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Sorry for the delays this week. Its been stressful with school and the likes...

My great grandfather passed away on Wednesday. :( And I've made a lifelong commitment to myself that this savings challenge isn't just about saving money with no goal in mind. Its about providing opportunity.

I am saving to allow myself the emergency funds to be there, in just such an emergency. My family isn't going to attend the funeral. I would like to attend, but can't afford to do so.

I never want to have to be in this situation again.

Thats my goal, and I'm sticking to it.

No all-knowing words of wisdom from me today, just passing along the message that you should save now so you can live later.

Free Free Free... Free?! Yes, again... free.

Great Post on the Woman's Day Blog.

Surprising Things You Can Get For Free

As much as I love the word, I have to admit it makes me suspicious. Just this week I won a “free” vacation, but the fine print says I need to send in a cashier's check to claim my prize. Sadly, “free” is usually a sneaky way to clean out my wallet.

But every now and then an exception comes along that's truly free-no strings attached, no hidden agendas. Here are my favorites, and all you really need is an Internet connection to go online.

Business cards
VistaPrint is an online printing company known for its amazing offer of 250 free business cards. They're good-quality, too. Visit, create your card and all you have to pay is about five bucks for shipping.

Why's it free? VistaPrint would like you to join their 12 million customers who buy printing online, so they offer this enticement. Just know that once you get your business cards, you may hear from them a lot.

Expert computer help
If you've ever had a computer problem and wanted to pull out your hair in frustration, this is for you. Need to solve a hardware glitch? Want to learn how to use HTML? Submit your question at and you'll get a pretty prompt answer e-mailed to you from a volunteer expert.

Why's it free? It's no secret that many computer manufacturers provide mediocre support for their own products and charge good money for it. The folks at Protonic are tired of this sort of treatment, and believe it or not, their service is free because they enjoy helping people.

Spanish lessons
Want to learn the basics of practical spoken Spanish? Sign up (some classes are 12 weeks) and you'll get weekly e-mails from a teacher with lessons and learning tips. You can also learn French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Mandarin Chinese and more. Go to

Why's it free? The BBC, one of the world's largest broadcasting corporations, is on a mission to enrich people's lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain.

Business classes
Learn everything from how to write a business plan to how to finance your venture through the Small Business Administration's website ( Online courses are free and self-paced; they take about 30 minutes each to complete. Free in-person classes are also offered at SBA district offices and resource partners around the country.

Why's it free? The SBA was created in conjunction with the government to help U.S. citizens learn how to become successful entrepreneurs. Support comes through financing of SBA loans.

Credit report
If you haven't done this already, do it now. Everyone is entitled to one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year free of charge. Go to and follow the directions. You will be offered many options for which you must pay, but stay on target for the free report. Caution: There are dozens of services on the Internet that pose as sources for free credit reports, but they really cost you money. Ignore them.

Why's it free? It's mandated by law, and this site is sponsored by the three major companies-Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

Wi-Fi hot spots
Would you like to know which restaurants and coffee shops in your neighborhood offer free wireless Internet access? Get a directory at

Why's it free? The company probably wants to build traffic to its site and derives financial support through advertising.

Time-management organizer
Create an up-to-the-minute to-do list complete with reminders via instant message or e-mail through Upload Remember The Milk to your cell phone and you'll always have your grocery list with you. And when someone at home adds to the list while you're walking into the store, you'll be sent an update.

Why's it free? The majority of the site's features are free, but a subscription ($25 for the year) gives you access to some additional premium features.

Silver jewelry
This is going to have you scratching your head. The Silver Jewelry Club ( offers high-quality jewelry including silver rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets (most of them with genuine gemstones). It really is free, provided you pay the modest shipping charge of $5.99. We're not talking junk here. As a consumer, your humble columnist, who is allergic to nickel silver, can attest to the remarkable quality of these pieces.

Why's it free? Giving away jewelry is SJC's way of introducing their products-they also sell their jewelry through wholesalers and stores. I have never received a single solicitation from the company.

The popular website, which features recipes from home cooks, now offers free downloadable cookbooks for many occasions (listed under “Tips & Advice”). The pictures are incredible and there are many to choose from. My favorite? Summer Picnics.

Why's it free? This site derives its revenues through advertising and other sources, so members pay no fees.

Sheet music
Want arrangements of classical pieces for free download? has 1,272 pieces available based on editions in the public domain, including works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart and many others for piano, guitar, cello, voice and more.

