The Frugal Toad http://www.thefrugaltoad.com Money Saving Advice for Everyday Living Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:23:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Should Homeowners Enroll in Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Programs?
 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/homeowners-enroll-bi-weekly-mortgage-payment-programs%e2%80%a8 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/homeowners-enroll-bi-weekly-mortgage-payment-programs%e2%80%a8#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 15:03:38 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5280 Homeowners who borrow money to purchase homes have the great responsibility of paying their sizable mortgage payments every month. Mortgage payments are often the most costly expense homeowners pay, which includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The cost of the payment can be difficult for the homeowner to afford, the large sum can be overwhelming [...]

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mortgage payment programsHomeowners who borrow money to purchase homes have the great responsibility of paying their sizable mortgage payments every month. Mortgage payments are often the most costly expense homeowners pay, which includes principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The cost of the payment can be difficult for the homeowner to afford, the large sum can be overwhelming and the payment schedule can be challenging to manage.

Depending on the financial goals of homeowners, some prefer to pay off their mortgages as early as possible to get out of debt or reduce their interest costs. Interest is the price borrowers pay their lenders for loaning them money. Mortgages are structured so that more of the homeowner’s initial payments are applied to the interest owed to the lender and later payments go more toward the principal of the loan. Therefore, the sooner borrowers pay extra money toward their principals, the less overall interest they’ll owe their lenders.

One prepayment option available to borrowers is the bi-weekly payment program. Lenders, loan servicers and third-party services collect half of the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment every two weeks. With 52 total weeks in a year, homeowners pay 26 half-payments annually when enrolled in a bi-weekly payment program – accumulating 13 monthly payments. Traditional mortgages require 12 monthly payments. Bi-weekly payment programs are structured for borrowers to pay back their mortgages one full month ahead of schedule each year.

Benefits of Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Programs

Paying off a mortgage early is the chief benefit of bi-weekly mortgage payment programs and entices the majority of participants. Prepayment decreases the length of loans and saves homeowners interest payments. Getting out of debt relieves homeowners of the stress tied to managing monthly payments and allows them to allocate their money to more enjoyable priorities.

Bi-weekly programs coordinate with standard paycheck schedules, making it more likely for borrowers to have the money in their accounts to pay their mortgages. Plus, payments are half the size of the traditional cost which reduces the likelihood of non-budgeters overspending before paying. The program servicers offer automatic fund transfers from homeowners’ bank accounts if they tend to have difficulty paying on time. This option prevents homeowners’ from accruing late fees, protects their credit scores and helps to safely manage their mortgages.

Drawbacks of Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Programs

Although bi-weekly payment programs offer clear benefits for borrowers, they also have some disadvantages. Foremost, these programs are not free. Initial activation of the programs range in cost from $150-$500. Upon receiving each bi-weekly payment, borrowers pay a fee of $5-$20.

Another factor for borrowers is the affordability of frequent payments. Not every homeowner receives paychecks bi-weekly, and those who do sometimes rely on the rare month when they collect an extra paycheck. One additional full-payment each year is a significant amount of money possibly better spent paying down student or car loans, credit card debt or invested elsewhere.

The interest savings of enrolling in a prepayment plan is not beneficial for all circumstances. Retaining liquid assets is a higher priority for some homeowners who feel more secure saving for life’s emergencies than reducing mortgage debt. Buyers with low interest rates are more likely to allocate their money toward other financial goals since their interest costs are less expensive. Homeowners who plan to relocate before their loan terms are met often avoid sinking additional money into a property they don’t plan to own long-term.

Alternative Payment Management Options

If the primary incentive of bi-weekly payment programs is smaller-sized payments, then borrowers can create their own affordable payment structures. Homeowners can open a separate checking account specifically for mortgage management. Transfer half of the mortgage payment into the account when paid twice per month. Many companies allow employees to directly deposit a portion of their checks into one account and the rest in another. At the end of the month, the borrower can pay the mortgage out of the account without the risk of overspending throughout the month or stressing about the lump sum.

Borrowers don’t have to worry about making timely payments if electronic bill pay is accepted by their loan servicers. Additionally, many loan services accept more than one payment per month, as long as it’s not prepayment of the mortgage. Check with the servicer to confirm no extra charges are applied for multiple checks or electronic payments. These payment methods don’t cost the borrower any fees and allow them to suitably manage their payments.

Alternative Prepayment Options

Homeowners who opt to prepay their loans but want to avoid paying for a bi-weekly payment program should consider the free alternatives. When borrowers accumulate unexpected income, such as gift money, lottery winnings, commission checks or tax refunds, they can apply it directly to their mortgage principals.

