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The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ease Your Mind By Taking Control Of Your Finances

Ease Your Mind By Taking Control Of Your FinancesIf you are feeling like you don't have any control over your finances you are not alone. Whenever there is an economic downturn like we have recently experienced it is normal to feel a sense of panic regarding your finances. Admittedly there are many things you may not have control over when it comes to your money, however there are some areas where you can and should take charge of your finances to have some peace of mind during these troubling times.

  • Do you know where your investments are? Many people allow their retirement accounts or other investments to go on auto pilot during good times. There is no better time than the present to dig deep and get a better understanding of your portfolio.

  • Don't panic if your home has lost value. Unless you are in the market to move or sell right now, you shouldn't worry needlessly about your home losing value. The housing market goes up and down and having your house lose value is simply part of home ownership. However if you are struggling to make your mortgage payment due to having “too much” house you should consider looking for help now before you get too far behind to help yourself.

  • Secure your job. This tip may be easier said than done in the current employment market. With many people losing their jobs and companies downsizing everyday it is clear that you may not be able to do anything to prevent job loss. That being said, you should make every effort possible to do the best job you can do. Now is not the time to be slacking at work. Get there on time, try to limit time off and be as efficient as possible while you are there in an attempt to secure your job.

  • Pay down debt and reduce expenses. This common sense advice should be followed regardless of the economy but is especially important in a recession. While you may have no control over the state of the global economy, you do retain control of your individual spending. By cutting costs and paying down debt you put yourself in a better financial position for the future.

  • Put major purchases on hold. If possible put off any major purchases that will further strap your budget. Now is not the time to incur more debt or tie up your existing disposable income for additional payments.

  • Protect your credit. Credit is a precious commodity as lenders try to reduce their risk in the current economy. Protect your existing credit by always making at least your minimum payment, on time, every time. If you skip a payment or pay late, creditors may see you as a risk and respond by applying higher interest rates or reducing your available credit, both of which hurt your financial position and credit score.

By taking control of what you actually have control over, you can reduce your stress level and feel confident in your money management plan. However if you find you are losing control or are unable to follow the steps outlined it may be time to ask for help. There are many options available for debt relief if you find yourself in a position where you no longer have control over your finances. Your problems won't solve themselves, be pro-active and face your situation for a better financial future.

Trisha Wagner is a freelance writer for DestroyDebt.com, a debt community featuring debt forums. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What A Little Effort Can Do For Debt Reduction

There are many, many things I love about my life here in the beautiful mesas of the Chihuahuan Desert. Among those are the contrasts, the juxtapositioning of old and new ways of living.

While I make use of the remarkable technologies of today as I write this now, I spent some time this morning as the indigenous women of this region did for thousands of years -- making tortillas. And, while I was working, I was thinking about a couple things related to cooking at home -- far less expensive and far more healthy overall.

I could buy tortillas. They run about a dollar a
dozen. In the photos (always clickable for a larger view), I am mixing up a batch of about 40 for less than a dollar... and, if I do say so myself, my home-made, fresh tortillas are far better than those mass produced in the factory and bagged up. Everyone here has said so, too.

In the big pot next to my wanna-be comal -- I have no proper comal for tortilla making, so I make do with a well-seasoned iron skillet -- are about 5 pounds of pinto beans. I'm feeding 9
people with hearty appetites. I'll be smashing and
frying a good portion of those beans with some
spices for tacos tonight, which is why I made
tortillas this morning. The rest of the beans will be used tomorrow by my sister to make her awesome chili.

The dried beans are pretty inexpensive, about 2 dollars for 4 pounds. Canned beans are easily double and often triple the price. It seems kind of silly to pay that when cooking dry beans is so easy. If I wanted to, I could buy canned refried beans for my tacos, though that would also be much more expensive, and I'd still have to add spices to make them palatable. Furthermore, they'd be less nutritious from the can, and probably have MSG and be high in sodium.

My point, over all, is that many people spend a lot of money on prepared foods, convenience foods, and drive-through foods, when by investing a little effort they could save a considerable amount on their food bill by cooking at home. Furthermore, most of those quick foods are price heavy and nutrition light. The benefits of eating fresh, whole foods are innumerable, but if we stick to the financial aspect for a moment, improved health leads to less money spent on costly health care.

There are many things in day-to-day life that are similar. For those looking to reduce debt and decrease spending (leaving more money for saving or more time for something other than working to pay the bills), learning to do basic repair tasks around the home and on the auto really isn't all that difficult. Being less dependent on others to meet your needs is a very good thing, particularly in today's economic climate.

I've been following the recent news about food shortages, skyrocketing prices, and the rationing of some food items throughout the world with a blend of fascination and horror. This is exactly the scenario that inspired me to remove my family from the city. I, geek that I am, have strange hobbies. Global economics is one of those hobbies and I've been watching trends for a few years now. To me, as well as to many financial experts, it looks like times are sure to be fiscally challenging in the near future and for a significant period of time thereafter. The financial markets are going to have to go through their spasms of correction and we're all going to have to go along for the ride.

During the Great Depression, while those in rural areas did experience severe poverty, they did have a significant advantage over those living in urban areas -- the ability to grow and hunt for their food. During World War II, the Victory Garden was an important supplement to households throughout the nation, including urban neighborhoods, as common, daily-use foods were rationed by the government. Looking at our situation today, it seems that learning to develop a bit of food self-sufficiency -- whether by cooking more, creating urban patio or fire escape gardens in containers, or larger suburban or rural gardens --is not just good economics in terms of a debt reduction plan or strategy for reducing overall expenses, but also simply good old-fashioned common sense.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Now I Know Why The Cost of Diesel Fuel Is So High

Diesel fuel is still more expensive than gasoline, and is now consistently more expensive than even premium unleaded. This situation is exceedingly infuriating. Before fuel prices starting going crazy about 3 years ago, diesel was always cheaper than regular unleaded. Now I feel like a real sucker driving my diesel. Yes, my car still gets great mileage, and it's still a very reliable engine. But the high cost of diesel just doesn't make sense. Why should it be more expensive than premium gas?

Well, I did some research, and now I understand why. It simply a matter of price gouging. The oil companies are charging more for diesel because they can. They are charging more because they know that the folks who depend on diesel fuel, i.e. farmers and truck drivers, have no choice but to pay up. This situation really stinks, because the oil companies are gouging people who really don't deserve to be gouged. They should be gouging the millionaires and billionaires who own fleets of gas-guzzling sports cars and sport-utility vehicle, and only fill up with super premium gas.

So here's my message to the oil companies: what goes around, comes around. Your greed is messing up my budget, and I'm very mad about it. We diesel drivers will get even eventually.

Here's a recent snapshot from a station in my area:

A snapshot from a gas station in my area

PS: who buys middle-grade gasoline anyway?

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