Control Your Runaway Expenses and Still Have Fun

For most of us, the cost of everything has risen ahead of our income. In some cases it may be more than costs that have risen; it may be your consumption. If you are looking for ways to control both rising expenses and increasing consumption, here are some timely suggestions.

The Roof Above and the Utilities Within

You are probably using more of your income for housing than in the past, but make sure you are getting the best rates available for both your mortgage and any equity loans, and that you are deducting every penny allowable under current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. Shop around!

Review your home heating fuel consumption for the last 12-24 months and get on a budget plan that reflects true current prices. Lower fuel prices should not mean relaxing where insulation and conservation are concerned. Check your insulation, and trim another degree off the thermostat!

Check your local electric and water departments for free conservation programs and tips. Expect their rates to continue rising, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. As with heating, remember to adjust the thermostat during air conditioning season.

Telephone service has added enhancement upon enhancement over the past few years. Ask yourself if you are really using all the new services, or if you have them because the ads are so convincing. Life without call waiting may be rather pleasant.

The cost of cable television is something to behold, and the necessity of cable is a wonder of the modern age. An assessment of true cable usage may prove that all those marvelous channels are watched so infrequently that the cost per view is one that could be trimmed easily. Is it time to return to fewer channels and more trips to the library?

Cutting Down Expenses

Going to the super grocery store can be a great adventure. Make a shopping list of what you want. Get a special store card to scan for specials, clip some coupons, and grab a supermarket circular for specials. The use of lists, specials, and coupons can reduce your weekly food bill by up to 20%.

Clothing prices have gone out of control, but you have the power to bring them back into line by remembering one fact: The name on the front, back, side, or anywhere else does not mean that the article of clothing will wear any better or any longer than the no-name variety. Try this fact on for size and watch your clothing expenses fit with reality once more.

The cost of an afternoon or evening at the movies is another wonder of our times. It may be time to begin enjoying Friday nights at home with the family making pizzas and watching videos. Family game nights are another great option!

A meal out at a restaurant is not always a luxury. There are times when it becomes as necessary to personal survival as sleep. It does not need to have a luxury price tag, however two-for-one specials, and kids eat free are more common than ever before.

All the little expenses banking fees, subscriptions, personal care, lottery tickets and such can creep up gradually to create a new Godzilla ready to devour the best-laid spending plans. Analyze all of them and see which are truly necessities.

The final budget-busting monster of the modern age is the credit card, with its associated annual fees and finance charges. Get credit card debt paid off, or at least under control.

Expenses have increased, and your income may not have kept pace with them. You also may have fallen prey to spending patterns that have made increased consumption and deficit financing a way of life. If your expenses have run away, rein them in today for a comfortable, more secure future. The runaway train of debt can, indeed, be stopped before it derails!

Healthy and Physically Fit

The added expense of a good fitness program can lead to better health and fewer visits to the doctor or chiropractor. In many cases, the sidewalk outside your home will work just as well as the fitness club down the street.

If your doctor agrees, shop generic when you need medications, and look for pharmacies that offer reduced rates on prescriptions; the same stores may also offer reduced prices on prescription eyewear needs.

Cash Flow Alternatives for Achieving Life’s Goals

One of life’s ongoing challenges is developing effective strategies for achieving your goals and wishes within the confines of your particular financial circumstances. Each stage of your life can create new financial challenges like sending your child to college, remodeling your home, caring for an elderly relative, or starting your own business.

Even when your overall financial situation appears relatively secure, your available cash flow may be constrained. Should you be faced with such a dilemma, here are some alternative sources of cash that may assist you in financing your various life stage goals:

IRA Distributions

You can take distributions from your traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at anytime. However, you will have to pay income taxes on these distributions. In addition, if you are under age 59, your distributions may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.

There are no penalty taxes incurred on early distributions due to disability, for medical care expenses to the extent allowable as a tax deduction, or if the withdrawal is part of a series of equal periodic payments based on your life expectancy. Also, bear in mind that by taking premature distributions, you are sacrificing the benefits of tax deferral and may put your retirement goals at risk.

Borrowing from Your 401(k) Plan

Some plans may allow you to take an income tax-free loan from your 401(k). Interest rates are generally comparable to those of commercial loans. However, failure to repay the loan within a specified period of time (typically five years) may lead to penalties and potentially void the tax-deferred status you enjoy under the plan.

