Thursday, August 30, 2007

Search and Ye Shall Receive: Payday Loan Jail, Property Tax Liens, and Teenage Daughters

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , ,

Search and Ye Shall Receive returns with more answers to questions people have recently asked search engines that brought them to Punny Money.

Jail for Unpaid Payday Loans?

payday lenders leave you out to dry but not in jail

Can I be sent to jail for not having money for payday loan? (via Google)

This person might want to consult with a real lawyer and check his or her state and local laws, but I’ll still share my view on this. I previously stated that you could go to jail for lying on a credit card application (e.g. stating you make $250,000 a year when you really make $6.50 an hour). In theory, the same could be true for payday loan applications. That said, payday lenders typically don’t collect the sort of information you would normally lie about, so the chances of incriminating yourself over a payday loan are very slim. If you’re worried about payday lenders getting you arrested for not paying your loan, you can relax. It’s illegal for payday lenders to threaten you with jail over unpaid loans. Just be sure not to write any bad checks when paying back the loan; they can still land you in legal trouble.

Do Delinquent Property Taxes Mean No Income Tax Refund?

your tax return is likely safer than your property

If you owe back property taxes, will you not get a tax refund? (via Ask)

Your Federal income tax refund is likely safe because property taxes are collected by state governments. Your state income tax refund is also probably safe, but that’s because the state has a much easier way to collect property taxes in arrears: tax lien sales. Normally once a year, counties or states will “sell” the rights to collect unpaid property taxes on a property to whomever wants to buy them. The buyer then jumps to the head of the line on most liens placed on the property (like mortgages and judgments, but not other state tax liens). When you go to sell the property, you’ll have to cough up the money to pay off those liens.

There are also tax deed sales in which your property is sold out from under you to pay off your delinquent taxes. Obviously this is far worse than just having a lien placed on your property.

So the answer to this question is no, your tax refunds will likely not be affected; but you might want to hold on to those refunds to pay for an apartment if your property goes to a tax deed sale.

How to Talk to Your Teenage Daughter?

aaaah, floating lips, nooooooooooo

How do you talk to a teenage daughter? (via Google)

Good question. When I’m talking to your teenage daughter, I usually ask these questions first:

  1. Are your parents home?
  2. You are 18, right?

Oh, you probably wanted advice on talking to your own teenage daughter. Uh, good luck with that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How to Contribute to Your Family Financially Without Earning a Dime: 7 Tips For Stay-at-Home Moms (and Dads)

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , , , ,

saving money is all in the family

By Robin Shreeves

Before I was a mom, I had a job. You know, the kind of job most people actually consider a job. One that contributes financially. Then I became a mom and my financial contributions stopped while our expenses increased because of diapers, formula, baby food, etc. Our family income went down; our family expenses went up. Sound familiar?

I saw my husband working so hard to bring in money, and I decided that I could show him how much I appreciated his hard work by spending the money he brought in as wisely as possible. I made it a project to figure out how I could contribute to my family financially.

I knew that buying things on sale, using coupons, eating most of our meals in, shopping around for the best long distance plan, and trading babysitting services with a friend would save my family some money. They were all no-brainers. But I looked for ways I could further save some money. Here are a few things I did–and you can do, too.

  1. Donate to charity (and keep track of it!). It’s easy to keep track of donations to organizations that send you an end-of-the-year statement, but there are other donations that you need to keep track of yourself. Sure, it’s a pain in the neck to tally up donations of clothing, keep receipts where you can find them at the end of the year, and be on top of it all. Go ahead and whine about it and then get over it. If you are diligent, when tax time comes, you will have helped your family earn a nice tax deduction. You won’t be whining then.

    Donations of clothing and items to non-profit organizations are deductible if you have a receipt. Make a list of all the items donated (clothing can just be a tallied list of number of pants, shirts, coats, etc.). Estimate the value of the donation, and staple the list onto the receipt.

    Other things that I personally keep track of are food items bought to donate to my church pantry, the items bought for our town’s Christmas Wish Tree, Thanksgiving basket donations, etc. I simply keep my register receipts and circle the items that were donated on them.

    Oh, and this is important–put all your receipts in a designated spot immediately.

  2. Use coupon codes when shopping online. I hate, hate, hate paying shipping and handling charges. I know it’s the price I’m supposed to have to pay for the convenience of shopping in my PJs, but I still hate it. I’ve found a way of getting around those charges at some online retailers. Here’s my secret.

    Online stores including J.C. Penney, Chadwicks, One Hanes Place, LL Bean and many, many others often send their preferred customers coupon codes for percent-off discounts or free shipping. There are websites that keep track of these coupon codes and anyone can use them when checking out.

    Sometimes the coupons are for free shipping (yippee!) and sometimes they are for a percentage off one item or your entire order. Now, if I can get a percentage off that equals or exceeds the shipping and handling charges, I’m a happy camper.

    Two good sites are onlycoupons.com and getcouponcodes.com. If neither of these websites have what you are looking for, Google the name of the store and the words “coupon code” and you may come up with something.

