Two Ways to Save on Your Wedding Day!

Wedding1Your wedding day can easily be considered as one of the biggest moments in your life; it’s the day in which you and your partner take the first steps forward together into the future, and typically it’s an occasion filled with friends, family, and fanfare. Unfortunately, it can also be extremely easy to become overwhelmed during the planning stages of such a big milestone event, especially if you are on a strict budget. Let’s face it- rings, gowns, tuxes, venues, food, and flowers all cost money, and when it comes to weddings, they usually cost A LOT of money. While you should absolutely do whatever will make you the happiest on your big day, there are also some things that you can consider in advance that may help you save some significant funds. Remember, marriage is usually the gateway to even larger upcoming expenses such as a house, children, and college funds, so it’s very important not to blow up your bank accounts on one day- even if it is the big one. Here are two helpful tips that can help you save significant money, while maintaining the wedding of your dreams.

  1. Keep Your Guest List Reasonable!– This can easily be the biggest headache not only between you and your fiancé during the planning stage, but you and your own family as well! Whether it’s mom wanting her second cousins, dad expecting an invite for his co-workers, or you trying to find room for you college friends, deciding who to invite to your wedding can be a steep hill to climb. Did you know, however, that wedding experts claim that you should only invite the number of guests that you could have at least one minute to speak with individually? Meaning, it would take a full 5 hours to simply have a one minute conversation with each of your guests if you decide to invite 300 people to the event; that’s without eating, dancing, or stopping to cut the cake! Next, factor in the money it costs to actually invite and have someone attend- food, drink, invitations, stamps, envelopes, favors, etc. to get a realistic “per person cost” for your wedding. It’s clear to see that you can save serious money if you can lower the amount of people you and your fiancé decide to invite. In the perfect world, every guest pays for his or her plate through their gift, but we all know that it’s never that easy. Inviting only the guests that truly matter will help you start of this whole process on the right foot.
  2. Off-Peak can be Perfect for You– Before you even break out a calendar and begin searching for a date for your big day, remember one thing- Saturday is EASILY the most expensive day to get married. Therefore, if you are looking to knock off a large chunk of your expenses from the start, look into getting hitched on either a Friday or better yet, a Sunday. Friday can still offer your guests the luxury of not having to head to the office the morning after your wedding, and a 7 or 8pm start time for the reception can give everyone plenty of time to make it to the event from work. If some people can’t make your ceremony on time, so be it, that part is more for your closest friends and family anyway. Having your wedding on a Sunday, unfortunately, means most people will have to work the next day, but you can counteract that inconvenience by having a lovely early morning or afternoon wedding rather than an all night ordeal. Venues will be begging you to take the date off their hands since they are typically harder to book on their end, and will be throwing special offers your way if you decide to go for it. You’ll get WAY MORE than what you pay for on a Sunday, and hey- it never hurts being different!

Money Prep for Prospective Parents

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It costs parents an average of $245,340 to raise a child from birth to age 18.

That figure from the U.S. Agriculture Department is just one reason why prospective parents are advised to consider parallel financial planning for child-based expenses and retirement. The key is to start doing it as early as possible – in a December 2012 article in The New Republic, adults are starting families later than previous generations. In short, savings needs for childcare, college and retirement seem on a tighter collision course than ever.

For prospective couples or single parents, any discussion of family should begin with the pros and cons of starting a family in terms of personal, lifestyle and career success. In short, the question “Do we want kids?” should come before “Can we afford kids?”

Once family goals are settled, it’s wise to evaluate where current finances stand. While many couples have a thorough money talk before they wed, it works for family planning, too. Couples and single parents will benefit from complete financial transparency before pregnancy, adoption proceedings or fertility treatment starts.

Utilize qualified financial and tax advice to fit specific circumstances. Consult trusted family and friends for referrals to qualified financial planning and tax experts. Also check current tax rules for how to handle and potentially deduct certain costs related to adoption or fertility treatments.

Research thoroughly and bookmark resources online. The IRS website continually updates its summary of tax issues for parents which can guide overall planning. New authors and bloggers emerge daily on virtually every aspect of parenting; friends, relatives and colleagues can also provide resources.

For prospective parents who are employed, it is a good idea to evaluate benefits well ahead of a pregnancy, fertilization procedures or adoption. Depending on specific circumstances, employees should review health and general benefits for routine and emergency medical coverage, medical leave policy and extras like child care benefits. Couples should compare their coverage to determine who has the best family coverage overall.

Start planning for childcare expenses as soon as possible. Full- or part-time childcare services for working parents can be surprisingly expensive and difficult to obtain depending on location. In 2015, the White House reported that the average cost of full-time care for an infant was about $10,000 a year, and a 2014 Boston Globe report noted state-by-state estimates that were significantly higher. For peace of mind and affordability, it is advisable to tackle the childcare issue as early as possible. Prospective parents might also speak with a qualified tax advisor about whether it is more advantageous to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on their taxes or pay childcare expenses from a Flexible Spending Account at work.

