with anything that will keep you in debt longer. Only chase what you can reasonably afford.

You’re Having Trouble Getting Your Huge Stack of Bills under Your Control

Buying on credit is almost an institution in America. It might be easier to buy that expensive television with your credit card when the salesman puts it into monthly terms, even if there’s an extra $50 added on to your bill. At first, it’s all very easy to handle, but before you know it, you have a stack of bills before you that you have no clue how to handle. You have to recognize the signs that you’re living beyond your means and reel yourself back in!

If these aren’t enough signs that you’re living beyond your means, it’s certain you already know a lot of the others if you’re in a sticky financial situation. With continued hard work and effort, you can change your unfavorable circumstances.

9 Money-Saving Tips for Sports Fans

As long as the economy is sluggish, sports fans will be reluctant to purchase high-priced tickets to their favorite games. However, there are money-saving tips to help fans enjoy their favorite sports without breaking the bank.

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1. Consider Other Sports

Obviously, the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL teams are the most popular, and get the most attention from fans, but there are many other sports out there to enjoy. Tennis, soccer, or volleyball might appeal to you, and tickets are far more affordable.

2. Charity Events and Exhibition Tours

Many sports teams participate in games which raise money for charity, and tickets are available at reasonable prices. Charity golf events feature many popular professional golfers, but tickets can be less than $20. Off-season exhibition tours are also a good way to see your favorite players for less.

3. Minor League Games

Minor league teams in baseball and hockey provide the professional teams with up and coming players. These teams are where new players get their start, and you can see them play for a very low price. Minor league games are so affordable that this is a money-saving tip that benefits the whole family!

4. Visit Training Camp or Pre-Season Games

  • For years, baseball spring training has been a favorite event for fans, and now, other professional sports are offering this to their fans. NFL teams allow fans to visit training camp for very little money, and some teams even let fans in for free!
  • Tickets to pre-season games are always available, and give you a chance to see your favorite rivalries face off for a very low price.

5. Share a Season Ticket Package

Season tickets work out to be less expensive than if you bought a ticket to each game individually, but most people can’t make that kind of investment. You can split a season ticket package with a friend or friends, and have a chance to see some of the games for less money than you’d pay otherwise.

6. Ask the Box Office about Promotions

When ticket sales are low, teams will run various promotions to get more fans in the door. Call your box office and ask about any specials. Sometimes there are special deals for buying tickets at the last minute, because venues want to fill those seats. The official websites for professional baseball and soccer both list each team’s deals and sales for the entire season. This allows fans to save up for tickets ahead of time, or work the price of tickets into their budgets, which is another little money-saving tip!

7. Check Your Warehouse Stores

Member-only warehouse stores, such as Costco or Sam’s Club, oftentimes offer deals on ticket bundles. These deals can offers like buy-one-get-one-free, or family four packs of tickets. Costco is currently offering two different professional basketball ticket packages.

8. College Sports

If you can’t afford tickets to see your favorite professional sports team, consider becoming a fan of a college teams. Even tickets for the most popular college teams are considerably less expensive than professional games. College games are not only money-saving, they are known for their fun atmosphere and very enthusiastic fans.

9. Use the Internet to Find Last-Minute Deals

This great money-saving tip needed to be saved for last. Many times, people purchase tickets for sporting events, and then, due to some unforeseen circumstance, can’t make it to the game. Ticket holders then turn to the internet to recoup at least some of the money they spent. StubHub is a website solely devoted to ticket sales, but you may also find tickets being sold on sites like Craigslist. If your schedule allows you to see games at the last minute, you can find tickets for a fraction of their original price.

Just because money is tight, it doesn’t mean you have to give up sports completely. With these money-saving tips, you can still enjoy the games, and you may even discover new sports to love. Being a fan doesn’t have to be expensive!

Should You Spend Your Money Or Your Time?

Everyone has heard the old saying that “time is money”. What this means depends on who you ask.

  • If you make good investments, over time, you will earn more money.
  • Wasting time is like wasting money.
  • Time spent doing things you don’t enjoy is gone forever.