Borrowers can prepay their mortgages gradually by paying 1/12th of a monthly payment toward their principals along with each monthly payment. By the end of each year, homeowners will be one full month ahead of their repayment schedules, just as if they were enrolled in a program.

Most lenders offer loans originally written as bi-weekly mortgages with no set-up or monthly fees. But borrowers are then required to make payments every two weeks until the loan is repaid. In this case, buyers do not have the option to go back to a standard monthly payment option.

Remember, the sooner the principal is reduced, the less interest the borrower owes. Therefore, homebuyers prepaying for cost savings should create their own payment structures to avoid fees. If prepayment is the goal for debt reduction and stress relief, enrolling in a bi-weekly program is suitable. Homeowners should evaluate their own budgets and financial goals to find the most appropriate payment solution.

Author: Tali Lee writes for Zillow

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Carnival of Financial Planning http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/carnival-financial-planning http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/carnival-financial-planning#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2014 19:21:40 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5274 Welcome to the Carnival of Financial Planning. I’m excited to share some great articles to help you manage your money.  If you find something interesting please share with your friends. BUDGETING AND ECONOMICS Gretchen @ Retired by 40! writes April Goals/ Budget Update – For the first time I am blogging about the goals I [...]

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Welcome to the Carnival of Financial Planning. I’m excited to share some great articles to help you manage your money.  If you find something interesting please share with your friends.

BUDGETING AND ECONOMICS

Gretchen @ Retired by 40! writes April Goals/ Budget Update – For the first time I am blogging about the goals I set for myself plus my month budget update!

Mr.CBB @ canadian budget binder writes Does having debt mean you have too much fun? – Having fun and having debt is no laughing matter but not everyone sees debt through my eyes. Sometimes debt is just a piece of paper that comes in the mail for someone who says oh look it’s gone up again and heads out for a night on the town.

Andrew @ Finance with Reason writes Should I Join a Wine Club? Ask yourself these questions – Regardless of Bitcoin’s huge rise in value, there are multiple good reasons why Bitcoin will never be a viable currency and why you should stay away.

Daniel @ Make Money Make Cents writes Retirement Fund Sustainability | Will My Retirement Monies Run Out On Me? – Retirees are savvy individuals who have already put in the time and effort to develop their nest-eggs.

Hadley @ Epic Finances writes What’s the secret behind top-performing mutual funds? Just ask Joe Huber – When it comes to owning mutual funds, nearly half of the households in the United States own them today, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Alexa @ Single Moms Income writes 3 Ways to Earn Extra Cash This Spring – Instead of blowing my budget once again I figured it was much better to look for ways to earn some extra cash.

CAREER AND INCOME

Mr. 4HWD @ The Four Hour Work Day writes “Take Advantage of Working Corporate While it Lasts “ – “It only took me a few years working 9-5 to realize that I wouldn’t be able to work in the corporate world forever. I’m a good employee but I just don’t see the incentive in busting my ass to make more money for a bunch of shareholders and board members. That doesn’t mean I don’t try but I definitely don’t go above and beyond when it comes to my day job. I do just enough to get by and make sure that everyone has a good impression of me. That’s really all that matters. “

GYF @ Gaming Your Finances writes Should I Start A Blog… YES YOU SHOULD! – Almost one whole year blogging, who knew it would last so long?! Check out this weeks post for all the reasons you should give blogging a try.

Thomas @ i need money ASAP! writes Make Money On Twitter: Sponsored Tweets – Did you know that you can sell your tweets? That little short message can make you big money. Businesses will pay you $10s, $100s or even $1000s to send out a short message to your followers.

DEBT AND CREDIT

Richard Adams @ FrugalityMagazine.com writes What’s The Best Way To Pay Off Debt? – Today I thought it would be useful to look at some inspiring examples other financially-savvy individuals getting out of debt. Hopefully the stories will not only provide you with inspiration that is it possible to become debt-free, but additionally provide some guidance and tips on the best way to pay off debt based on the experiences of others.

Marissa @ Thirty Six Months writes Tips to Make Your First Real Estate Investment a Success – Most of us do not really think of accumulating investment properties. It is just not something that we are programmed to do, but it is an area that more GEN Y should start taking seriously.

Jon Haver @ Pay My Student Loans writes 3 Lenders for Student Loans Without Cosigner – For students who need loans to finance their education, a hurdle they often face is finding a cosigner. A cosigner is a person who signs your loan in addition to you, meaning they are also responsible for repayment if you are unable to fulfill your obligations.

