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Budgeting is a Top Priority

February 21st, 2013

In these tough economic times, getting out of debt or staying out of debt in the first place is a top priority for many families. Creating and sticking to a budget is one of the best ways to address the problem of looming debt and help protect a family from suffering serious financial consequences. There are many benefits to creating a realistic budget plan for your family and adhering to this budget for the long term.

Here are three of the main benefits to devising and sticking to a budget:

Finding More Money

It may seem like having a budget is about not having money, but once you sit down and honestly work through your expenses you may find that there are areas where you are overspending so you can trim down these expenses and free up extra money. For example, it may startle you to come face-to-face with the just how much you are spending on your gourmet coffees every morning. Instead, invest one month in purchasing a high quality coffee maker and make a variety of flavored coffees at home, saving you several dollars per day. Doing a little bit of research may also show you that you are overspending on things like car insurance or phone service.

budget signPlanning Ahead

Developing a budget helps you to understand how much money you have coming in and going out on a regular basis. This allows you to plan ahead for major purchases or for paying off your debt. Sticking to a budget consistently gives you control over your money, rather than constantly feeling as though you are at the mercy of the money as it comes in.

Emergency Preparedness

Creating a budget and finding places where you can limit your expenditures as to save money helps you to prepare yourself for life’s emergencies. Financial experts recommend building a savings account that has enough money in it to cover bills and other expenses should you unexpectedly lose your income. Sticking to your budget for the long term means having the money to cover all of your necessary expenses and also begin creating a healthy financial future for you and your family.

For more financial tips, check out twitter feeds like @MoneyMutual and @planetmoney.

Tax Software 101

January 30th, 2013

Increasingly, tax software is a phenomenal way to track your progress when it comes to running a business, paying taxes, and more, as well as when it comes down to improving your financial literacy and, well, paying your taxes!

But there are slight difference in the tax software game, from mobile and web apps and software that allow you to track your taxes throughout the year, to pieces of software that are specifically designed for download and use when it comes to year-end tax returns and more.

It’s critical for a business owner, whether they use yearly or quarterly tax software, to take the time to understand the need for the right type of accounting software when it comes to improving their finances and more. With the right tax software integrated into your business platform, you can save money, improve your financial outlook, and make more transparent your costs and profits as you improve your own financial literacy and the overall financial health of your business.

doing taxesIntuit QuickBooks

QuickBooks, for example, is the go-to software for countless business owners around the country. Rather than calculating and working on your taxes in a year-end fashion, QuickBooks works throughout the year as a way for you to keep up with receipts, profits, invoices, and more. In turn, then, you can use QuickBooks to quickly and efficiently figure out your tax burden and move forward with it in the coming year, when it’s time to pay taxes.


Opposite of QuickBooks, TurboTax isn’t a year-long tax system, but rather a one-time download to help you fill out your tax returns quickly and efficiently. TurboTax works to guarantee that you will get the best refund possible on your taxes when you work with them, as they look for all available deductions and more, and they work hard to ensure that your tax return issues are as seamless and as straightforward as they can possibly be.

Tax Slayer

Tax Slayer is similar to TurboTax, in that it is a year-end tax system designed to save you money and do your taxes with as little hubbub as possible. Tax Slayer is on the lower end of the TurboTax system, and is more designed for people who have very simple tax returns and want to save money on the process, though it is an ideal way to do your taxes, track receipts, and more.

All in all, tax software is the future; while people will still use accountants, of course, more and more have gone forward with tax software needs to ensure that they get the most out of their taxes in the quickest way possible, whether using it as a year long program, or just rounding out each calendar year with a system to do their taxes and send it in. Either way, though, it’s important to use tax software to get the most out of your tax issues and improve your financial outlook!

Elliot Charles is a retired tax professional who has started a second career as a tech blogger.  In addition to tax software, he writes about lead management software, mobile app development, and the development of mobile devices.

