New from the Money Scoop

How to Save Money

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Saving money is one of those tasks that's so much easier said than done. There's more to it than spending less money (although that part alone can be challenging). How much money will you save, where will you put it, and how can you make sure it stays there? Here's how to set realistic goals, keep your spending in check, and pay yourself first.


  1. Set savings goals. For short-term goals, this is easy. If you want to buy a video game, find out how much it costs; if you want to buy a house, determine how much of a down payment you’ll need. For long-term goals, such as retirement, you’ll need to do a lot more planning (figuring out how much money you’ll need to live comfortably for 20 or 30 years after you stop working), and you’ll also need to figure out how investments will help you achieve your goals.
    • Kill your debt first. Simply calculating how much you spend each month on your debts will illustrate that eliminating debt is the fastest way to free up money. Once the money is freed from debt payment, it can easily be re-purposed to savings.

  2. Establish a timeframe. For example: "I want to be able to buy a house two years from today." Set a particular date for accomplishing shorter-term goals, and make sure the goal is attainable within that time period. If it’s not attainable, you’ll just get discouraged.
  3. Figure out how much you’ll have to save per week, per month, or per paycheck to attain each of your savings goals. Take each thing you want to save for and figure out how much you need to start saving now. For most savings goals, it’s best to save the same amount each period. For example, if you want to put a $20,000 down payment on a home in 36 months (three years), you’ll need to save about $550 per month every month. But if your paychecks amount to $1000, it might not be a realistic goal, so adjust your timeframe until you come up with an approachable amount.
  4. Keep a record of your expenses. What you save falls between two activities and their difference: how much you make and how much you spend. Since you have more control over how much you spend, it's wise to take a critical look at your expenses. Write down everything you spend your money on for a couple weeks or a month. Be as detailed as possible, and try not to leave out small purchases. Assign each purchase or expenditure a category such as: Rent, Car insurance, Car payments, Phone Bill, Cable Bill, Utilities, Gas, Food, Entertainment, etc.
    • Keep a small notebook with you at all times. Get in the habit of recording every expense and saving the receipts.
    • Sit down once a week with your small notebook and receipts. Record your expenses in a larger notebook or a spreadsheet program.

  5. Trim your expenses. Take a good, hard look at your spending records after a month or two have passed. You’ll probably be surprised when you look back at your record of expenses: $300 on ice cream, $100 on parking tickets? You’ll likely see some obvious cuts you can make. Depending on how much you need to save, however, you may need to make some difficult decisions. Think about your priorities, and make cuts you can live with. Calculate how much those cuts will save you per year, and you'll be much more motivated to pinch pennies.
    • Can you move to a less expensive apartment or house? Can you refinance your mortgage?
    • Can you consolidate your debts so that you're not paying as much interest?
    • Can you save money on gas, or give up a car altogether? If your family has multiple cars, can you bring it down to one?
    • Can you get a better price on insurance? Call around and make sure you are getting the best price you can. Consider taking a higher deductible, too.
    • Can you drop a land line and either only use your cell phone or save money by calling over the internet for free with services such as Skype?
    • Can you live without cable or satellite TV?
    • Can you cut down on your utility bills?
    • Can you restrict eating out? Buy food in bulk? Start using coupons? Cook more at home? You might be able to save a lot of money on food.

  6. Reassess your savings goals. Subtract your expenses (the ones you can't live without) from your take-home income (i.e. after taxes have been taken out). What is the difference? And does it match up with your savings goals? Let's say you've decided you can definitely get by on $1500 per month, and your paychecks amount to $2300 per month. That leaves you with $800 to save. If there’s absolutely no way you can fit all your savings goals into your budget, take a look at what you’re saving for and cut the less important things or adjust the timeframe. Maybe you need to put off buying a new car for another year, or maybe you don’t really need a big-screen TV that badly.
  7. Make a budget. Once you’ve managed to balance your earnings with your savings goals and spending, write down a budget so you’ll know each month or each paycheck how much you can spend on any given thing or category of things. This is especially important for expenses which tend to fluctuate, or which you know you're going to have a particularly hard time restricting. (E.g. "I will only spend $30 a month on movies/chocolate/coffee/etc.")
  8. Stop using credit cards. Pay for everything with cash or money orders. Don't even use checks. It's easier to overspend when you're pulling from a bank or credit account because you don't know exactly how much is in there. If you have cash, you can see your supply running low. You can even bundle up the predetermined amount of cash allocated for each expense with a label or keep separate jars for each expense (e.g. a bundle/jar for coffee, another for gas, another for miscellaneous). As you pull money from a jar for that particular expense, you'll see how much remains and you'll also be reminded of your limit.
    • If you need to have credit cards but you don't want the temptation of having them available to use day-to-day, restrict that section of your wallet with a note or picture reminding you of your savings goals.
    • Credit cards are not inherently evil; it's all about your self control. If you use them responsibly (i.e. completely pay them off every month), you can benefit from them. But the reason most credit card companies make money, however, is because people end up spending money that they don't have. Unless you are one of the people who can religiously pay off the balance in full every month, you're better off foregoing the promotions that credit card companies use to lure you in (cash back, introductory APR, airline miles, and so on).