INVESTING AND SAVING

Andrew Pohl @ Finance with Reason writes 4 Reasons Why Bitcoins are a Bad Investment – Regardless of Bitcoin’s huge rise in value, there are multiple good reasons why Bitcoin will never be a viable currency and why you should stay away.

Jay @ Daily Fuel Economy Tip writes The 6 Best Cars you can Purchase Used for Under $10,000 – These days, the average American cannot exactly afford to go out and purchase a new car every three or four years.

Justin @ Edward Antrobus writes Why the Wealthy are Suddenly Fond of Using Pawnshops – While banks everywhere have started frowning on assets that are not quite liquid, there is a boom underway in high-end pawnshops.

Natalie @ Debt and the Girl writes Victims of Circumstance or Something More? – I have always been a big fan of doc type shows like True Life (the only good show left on MTV) that let you peer into the life of someone else.

Cat @ Budget Blonde writes The Evolution of Parenting: Are We Pressing Our Kids Too Far? – Wouldn’t it be great if children were born with a manual?

Jeremy @ Modest Money writes 10 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances – If you would Pay bills on time, Lower credit utilization ratio, Correct credit report and Get a gas station credit card, you would Improve Your Credit Score quicker than you thought.

RISK MANAGEMENT AND INSURANCE

Oscar @ Money is the Root writes Pension fund problems being felt all over the US – If you thought that Detroit was the only American city with big-time financial problems, you wouldd be wrong.

Lenny @ Best Money Saving Blog writes Obama’s New Budget Proposal Bad News for Consumers Unprepared for Retirement – Experts are saying that the budget for 2015 proposed by President Obama will be an absolute disaster for millions of Americans who are not fully prepared for retirement.

Marissa @ Finance Triggers writes Quirky tips for conserving cash – Here are a few quirky tips for saving some cash. Read on to find out how you do not have to turn your life inside out to gain control of your finances.

REAL ESTATE AND PROPERTY

Matt @ Budget Snob writes Who needs an Emergency Fund? If these things happen, you do. – If you have been an adult for any length of time you know that life is full of surprises, some good and some, well, not so good.

Bob @ Dwindling Debt writes Are you the Victim of Identity Theft? Check the Signs – Nearly 17 million people were victimized by identity thieves in 2012 according to the US Justice Department, including 40% who were victimized through their credit cards and 37% through their bank accounts.

Little House @ Little House in the Valley writes Build a House for Under $10,000? Oh Yes You Can! – If land wasn’t an issue, I could potentially build an eco-friendly house for under $10,000….or for as little as $3,000! Want to know the secret? Dirt! Yes, dirt.

RETIREMENT AND TAXATION

Michael Kitces @ Nerd’s Eye View writes How Delaying Social Security Can Be The Best Long-Term Investment Or Annuity Money Can Buy – Delaying Social Security amounts to an investment – forgoing money now, in exchange for higher payments in the future. Yet when examined from this perspective, the reality is that delaying Social Security may actually be one of the best risk-adjusted investments available today!

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What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Taxes http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/cant-pay-your-taxes http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/cant-pay-your-taxes#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:36:56 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5244 Whatever you do make sure you file your return on time. The penalties for failing to file your tax return on time are stiff. You will be charged 5% on the amount you owe each month up to a maximum of 25% of the tax owed after 5 months. It is much better to file [...]

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can't pay your taxesWhatever you do make sure you file your return on time. The penalties for failing to file your tax return on time are stiff. You will be charged 5% on the amount you owe each month up to a maximum of 25% of the tax owed after 5 months. It is much better to file your return on time, even if you don’t have the cash to pay, to avoid having to pay this penalty. Don’t have the cash? Here are several options:

 

 

 

Options to Pay Your Taxes if You Don’t Have the Cash

 

 

Pay With Credit or Debit Card

 

If you owe $1000 or less it will most likely make sense to pay your tax bill with a credit or debit card.   The interest and fees charged by your bank or credit card company will be less than the interest and penalties charged by the IRS. If you owe more than $1000 you will need to take a look at your ability to pay down this credit card debt in a reasonable period of time before making this decision.  You must use one of the approved processing companies and there is a fee for this service.

 

 

Get a Tax Extension 

The IRS will give you 6 extra months to file your return if you request a tax extension. To do so, submit Form 4868 by April 15th. A tax extension will help you avoid late filing penalties if you can’t file your return on time. You will still need to pay your tax liability by the original deadline, or interest and late payment penalties will apply. However, you are not required to pay your taxes in order to get an extension. Furthermore, if you pay 90% of your tax liability by April 15, the IRS will waive the late payment penalty.