Why's it free? This is a labor of love by a team of volunteers who are involved in typesetting the music for electronic distribution. High-quality copies are available for a cost, but you're not pressured to buy them.

Radio service is like your own personal radio service. You type in an artist, and the service plays songs by that artist and others with a similar style. You can't download music, but you can listen and manage your own “stations.”

Why's it free? The site offers a free ad-supported service as well as a paid option where you don't see ads.

Gently used stuff
One person's castoff is another person's treasure at By joining your local Freecycle chapter, you can get used furniture, household appliances and a variety of other items. Just know that those who take are also expected to give. However, no money is allowed to change hands.

Why's it free? Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people committed to helping the environment by reusing goods and keeping stuff out of landfills.

Photo organizer
Picasa ( is a free software download from Google that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer. You can edit and add effects, share photos with others through e-mail, print them or upload them to the web. It's fast and easy.

Why's it free? Originally a pricey piece of software, Picasa was purchased by Google, then made free as an enhancement to the whole family of Google products.

Spam filter
Say so long to all those annoying solicitations that clog your e-mail. Spamato, an add-on for Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird and Mozilla Mail, does what it can to kill the junk. PC World magazine recently named Spamato one of its 101 Fantastic Freebies. Get your download at

Why's it free? The company wants to make spam filtering available to as many computer users as possible.

Directory assistance
If you're tired of paying a fee each time you dial 411, here's your alternative. Dial 800-FREE-411, then follow the prompts to get your desired number by phone or text message. Works for both residential and business listings throughout the U.S.

Why's it free? This service is advertising-driven. You dial in, listen to a 10-second sponsored message, then proceed to get the number you need.

Family calendar
Finally, all the information you need in one place. is an online calendar, address book and message board. The site merges each individual's schedule into one calendar, which you can access with a personal code from any computer. Very cool.

Why's it free? The basic free version is ad-supported but not in an in-your-face way. Famundo wouldn't be upset if you upgraded to the “Plus” version for about $10 a month, but it's not required, nor will you be hounded.

Where's my Debt?!?!

Hopefully I will never have to say that out of fear. I've devised the coolest system known to man. I wanted to wait and test out my system before I blogged about it and I've got to admit its worked out better than I can even begin to tell you about.

First step, visit and get your Debt Snowball going. Questions about this, see my second or third post to learn about how to use this helpful website.

Second step is to set a calendar for repayment on each snowball step to each debtor. This is going to be your financial plan until you are debt free.

Third step is to get a box of envelopes. One envelope for each debt you plan on repaying until all your debt is paid back. An optional step is to include a letter inside your envelope explaining your anticipated payment plan with dates and amounts, the final envelope should request a receipt of full and complete payoff.

Fourth step is to neatly organize the envelopes by date in a shoebox or other box.

Do you know what you have now? A box. Full of your debt. Its something you can see, feel, smell and once you throw your payment (in the form of check, cashier's check or moneyorder) something you can lick and mail. Its your debt and you are now responsible for mailing out each and every single envelope until you are debt-free. What does this mean? Well your debt is now in physical form. You can see the envelopes disappearing over time and it means significantly more to you. You can't avoid something that you are physically responsible. Having your debt scattered over little bits of paper, in your mind or in a filing cabinet keeps it out of sight and out of mind. A box full of your debt strategically placed on your dresser, kitchen counter or next to the front door is something you'll have to interact with.

My debt is in an old fedex box. I put christmas paper lining the bottom and my debt repayment calendar taped to the front. Its on my dresser in my bedroom. I know where it is, I have a better understanding of what my debt situation is like and I couldn't be more happier! Sending the first envelope out was terrifying, but you know I'm getting better. And the envelopes are disappearing! AND I CAN SEE IT HAPPEN!!!

So, I ask you... Where's your debt?


I have a laptop. Well, I guess I shouldn't call it that. It's more of a giant paperweight. It stopped working about 2 years ago. And I've decided to finally do something about it. I've posted it on ebay! heh.

I don't have the time nor the funds necessary to get the parts and get it fixed. Its an Alienware Area 51m laptop and it has some serious mo-bo or processing issues and what do you know it's out of warranty. So instead of having this dusty paperweight taking up room in my closet, I posted it! Check it out here

I've never done a weekend blog before, so you've caught me out of my element. But while I was digging into the closet for the laptop I noticed just how much junk I do have. Maybe I'll cart it all over to my boyfriend's house for his garage sale and make some extra money that way.