  9. Open an interest-bearing savings account. It’s a lot easier to keep track of your savings if you have them separate from your spending money. You can also usually get better interest on savings accounts than on checking accounts (if you get interest on your checking account at all). Consider higher-interest options such as CDs or money-market accounts for longer savings goals.
  10. Know where your money is. And how much of it, too. If you accidentally overdraw your bank account, you will incur hefty bank fees; worse yet, the place you paid with that check may slap a bounced check fee on top of that, and send the check in again, resulting in a second overdraft fee from the bank! So just a few cents missing to cover that check could result in over $100 in fees. To avoid that, you should always know how much money you've got in your account(s), so you never cut a check for more than what you have.
    • Look into checking and savings accounts that pay interest. Also, consider CDs (certificates of deposit) for longer-term savings with low risk.

  11. Pay yourself first. Savings should be your priority, so don’t just say that you’ll save whatever’s left over at the end of the month. Deposit savings into an account (or your piggybank) as soon as you get paid. An easy, effective way to start saving is to simply deposit 10% of every check in a savings account. If you get a check or sum of cash, say 710.68, move the decimal point one place to the left and deposit that amount: 71.07. This works well and requires little thought; over several years, you've a tidy sum in savings. Over decades, you'll be a millionaire.
    • You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account.
    • Many employers allow you to deduct savings from your paycheck. The money is directly deposited in your savings account so you never even see it on your paycheck.
    • You can also have investments for retirement taken directly out of your pay, and the taxes may be deferred with this option.



  • Always OVER estimate your expenses and UNDER estimate your income.
  • If you can afford to share things you have, from food to living space to appliances, try to do so. What goes around comes around when it's between close friends, soon enough, you'll find your friends doing the same, and everybody benefits.
  • Have a professional shopper go through your closet before you hit the mall. They will help you assess what you already have and what timeless items you can invest in to create more looks from those you already have. There are services that do this (e.g. Visual Therapy in NYC and TimePros in Los Angeles). Remember that this service can cost a pretty penny. Don't use this method unless you have a tendency to make $250 - $400 shopping trips!
  • Have a hobby? Match your funds. One important habit for saving is if you have a hobby, such as model airplanes, scrapbooking, dirt biking, scuba diving, etc., set a hard and fast rule that whatever you allow yourself to spend on your hobby, you match those funds to your savings. For example, if you buy yourself a $45 pair of riding gloves, another $45 goes to your savings. Serious about saving? Try doubling your matched funds! These savings plans will do two things: Save money regularly and quickly, and really show you how much you are spending on your hobby, when it costs you twice as much.
  • If you receive unexpected cash, put all or most of it into your savings, but continue to set aside your regularly scheduled amount as well. You’ll reach your savings goals sooner.
  • If you vacation normally, use the web to search for affordable vacation deals instead of paying full retail price. Some sites offer very discounted vacations by partnering with resorts across the country. Essentially, you are required to go on a 90 minute sales-pitch to buy a timeshare at the resort, and in exchange you receive an extra cheap luxury vacation and often freebies like theme park tickets, gas, or dinner certificates.
  • Make purchases with paper money, not exact change, and always save the change. Use a piggy bank or jar for your coins. Coins and change may look insignificant but when accumulated over time they can help you save. Some banks now offer free coin counting machines. When you redeem your coins, ask to be paid by check so you won't be tempted to spend your newfound cash.
  • Type in 'money savers' to your search engine and search around, you never know what might pop up.


