Monday, March 29, 2010

Make Use of Tax-Credit House Repairs

Thinking about making some home improvements? Don’t let federal stimulus money go to waste! Until December 31, 2010, homeowners can take advantage of a national tax credit of 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500, on a variety of energy-saving products. Insulation, windows and doors, roofing, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, tankless water heaters and alternative energy programs, such as solar panels and wind turbines, are covered. Improvements made in 2009 will be claimed on your 2009 taxes (filed by April 15, 2010) — use IRS Tax Form 5695 (2009 version) — it will be available late 2009 or early 2010. For more information, has some useful information. Ask your tax professional for details on what specific improvements may qualify.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Get Financially Fit

“Strengthening the health of one’s financial management is a resolution that would benefit all Americans,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®). “The greatest gift you can give your family is financial stability.

Especially in a recession, it’s important to set a plan in motion to get out of debt and prepare for the uncertainties of the future.” Beck suggests these five basic tips to shape up your finances:1. Know where your money goes.2. Get control of debt3. Start saving today.4. Protect your assets.5. Organize your financial records.

This also is a good time to review your credit report. You can order free a detailed summary from the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—by visiting or by calling (877)322-8228.

Source: NEFE

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FREE Annual Credit Reports

Did you know that you’re entitled to a free annual credit report with each of the three national consumer reporting companies? By checking your credit report regularly, you can ensure that no loans, credit cards, or other financial obligations have been fraudulently initiated in your name.

Instead of requesting your free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all at the same time, request them at different times of the year. That way, you’ll be able to check your credit three times throughout the year at no cost. Get yours at, or by calling (877)322-8228. Beware of imposter sites with similar names.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Budget Helpers

There are number of free programs available on the web for helping people manage their money. Here are four – each is different, so play around with them and find something that works for you.


A downloadable spreadsheet that runs in MS Excel – functional and easy to use. It advertises being able to set up a budget in 10 minutes and maintain it with two 10-minute sessions a month. Creator Charlie Park originally built it for his own use, saying he couldn’t afford a commercial program (like MS Money or Intuit’s Quicken). Download at

SimpleD Budget

A downloadable, Windows-based program, SimpleD Budget was created by programmer Soichi Hayashi for his wife. It has charts and visual aids to see where you’re at on expenses and income versus the amount you’ve budgeted. When setting up the program it offers templates for various stages of life (college student, parent, etc) that provide different categories for expenses. Download at

A web-based budget tool, My Spending Plan can be managed by different people at different locations. Offered by the American Homeownership Association, it offers more than just budgeting; you can also set up reminders about bills. However, the site includes commercial promotions, and because it is online, it operates slower than the downloadable programs. Also, the tool is in the beta stage, so it’s a work in progress. Sign up at

Microsoft Office Personal Budget Template

A downloadable spreadsheet that runs in MS Excel – a very basic budget, so it’s very easy to use. Microsoft offers several choices. The simplest is the ‘personal budget’ in which you can track expenses and income for a year on one page, but there is also a personal monthly budget (which provides detail for one month only, not a year), a family monthly budget, and a number of other budgets for things such as job expenses, events, a garden, a wedding, and marketing. There’s also a personal financial statement (which is a good idea to have so you can track your net worth). Download at Search for ‘personal budget.’

It’s worthwhile to take a look at them all – it may be helpful to build a budget using the categories of one system, then use, for example, SimpleD to track the spending.

Of course, there are other, less technology-heavy systems. A spiral notebook and a pen and calculator are one. The envelope method is another. The envelope method goes like this: get a separate envelope for different household expenses such as housing, food, travel, etc., allocate expenses to the different categories according to your income, put the allocated money in its respective envelope, and then use the money from a particular envelope to pay the corresponding bills. The envelope system was designed for cash – actual money would go in the envelope. But you could modify the system so that you just write the amount of money assigned to each category (envelope) on the outside, then subtract that money from the balance. Then when you get to zero, you’d have to quit spending in that category or 'move' money from another envelope.

Bugeting is a basic financial management tool -- if you've signed up for Wyoming Saves and dedicated yourself to saving money each pay period, then make sure you follow up and track your savings.