Every little bit helps and I'm finally seeing the truth in that.

And a pinch of vanity.... is going to be the online headquarters for the savings challenge. It will go live February 2nd. The amount of excitement I have, just cannot be contained! heh.

So in the mood I decided to butcher their graphics and come up with a savings challenge myspace layout. If you are another competitor or if you would like to support a competitor, please feel free to use the following code on your myspace page:

Just copy and paste the code onto your page. Or if you would like to post a banner in support:

No savings blogging today! But stay tuned for more savings adventures in the weeks to come!

Save Money, Stay Healthy

I try to write my blogs with pertinent information for the day. Usually that happens to be ideas that I get from the radio or television, but today's blog has more to do with the fact that I'm sick. I've had a fever for the last couple of days and if it doesn't clear up by today, I'm going to make a trip to the doctor.

So today's blog is about staying healthy, because lets face it, its not cheap to remain unhealthy. If you are unhealthy, overweight, or sick you carry on your shoulders an unnecessary amount of stress. And stress is a killer!

Here are some tips from
1. Join now
If you do have enough money in your budget to pay for a gym membership, act now to take advantage of New Year’s savings. Many fitness clubs slash their membership rates in January to draw in people who make weight-loss resolutions; for example, the Los Angeles Times reported this week that the upscale SportsClub/LA recently invited past members to restart their membership at a savings of almost $1,000. Other chains offering reduced rates for the new year include Bally Total Fitness, Curves, and Gold’s Gym. Paying a whole year’s dues up front, instead of month per month, may also save you money—but only if you’re sure not to give up or cancel your membership.

2. Renegotiate your rate
If you’ve lost your job and relied on a cheaper corporate gym rate, talk to your membership coordinators and see if it’s possible to keep the same rate, rather than paying full price; fitness clubs are also hurting from the economic crisis and may be more willing to give you a discount rather than lose you as a customer. You may also find that you’re eligible for discounts at a gym by being active in other community organizations, such as food co-ops or volunteer groups, or through your insurance plan. If you’re hurting for cash, ask about limited membership options for less expensive rates, which may limit the hours or areas of the gym you can use. One Gold’s Gym in Green Brook, N.J., for example, is offering a free 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday membership for the month of January to people who have recently been laid off, BusinessWire recently reported.

3. Bike to work
If you’re close enough to ride a bicycle to your job instead of driving or taking public transportation, you may save in more ways than one. Spending less on gas or train and bus fare is an advantage, of course, but some employers are actually starting to reward bike riders with monetary reimbursements as well. In 2007, Google began giving free bikes and helmets to its employees, and since then several other companies have begun to follow suit, providing various forms of compensation for those who pedal to work. And we may soon see more widespread rewards: Last year’s Energy Improvement and Extension Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2009, makes it legal for cycling commuters to apply for a $20 per month reimbursement. Visit’s FAQ page for more information.

4. Modernize your home gym
Strength-training at home no longer requires a huge, bulky weight-lifting contraption that costs thousands of dollars and takes over your living room. Today’s home fitness equipment is portable, storable, and best of all, affordable. Hot this season is the Iron Gym ($30 online and in retail and fitness stores), an as-seen-on-TV gadget that becomes a pull-up bar when secured in a doorway, a push-up and dips bar when used on the floor, and an ab toner when used with the attachable arm straps. For a slightly higher price, you can get the higher-tech GoFit Gravity Bar ($100), which also includes resistance bands that let you work your legs and lower body, along with a training DVD and laminated exercise booklet. Pair these workouts with an outdoor walk or run and you’ll take care of both your cardio and strength-training needs without setting foot in a real gym.

5. Lay off your personal trainer
If you’ve had the luxury of investing in a personal trainer for the last several months or years, you may find that your individual sessions will have to be the first thing to go when money gets tight. But instead of letting go of this valuable guidance completely, ask about group sessions that might make training more affordable. You might also turn to virtual coach programs such as, active video games such as Wii Fit (which contains a personal trainer program), or computerized gadgets that can track your heart rate, daily number of steps, or calories burned.

6. Join a fund-raising team
It always helps to have a concrete goal when trying to get in shape, and signing up for an organized run, walk, or triathlon is one of the best ways to stay focused. Entry fees and transportation can be expensive, but often you can sign up with nonprofit organizations that cover your event-related costs (and provide free training sessions and advice from experienced coaches) as long as you raise the required amount of money for their cause. Chances are you’ll be responsible for producing a good chunk of cash, but people will be more willing to help if they know their tax-deductible contribution is going toward a good cause. Some of the larger organizations that coordinate athletic fund-raising include the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the March of Dimes, Autism Speaks, and the American Heart Association.