  3. Join Upromise (Upromise.com). Upromise works with hundreds of merchants and when you spend money at those merchants a small percentage of what you spend gets donated back to you to use for college savings. You can even earn money back on your weekly groceries by registering your supermarket savings cards with the site.

    The savings add up slowly, but let me tell you, when you’re forking out the money for baby food week after week, it takes the sting out of it just a little to know that 3% off all you spend will go into a college savings account for the kid.

  4. Take your couponing up a notch. Hate clipping coupons? Let someone else do it for you!

    Use a clipping service such as Coupon Clippers. The Coupon Clippers has thousands of coupons from the weekly circulars and other sources that you can get for a small handling fee. Instead of just getting one coupon in your Sunday circular for those granola bars that your kids go through like crazy, you can order five or more coupons for them, taking real advantage when they go on sale.

  5. Sign up for your local Freecycle. You’ve got lots of stuff lying around that is no longer useful to you. So do lots of other people. Freecycle allows people to post items they want to give away to other people who live in the same county. It’s a great way to find things you need for free and find new homes for things you don’t need. And it keeps those things out of landfills which is a really great thing for the future of those kids you’re staying home for in the first place.
  6. Make your own birthday cards for kids, recycle gift bags, and use the Sunday comics to wrap presents. Once your kids get past the age of, say, two months, they will suddenly be invited to at least one birthday party a month. Once they get in preschool that number goes up exponentially.

    I have set a general limit for $10 a gift for friend’s birthdays. But when you add in a card (about $3.00), and gift wrap or bag (another $1.50-$2.00) you’re suddenly increasing the price by 50% and that 50% will end up in the trash within a day or two of the party. It’s ridiculous and wasteful.

    Think about it. A minimum of 12 birthday gifts a year–that’s $60 you’ll save. If you’ve got two kids–that $120. When I see a savings of $120, I see a potential massage.

    There are several places online to print out birthday cards that your kids can color. They don’t even need an envelope. Just tape the card right onto the package. And that package–use the Sunday comics to wrap it or a gift bag that you saved from your kid’s birthday.

  7. Give older kids an allowance. “How can giving money to your kids save me money?” you ask. By giving them their own spending money, you have the perfect retort when they want to have something they see in the store–“Sure, you can have it if you can pay for it.” They may not like it, and you may get accused of being the meanest parent in the universe in front of the Target check-out line, but it will save you money.
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Robin Shreeves is a work-at-home mom who has been published extensively online. Visit her website at robin.shreeves.net.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If You Don’t Buy Your Teenage Daughter $800 In New Clothes RIGHT NOW, You’re A Bad Parent

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , , ,

seriously, you are going to buy her all of this stuff, and it is going to cost you a lot of money, and she will not even thank you for it

It’s late July, and we all know what that means: back-to-school time is right around the corner… down the street about half a block… make two lefts. Here, let me draw you a map…

Today, Yahoo! Shopping tried to explain how to make back-to-school clothes shopping time less painful for you and your pocket book. Unfortunately for you, everything in the article is wrong. To start, the article uses the term “kid” when it is fairly obvious they mean “girl.” (How to shop for a boy: buy five t-shirts and two pairs of jeans. Let him wear them until the smell causes them to disintegrate. Cost: under $100.) Let’s look at the flaws in each piece of girl-shopping advice offered:

  • Yahoo! says to sort through existing clothes and throw out what is “outgrown.” Outgrown is simply a synonym for small or tight, which is exactly the size your daughter wants her clothes to be to accentuate the womanly parts she thinks she has. If you try to throw out that four-sizes-too-small skirt, your daughter will be highly unattractive to boys and could end up sexually conservative or even (gasp) educated.
  • Yahoo! says to identify your child’s favorite items to help avoid wasted purchases in the future. This won’t work because, as it has been scientifically proven, any clothes you buy today will be uncool and outdated three weeks later. Your child’s favorite pieces of clothes are, invariably, the ones you haven’t bought her yet.
  • Yahoo! says to talk to your kids about the latest clothing trends. You can try, but they will likely have changed before you finish your sentence. Nice job forcing your daughter to buy uncool clothes; she’ll be sure to return the favor by sticking you in an uncool nursing home. The same point also recommends telling your daughter that showing her belly button is not a good idea. Sorry, we’re way past belly buttons. You’ll be lucky if your daughter keeps her butt crack half covered.
  • Yahoo! says to explain the difference between wanting something and being able to afford it. Considering more than half of adults don’t understand this difference, you better get a second job before having this conversation.
  • Yahoo! says to have your child wear comfortable clothes while shopping. No no no! This makes it that much easier for her to try on 30 different outfits in each shop. Pile on the layers so she’s passed out by the second store.
  • Yahoo! says to let your kids window shop, then do the buying with you. Better idea: give them pre-paid credit or gift cards, let them loose in the mall, and when the money’s gone, they’re done shopping. Maybe they bought 10 outfits with the money, maybe they bought one iPod and will be stuck with last year’s wardrobe. This way, there’s no “Mommy, just $20 more.”
  • Yahoo! says save some of the shopping for later in the school year, particularly so you can buy winter clothes. This is no longer relevant since, according to your daughter, “winter clothes” means eight inch skirts instead of six.