Loved ones can also lend financial assistance to a new family in a variety of ways. Affordable basics include general parenting advice, as-needed babysitting services and sharing coupons and hand-me-downs like clothing, toys and unneeded child-related equipment in good condition. For those willing to lend financial support, such options might include a Coverdell Education Savings Account, 529 college savings plan or a gift of cash or assets to the child subject to IRS rules. Also, anyone can directly pay medical expenses in full for someone they do not claim as a dependent under certain circumstances. If friends or family members offer financial help, encourage them to evaluate options with qualified financial and tax experts.

Finally, prospective parents should become dedicated bargain hunters and savers with an equal focus on handling childcare expenses and supporting retirement goals. Both financial goals are equally important.

Bottom line: It pays to plan early for a family. Evaluate your finances, reach out to friends and family for advice and get help from qualified experts if you need it.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

Microsoft Issues Emergency Patch for Internet Explorer for Zero-Day Flaw

microsoftGood news for those who have already updated to Microsoft Windows 10. The emergency patch for Internet Explorer issued this week in an out-of-band update doesn’t affect the default browser released with that version of the operating system. However, those who use IE versions 7 through 11 on both clients and servers are vulnerable to a newly discovered remote code execution flaw on all other operating system versions going back to Windows Vista. Since Windows 10 does ship with a copy of IE 11, that will need to be addressed as well with the update.

The patch has been released per Microsoft Security Bulletin MS 15-093 and is considered critical for client versions and moderate for servers. If the automatic updates feature is enabled, the system should do this for you. If not, then take a look at available updates and perform the fix manually.

According to the bulletin, it can be exploited if a user views a specially crafted webpage the IE browser and hackers are taking advantage of it now. No user interaction is required for this hole to be opened.

A successful attacker could gain the same user rights as the system’s user. Those who have their accounts configured as administrators are the most at risk because this may allow the attacker to do a complete takeover of the compromised machine. Those whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights may have a little more protection. However, it is best to apply the patch immediately regardless of your level of rights.

If you do not need to have administrator rights on your computer, it’s best to set the levels lower for the authorized users. This can be found in the administrator tools in most Windows operating system versions.

For those in charge of business networks, if the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (Emet) is configured correctly, it will provide some protection against this attack. However, it is still advised that the patch be apply to corporate systems as soon as possible, as it is only considered a temporary mitigation solution.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Advantages and Disadvantages of FHA Loans

home-scrabble_2390293bIf you’re looking to buy a home, you may have been attracted to the loosened approval standards that can come with a government-backed Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan. But before jumping into an FHA mortgage, it’s important to understand the possible benefits and drawbacks.

Potential advantages

  • Less challenging credit requirements: If you have little or no credit history, it can be comforting to know that FHA approval requirements tend to be less stringent than those for conventional loans. At this time, it only takes a 500 credit score to qualify for a loan, according to the FHA. Maximum financing is available for anyone with a score over 580.
  • Smaller down payment: Whereas conventional mortgages often require down payments of 5-10% of the purchase price of the home, FHA loans can be nabbed for only 3.5% down.
  • Friendlier debt ratios: Keeping in the theme of more forgiving approval requirements, FHA loans can make qualifying easier if you already have a large amount of existing debt. For conventional loans, you are normally limited to having monthly housing and other debt payments equaling no more than 36% of your income. With FHA loans, this number gets boosted to 41%.
  • Potentially better interest rate: If you’re in the not-so-great credit category, you may run into a lot of big numbers while interest rate shopping. Since FHA rates are the same regardless of credit and are generally competitive, you could end up saving a lot on interest payments with an FHA loan if your credit is lacking.

Potential disadvantages

  • Lack of reward for good credit: The flip side of the same-for-all interest rate is that you may be missing out on a lower interest rate if you have great credit. Over the life of the loan this could cost you thousands of dollars.
  • More mortgage insurance paid: Because you are making a lower down payment, you will have to pay more private mortgage insurance (PMI) to make up the difference. With FHA loans, you also have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance fee. This can be financed, but it will cause your mortgage insurance payments to be more expensive than with a conventional mortgage.
  • Inspection standards: To qualify as an FHA-eligible property, a home must go through a property standards inspection. This may limit your choices of available homes and can also make it difficult or impossible to get an FHA loan for a fixer-upper.
  • Fewer loan choices: You aren’t going to find the variety of loan options with the FHA that you typically would with conventional loans. This is especially true if you are looking for an adjustable-rate or interest-only mortgage.
  • Lower loan ceiling: The maximum amount you can borrow for an FHA loan is different from county-to-county. In certain areas with low supply and high demand, you may find that an FHA loan won’t allow you to buy the house you want because the price tag falls outside the allowable amount.
  • Limited condo supply: If a condominium fits your housing needs, be aware that the list of available FHA-approved units could be pretty short. The FHA is known to be very tough on giving the green light to condos, so be prepared to really hunt if you go with the FHA/condo combo.