If you terminate your employment, your employer may demand repayment within 60 days, and you might owe taxes and penalties on the unpaid balance. Perhaps most important, borrowing from your 401(k) can defeat the plan’s ultimate purpose building tax-deferred savings to help provide retirement income.

Life Insurance Policy Loans

If you own a cash value life insurance policy, in most instances, you can borrow against the policy’s cash value. In actuality, a policy loan is a loan in which an interest is also charged on the outstanding balance.. Additionally, if the policy lapses while the loan was still outstanding, then the policy owner would receive a Form 1099R from the insurance company, which could create a taxable event for the policy owner.

You need not promise to repay a policy loan (although you may repay it). However, if it is not repaid prior to your death, it will be deducted from the death benefit proceeds of the policy. It is important to consider the potential effects this may have on your beneficiaries.

Equity Loans

If you are a homeowner, you may be able to access a significant portion of the equity on your principal residence through a combination of first and second mortgages and equity loans. Rates on such loans are traditionally low. However, keep in mind that home equity is not a limitless pot of gold that can be dipped into at will; it needs to be refilled, and refilled with interest, within a specified period of time.

You must always remember that you are ultimately putting your home on the line, for the loan’s purpose. Therefore, you should cautiously use such funds. For instance, it may be considered unwise to trade off the equity in your house, which is a tangible, long-term asset, for the sake of items that are easily consumed, such as vacations, clothing, or jewelry.

Bank Loans

Borrowing from a bank is always an alternative, especially if your credit history is good, you meet certain financial requirements, and your intended use of the borrowed funds will help you achieve a well-defined goal. Loans for education or to start up a business are fairly common. However, when considering loans from a bank, it is important to be sure you can meet the monthly loan payments.

Credit Cards

The ever-increasing availability of credit card loans has resulted in a tempting, yet expensive, borrowing option. Credit cards can be a good source of quick cash when you are certain you will be able to promptly repay the loan. However, because credit card loans often carry very high interest rates and finance charges, they can be unnecessarily expensive.

How Crime-Resistant Is Your Business?

Crime and violence seem to be everywhere – on the nightly news, in the movies, on television programs, maybe even at a business down the street from you. You probably never think it will find its way to your company. Unfortunately, crime is often random in occurrence and there’s no way of knowing who will be the next victim. Regardless of the type of business you own, workplace security is essential.

Crime-proofing your business is not as complicated as it sounds. There are many different options from which to choose, enabling you to find something that works best for your needs. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Quality Doors and Locks

    The number one precaution is to have a metal or solid wood door and cylinder locks that resist kicking, drilling, and beating. Some lock manufacturers offer the added benefit of keys that can only be duplicated on specially designed machines, which are not available at standard key shops and hardware stores.

  2. Remote Control Locks

    To protect your office and employees during the day, as well as at night, you may want to consider a remote control lock. While their features vary, the general purpose is to let you decide who should be admitted. A video camera displays the visitor.

  3. Video Surveillance Cameras

    Cameras can help catch criminals in the act, ultimately aiding in identification. They are available in both stationary or mobile models.

  4. Proper Identification and Security Personnel

    The addition of security personnel can help minimize the threat of burglary, especially for companies with large facilities and grounds. Companies with many employees may find great benefit in adding a security/employee check-in system, which can include identification badges.

  5. Office Safes

    If you purchase an office safe, make sure it is big enough, so it can’t be easily carried off by burglars. You may want to bypass purchasing a safe with a manual combination lock, since employees may not always take the time to re-scramble it after they close the door. Safes with electronic keypads eliminate this hassle, making them less likely to be left unlocked.

  6. Heat and Motion Detectors

    These detectors monitor changes in heat and/or motion, and respond with an alarm or bright lights. While they can be highly effective, they are not a good idea if you have a workplace watchdog that might trigger the detector.

If you are going to invest in an alarm system, the best choice is one that directly alerts a private security agency or local police station. However, an alarm that rings on the property can also help by either scaring off a burglar or attracting the attention of someone nearby.

No matter what steps you take to safeguard your business, they should always be accompanied by the proper crime insurance.

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