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Consumer Beware of Professional Service Providers

By Erik Folgate

We all know about used car salesmen, auto mechanics, plumbers, and contractors that try to pull a fast one on us by selling us products and services that we may not need. Every time i bring my car in for service, there’s something new that’s “allegedly” wrong with it. In my day job, I deal with plumbers and restoration contractors all day long. Some are very honest and others will milk you for everything they can get away with. It’s pretty well-known that you should be cautious when dealing with these people. However, it’s not as well-known to be cautious when going to see your doctor, dentist, veterinarian, or any other professional with letters after their name. We as responsible consumers, need to be more careful wtih the professionals that we see, because your best interest may not always be on their mind.

Recently, we took our dog to a veterinarian in Jacksonville, Florida that we didn’t know anything about. Our dog has sensitive skin, and she has had an irritation on her back. She ripped out a chunk of hair, so we know that we needed her to see a vet. We take her to vet, and two prescriptions later and a skin scraping procedure, and we owe $235 bucks. The skin scraping was warranted, but I don’t think the pills are helping her at all. We also had a bad experience with a dentist about a year ago. We felt that she was very “crown” happy. My wife got a second opinion from a dentist we trust in my hometown, and he said that a crown wasn’t necessary yet.

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Simplify Your Finances: Organize Your Investments

By Erik Folgate

http://images.inmagine.com/img/photodisc/mi235/mi235054.jpgSimplifyng your investment strategy is an ongoing process. It takes time to perfect. I am not even close to perfecting investment strategy, partly because I just started investing last year. But, I will reveal with you my thoughts on how I want to start investing for the next ten to twenty years. My stratey involves a retirement account and real estate investment.

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Simplify Your Finances: Organize Your Accounts

By Erik Folgate

http://images.inmagine.com/img/corbis/crb307/crb307009.jpgI’m going to run a short mini-series on simplifying your finances. I think that much of the problem sometimes with managing our money is that we tend to complicate the situation more than it needs to be. There is no reason that you should feel intimidated or overwhelmed with managing money. Money is not complicated. We are the ones tha make it complicated. So, the fist thing to do get your bank accounts organized. I am going to show you a method that works for me. Basically, I have three separate accounts for three different purposes. They are as follows:

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25 Energy Saving Tips to Save You Money This Summer

By Erik Folgate

Here are 25 cheap ways to keep your house cooler this summer from the folks over at MSN Money.

I liked this list, because it gives you practical tips for saving energy without having to drastically alter your lifestyle. I hate it when environmentalists get on their high horse and start telling us to ride our bikes to work. Seriously, unless you live less than one mile away from your work, no one wants to come to work drenched in sweat. It’s great to be environmentally conscious around your house, because it saves you MONEY. And Money Crashers is all about helping you save money.

Here are some of my favorite tips from this list:

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Florida Government Cuts Tax Holiday For Hurricane Supplies

By Erik Folgate

The image Just four years ago, Florida was ravaged with four major hurricanes in the span of 10 weeks. Then, in 2005, two more major hurricanes hit Florida, making it one of the worst consecutive hurricane seasons in U.S. history. Yet, for some reason, Florida’s government has forgotten about those years. June 1st marks the first official day of hurricane season and for Florida residents, it’s not a date they like to mark on their calendar. Florida’s state government decided this week that they would do away with the tax holiday that typically begins on June 1st for hurricane related supplies such as batteries, generators, lanterns, and first aid kits. Given the lull in the economy lately, they felt that this was one of the areas where they could save money by taking away this tax break from Florida’s residents. It will supposedly save the state up to $12 million dollars in tax revenue.

This is just another example of a government penalizing the taxpayers, rather than owning up to the real problem. Yes, there is a slow down in many of the economies around the country. I am sure that Florida has seen better days, because tourism is a big part of this state, and less people have the disposable income to travel down here for vacation. But, the wasteful spending that goes on in the state and federal level is ridiculous. If Florida’s government wanted to save money, they should have taken away all of the ear marks and pork barrel spending that passes through its legislature every year. Cut out some of the fringe benefits of the government officials or cut out some of the civil programs that aren’t in dire need of being completed. Why would you take away $12 million dollars from us, when you could have tightened up your own spending?

The tax holiday would only be a few dollars here and there of savings to the residents of Florida, but that’s not the point. The point is that they’re first resort when the economy slows down is to hurt us, not them. If you live in Florida, call or email your Congress representative and let them know that you’re disappointed about this.

You Spend More Money When You Use A Credit Card

By Erik Folgate

Many of you, including prominent personal finance bloggers, often write about using your credit card for everything during the month, then pay it off at the end of the month in full. You rack up tons of reward points and cash back bonuses, and you tell others about how you’re playing the system. But, have you ever thought that you might be spending more money than you normally would if you paid with cash? The reason that I bring this up is that I am definitely in the minority when it comes to the use of credit cards. Many of you think they are a tool if used responsibly. I think they are a trap. They lure you in to make it look like you can play the system by racking up all of the reward points, but then that ONE time you don’t pay it off in full or miss a payment, they win.

