Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest Post: 10 Ways to Save $100

With more and more people living paycheck to paycheck it’s more important than ever to have some money saved for emergencies. But while you are living this way, it may seem impossible to put away any extra funds. However, by making just a few small changes in your lifestyle, you can really see the money saved add up. In fact, if you adhere to any of the following ten steps you will soon find yourself with an extra $100.

  1. If you find yourself spending too much each month on electricity costs, call your utility company and ask for a home energy audit. This audit will help you find spots in your home where you are wasting money on energy. For example, be sure you have a good seal around doors and windows to avoid drafts. Another tip is running appliances such as the dishwasher at night. Taking this one step alone can cut a utility bill by 40%. A utility company might also be able to point out energy vampires living in your home. These are items such as computer monitors, televisions, or microwaves with a clock display which continue to use power even when in standby mode. To fight these vampires, unplug the appliances or look for those that use the least amount of standby power.

  2. Another easy way to save over $100 a year is to cancel your PMI insurance. Many times this insurance is a requirement when a home is purchased with less than a 20% down payment. However, once you have 20% equity, either in a down payment or paying over time, you may be able to cancel the PMI insurance. Typically, these policies cost over $50 per month, potentially saving you $600 a year.

  3. Consider participating in your company’s flexible spending account. This is pre-tax money taken out of your check each pay period to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses. If you don’t use it you will lose it, but if you are in the 28% tax bracket and allocate $500 to your flexible spending account, you can reduce your taxes by over $100.

  4. If you drive a car, try calling your insurance company to reduce your rates. Even raising the collision deductable from $200 to $500 could potentially reduce your coverage costs by 15-30%. This is an especially good step to take if you drive an older car and don’t need quite as much coverage. In addition, look for any discount offered including good driver, seat belts, air bags, anti-theft and annual mileage below 10,000 miles.

  5. You can also save money on your weekly trips to the grocery store. By cutting back on buying things as soda and chips, you can potentially save over $200 per year.

  6. In addition, buy in bulk. Items such as paper towels and toilet paper never spoil and you can stock up at one time potentially saving over $100 a year more than if you bought a pack every time you visit the supermarket.

  7. Clipping coupons can also save hundreds of dollars each year. Nowadays, you don’t even have to wait for the Sunday paper to come out. Coupons are available on many online sites and even individual stores will post coupons for their most loyal customers. In addition, many online coupons offer higher savings than those found in the paper.

  8. Regular car maintenance can eat up a chunk of change every time you take your car in for an oil change. If you learn how to do this yourself, you can save about $30 every time you change your oil resulting in saving of about $100 every year.

  9. If you like movies or books, consider getting both of them from the library instead of the bookstore and movie rental spot. The library is free and has a wide selection. With the cost of going to a movie these days, you can save substantial money over a year.

  10. Finally, if you can’t get your morning started without a cup of coffee, it is much cheaper to brew your own rather than stopping by Starbucks. Even if you purchase a bag of coffee beans costing $10, after just six cups you’ll start to save the money you would have spent at your local coffee shop.

About the Author
This is a guest post from Genuwave LLC. Some of their blogs include topics on Personal Finance and Selling Time Share. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact Seattle Simplicity at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Guest Post: Exemptions Under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The debtor has to sell his entire non-exempt property to pay off his unsecured debt if he is planning to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7.

The debtor has to go to the local Federal Bankruptcy court and file a petition if you are thinking of filing bankruptcy. The process of filing bankruptcy includes a complete statement of the owed amount and assets. The bankruptcy petition would be dismissed if a filer misrepresents or fails to include his assets while considering Chapter 7.

An "automatic stay" is placed as soon as the petition is filed.
The creditors are not allowed to collect the debt with the enforcement of the automatic stay order. If they want to collect the debt then they have to persuade the court that with the affect of the automatic stay their interest would be hampered.

The trustee appointed by the bankruptcy judge would liquidate the debtor’s nonexempt property and the amount would be distributed among the creditor as per the Bankruptcy Code. The debtor gets discharge from the piling burden of debt but he loses control over his nonexempt property.

Chapter 7 has certain exemptions:

Things that are exempted from liquidation:
1) Unemployment insurance
2) Pensions and IRAs Plans
3) Alimony and child support
4) House Equity less than $ 17,425
5) Things used for personal purpose up to $9,300
6) Ornaments and attires
7) Public benefits as well as conveyance

With these exemptions there are few additional exemptions that the federal law offers known as wild card exemption.

Wild card exemption includes:
  1. Nonexempt property: There would be an exemption up to $11,200 on the taxable property as per the total amount of the wild card exemption. The debtor can save his taxable property up to the total amount of the wild card exemption if he has any intention to use the wild card exemption.
  2. Partial exemption of property: Under the Federal law the property is exempted to a stipulated amount. Under the wild card exemption the property that has not been exempted this portion can be excused and the debtors are obliged to regain control over his property.
  3. Discharge of Cash: The cash and bank funds can be discharged with the help of wild card exemption.

Changes in the Chapter 7 proceedings with the introduction of new law:
Before the introduction of the new law the debtor could file for bankruptcy at any time. But now if the debtor is filing under personal bankruptcy for instance chapter 7 then you need to under go credit counseling session within 6 months of filing.

Initially the bankruptcy court used to decide whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or not. But now with the implementation of the new law you are liable to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that would be decided by two-part Means Test.

If you fail to qualify for the Means Test then the debtor is left with no choice other than to file for Chapter 13 and repay his debts.

In 6 years the debtor could file for another chapter 7 before the implementation of new law. The new bankruptcy law would prolong the period from 6 to 8 years between filing Chapter 7's.

Author bio:
This is a guest post by Kevin Craig who is a financial writer. He has helped lots of debt burdened people with free counseling and advices on many finance related topics. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact Seattle Simplicity at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not meant as tax or bankruptcy advice. I encourages readers to consult with a bankruptcy attorney or financial adviser if they have specific questions about bankruptcy.