7. Let the Internet do your bargain hunting
Thrifty online shoppers know that you can often get great deals without the hassle of crowded malls and pushy salespeople—if you know when and where to look. Sign up at and they’ll email you when workout clothes or shoes in your size go on sale at various sites all over the Web.

8. Consolidate your goals
The social networking site is a free online program designed to get people in shape to run a 5K while saving or paying off $5,000. The site’s members (about 100 as of this week) share stories and help to motivate each other toward these long-term goals, while its founder—a fourth-grade teacher and former U.S. marine—checks in often with helpful tips and blog posts.

9. Know when to splurge and when to save
A good pair of walking or running shoes, an easy-to-use heart-rate monitor, or a portable MP3 player will be a valuable investment if you know that you’ll use them often, but a lot of fitness products are pricey just because of the name brand, or contain high-tech features that will only get in your way. Don’t be afraid to check retail stores like Target and Wal-Mart for basic lightweight, breathable workout apparel, or secondhand sports stores for fitness equipment. Do your research ahead of time, talk to experienced salespeople, and know exactly what you need—and beware of anyone trying to sell you something with more expensive bells and whistles. Here’s a great primer on what’s worth spending and what’s worth saving.


I'm currently enrolled at the El Paso Community College. I will have graduated with my degree in Electrical Engineering in the Spring of 2010 and hopefully start at the University of Texas at El Paso that summer or fall. I've got a general understanding of what I will be making once I finish my bachelors degree courses, but I'm wondering if I should then continue on my education to a Master's degree. Of course I would like to be settled into a company that generally appreciates the contributions that I make to the company before I go back to school again.

So my ultimate goal today is to get a general idea of the payscale difference between an undergraduate with a Bachelors degree and a graduate with a master's degree. Luckily I know that there are a great deal of helpful websites out there that can provide this information for me. The main driving goal in this experiment is to determine my savings budget for each scenario. I'm concerned that I should start saving for retirement, but I can't anticipate my savings contributions based on the salary I am currently making. Planning for your future involves research and goal setting, so this is something that I feel will provide a good gauge for me to begin my goal planning. Provides a helpful graphing utility to see the various levels of certification, experience and industries and compare the information. Here is one of the graphs:

This particular graph is by years of experience. I hope to have the opportunity to obtain some experience while I am still in school, but on the chance that doesn't play out for me, its nice to know what individuals that lack experience are making and the goals for which I would like to set for myself while I'm employed. Had an indepth view of the different routes that one could take and the payscale difference. Salaries in 2007 for new grads: B.S.E.E. received starting offers averaging $57,830; M.S.E.E. grads averaged $69,180; and new Ph.D.'s averaged $86,440. Advanced degrees are in the high demand by both Fortune 500s and start-ups. This information will definitely come in handy when I am deciding what direction I want to take my professional and educational futures.

While this last website was specific for my degree plan, you can find the payscale for your field of interest online easily enough. is not limited to just engineering. The more you know, the more you can plan for.

And its never to early to be thinking about retirement!


One thing that I've noticed a great deal of savings websites have in common is the aspect of lists and tracking. Every site wants you to do more writing than you have since gradeschool when it comes to your finances. From setting up your budget, to tracking your expenses, analyzing your savings plan, writing in a savings journal, creating lists before you enter the store, etc. A serious case of writer’s cramp and a few paper cuts later you have everything you need on paper, but how do you prioritize everything? Here is some advice that may help you as it has helped me.

First: Ask your bank for a transaction registry. About the size of a checkbook, this helpful tool can be stashed away in your glovebox, purse, or in your jack pocket. Its best to carry this registry around with you because you want to make sure you document every expense as it is happening. This takes a good deal of discipline, but like anything else, doing this often enough can help make it a very good habit to have. This is the best thing you can do to save money. Primarily if you know how much you have in your account at any given time you won’t go over budget, overdraw or bounce a check. It is also good to invest in a pocket calculator so you can be sure your registry is 100% correct.

Second: Your budget. This is something you should update month to month on a worst case scenario basis. By that I mean plan for the worst and budget accordingly. If some months your cell phone bill is $110 but occasionally it gets up to $130, budget for $130. It will save you some headaches down the road if your projected budget includes these larger figures. Always better to be under budget vs. over budget.