 

 

Installment Agreement

 

If you are not able to pay the entire tax liability when you file your return, you may request an installment agreement by attaching Form 9465 to the front of your return. If you owe less than $25,000 in taxes, penalties and interest, you may request to pay your tax liability over 60 months. If you owe more than $25,000 in taxes, penalties and interest, you will need to provide financial statements and negotiate directly with the IRS. If you pay through a direct debit from your bank account the $120 installment agreement fee is reduced to $52.

 

 

Offer in Compromise

 

An offer in compromise is an agreement between the IRS and the taxpayer that effectively reduces the tax amount owed. The IRS will generally approve an OIC if the offer represents the most the IRS is likely to collect within a reasonable amount of time. The IRS’s “Fresh Start” initiative to offer more flexible terms to the OIC program includes the following:

 

  • Revising the calculation of taxpayer’s future income
  • Taxpayers are allowed to repay student loans
  • Taxpayers are allowed to pay delinquent state and local taxes
  • Allowable Living Expense amount and categories expanded

 The IRS will look at your ability to pay, sources of income, expenses, and any equity you may have in assets in determining whether or not to accept your OIC.  Payment options include lump sum or periodic payment. With a lump sum you must submit an initial payment of 20% of the OIC amount.

 

Undue Hardship Extension

 

To get an undue hardship extension you will need to convince the IRS that paying the full tax liability you owe will create an “undue hardship.”  In other words, you will have to prove that you will have to sell assets at a “sacrificial loss” in order to pay your tax bill.  You will also be required to provide security for your tax-debt in the form of a deed of trust, bond, notice of lien, or personal guarantee. During the hardship extension, the IRS won’t charge penalties however, you will have to pay interest on the tax that you owe.

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ESTA or Visa? Do You Need Both? http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/esta-or-visa-do-you-need-both http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/travelandleisure/esta-or-visa-do-you-need-both#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:43:03 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5269 For residents of certain countries, of which the UK is one, stays not exceeding 90 days can be undertaken without the conventional visa, if you apply for an ESTA (Electronic system for Travel Authorization) before you travel. Full and complete details can be found by visiting www.application-esta.co.uk. For your convenience let’s go through some of [...]

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ESTA or VISAFor residents of certain countries, of which the UK is one, stays not exceeding 90 days can be undertaken without the conventional visa, if you apply for an ESTA (Electronic system for Travel Authorization) before you travel. Full and complete details can be found by visiting www.application-esta.co.uk.

For your convenience let’s go through some of the basics to get you on your way.

Qualifying Reasons for Visiting the US

The reasons people visit the States are varied but certain ones will easily qualify you for a USA ESTA.

  • For a holiday or to visit relations
  • Attending a convention or conference
  • For training purposes
  • Business consultation
  • To take part in a sports or musical event

You must also have booked your return trip and be travelling with a recognised airline or sea carrier.

As always there are reasons that are not permitted such as study, employment, media work or if you intend to become a permanent resident. For more detailed information use visit the website.

You Will Need a Valid Passport

Every member of your group or family will need a valid passport that has 6 months remaining after you get back from the US. The passport can be either the latest E-passport or one of the earlier ones that can be read by a machine.

The Application Process is Easy

Applying couldn’t be easier and can be done online. All that is required is to complete a simple ESTA visa application by answering a few questions and providing some personal details. You will need to give your family names and country where you live, as well as email address and phone number. Your passport details will be required and you will have to answer some questions about your health, any criminal convictions, whether you have been refused entry before and if you are involved in espionage, terrorism or asserted your immunity from prosecution.

If at any point during the application you are unsure how to answer you can get all the answers thanks to the support team available anytime.

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Tips to Build Your Credit Score http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tips-to-build-your-credit-score http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tips-to-build-your-credit-score#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:39:17 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5025 Credit scores are incredibly important these days.  While some may think that credit scores are only used when purchasing something with credit, that is simply not entirely true.  Having a good credit score can affect your insurance premiums, if you can rent an apartment, if you can get a job, along with paying cheaper rates [...]

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tips to build your credit scoreCredit scores are incredibly important these days.  While some may think that credit scores are only used when purchasing something with credit, that is simply not entirely true.  Having a good credit score can affect your insurance premiums, if you can rent an apartment, if you can get a job, along with paying cheaper rates when you finance.  You can get big savings when you buy a home or car with credit just based on your credit score.  If you don’t have any credit or need to get a better credit score, then here are some ways that you can build your credit.

