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Increase In Gas Prices Just In Time for Holidays

5 Dec

CNN is cautioning drivers to expect $3.00/gallon gas by Christmas, if they aren’t already paying that much.

Eliminating vehicle related expenses is definitely a plus in relocating to New York for me. I would definitely use public transportation more often, if it were possible, here in Atlanta. Here’s hoping I won’t use cabs more than necessary, which will drive up my transportation related expenses.

Here are a few tips on how to save money on gas in metro-Atlanta this holiday season:

1. Use Marta during rush hour to and from the airport
I decided to use Marta for my Thanksgiving trip to D.C. Long-term parking was only $5 per day ($30 total) and I only spent $4.50 to get to and from the airport. There was no sitting in traffic, waiting on my ride or feeling like I was inconveniencing anyone. Naturally, I provide gas money to anyone nice enough to pick me up, but one in particular took every opportunity to remind me he was doing me a favor.

2. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
The most accurate information for how many psi your tires need is the tire itself.
The recommended amount will be written on the sidewall of the tire.

Note: Only check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. Hot air expands and will give you an inaccurate reading.

3. Make sure your car is well tuned and the oil has been changed on schedule.
The frequency with which you should do these things vary based on the make and model of your car, as well as, the type of motor oil used. Refer to the manufacturer or a trusted mechanic for more information.

4. Comparison Shop
With websites such as , you can find the best value on gas in your area without leaving home or the office.

5. Fill Up on Thursday Before 10 a.m.

…so says this article on Yahoo Finance. If you regularly visit one or two stations in your area take note of when the prices are changed. Too busy to do so? It can’t hurt to ask the staff.

Happy Saving!

Online Bill Pay and Principal Reduction Payments

2 Dec

The fastest way to reduce debt is by having additional payments applied to directly reduce the principal amount owed. Previously I mailed in payments for my loans. For my Citibank loan I could easily check a box to have the additional money be applied to the principal rather than to advance the payments. Now that I have somewhat automated my finances, I don’t have this option. Seems like I am not the only person who has encountered such an issue with a loan. Check out an excerpt from a post on The Consumerist:

“This wouldn’t be a huge deal if the online bill-pay options allowed you to choose between early payment or principal reduction (although why anyone would choose early payment is beyond me), but instead special checks have to be mailed to Chase Auto Finance for any principal reduction to occur. ”
Several readers in the comments have the same issue as well.

I find it rather interesting Citibank, as do most student loan servicers, has an interest rate reduction incentive to induce its borrowers to sign up for automatic debit, but does not have an option on the website to have additional payments apply to principal reduction rather than early payment. Additionally when I view my statements online, there is a box that I could check to apply extra towards principal if I were mailing in my payment. I guess going green and getting out of debt quickly aren’t compatible.

I was told both by Citibank and Direct Loans, I could either mail in a separate payment for principal reduction or continue with electronic payments, but call every month to have the payment applied according to my instructions. The extra work to do this is why it has taken so long for me to reduce the balance of my loan. I have been merely making early payments every month.

In the Internet Age, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than the banks want you to incur as much interest as possible. While I understand it is a business, we as consumers should at least have the option of online principal payment reduction.

Are you having a similar issue with any of your debt obligations? How have you chosen to deal with it?

What Is The Difference Between a Deferment and a Forbearance?

29 Nov

With the rising costs of higher education, many people turn to student loans to finance their degree(s). Generally there is a 6 month grace period after graduation before repayment begins. But there are two other options of repayment postponement:

Forbearance and Deferment. What exactly are the differences?

Deferment options vary depending on what type of loan you have and your specific circumstances. You may qualify for a deferment if, for example, you are enrolled in school, serving on active duty in the military, unemployed, or experiencing economic hardship. During periods of deferment, the federal government will make interest payments on any subsidized loan. Interest on unsubsidized loans will accrue during periods of deferment and forbearance.

Forbearance options also vary depending on what type of loan you have and your specific circumstances. They offer a temporary suspension of your student loan payments if you don’t qualify for a student loan deferment, your deferment options have been exhausted, or you are experiencing financial difficulties. You are responsible for all interest that accrues regardless of the type of loan you have.

The best source of information concerning each option is the lender. Your options can vary greatly with the type of loan(s) you have. Don’t be afraid to contact your servicer(s) to ask any and all questions.

Have you ditched the dish AND cut the cable?

5 Nov

The economy took a turn for the worse some time ago. People have started couponing, budgeting, thrifting and adopting minimalist habits like no time I’ve ever seen before. (<— that’s shit old ppl say, right? I’m apparently getting there.>  One thing most in my circle will not part with is the television. Seriously, the TV. The reason you are probably spending way too much, eating the wrong things AND gaining weight.

Television viewing has changed drastically over time. It was once a luxury. My mother’s house had the only television in their entire neighborhood when she was a child. Can you imagine? When I was a child we only had one television in the house. Surprisingly it was not in the living room. My parents entertained a lot and had no need for the t.v. in the common area.

Now it seems like a requirement to have a television in every room. I’m a single woman with two televisions.  My mother lives alone and has two televisions.  My father lives alone and has four! televisions.  How did this happen?

 

My first foray into the world of no cable was the Fall of 2004, my first year of law school.  Just starting out I didn’t even have any dvds. I quit television cold turkey. No hulu, no netflix, no internet access at all and initially no dvds. I easily survived that year using my radio and dvds. I watched Swat, The Color Purple and The Shawshank Redemption enough times to know all the lines. The next year I got a roommate and cable was included our rent. The joys of student living!