The consensus among housing experts is that – all things being equal – FHA loans will usually cost you more over the life of the loan. However, if your only current option for becoming a homeowner is through the FHA’s eased standards, you can certainly consider a government-backed loan as a way to quite literally get your foot in the door.

 

© 2014 BALANCE

Tips for Frugal Parenting

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Who knew that one of the hardest parenting tests is trying to get through the grocery store line without being pressured to buy candy from a seven year-old? In today’s culture, it is easy to believe that the more we spend on our children, the more we show our love. But, believe it or not, out of 6,000 parents recently surveyed, 60 percent feel their kids are “a little” or “a lot” spoiled.

Here are some tips to help parents cut back spending, while still showing the love.

  • Take advantage of free activities in your community: Go to a park with a great play structure; regularly visit your library; attend your local “Free Movies or Concerts in the Park;” take a stroll through your local farmers’ market; take advantage of street festivals; go on a hike or bike ride.
  • Dress kids in second-hand clothing or do a clothing swap: Kids grow fast so consider visiting your local consignment shops or trading clothes with other families. Saving a few dollars here can leave you with more money to spend on important safety products such as car seats and cribs.
  • Don’t overspend on toys and trinkets: Kids often get bored or easily forget about toys they own. Buy toys at a garage sale or wait to make purchases only at birthdays and holidays.
  • Cut your child’s hair: It’s scary the first time, but you can easily learn how to cut your child’s hair when they are young. They will probably request a salon cut as they get older.
  • Get creative: A “Family Night In” can range from a living room picnic in front of the television to camping in the backyard. Make “Movie Night” special with homemade seasoned popcorn or a meal to match the movie’s theme. Throw a Family Dance or Game Night and invite a handful of other families to join in some potluck fun.
  • Bring your own food and snacks: Never leave home without a bag of goodies and drinks for your kids. Pack some fruit, cookies, crackers and water. Not only will this save you money, but it’s a good way to keep them eating healthy.
  • Set an example: Comparison shop with your kids; save loose change in a fish bowl; show restrain when making purchases; live within your means.
  • Just say “no:” As painful as this may feel, get into the habit of saying “no” when your child asks for something. Initially, it will be a war of wills. But, after some time, your child will learn that they cannot get everything they ask for.
  • Talk to your kids about money: Make talking about money an easy, everyday conversation. Kids tend to tune out heavy-handed, serious lectures. Instead, consider raising their money “awareness” by: pointing out prices on a menu; comparing prices at a supermarket; educating them about the “costs of living” such as paying for a house, car, and utilities; negotiating an allowance; writing a family budget; or planning a vacation together.

 

©Copyright Visa

 

Frugal Fill-Ups: 30 Ways to Save at the Pump

Gas-Money-TipsDon’t let skyrocketing fuel prices drive you crazy—there are many ways to put an immediate dent in your gas bill.

First, nothing will save you more money at the station than a fuel-efficient car. Large, heavy vehicles can burn up to three times as much fuel as small cars—and as gas prices rise, your wallet will groan with every extra pound. If it’s time for a trade in, seriously consider purchasing a car that was built to get good gas mileage. There may even be tempting tax breaks for investing in the latest technology. The following 29 additional tips will speed up your savings even further—print them out and keep them in your car as a daily reminder.

  1.   Keep your tires filled with the right amount of air
  2.   Keep your clutch adjusted
  3.   Use the manufacturer’s suggested engine oil and maintain the level and cleanliness
  4.   Choose the route with the flattest terrain and fewest stops
  5.   Use your air conditioner sparingly
  6.   Remove unused bike and luggage racks to make your car aerodynamic
  7.   Keep the windows closed when traveling at high speeds
  8.   Work earlier or later to avoid traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic
  9.   Remove heavy objects from the car
  10.   Bike, walk, or use public transportation whenever possible
  11.   Turn the car off rather than idle (when appropriate)
  12.   Don’t warm up new cars – most don’t need it
  13.   Avoid traveling at fast speeds in low gears
  14.   Drive the speed limit
  15.   Use cruise control on the open road, when safe
  16.   Accelerate slowly when leaving the stoplight
  17.   Buy gas with the lowest octane rating (check the owner’s manual)
  18.   Don’t rev your engine
  19.   Arranging for carpools to share the cost of gas
  20.   Avoid routes where construction work is being done since the stop-and-go will use up a lot of gas
  21.   Use your navigation system (if available) to avoid getting lost and wasting gas
  22.   Combine errands into one trip when it makes sense
  23.   Use websites and mobile applications that list gas stations with the lowest prices
  24.   Drive conservatively and leave a buffer between you and the cars in front of you
  25.   Don’t “top off” at the gas pump
  26.   Don’t drive far out of your way to save a few pennies at another gas station
  27.   Walk into restaurants instead of using the drive-through
  28.   Avoid circling a parking lot to find a space that is just a little bit closer
  29.   Ask your employer if they will let you work from home a few days per month

 

© 2012 BALANCE