Credit scores are calculated off a number of different factors.  They include your payment history, how long you have had credit, how much you owe on credit compared to your available credit, how many times you have applied for new credit, and the types of credit used.  These are the factors that you need to focus on in order to build your credit.

Financial Check

The true first step to building your credit is by looking over your finances.  Are you in debt?  Are you just paying the minimum balance on your credit payments?  Can you afford what you are purchasing?  Do you have any late payments?  These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked when you check over your finances.  You should also check your credit report, which can be done for free each year, to make sure there are no errors.

Pay Down Debt

If you have any debt that you owe, then it is essential to pay it down.  If you have revolving credit, like credit cards, then those should be the first on your list.  Credit rating agencies like to see you have little owed on your credit cards.  No matter if you have a mortgage, student loans, car loans, or credit cards, you have to pay them down.

Actually Use Credit

If you don’t have credit, then in order to get it, you have to use credit. You can’t build your credit without it.  They key is to just start small.  Get a major credit card and use it for a few small purchases every month.  You should always pay off the balance each month, so you won’t incur interest.  If you have bad credit, then think about a secured credit card, which requires a deposit in order to use.  Use it slowly and make on-time payments.

Automate Payments

Late payments are bad for your credit score.  In order to build or rebuild your credit, you need to make on-time payments. Set up automated payments to make sure you never miss one payment.

When building your credit, you need to realize that it will not happen overnight.  It takes time to see your changes go through the system.  Your credit score will rise when you use credit wisely and pay down your debt.  There are no true quick fixes to build your credit and increase your credit score.

Readers: Have you ever had a problem with your credit? What steps did you take to correct the problem?

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A Guide to Tax Planning – States With The Best Tax Rates http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/guide-tax-planning-states-best-tax-rates http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/guide-tax-planning-states-best-tax-rates#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:30:01 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=5246 Tax season is in full swing.  If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, then remember you need to have them done by the 15th of April.  On top of dealing with federal taxes, matters can get complicated when state taxes come into the mix.  Each state has their own tax code as well as different [...]

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Tax season is in full swing.  If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, then remember you need to have them done by the 15th of April.  On top of dealing with federal taxes, matters can get complicated when state taxes come into the mix.  Each state has their own tax code as well as different tax advantages.  Some states have a high tax rate for businesses, while others are low.  Some have no sales tax, but make it up in other ways.  Since taxes are on everyone’s mind, why not discover which states have the best tax rates for the most common tax scenarios.

Income Tax

This is a tax levied on the income of individuals and businesses.  Income tax rates are calculated in a number of ways depending on where you live.  The main calculation is based on how much money you made, minus any applicable expenses and tax deductions.  There are a large number of situations when you will pay more or less income tax.  While most states have this tax, here are a few that don’t tax your income.

  • Alaska – This state doesn’t have an income tax, but uses money from oil and gas production
  • Florida – They use sales tax instead of income tax, along with property taxes
  • Nevada – Gambling revenues are used for many things that income taxes would cover.
  • South Dakota – While they have no income tax, they do have a wide variety of state taxes to make up for no income tax.

Property Taxes

While property tax typically focuses on real estate, many states also include other assets in their property tax calculations.  If you own a car, boat, motorcycle, RV, or anything else that can be driven might be subject to property taxes.  The rates vary state by state, but they are typically calculated based on the appraised value.  According to The Motley Fool, here are five states with the lowest mean property tax bills.

  • Alabama – $631
  • West Virginia – $718
  • Louisiana – $823
  • South Carolina – $858
  • Arkansas – $901

Social Security Income

If you are receiving social security benefits, then you have most likely worked for that income and have paid tax on those earnings.  Depending on how much you are bringing in from this benefit, you most likely won’t be taxed on it again.  The key to not being taxed is keeping your combined earnings below $25,000 ($32,000 for couples) per year.  If you make more, then you could be taxed on your social security income.  Here are a few states that are the most tax-friendly for retirees.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • Wyoming

Inheritance Taxes

This tax can be levied on people that are the beneficiaries of an estate.  Sometimes it is described as an estate tax depending on where you live.  If you receive money or property from the death of an individual, then you could be on the hook for an inheritance/estate tax.  There are actually only a handful of states that impose such a tax, so here are the ones that have the lowest rates.

  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Vermont
  • Connecticut
  • Maine

Before you sell the house and move across the country, you will want to consult with your CPA or tax lawyer to determine which option is best for your particular situation.

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