If you spend your time, rather than your money, you may miss opportunities do things you love. If you spend your money rather than your time, you lose the chance to save for the future.

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When you first become an independent adult, you usually don’t have much money, and have no choice but to spend your time. As you progress in your career, however, you gain the ability to choose to spend your money or your time. It’s up to you to decide when you want to do a job yourself and when you want to hire a professional to do it for you.

How should you make the decision to spend your money or your time?

If You Don’t Have the Money to Spend, Spend Time

If you are low on funds, this is a very easy choice, because it’s not much of a choice at all. You can do things yourself, or do without them. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can use the opportunity to learn new skills and become more self-sufficient. And in the end, you may enjoy your new skill so much that it becomes a hobby. Nowadays, there are more resources for learning skills than ever before. With YouTube alone, you can learn everything from knitting to building an igloo. The internet is full of tutorials and tips for any project, and if computers aren’t your thing, there are still libraries.

Spend Time Instead Of Money to Experience New Things

You can find excitement in learning new things, even simple home improvement jobs. Don’t think that for something to be fun, it needs to be extreme like bungee jumping or mountain climbing. Creating or fixing something with your own hands provides a great feeling of satisfaction.

Acquiring a new skill adds to your unique charm, and, depending on the skill, your resume!

Spend Time to Teach Someone You Care About a New Skill

Spending your time instead of your money is especially important with children and grandchildren. Teaching someone you love a new skill is very satisfying for both parties. You will create a closer bond, and experience the joy of sharing your experience and knowledge. The person you teach gets to enjoy a hands-on learning experience, and will always treasure the memories of time spent with you.

Spend Time Instead Of Money on Tasks You Enjoy

Don’t pay someone to do things you love to do. Filling your life with pleasant experiences doesn’t exclude things that must be done, if you like doing them. Fixing something in your home brings beauty back to that object, which many people find very enjoyable. Doing your own yard work helps you get more exercise, and lets you spend more time outside in the fresh air.

Spend Money If Spending Time Cuts into Profitable Work

If doing a project yourself means taking time off of work that you cannot afford, it is better to hire someone else to do it. This can also apply to things that profit you emotionally rather than financially. If it is very important to you to help with a local charity, feel free to hire someone for household tasks so you have more free time.

Spend Money When Time Can’t Give You the Necessary Expertise

Some skills take a very long time to learn, and cannot be acquired by self-instruction, and other skills require expensive specialized tools. Unless you have a job performing these tasks, it is better to pay someone to do them for you. For example, it would be foolish to buy expensive tools to do a one-time repair on your car.

Spend Money If Your Safety Is At Risk

Many household projects can become safety hazards and should only be tackled by professionals. Things like rewiring a home, removing hazardous materials, or tree trimming and removal, should be left to the experts. Attempting to do these projects yourself could have you wasting your time and money in the hospital.

Deciding to spend your money or your time doesn’t have to be an agonizing choice. If you don’t have money, spend time, and use the experience to gain new skills, and maybe discover new talents. If you enjoy a project, spend your time, not your money, and create fond memories teaching family and friends. If a project requires years of training and specialized equipment, spend your money, and the same goes for household projects that may be dangerous.

The Way to Find a Credit Counselor

If you’re in as dire straits as many Americans are, your way of living paycheck to paycheck might have you on the brink of a very serious financial disaster. After paying your mortgage or rent, utilities and other bills each month, you probably find yourself feeling defeated and lousy. If you’ve racked up a few different debts over the years and you’re looking for a way out of the chaos, it might be about time for you to find a credit counselor that can work with you to make your life a bit easier.

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So, if and when you find a credit counselor, you might be wondering how it is that they can make your financial aches and pains less of a problem. Credit counselors work for you in the sense that they reach out to individual lenders to lower your interest rates by as much as half with thorough negotiations. A very skilled credit counselor might also be able to help you create a customized budget, design a debt management plan, eliminate late payments and other fees, and administer payments to your lenders. If you’re trying to get a grip on your finances once and for all, these things could certainly help guide you down the right path. Keep reading for more information on what to look for when you’re trying to find a credit counselor.