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A Calculator For How Much House You Can Afford

By Erik Folgate

Smart Money has a good calculator for figuring out how much money the bank will lend you based on some basic income information and factor in the down payment you can shell out to figure out how much house you can buy.

I liked the calculator, because it used a fairly conservative ratio for figuring out how much you can afford. The ratio was about 28% of your gross household income. When people ask for my opinion about this subject, i always use the 25% rule. If your gross household income is $4,000, then a conservative house payment is about $1,000 a month. Going a little over this isn’t going to kill you, but when you get in the 35 to 40% range, you’ll start falling into that “house poor” category.

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Coca-Cola: The Ultimate Brand

By Erik Folgate

This is a Coke. If you share my love of Coke, then you’re looking at it right now wishing you had a fountain Coke from Mcdonald’s. It’s Coca-Cola, but we all know it as a Coke. When you sit down at a restaurant, you say, “I’ll have a coke, please.” You don’t say, I’ll have a Pepsi. Even if you’re a Pepsi lover (May God have mercy on you), you don’t request a Pepsi. You ask for a Coke. And don’t tell me that you ask for a Cola. And for those of you in the North, asking for a “pop” is too generic. That could mean any kind of soft drink. What’s my point? My point is that Coke’s brand has become a word in the English dictionary. There are many brands out there that have infused themselves as a routine word, rather than just a brand. Q-Tip, Kleenex, Google (i.e. someone says to you, “just google it”), and pretty much every prescription and over-the-counter medicine you can think of. No one ever calls Tylenol by it’s generic name, Acetaminophin. This is your goal when starting a company. Whether it’s a product or a service that you are selling, you want your brand to become mainstream. You want it to be synonymous with the type of product or service you are offering.

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How To Help College Graduates with Money and Career

By Erik Folgate

I have a heart for recent college graduates. I was there 3 years ago. I didn’t know how to get a job, I didn’t know how to manage my money. I didn’t know how to deal with getting up early, interacting with people twice my age. It’s tough to be a recent graduate. Your college hands you a degree and pushes you out the door. Your parents have already pushed you out of the door. Their guidance is there, but not as much as in high school.

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The Answer To My Incorrect Stimulus Payment

By Erik Folgate

I wrote on Friday that I received the stimulus payment on the scheduled date that I was supposed to receive it. I received a letter in the mail today from the IRS that explained the payment that I was entitled to, and it explained why I received the $600.00 instead of the $1,200.00.

Here is the excerpt straight from their letter:

Filing Status

Based on your filing status, the amount of the stimulus payment is $1,200 or your 2007 net income tax liability, whichever is less. Net income tax liability is your tax before credits, including the alternative minimum tax, less all non-refundable credits other than the allowable child tax credit.

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My Friend’s Experience With Buying A House During The Housing Bust

By Erik Folgate

Recently, I asked my friend who recently bought a house just outside of Atlanta, to share her experience with buying a house as a first time homeowner during a time when people are generally scared to buy or sell their home. Here is her truthful, insightful account of buying their first house.

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I Received The Incorrect Amount For My Stimulus Payment

By Erik Folgate

My last two social security digits are 53. So, according to the payment schedule, I was supposed to receive the stimulus payment this morning. Although, with all of the comments on this site from people who didn’t receive it last Friday, I was not counting on anything. So, I logged into my checking account this morning, and to my surprise, there was a direct deposit from the U.S department of the Treasury. I thought, “wow, I was one of the lucky ones to get my payment as advertised.”

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Five Reasons Why You Haven’t Received Your Economic Stimulus Payment

By Erik Folgate

There are quite a few people that are angry and frustrated over the first week of economic stimulus payments rolling out as portrayed by the comments on this post. The payment schedule that the IRS printed is obviously not being followed. People with their last two digits in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, are getting their payment before people in the 00′s, 10′s, and 20′s. I’m not going to sit here and act like I know why it’s all screwed up, but here are a few ideas for why you may not have received your payment yet.

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Using A Car Buying Service To Negotiate and Purchase A New Car

By Erik Folgate

I just read this article on Yahoo Finance, courtesy of Bankrate about using a car-buying service to shop for a new car. I’ve heard of this, but I’ve always been a little skeptical about the service. What if they don’t get you any deals? Do you get your money back?

The way it works is you give all of your information to the company including credit information, (scary) contact information, and information about what type of car you are looking for. Then, you shell out a couple hundred bucks, and they go shopping for you. Apparently, they are supposed to negotiate the best deal possible for you to get the new car. According to the article, some companies can negotiate prices close to invoice. However, sometimes the price they give you isn’t the “out-the-door” price.

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Stay Away From These Two Scams

By Erik Folgate

HITMAN BRIBE SCAM

This is one of the most ridiculous scams I’ve heard about in a long time. Apparently, it started popping up in late 2006 and early 2007, but this is the first time I have heard about it. Which means, it hasn’t been too effective. However, I think it’s still worth bringing to your attention, because it could land in the right person’s inbox and severely scare them into doing something stupid.

It’s called the “Hitman Bribe” email scam. For two examples of the email you might receive, click here.

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