In summary, home school, and don’t let your children out of the house before they’re 35 (cost: $30 every other year for pajamas).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Five Easy Ways to Never Be Poor Again

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

easy ways to break the cycle of poverty

I used to be poor.

I mean, not starving-on-the-streets poor, but more like are-we-going-to-pay-all-the-bills-this-month poor. Our checking account balance never exceeded three digits, and every dime of income my family made was already ear-marked for rent, food, or bills. It would have been very easy for myself and my family to incur a lot of debt while I was growing up, but we managed to eak out a humble existence and keep ourselves out of the red.

Now that I’m starting my own family and handling all of the financial aspects that go along with it, I’m realizing there are some simple things my family could have done better while I was growing up to move us closer toward middle-class living.

  1. Complete college. Getting a college education is the #1 way to break the cycle of poverty, and it’s something neither of my parents completed. While it’s commonly known that college graduates earn far more than those who just completed high school, few people know that the average income of non-college graduates is dropping every year. So do whatever it takes to get that degree–night or weekend school, community college, work study (and you should be able to do it without student loans).
  2. Own your home. I’ll make this brief. Renters are throwing their money away. Stop paying someone else’s mortgage and start paying your own. Turn that roof over your head into an investment instead of an expense and you’ll be on the road to a better life in no time.
  3. own your home... but not this one

  4. Put whatever money you can in savings. Put $100 a month in a 5% APY savings account and you’ll have over $15,000 in just 10 years. Do it for 20 years and you’ll have over $40,000. Invest in stocks and you’ll likely earn even more.
  5. Wait to have children. If you are barely supporting yourself, you do not want to bring a child into the world to share your meager lifestyle. Do the first three things on this list, and once you’re in a financially stable situation with an optimistic long-term outlook, then start having kids. And if you’re poor and already have kids, don’t have more. And yes, that means stop having sex because that’s where babies come from. The only pleasure you should be getting is through hard work, study, and watching your savings account balance grow.
  6. Swallow your pride. This is one thing my family did right. If you’re trying to start a better life for your family but the expenses of living on your own are keeping you from making any progress, there’s nothing wrong with moving back home with your parents (if they’ll have you). Even if you contribute to their rent or mortgage, it’ll still be much less expensive than paying it all yourself, and you’ll have a couple of years to build or rebuild your financial well-being. Just don’t fall into the trap of staying at home forever; keep working hard, get that degree, and save money.

If you ever find yourself living somewhere between starvation and subsistence, you’re probably not doing at least one of these things. Once you start doing all five–and if I can do it, anyone can–chances are you’ll never be poor again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Added Expenses of Keeping Baby’s Gender A Mystery

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

have you SEEN the price of building blocks recently

If you’re one of those parents who wants the sex of your baby-to-be to remain a surprise until the delivery, you could be passing up a chance to save a ton of money. I was reminded of this fact today by a note in this article on the best time to buy everything at SmartMoney.com.

We don’t have any children of our own yet, but I’ve known a lot of new parents who didn’t want to know their child’s gender until he or she was born. I’ve never quite understood the desire to keep a baby’s gender unknown during pregnancy, and the usual response I get when inquiring as to the parent’s motivation is “we’d like to be surprised.” Well, I counter, won’t you still be surprised if you found out today instead of six or seven months from now?

So if you’re thinking of staying in the dark about whether your baby has a hee-hee or a hoo-hoo, think about some of the added expenses you’ll encounter. For example, if I told you right now that you’re having a girl in six months, then you’d have six months to shop for the best deals on baby girl clothes, baby girl room furnishings, and baby girl toys. If you wait to find out until baby pops out of mommy, you’ll either be rushing to match clothes and decor to the sex of the child, or you’ll have to go with gender neutral items ahead of time.

The SmartMoney.com article will tell you that the best time to shop for newborn clothes is during the pregnancy. For a May birth, you can stock up on summer fashions the previous October during end-of-season clearances. And you’ll have plenty of time to look for the best price on blue or pink paint as well as other gender-specific items for the nursery.

Oh, and save the receipts just in case your doctor confuses an arm for a… yeah.

Update 09/13/2006: Amberlynn makes a good point about one expense I forgot to take into consideration along with one idea why parents might opt not to discover the baby’s gender…

…Long-term effects of ultrasound are not known, so we didn’t want to chance it if we didn’t have to. Plus, the cost of the ultrasound is much higher than any little pink dress.

And Sean gives me another good reason why some parents may choose to stay in the dark…

First off, I think you’re really discounting the surprise on the day of their birth aspect. There’s just something about having yet another surprise on a crazy day that finding out months before just won’t give you. And you get to realize that, in the end, as long as they’re healthy, the color you picked for their clothes are truly a moot point.