Seek Them Out, Don’t Wait Around

You probably shouldn’t spring from the credit counselor that you found in a flashy advertisement or a late-night television commercial. The most reputable credit counselors depend on their past clients for references and they won’t be seeking you out via telemarketing or seedy emails for that very reason. What you want is a credit counselor that has proper certification who isn’t paid on commission: you’re not looking for someone who will rush through your case just so they can be paid as quickly as possible.

Go to a few different agencies and weigh your options before you commit. Starting with an internet search to find a credit counselor in your area is a great place to start.

Are The Associated Costs Worth It?

Of course there are costs associated with taking on the help of a credit counselor. No two financial situations are exactly the same, so you should be sure that the credit counselor you plan to deal with is willing to go that extra mile to devise a plan of attack that will best suit your needs. Make sure you’re made aware of the costs associated with hiring a credit counselor upfront. You might find that paying that credit counselor is just another expense that you can’t afford in your already-cluttered financial state.

You shouldn’t be spending more than $100 in setup fees and the monthly charge shouldn’t exceed more than $50. Monthly fees vary from state to state.

Designing a Debt Management Plan

Once you find a credit counselor you’re comfortable working with, you’ll have to provide detailed financial information from you income to the debts that you owe. It’s your counselor’s job to review your information and make recommendations about the best way to move forward. Your counselor should begin creating a debt management plan for you that allows you to repay your debts at reduced interest rates while also getting some late fees and other penalties erased if you’re lucky. It then becomes your responsibility to make payments to your credit counseling each month instead of paying off your various creditors with several different payments.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • When you find a credit counselor that you feel is right for you, they won’t pressure you into working with them right away. They’ll allow you all the time you need to evaluate each of your offers before choosing one. Although it’s important to get a hold of your debts as soon as possible, you don’t have to feel pressured to make a hasty decision.
  • Debt management plans only cover certain types of debts which don’t include mortgages or car loans. Find out which debts are included and excluded from your debt management plan.
  • A successful debt management plan normally takes between 30 and 60 months to be completed. Most times, you can’t apply for any new credit or incur any additional debt while you’re currently in the process of a repayment plan.
  • If you’re more interested in renegotiating the entire amount of your debt, you should be looking into debt settlement instead.

No one should have to live in fear of their mailbox forever. If you’re outstanding debts have gotten the better of you for far too long, you can make a change once you find a credit counselor. Get those debts in control and get on the right track to financial responsibility and freedom as soon as possible!

Everything You Need to Know About Fannie Mae Mortgages

If you are interested in applying for a Fannie Mae mortgage, you should know that this famous name in mortgages does not itself lend money to borrowers.

Fannie Mae is the commonly used nickname for the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), and what it does is purchase qualifying mortgages from lenders in the secondary mortgage market. Fannie Mae is what is called a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), which was created in 1938 by Congress, to revitalize the housing market which had been destroyed by the Great Depression. Fannie Mae mortgages have allowed millions of Americans to own their own homes, and they are the largest backer of 30-year fixed-rate home loans.

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Fannie Mae is successful because it invests in the mortgage market, which creates more liquid assets for the lenders. The lenders then have the resources to underwrite, or provide the funds for, a larger number of mortgages. And this, in turn, makes mortgages more easily available to potential home buyers.

If you want to obtain a Fannie Mae mortgage, you will be required to use a lender that has GSE approval. There are eligibility requirements which must be met by all approved lenders, which include not participating in sub-prime lending. Sub-prime mortgages are offered to buyers with low credit scores. Lenders consider them high risk, so they are required to pay high interest rates on their loans.

Conforming Loans

If a mortgage meets the requirements, and is purchased by Fannie Mae, it is called a conforming loan. A Fannie Mae mortgage must also fall under the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  In most areas of the United States, the limit for a conventional home loan is $417,000. In areas with a high cost of living, the limit is $625,000.

Fannie Mae cannot back loans that exceed these limits, and these loans, called jumbo loans or non-conforming loans, have higher interest rates than conforming loans.

