Monday, January 18, 2010

Simple Tips to Save Money

If you’ve weathered this past year’s wallet-squeezing, here’s some how-to advice for keeping more money in your pocket now that the New Year has arrived.

Use, don’t lose, those new gift cards. In California, most gift cards cannot have expiration dates or fees, unless clearly stated on the card itself. But if a store goes bankrupt, or if the card is issued by a mall or a bank, your card could be subject to service fees and expiration dates. Another money-saving tip: If your gift card balance is below $10, you can receive it in cash.

Guard against “free trial” offers that stealthily set you up for automatic debits or credit card charges. According to consumer warnings from the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and Visa Inc., some companies offering free trials—on everything from colon cleansers to debt reduction plans—also create automatic deductions for special “services” or subscriptions. Read the fine print before opting for any “free trial” offers.

Calculate how quickly you can pay off credit card debt, especially after holiday spending. Use an online credit card calculator, such as at or According to the California Society of CPAs, if you’ve got a $5,000 balance with an 18% interest rate and make only monthly minimum payments, it will take 12.5 years to pay off the card. And you’ll pay $2,916 in interest. If you get a year-end gift or bonus, consider applying it to your January balances.

Reduce your cell-phone bill. Eliminate services you don’t need or want: insurance, roadside service, ring tones, texting. Or if you or your kids are continually hit with too many fees for text messages, switch to an unlimited plan. Don’t use your cell phone much? Consider switching to a prepaid phone.

Sweep up energy savings. Just a few household changes can save hundreds of dollars a year. If you replace 20 household 100-watt light bulbs with 27-watt fluorescent bulbs, you’ll save $277.30 a year, according to SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District). Shorter showers can save, too. A family of three dropping shower times from 17 minutes to 11 can save $100.20 a year, not to mention conserving gallons of water.

Say thanks to all the new federal tax breaks, including those for purchasing a home, buying a car, paying college expenses or adding household energy improvements. “There’ve been a lot of things loosened up for consumers this year,” said John Hogg, who oversees 16 Jackson-Hewitt tax preparation offices in Sacramento. “Many of these credits have never been available before; others, like the new home buyer’s credit and college tuition credits, are worth more this year than last. If people take advantage of these, their tax liability could be significantly less for 2009.”

The first-time home buyer’s credit increased to $8,000 and was extended to April 30, 2010. Existing homeowners who haven’t purchased a home in the last three years can get a maximum $6,500. The tax credit for college students has been extended to a full four years and up to $2,500 annually, including textbooks. The vehicle sales tax deduction applies to any new purchase made by Dec. 31 this year.

For families, there’s also the child-tax credit and the earned income tax credit (EITC) for low- income households. For instance, a married couple with three children and family income of $22,000 could qualify for a federal refund of more than $9,000 through the combined credits. Due to layoffs and furloughs, many families with reduced incomes may qualify for the first time this year, Hogg said.

Stay healthy: That’s one of the surest ways to save. And if you have a flexible spending account through your employer for health care expenses, don’t forget to submit your receipts for reimbursement by Dec. 31 or your company’s deadline. If you fill out the correct paperwork, you’ll get a nice check in the mail.

Ignore unsolicited e-mails, calls or letters asking for personal financial information. Phony messages pretending to be from the IRS, FDIC and your bank can siphon money faster than you can click open their fraudulent online messages.

Laugh: We’ve all made spending bloopers.
If you want to share yours or ogle those of others, go to, the “online confessional for bad spending.” Sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it’s a lighthearted look at how we can learn from our mistakes.

(c) 2009, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).

By Claudia Buck Print Article
RISMEDIA, January 12, 2010—(MCT)—

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Program 3648 Representative Mark Tyree Providing Big Help to Homeowners in Small Towns -

BOWLING GREEN, K.Y., Jan 11, 2010 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) ----Mark Tyree of Coldwell Banker Legacy Group partnered with Program 3648, a privately-sponsored, nationwide initiative to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, in November of 2008. Mark's efforts under the initiative have positively impacted the lives of many residents in small cities surrounding Bowling Green, Kentucky. In total, Mark Tyree has successfully assisted 20 families with short sale work-out solutions that prevented the families from going through the painful foreclosure process. Tyree is presently helping 26 additional families with many more on the horizon.