After graduation I moved home for 6 months, where my mother has a satellite dish.  After I moved out, I was able to get a one year cable only special for $24.99. The next year I had two roommates. (SN: Never live with someone you know you don’t love to try to convince yourself you do. It will end badly. Thank goodness this isn’t a relationship blog. ~Management) We had Comcast triple play. My portion was $33 although I didn’t use the internet at all. After this dreaded one year was over, I moved to an apartment alone. The year of turmoil had me longing for solitude. I wanted more than anything to have peace. To not give a fuck about anyone else and just do me. I decided to not subscribe to cable.

I had many more hours in the day. I suddenly wasn’t so bad about returning phone calls or reaching out to my friends. The more plugged-in I am, the less interaction I have with my friends.  So I’ve been living without cable since January. Unlike the first time, I do have Clear mobile internet access. I watch shows on hulu and Mr. T — my love, my best friend, the best person I know, the guy I hope asks me to marry him, you can read about us here: http://myheartlivesinbrooklyn.wordpress.com/ — allows me use of his netflix subscription. He only requests dvds when he’s coming to visit me. Somehow we never quite get around to finishing the movies though.

Since Mr. T lives in New York, Brooklyn to be specific, I was tuned into the Cablevision/Fox debacle.   How angry would I have been as a cable subscriber to lose channels during this negotiation?  Particularly since the World Series was being played AND the outcome of the negotiations would most certainly mean my bill would increase.

So have you ditched the dish or cut the cable? How are you faring?

Check out this article for more information on Internet TV services and their possible influence on people to forgo cable:

http://www.ajc.com/business/cable-subscribers-flee-but-720614.html

Automation

3 Jun

In an effort to minimize the number of things I have to remember on a daily basis, I decided to attempt to automate my finances as much as possible.

First, I decided to get a second checking account.  I have banked with Wachovia (soon to be Wells Fargo) for 12 years.  So for most of my bill paying life, I have done everything from one account.  Chase was offering $100 for new checking account customers who would either a) set up a direct deposit,  b) make at least 5 or more debit card purchases each statement period or c) link to a qualifying checking account.  I decided to decline overdraft protection as well. I am also going to opt-out on my primary checking with Wachovia as well, since I have only overdrafted my account 3 times in 12 years.  The total process was seamless and I received the $100 deposited into my account within 10 days of my initial deposit as promised.

Second, I decided to set up a monthly direct deposit of a portion of my paycheck. I decided to pay the bills, whose amount does not fluctuate monthly from this account.  I decided to keep a cushion in the account equal 1/2 of the monthly total to prevent any potential overdrafts.

Rent: $790

Direct Loans: $330.11

Citibank: 111.50

Total: 1231.61

Each paycheck, I actually have $620.97 deposited into this account.  There is $10.45 over and above the monthly total for all the bills.  The leftover amount will increase once I renew my lease.  As with most renewals, I will be granted a (small) concession for staying.

Next, I signed up for Electronic Debit with Direct Loans for one student loan payment. Once approved, I will receive an immediate interest rate deduction of .25%. Frankly, I should have done this three years ago upon graduation, but that’s another story.

Finally, I set up bill pay through my Chase account for my other student loan with Citibank.  Normally, I would just log on to Citibank’s site and pay the bill. Now I have the recurring payment scheduled to arrive on the 18th monthly, 2 days in advance of the due date. This is the safer alternative, since I don’t have to give my banking information to another company. For the record, I have never had any issues with Citibank, but this deserves a mention for those who haven’t had such great luck.

My next goal is to set up an ING Direct Savings account to take advantage of the sub-account feature for long-term goals. I plan to accomplish this within the next month.

How has automation simplified your life and improved your finances?

The Chic F.O., where F is for Fitness

3 May

Getting my finances in order and becoming fit are two of my goals! I have to thank Single Ma of Fabulous Financials for inspiring me to get my sh*t together.  I remember when she was going to stop blogging because she had reached her goals.  I was proud of her, particularly as a Black women! Thank goodness she decided to continue blogging by sharing her fitness goals as well.  Several other PF bloggers have done this as well.

In real life, I loathe the “me too” contingent.  You know the types.  Buy it because you have it.  Go there because it’s the place to be.  Drink it because it’s the new drink of the in crowd.  Strangely sounds like the VERY reason a lot of people are in dire financial straits. Keeping up with the Joneses.

Fortunately in the PF blogsphere, being a part of the “me too” contingent will get you a great support network, a positive net worth, less stress and a new lease on life.

So back to my fitness goals.  I, like most people, would love to be high school skinny again.  If I knew then, what I know now. LOL, I sound a lot like my mother.  Well, I am not too far from it.

To track my progress, I started a Spark People page.  Once I have utilized it for a while, I will give you all a review.  Please add me if you are already a member. I am, of course, theChicFO, where the F stands for Fitness.

For my workout plan, I decided to do p90x.  My accountability partner is a friend from college.  She completed day 1 today and I completed the fit test.

Here are my starting stats:

Resting heart rate (HR)  76 beats per minute (bpm)

Pull Ups   1/2   ( I actually don’t have the pull up bar, but tried it at my dad’s house about a month ago.  I’m still debating about getting one).

Vertical Leap 15″

Push-Ups (girl variety) 20

Toe Touch +3 inches (Thank God for cheerleading in high school. LOL)

Wall Squats   2 minutes

Bicep Curls  50 reps @ 8 lbs  (I was supposed to do at least 10 lbs, but couldn’t locate my dumbells.

In & outs  25 reps

Heart Rate Maximum

Immediately 128

1 minute       120

2 minutes       108

3 minutes       104

4 minutes       88

I took BEFORE pictues as well, but I’m not brave enough to share those just yet. LOL

Wednesday is Day 1. Pray for me. I will bring it!!!!