  • Do not go out "window shopping" with any money on you. You will only be tempted to spend money you cannot afford to lose. Only shop with a predetermined shopping list.
  • After a long week of working, you may want to indulge in some luxury, telling yourself, "I deserve this". Remember that the things you buy are not gifts to yourself; they are trades, products for money. Say, "Of course I deserve this, but can I afford it? If I can't afford it, I'm still a worthy person, and I still deserve to meet my savings goals!"
  • Unless you're in truly desperate financial straits (like 10 seconds from eviction and your three children are starving) don't try to cut corners connected to health. Basic preventative care for yourself, your family, and your pets might cost you a $60 office visit or a $30 heartworm pill today, but the skipping it will contribute to expensive problems and heartache down the road.

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Save Money. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Identity theft

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.
The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make—or until you’re contacted by a debt collector.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

How do thieves steal an identity?

Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:

  1. Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  2. Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  3. Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  4. Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  5. Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
  6. Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources. For more information about pretexting, click here.

Smartmoney:Credit-Card Traps You Still Need to Watch For

President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, marking a major milestone in consumers’ love-hate relationship with credit cards.The new rules go into effect in nine months (though some will kick in as soon as 90 days) and banks start curtailing the abusive practices this legislation reins in. Read on to find out what else might change for you as a consumer in terms of new fees, higher rates, change in grace periods, less rewards and the possibility of no more promotional rates.

In fact, as the new rules go into effect in nine months (though some will kick in as soon as 90 days) and banks start curtailing the abusive practices this legislation reins in, other practices will likely emerge that can hurt consumers just as badly. “The pendulum may have swung in the wrong direction”, says Dennis Moroney, research director and senior analyst for TowerGroup, a research and advisory-services firm focused exclusively on the financial-services industry. “The banks now have to respond to these changes.”

You may not like that response. Whether you use your credit cards as a tool to rack up free rewards points or you carry debt that you’re hoping to repay one day, you should watch out for new fees, higher interest rates, less generous rewards and fewer promotional offers. Here’s what you need to know.
Watch out for new kinds of fees

The new law prohibits over-limit fees (unless the cardholder agrees to allow transactions that exceed their limits). To make up for that lost revenue, banks will likely introduce other fees. “You will see a re-emergence of fees for all kinds of other services,” says Robert McKinley, founder of, which provides industry research and analysis. Among the fees cardholders should watch out for: fees for rewards programs and possibly even fees for checking your balance, he says.

Also, expect annual fees to make a comeback, says Moroney. In the 1980s, annual fees were standard, but were dropped as competition among card issuers heated up. Moroney predicts that some issuers will slap annual fees on all their credit cards, while others will tie the fee to spending thresholds, so that only big spenders get a free ride.

What cardholders should do: To protect against unpleasant surprises, examine credit-card statements and change-in-terms letters carefully. For now, card issuers can change terms at any time with 15 days’ notice, but once the new law is in effect, they will have to give 45 days’ notice.
Prepare for higher rates

Universal default allows card issuers to hike rates if a cardholder's credit score drops or if they make late payments on other accounts. Once the new legislation is in place, issuers will lose this powerful risk-management tool. Without the ability to hike rates if a cardholder's perceived risk level rises, card issuers will just start charging higher rates across the board, says Moroney.

“We’re going back to the kind of marketplace we had in the 1980s,” McKinley says. “You’ll see interest rates go back to the 19% to 20% range for most people.” The average variable-rate credit card today charges a 10.79% APR, according to

What cardholders should do: To avoid higher interest charges, consumers who carry a balance will have to shop around for lower rates -- perhaps in exchange for paying an annual fee, says Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer Action, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization. Those who pay their balances in full each month shouldn't be affected, she says. To compare credit-card interest rates on new-card offers, use sites like, or
The end of grace periods?

The new legislation requires card companies to give consumers at least 21 days to pay their bills. But it doesn't require them to offer a grace period, which isn't the same as the cardholder’s due date — though the two usually coincide, says Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. While the due date designates the day by which a payment must be received for the cardholder to avoid a late-payment fee, the grace period is the time during which the cardholder isn’t charged interest.

McKinley says card issuers may get rid of grace periods altogether, so that cardholders who pay their balances off each month will start paying interest immediately after making a purchase. “The industry has for many years wanted to get rid of the grace period on convenience users,” he says.