How to Apply

After you have found an eligible lender, you can apply for your Fannie Mae mortgage. You will be required to supply this information during the process:

  • Credit History– This includes not only your credit score, but also your credit history, payment history, and the total amount of your outstanding debts.
  • Savings– You will be expected to prove that you can provide the required down payment and closing costs.
  • Income– You will need proof of all income, including, but not limited to, employment, child support, rental properties, pensions, and investments.
  • Work History– You will be required to show a stable work history for at least two years. There are exceptions for members of the military, retired people, and recent graduates.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is determined by what percentage of your income goes to pay for housing. To qualify for a Fannie Mae mortgage, your debt-to-income ratio cannot be greater than 28 percent. Those buyers who find that their debt-to-income ratio is too high can increase the down payment they make on their home, which will reduce the amount they need to borrow. The minimum down payment Fannie Mae mortgages require is 5 percent for a fixed-rate loan, but 20 percent down payments are considered ideal.

Credit Score Requirements

Would-be home buyers must meet certain credit score requirements in order to qualify for a Fannie Mae mortgage. Your credit score is also called your FICO score, which stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, the company which created the score. FICO scores are determined by an algorithm that takes into account the amount of debt you carry, your payment history, your credit history, the types of credit you use, and new credit you obtain. All these factors determine the risk you pose to lenders. The lowest possible score is 300, while the highest possible score is 850.

To qualify for a Fannie Mae mortgage, you must have a credit score of at least 620. The higher your credit score is, the more easily you can obtain lower interest rates. According to the records at Fannie Mae, the average credit score of their borrowers in 2013 was 744.

To Wrap Things Up

Since 2009, Fannie Mae mortgages have facilitated the purchase of 4.1 million homes. A mortgage backed by Fannie Mae may be right for you, if you meet the requirements. If you have a high credit score, a good debt-to-income ratio, and a large enough down payment, a Fannie Mae mortgage is probably your best choice, because the interest rates are significantly lower than those for non-conforming loans.

The Top Ten Sources of Non-taxable Income

The Government states that unless described so by law, all income from whatever source is taxable – however, there are some notable exceptions, commonly known as non-taxable income.  This can sometimes seem like a minefield and many people find themselves confused and not sure where they stand. It can help to have a clear explanation of taxation matters and hopefully you’ll find this guide to the top ten sources of non-taxable income listed below easy to understand and useful:

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1.     Sale of the Main House You Live In

If a married couple decide to sell the house that they have lived in for more than two years and can prove they have owned it for longer than two, then they are entitled to exclude up to $500,000 (if married) and $250,000 (if single) from their capital gains tax once their home is sold. This one aspect and example of non-taxable income

2.     Monies Earned In Nine Specific States

If you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington or Wyoming these particular states have chosen not to levy state income tax on their residents, this means that these particular places are indirectly encouraging more people to go and live there as they’ll be able to keep more of their income without being taxed on it.

3.     Corporate Income in Five Specific States

Following on from this, in Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming corporations do not pay any tax on their corporate income, again, this is a sound way of getting businesses to relocate or start up in these areas, so that they will be able to keep a larger portion of their earnings.

4.     Estate Tax

Anything up to $1million is non-taxable income and this seems to unfairly penalize anyone who is a beneficiary of someone who had a lot of money. Estate tax – also known as Death Tax is something that is always very much in flux and changes regularly. It has fluctuated a great deal since 2005.  If you are a beneficiary of an estate that falls into the right category you will get the income tax free.

5.     Municipal Bond Interest

When you earn money from Municipal Bonds, it is tax free providing you’re still living in the state they were issued in at the time. This is non-taxable income even if they were bought as part of a bond scheme or simply as individual stand-alone certificates.

6.     Disability Insurance Payments

These are non-taxable income if they meet a certain level of criteria, which are as follows:

If it is worker’s compensation

If it is compensation for a disability or injury

If the disability benefit comes from a public welfare system

If you purchase private disability insurance with after-tax dollars

Disability benefits under a no fault car insurance policy for loss of income are non-taxable income.