Redefining Personal Finance

April 30th, 2012

There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to look at our finances and reevaluate the situation. For many of us that has happened at several points over the few years as the economy has had us all on draining rollercoaster. If there is one thing that we have learned it’s that personal finance and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. A great article recently published online cautions consumers to think carefully over supposed personal finance advice. Whether you are meeting with an advisor in person or getting tips from videos on YouTube it’s important that you take time to really consider your options before making a decision. Everything from creating a budget, applying for a mortgage , or trying to save for the future will affect your finances and your family so you want your decision to be as well thought out and informed as possible.

The Cost of Drug Abuse treatment programs

December 31st, 2011

No doubt the cost of drug abuse to society is high. At the end of the 20th century, according to a study conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, such abuse cost the United States about 180.9 billion dollars for the year 2002. A number of factors go into this figure, including resources that are used to combat the consequences to crime and to health, as well as the losses that are incurred in the workforce from death, withdrawal and disability. The personal cost of substance abuse is as high in its own way.

In the last decade of the last century, the costs have risen an average of 5.3 percent each year from 1992 to 2002. It’s a rate that’s higher than the annual growth for the gross domestic product for the country’s entire economy. Note that this study was conducted well before the economic downturn in the last decade, where cost of drug abuse would only be exacerbated by a world straining from financial hardship.

That study also didn’t take into account abuse problems from legal substances that might be called drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol. More current estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, place the figure at an excess of $600 billion dollars! These include not only crime costs, but costs of productivity and health. Broken down, the figures work out to around $181 billion for illegal drugs and then, for the legal substances, $193 billion for tobacco and a staggering $235 billion for alcohol.

Of course, these dry figures don’t include the human cost – the disintegration of families, the loss of jobs, domestic violence, child abuse, failure in school, and much more. These also should be considered in the total cost.

As high as Drug rehab costs may be, collectively, drug rehab programs may be seen as one solution to what comes down to a very human problem. But how does the individual go about paying for this solution, especially considering that low finances and substance abuse often go together?

While a struggle, a person with fewer funds may still be able to get help. State and federally funded drug rehabilitation facilities may be one such solution. These facilities often run on a sliding fee scale and can arrange for payment plans. They also work with Medicare and Medicaid programs. In some states, vouchers are available from federal programs – although it’s important to note that not every state participates and many of these particular programs are faith-based. Yet another option is to check out clinical trials that are testing new methods of counseling and medical treatment.

With thousands of treatment centers in the United States, on line searches will also help individuals in need locate affordable drug rehab centers everywhere from Los Angeles and New York to drug treatment in MN, where recovery can begin.

Gavin Sparks is a popular health columnist and author.  His work appears on pages like and blogs about nutrition and diet.

Find the Best Deal on an Apartment

December 17th, 2011

With an election year right around the corner, many politicians are going to be arguing about whether the economy is better or worse than it was in 2008. No matter what statistics they throw at the press, most people know that times are still tough. The average person wants to know that they are making smart financial decisions and that they aren’t loosing money.

When it comes to buying real estate, there are all sorts of calculations to determine if a specific house or condo is a good investment. But how do you tell if you’re getting a good deal when renting an apartment?

Start by considering how much you can afford to pay. The general recommendation is that your rent and utilities should not exceed 30% of your gross monthly income. That means that someone making $40,000 a year should only spend $1000 a month for rent plus utilities, such as electricity, water, gas, sewage, etc. If you’re spending more than that, you’re hurting your overall financial health.

Next make sure that you know what you need. Paying too much for an apartment that doesn’t have enough square footage or that has more bathrooms than you need is a bad deal. Daniel Drimmer , President of Starlight Apartments, recommends working with companies like his, which offer a variety of properties in different neighborhoods, floorplans, and price ranges, to find the unit that meets your exact needs.

It is also important to consider what the going rate for apartments is in a given area. Keep in mind that the average cost of an apartment within a single city is going to vary greatly depending on size, exact location, and amenities offered by the building or complex. Experts like Daniel Drimmer suggest that you look at prices in your target neighborhood for a range of apartments, even those that don’t suit your needs. This way you can get an idea of the typical rent and will be able to tell if a stated rent is too high or within the market range.

Lastly, make sure that you go over your lease with your landlord or property manager. You need to know exactly what deposits , utilities, and maintenance fees you are responsible for. There is nothing worse than moving into an apartment and then realizing you have to pay more than you thought for community maintenance fees or that your deposit is non-refundable.