Debbie, one homeowner that Mark Tyree helped to avoid foreclosure, recently went through a divorce and as a result, could no longer afford the mortgage payments on her home. The stress of her circumstances began to be lifted from the moment she received a letter from Mark explaining that through Program 3648 he was volunteering his time and resources to help her at no cost whatsoever. She stated that she felt much better after speaking to Mark for the first time. She said, "Mark was a really big help. He was responsive to my needs and always answered my questions in a way I could understand. He did all the work for me; He was just a friend while I went through a difficult process. I felt much better once he solved my situation."

Tyree has only been a Realtor for three years, but since partnering with Program 3648 his Real Estate business has taken off. He states, "Leveraging with Program 3648 has given me the tools I need to reach distressed homeowners and then help them get a fresh start and rebuild their lives."

Program 3648 trains licensed real-estate professionals in most markets throughout the country. These licensed agents then act as a "ground army" of volunteers, reaching out to homeowners who may need assistance. Under Program 3648, Certified Program 3648 Representatives (CPR's), offer to help homeowners, at no cost whatsoever, avoid foreclosure and take advantage of any servicer or government incentives that apply to their particular situation. Allen Ciarlante, Mark Tyree's Program 3648 Transaction Coordinator states, "The best thing about Mark Tyree is that he really goes the extra mile for the homeowner. If I ever need any additional documents or information to complete the deal for the homeowner, I can always count on Mark to get me what I need right away. He is a pleasure to work with."

Co-founder of Program 3648 Jeremy Bowman states, "Hundreds of real-estate professionals throughout the country, like Mark Tyree, have responded to the call to action and are going above and beyond to help homeowners through one of the most difficult processes of their lives. Without them, we would be severely limited in our ability to penetrate most markets and help relieve distressed homeowners of their potential foreclosure." With certified representatives now positioned in most markets nationwide, Program 3648, along with their Representatives, stands poised, ready, and eager to help any homeowner who wants help.

The Program 3648 logo is available at

This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire,

SOURCE: Program 3648

CONTACT: Program 3648
Cindy Thompson, Director of Administration
(C) Copyright 2010 GlobeNewswire, Inc. All rights reserved.

Program 3648 Representative Mark Tyree Providing Big Help to Homeowners in Small Towns -

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Homeowners – Exterior Remodeling Projects Prove Best Bang for Your Buck

RISMEDIA—Despite a slow market and a slight decrease in the resale value of most remodeling projects, Realtors report that the smartest home improvement investments may also be some of the least expensive. Results from the 2009 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report show that small-scale exterior projects are the most profitable at resale, according to estimates by Realtors who completed a recent survey.

On a national level, eight out of the top 10 projects in terms of costs recouped were exterior replacement projects that cost less than $14,000. Certain types of door and siding replacements, as well as wood deck additions all returned more than 80% of project costs upon resale. A steel entry door replacement–a new addition to this year’s list–recouped 128.9% of costs, followed by upscale fiber-cement sliding replacements at 83.6%. Wood deck additions recouped 80.6% of costs.

“Once again, this year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of a home’s first impression,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “With exterior projects returning a high percent of project costs upon resale, Realtors can help give your home curb appeal while adding value to the real estate transaction.

The 2009 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 33 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 12th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with Realtor Magazine, as Realtors provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets.

On a national level, the project with the biggest improvement from 2008 was the attic bedroom addition, recouping 83.1% of remodeling costs compared to 73.8% in 2008. The only other interior project that landed in the top 10 was a minor kitchen remodel with 78.3% costs recouped.

Other exterior projects in the top 10 include midrange vinyl and upscale foam-backed vinyl sliding replacements, which returned more than 79% of costs. In addition, several types of window replacements–midrange wood, midrange vinyl, and upscale vinyl–all returned more than 76% of costs upon sale.

Similar to last year’s report, the least profitable remodeling projects in terms of resale value were home office remodels and sunroom additions, returning only 48.1% and 50.7% of project costs.

Regionally, cities in the Pacific states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington once again outperformed the rest of the nation in terms of remodeling costs recouped upon resale. The West South Central region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas; the East South Central region of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the South Atlantic region of the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia also performed relatively well.

The regions that generally returned the lowest percentage of costs were New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont), East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin), West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), and the Middle Atlantic (New York and Pennsylvania).

Golder commented that remodeling projects are just one of many factors that contribute to a home’s overall resale value. “As the first, best source for real estate information, Realtors are experts in providing insight into what projects and investments will make a difference in your house. It’s important to consult with a Realtor who can explain the variety of factors that affect a home’s value, such as location, condition of surrounding properties and the regional economic climate,” she said.

For more information, visit [2].

Posted By susanne On December 23, 2009 @ 4:07 pm In Homeowner's Toolkit,

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