7.     Life Insurance Pay Outs

If a loved one dies and leaves you with a lot of money then you are not liable for any tax on this, however, there are some notable exceptions to the rule and you should always check the IRS Publication 525 for any changes or specific clauses that might affect you or your loved ones.

8.     Gift-Giving

If you have been “given” a gift of monetary value up to $13,000 then you are not liable for tax on it. As an example, two parents with three children could gift each of their children $13,000 each – a total of $78,000. Each child would have $26,000 and none of it would be taxable.

Other monetary gifts that are not taxable are:

Political donations to any party at any time

Tuition fees or medical fees that have been paid on someone else’s behest.

Charitable donations to any good cause

9.     Employer Provided Insurance

If you have something like this which has been provided by your employer or you pay into another such healthcare scheme then this is non-taxable too. Employer provided long term care is also not taxable.

10.    $3000 of Income Offset By Capital Losses

If you have investments and sell them at a loss you can use this loss to reduce your taxable income by up to $3000 per year. Losses like this can be carried over year to year until the entire loss has been totally offset.

It seems odd that the government taxes what you earn at work but not your life insurance – many people find this notion strange, regardless of their political beliefs, however, that is the way things stand legally and it cannot be argued with. The government will encourage activities that it thinks will have some monetary benefit to the country and discourage others that they will believe will have a detrimental impact or one that will not benefit the nation as a whole.

For People Tired of Overspending on School Supplies

With the end of summer fast approaching, everyone is getting ready for school. That means a trip to the store to begin stocking up on school supplies. Before you start spending your money, make sure you know what is needed for school supplies, and how much you are going to be spending. Huffington Post shared a stat about the average cost that is spent on school supplies for students in grades k-12, in the 2014 school year, and that number reached $634.78 per child, and for college students it is higher. Here are some simple things that could help you save money this school year.

Overspending on School Supplies

Make A Budget

With the tons of crayons and rows of paper it is easy to feel dumbfounded. To help combat the unnecessary costs go to the store with a plan of what you need to purchase, and with how much you want to spend. By putting a plan and budget in place before heading out, you will have an easier time sticking to your budget.

Most schools and classes give a supply list out before the school year begins. Read over the list with a pen in hand and check off which items are the most important and which ones are secondary. Once you have that, set out a limit that you want to spend on each item or category. A big cost is school clothes, so set out a budget right from the start so you don’t spend more than you want on new clothing.

Ask Yourself The Following Questions:

  • What do I feel is a reasonable and comfortable amount to spend on the item?
  • Can I purchase this at a different store at a lower cost?
  • Is this an essential item?

Explore the Different Options Available To You

Shopping at different stores can save money. It may not be as easy as doing all of your shopping in one place, but the money you save makes it worth it. Even small savings can add up to big money. When shopping at a one stop gets all type of store, it is important to understand that you are paying the price for convenience. That means it is your responsibility to consider the difference between cost and time if you decide to visit different stores. A good way to accomplish making the choice follow some these ideas.

Use the Dollar Stores

One item that is always needed is notebooks, and even the cheapest ones are expensive. The dollar stores save you money by carrying off brand or off color school supplies at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, dollar stores are great for stockpiling essentials such as pens and pencils

Reach Out To Your Network

Get together with other families and see what can be passed down to other kids, or shared between your kids. Uniforms can be passed on to other kids when your kids have moved on. Another added bonus of discussing school supplies with other families is you could discover new ways to save or places to shop from the others.

Use Online Marketplaces Such As Craigslist.

Craigslist is a used goods haven for shoppers, and you can even find school supplies! Since kids grow so quickly, things like clothing and backpacks need to be replaced and buying this items used can save you a lot of money. Some other sites for online shopping include ebay or recycler.

Repurpose or Reuse Materials

Getting rid of excess stuff is important but be careful when it comes to ditching school supplies. Be on the watch for supplies that can be reused the next school year. To help you stay organized keep a box for storing new and used school supplies in so that you can always take a quick inventory of what you have.

Buy Second Hand Books or E-Versions

One of the most expensive things that college students have to buy is textbooks. In a single semester students face a cost of $200 or more for each textbook they need to purchase. Students should consider whether or not their schedule and field of study would allow for using an older version of the text since these are cheaper than new texts. Some great online sites for buying used textbooks are Chegg and AbeBooks. Additionally when you are finished with your textbooks you can turn them into money by selling them on these same sites.