With a little due diligence and planning you should be able to find an apartment that provides a comfortable living environment and is a good deal for your pocketbook.

Fundraising for a New Business

November 23rd, 2011

It’s one of the great challenges, and one of the most rewarding experiences, to begin a new business venture.  Taking the time and the energy to put a vision to work in the world is always a risk, but it’s one of those risks that can have enormous payoffs in the end.  Having realistic expectations is essential, and although positive thinking certainly will pave the way to success, naïve ideas about profit can stand in the way.  It’s important, then, to maintain a spirit of discovery, with the understanding that setbacks do not equal failure, and that too much luck at the beginning can be misleading.


With any business, brand new or well-established, there are always going to be periods that are slow, and points where things pick up.  Part of the challenge, then, is to organize and plan so that it’s easier to weather the ups and downs.  Having sufficient start-up funds is of course one of the most essential things to getting the project up and running in the first place.  This means having sources of funding from all over the map, from fast loans from Money Mutual, to a list of potential lenders.  But having enough of a prudent reserve for tough times definitely needs to be factored into the equation.  For many businesses, having enough funds to cover basic operating costs for six months is recommended. This is a reasonable amount necessary to be able to weather unsuspected storms, treating the business like an individual, protecting themselves against the possibility of unemployment. Of course, for many small businesses, it’s not possible to have that kind of liquid income.  It’s definitely possible to survive, but riskier.


In either case, one will need to cultivate a head for fundraising.  In the non-profit world as well as in businesses for profit, fundraising is a skill that carries over into most every other aspect of running a business.  Finding sources for fast loans that can get things rolling, from places like, is definitely one crucial piece of the puzzle.  But it’s also necessary to start thinking about networking in a totally different light, where every encounter can be one that leads to potential sources of income.  Talking to family members and extended family members is one way that new businesses get a leg up, Learning how to introduce the mission and purpose of the business to family and friends is not only a way of tapping potential funding, but it’s also good practice for talking to strangers.  This is the testing ground, then, where one learns how to talk about their ideas, and ask for money, all at the same time, and these are the skills that every successful business owner gets to utilize, and continue learning, throughout their lives.

The Costs of DUI

November 23rd, 2011

One often hears in the news about people being convicted for DUI or being involved in an accident caused by DUI.  DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence.  That means the driver is intoxicated which affects their driving performance.  DUI is against the law and police departments around the country crack down hard on this.

What will a DUI cost you if you are convicted for the first time.  OK it may vary according to the state you are convicted in – but the cost could be in the vicinity of $5,000.  Now that is a lot of money for having some drinks and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.  This amount includes fines and fees associated with the conviction.  This is a lot of money and enough to put most people off drinking and driving.  And the bad news is this cost could be much higher if you have to pay for another form of transport to your place of employment.  That is of course if you do not lose your job.  If that is the case then the cost could be so much higher.

Costs associated with DUI include; fines, court costs, attorney fees, bail, vehicle towing fees, alcohol education school, fees for getting your license reinstated, ignition lock fees as well as additional costs associated with vehicle insurance.  You will not get your license back until you have proof that all these fees have been paid.

The costs associated with DUI go up in increasingly larger amounts for each subsequent conviction.  Plus the amount of time you lose your license for increase with each additional conviction.

Information from the Knoxville DUI Attorney

Business Success and Financial Growth

September 24th, 2011

In this day and age, all businesses must find ways of making their operation run smoothly and efficiently. There are many choices for consumers, and there are many companies which may struggle during the ongoing economic climate and only the well run businesses are thriving. Only the most efficient companies are surviving. There are many approaches to ways in which to run one’s business in an efficient manner and help can be found on various websites and postings such as those on a Marlabs blog site. In all cases, one of the key components to ensuring that the operational systems run efficiently is the one of having clear cut and set goals.