What consumers should do: The only way to avoid interest charges if this happens is to stop using credit cards altogether, says Wu.
Say goodbye to 0% APR promotions

Low or 0% introductory APR offers have been a boon to diligent card users who played the balance-transfer game. Banks were able to offer those deals thanks to the card users who made a late payment before the offer expired, triggering the bank’s penalty rate of 20% or more. Now that banks won’t be allowed to increase interest rates on existing balances — and all promotional offers have to last for at least six months — these promotions will likely disappear, McKinley says. At best, consumers with excellent credit may receive introductory rates in the 6% range.

What cardholders should do: If you have a low-APR offer right now, be on your best behavior: Send payments on time and don’t do anything to trigger a penalty rate such as exceeding your credit limit.
Rewards programs will be less rewarding

Credit-card companies have already been scaling back on rewards programs. Once the new legislation kicks in and they feel the squeeze of lower revenue from penalty fees and interest charges, they’ll become even less generous. Spending thresholds will likely go up, Moroney says, so you'll have to spend more to earn miles, points or cash back. Banks may also adopt more stringent rules, such as wiping out your rewards balance if you make a late payment.

What cardholders should do: If you’ve accumulated a sizable amount of miles, points or cash back and worry that your card may scale back its program, it may be smart to redeem your rewards now — while the free lunch is still available.

for more information

How to Invest

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Whether you have $20 or $200,000 to invest, the objective is the same: to make your money grow. The means, however, vary dramatically based on the amount of money being invested, the state of the market, and your own investing style.


  1. Pay off high interest debt. If you have a loan or credit card debt with a high interest rate (over 10%) there's no point in investing your hard-earned cash. Whatever interest you earn through investing (usually less than 10%) won't make much of a difference because you'll be spending a greater amount paying interest on your debt.[1] For example, let's say Sam makes has saved $4,000 for investing, but he also has $4,000 in credit card debt at a 14% interest rate. He could invest the $4,000 and if he gets a 12% ROI (return on investment--and this is being very optimistic) in a year he'll have made $480 in interest. But the credit card company will have charged him $560 in interest. He's $80 in the hole, and he still has that $4,000 principal to pay off. Why bother? Pay off the high interest debt first so that you can actually keep any money you make by investing. Otherwise, the only investors making money are the ones who loaned it to you at a high interest rate.
  2. Build your emergency fund. If you don't have one already, it's a good idea to focus your efforts on setting aside 3-6 months of living expenses just in case. This is not money that should be invested; it should be kept readily accessible and safe from swings in the market. You can split your extra money every month, sending part of it to your emergency fund and part of it to your investing fund. Whatever you do, don't tie up all of your extra money in investments unless you have a financial safety net in place; anything can go wrong (a job loss, an injury, an illness) and failing to prepare for that possibility is irresponsible.
  3. Write down your investment goals. While you're paying down high interest debt and building your emergency fund, you should think about why you're investing. How much money do you want to have, and in what period of time? Different investors have different goals, such as:

  4. Choose your investments. The bigger the chunk of money you have available for investing, the more choices you have. Most people diversify by investing in more than one place, but the way they split their investments depends on their goals and the amount of risk they're willing to accept.
    • Savings accounts - low minimum balance, liquid but with limitations on how often the account is accessed, low interest rate (usually much lower than inflation), predictable
    • Money market accounts (MMAs) - higher minimum balance than savings, liquid but with limitations on how often the account is accessed, earns about twice the interest rates of savings accounts,[2] high-yield MMAs offer higher interest rates but higher risks
    • Certificates of deposit (CDs) - similar to savings account but with higher interest rates and restrictions on early withdrawal, offered by banks, brokerage firms and independent salespeople, low-risk but reduced liquidity, may require high minimum balance for desired interest rates
    • Bonds - a loan taken out by a government or company to be paid back with interested; considered "fixed income" securities because the same income will be generated regardless of market conditions,[3] you'll need to know the par value (amount loaned), coupon rate (interest rate), and maturity rate (when the principal and interest must be paid back)
      • Stocks - usually purchased through brokers; you buy pieces (shares) of a corporation which entitles you to decision-making power (usually by voting to elect a board of directors), you may also receive a fraction of the profits (dividends)#*Dividend reinvestment plans (DRPs aka Drips) and direct stock purchase plans (DSPs) - bypass brokers (and their commissions) by buying directly from companies or their agents, offered by more than 1,000 major corporations,[4] can invest as little as $20-30 per month, can buy fractions of stocks, can be high-risk.