Finally Prioritizing Quality

There are items that will be well used up by the end of the school year. This is where prioritizing the quality of an item comes in. For example by spending more on something like a backpack that will last 4 years is a better choice than buying a cheaper backpack that is low in quality and will need to be replaced year after year.

4 Ways You Can Negotiate With Creditors

Credit cards have always been fickle things – you use one for a bit, try to make your payments on time, and soon realize that between rising interest returns and annual fees you’re shelling out more than it looks like is worth it. The bank is the one with the money: you feel powerless. On one hand, it’s only natural to feel weak in the face of a far more powerful body (a bank), but on the other hand you have to remember that you are the consumer. It might not feel it, but you have power, you have rights – and sure enough, you can bring this straight to the bank and negotiate with creditors to try and make your life a little easier.

Negotiate With Creditors

Remember that banks are not unfeeling machines; when you reach out to make contact you’re often speaking to people who can sympathize with you and have probably, at some point or another in life, felt what you’re going through. You can negotiate with creditors by talking to people and keeping yourself well informed on what a bank will and will not change to keep you as a customer.

So just what can you bring up to try and cut back on costs? Well…

Change Your Payment Date

Your paycheck is late, you’ve had an emergency and aren’t sure if you’ll be able to make this payment on time, or maybe you want to change your payment date to a time of the month that’s better for you and not for your bank. This is one of those things you can take to negotiate with creditors, and it’s one of the easiest. Try and do this right after you’ve made a payment on your card so that you have funds on hand to make a payment if you have to, and so that you aren’t already in waiting for a payment that might make them think twice. One of the best cards you can have up your sleeve when negotiating with creditors is the one where you’re a responsible card user.

Change Your Interest Rate

The worst part of a credit card is the interest rate – and unfortunately, it’s what makes credit cards valuable for banks. Without it we just wouldn’t have a credit card! But how does that help you? Maybe you got a card that started with a high interest rate and things have changed, maybe you missed a payment a few months back and your interest went up – and maybe you want to change that. Give your credit card company a call and make a bluff (or maybe you don’t have to bluff at all). Credit companies are in a constant competition to get more consumers from one another and tend to offer low interest cards left and right. Chances are you have an offer for a low interest credit card already – if you do, don’t be afraid to tell the bank that you have an offer on the table, and you want to negotiate with creditors for a lower rate of interest.

Trying to Reduce Your Debt

Debt reduction is a trickier one – because it comes with a downside. Something might have happened in life that sucked up a lot of funds, or maybe something is happening now (a divorce, you’re sending a child to school, you’re going back to school yourself) that’s taking up most of your finances. You can try to negotiate with your creditors to get your debt completely reduced – you pay off a portion of it and are forgiven the rest. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

… well — it has a huge downside. The credit company obviously won’t enjoy that you aren’t paying back all of your debt, and that will reflect on your credit score. This is one of the tricks you want to avoid when negotiating with creditors.

Getting a Suspension of Payment

This isn’t as bad as the previous, but it’s still not your first option. You can speak to your bank or creditor in an attempt to get them to suspend payments for a few months while you get everything in check: if you normally make enough money to make your payments on time with some to spare, you might consider this. The downside is that your interest will still accrue on the balance for the time the payments are suspended, so you’ll be paying even more when they reactivate – and while you can keep negotiating with creditors, this is not the sort of thing you want to make a habit of doing.

A Few Final Tips…

  • Know when you should negotiate. Timing is a big part of it: you want some leverage one way or the other, whether that’s from normally on-time payments to absolute financial hardship.
  • Remember you need to talk to the right people: while customer service can do some things, you’ll want to speak to a manager for interest rates or debt reduction.
  • Know that you, as a customer, have rights.
  • Finally, know when you need to get help, and how to get it. If you seriously are looking at debt reduction, consider hiring a lawyer; but always be careful, and always look for federally approved counsel if you do go this route.