The outlines or notes on goals and the way to achieving those goals should be precise and to the point. When this is the case, and employees are made aware of exactly what it is they are trying to achieve there is less communication. Managers then, can intervene when the instructions are not being followed or the goals are not being met. Since all information is precise, stepping in and redirecting employees towards the goals will improve the attainment of those goals in the future. Software systems assist greatly in the collection of data pertinent to each case, however too many companies have grown to rely on the software systems alone. The human element must always remain present in order to ensure the maximum growth potential . This is made more simple when the business is sales driven. Numbers do not mislead if the numbers and the data is accurate.

In any case, knowing one’s strength and one’s weaknesses is key, not only in personal matters of life but in the business arena as well. Today there are many opportunities online, such as investigating a companies credentials or history through social networks such as Marlabs on linkedin . Knowing one’s perceived enemies, or in the business world…knowing one’s competition can provide a company with the means and the strategy to move ahead. By looking into the business performance of other companies, one can evaluate and implement their own strategies. The infrastructure and ways of analyzing what one’s company is achieving is easily compared to that of other competitors. Mechanisms are easily structured then, ones that will transform their existing policies and goals, into those that will continue to grow and continue to promise the success, the technological growth and the financial security necessary to have enduring opportunities far into the future.

Money Saving Tips for College

July 8th, 2011

College is infamous for being a ridiculously expensive time in a person’s life. Although the bills add up quickly, there are money saving tips that will help keep those bills down and keep more money in the student’s pockets.

While there may not be much leniency with tuition costs, housing is an expense which can be inexpensive if the right measures are taken. There are many different options for students when it comes to housing, there are dormitories, apartments, rental houses or condominiums. Dormitories are an inexpensive living situation as the student will be right on campus and will save money for traveling. While some people do not like living with another person in one room, there are low cost student apartments or rental houses. If the student searches for apartments or houses early enough, then they will be able to find the best possible deal.  

Food is one of the biggest expenses in college, while living in the dorms most students don’t have a kitchen, eating in the cafeteria is much less expensive than eating at a gourmet restaurant. If the student is living in an apartment or house, cooking is one of the best ways to save money. Instead of eating out at a restaurant, making a meal and saving the leftovers will not only save money but will be a healthier life choice as well.

The cost of books can seem astronomical for a first year college student. Spending over $1000 on books each year can really add up. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks which will take that bill down rapidly. The biggest mistake that college students make is that they buy all their books from the bookstore. While some books can only be found at the college bookstore, many of the others can be found online, at a used book store, or in the library. One of the greatest untapped book resources is the campus library, many students go to the library simply to study but the building is filled with books and usually has the novels or textbooks used in the classes. Instead of having to buy a book, why not rent it for free? There are also great deals with online books, many of the books can be found on Amazon or Chegg and will offer free shipping for students.

Going to college may be one of the largest expenses anyone has to deal with, but by being smart with money those astronomical bills can be diminished quickly.

Before You Apply for a Mortgage

June 22nd, 2011

The era of buy now and pay later has disappeared for most consumers. The easy credit terms of past decades have been replaced by high interest rates and a slate of charges and fees. Mortgages are also harder to obtain now that the government has cracked down on unethical lending practices and banks, faced with huge inventories of foreclosed homes, have raised their standards for new borrowers.

If you are considering buying a home you need to ask yourself How Much Mortgage Can I Afford ? Do this before you start looking at home listings and certainly before you apply for a mortgage. You need to consider your income, assets and current expenses. You also need to project future expenses, including those associated with owning a home, like maintenance, renovations, taxes and insurance. If the amount of mortgage you can afford is in line with the housing market in your area, then you can proceed to the next step. If not, you should probably spend a few years improving your financial situation and then revisit home ownership in the future.

In addition to looking at a simple income and expense budget, you also need to look at your credit and current debt, because mortgage lenders will include those factors when they decide whether or not to approve your loan. Your credit score , credit history, and debt to income ratio are all important to mortgage lenders. You also need to be careful about the home you ultimately choose to buy. You may have good credit and be considered a healthy risk for a mortgage but if you choose to buy a house that is overpriced, has a bad appraisal or doesn’t have a clear title, your mortgage will be rejected.

Make sure you have all your financial and property ducks in a row before you apply for a mortgage and the process will go much faster and your path to home ownership will be a smooth one.