    • Real estate property - ties up money (not easy to liquidate investment), capital intensive (usually leveraged through mortgage loans)
    • Mutual funds - not insured by any government agency, built-in diversification, some funds have low initial purchase amounts, you'll have to pay fees
    • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) - similar to mutual funds, but instead of investing in stocks, they invest in real estate

  5. Save money to invest. If you don't already have money set aside for investing, you'll need to build up your investment fund. By now, you should know how much money you'll need to reach your goals, given the risks you've chosen to undertake.
  6. Buy low. Whatever you choose to invest in, try to buy it when it's "on sale"--that is, buy when no one else is buying. For example, in real estate, you'll want to purchase property when it's a buyer's market, which is when there's a high proportion of properties for sale versus potential buyers. When people are desperate to sell, you have greater room for negotiation, especially if you can see how the investment will pay off when other's don't (or perhaps they do, but can't afford to act on it at the time).
  7. Hold on tight. With more volatile investment vehicles, you may be tempted to bail. It's easy to get spooked when you see the value of your investments plummet. If you did your research, however, you probably knew what you were getting into, and you decided early on how you were going to approach the swings in the market place. Some people prefer to hold on no matter what, and others set a value at which they'll jump ship. Keep in mind, however, that when you're selling your investments out of fear, so is everyone else, and your exit is someone else's opportunity to buy low.
  8. Sell high. If and when the market bounces back, sell your investments. Roll the profits over into another investment (buying low, of course) and try to do so under a tax shelter that allows you to re-invest the full amount of your profits (rather than having it taxed first). In the U.S., examples would be 1031 exchanges (in real estate) and Roth IRAs.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations





Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Invest. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

III your Credit and Insurance

What does my credit rating have to do with purchasing insurance?
Credit scores are based on an analysis of an individual’s credit history. Insurers often generate a numerical ranking based on a person’s credit history, known as an “insurance score,” when underwriting and setting the rates for insurance policies. Actuarial studies show that how a person manages his or her financial affairs, which is what an insurance score indicates, is a good predictor of insurance claims. Insurance scores are used to help insurers differentiate between lower and higher insurance risks and thus charge a premium equal to the risk they are assuming. Statistically, people who have a poor insurance score are more likely to file a claim.

Your credit history can work for you or against you. Your proven ability to manage your money and meet your financial obligations is an indication of your maturity and stability and can open many doors. Prospective employers, landlords, lenders and even your insurance company view a strong credit history as a positive sign that you will meet your obligations and responsibilities to them as well. A poor credit history could result in not getting that apartment or dream job, and paying more for insurance coverage and higher interest rates on your mortgage and other loans.

IRS: Top Ten facts about the Tuition and Fees Deduction

The Tuition and Fees deduction of up to $4,000 is available to help parents and students pay for post-secondary education. Below are ten important facts about this deduction every student and parent should know.

  1. You do not have to itemize to take the Tuition and Fees deduction. You claim a tuition and fees deduction by completing Form 8917 and submitting it with your Form 1040 or Form 1040A.
  2. You may be able to claim qualified tuition and fees expenses as either an adjustment to income, a Hope or Lifetime Learning credit, or – if applicable – as a business expense.
  3. You cannot take the tuition and fees deduction on your income tax return if your filing status is married filing separately.
  4. You cannot take the deduction if you are claimed, or can be claimed, as a dependent on someone else's return.
  5. The deduction is reduced or eliminated if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds certain limits, based on your filing status.
  6. You cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction if you or anyone else claims the Hope or Lifetime Learning credit for the same student in the same year.
  7. If the educational expenses are also allowable as a business expense, the tuition and fees deduction may be claimed in conjunction with a business expense deduction, but the same expenses cannot be deducted twice.
  8. You cannot claim a deduction or credit based on expenses paid with tax-free scholarship, fellowship, grant, or education savings account funds such as a Coverdell education savings account, tax-free savings bond interest or employer-provided education assistance.
  9. The same rule applies to expenses you pay with a tax-exempt distribution from a qualified tuition plan, except that you can deduct qualified expenses you pay only with that part of the distribution that is a return of your contribution to the plan.
  10. IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, can help eligible parents and students understand the special rules that apply and decide which tax break to claim. The publication is available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links: 10 tips for getting the best financial aid package