Third: Lists. These are imperative for going into a store and successfully coming out with everything you need and nothing you don’t. When it comes to groceries make sure you take a comprehensive list and only buy the items you absolutely need. Print a Grocery List here. It also wouldn’t hurt to do a price comparison of the grocery stores in your neighborhood to make sure that you truly are getting the best deal. And look in your Sunday newspaper for coupons that can save you some coins.

Fourth: I’m going to continue swearing by the savings journal. Writing and documenting the money you spend and the temptations you give in to will help you to save money. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to spending is the first step in spending wisely.

Payday Loans...

It was pretty ironic that on Good Morning America today their joking financial tip of the day was to take out a payday loan. At only 400% interest, its a bargain! And then again on my way to work, they were talking about payday loans and the nightmare it is to get into them.

So I figured I'd address this issue, maybe even declare January 15th as the unofficial Anti-Payday Loan Day! I'll have balloons up later. :)

Payday Loans/Payday Advance/Payday Loan Sharks--minus the knee breaking-- are all names for establishments that can provide cash on the spot to anyone that walks in with a steady job (usually 3+ months), active bank account (usually 3+ months) and the ability to repay. And now that its the start of the tax season, many of these establishments want your business bad. Why? Because you need the money now, before your taxes go through, and they can give it to you... with interest!

They are always quick to remind you why you should take out a payday loan:
-- An emergency car repair
-- Unexpected dental appointment
-- A check that is going to bounce
-- Bail money
-- Medical expenses

But searching on line, produces some other ways they try to get your business. Money for tuition, vacation, weddings... Its very personal and very wrong. Tuition, Vacation, Weddings, Medical expenses are all very costly investments that if you have to take out a drop of the hat payday loan to get, you shouldn't be making the decision immediately. You need to take a step back and plan more. Give yourself more time. In terms of Medical expenses, that can be pretty rough. You or a loved one is sick and needs help now, payday loans happen immediately, but its not worth the headache or the heartache because you're investing so much of yourself into a company that wants to drain you for every dollar you have.

The best place to take your concerns is to your bank or credit union. They can help you plan, budget and answer any questions you may have to get you going in the right direction. And your bank may be able to help you. Good advice on the radio today was "Never borrow money from anyone... but a bank." You know what you're getting yourself into and you have ample opportunity to payback usually with a low fixed interest rate. Banks don't target the poor or working class and they truly are there to help, unlike payday loan companies.

If you find yourself at the entrance to a payday loan business, do your research! Know more information about the business before you give them your business. There are Alternate Payday loans, the interest is still extreme (252%!), but if you absolutely have to go that route, better to be extreme than 400%+!

Here is an article the New York Times did about Non-Profit Payday Loans/Alternate Pay Day Loans

Make sure you have all your information straight:
-- Get a loan with all the realistic numbers in your head
-- Give a margin for two rollovers just in case
-- Admit you'll have to live on less until the loan is paid
-- Have plan A and B ready if an emergency crops up
-- Give up some luxuries and stick to a Spartan budget

And not to toot their horn any more, but GoodWill teamed up with Prospera Credit Union and founded the GoodMoney Program. If you are swimming in PayDay Loan debt, they can possibly help you.
Visit them here

Illegal Interest rates, check your state

Thanks to


ALABAMA, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury limit is
8%. The judgment rate is 12%.

ALASKA, the legal rate of interest is 10.5%; the general usury limit
is more than 5% above the Federal Reserve interest rate on the day
the loan was made.

ARIZONA, the legal rate of interest is 10%.

ARKANSAS, the legal rate of interest is 6%; for non-consumers the
usury limit is 5% above the Federal Reserve's interest rate; for
consumers the general usury limit is 17%. Judgments bear interest at
the rate of 10% per annum, or the lawful agreed upon rate, whichever
is greater.

CALIFORNIA, the legal rate of interest is 10% for consumers; the
general usury limit for non-consumers is more than 5% greater than
the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's rate.

COLORADO, the legal rate of interest is 8%; the general usury limit
is 45%. The maximum rates to consumers is 12% per annum.

CONNECTICUT, the legal rate of interest is 8%; the general usury rate
is 12%. In civil suits where interest is allowed, it is allowed at

DELAWARE, the legal rate of interest is 5% over the Federal Reserve

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general
usury limit is in excess of 24%.

FLORIDA, the legal rate of interest is 12%; the general usury limit
is 18%. On loans above $ 500,000 the maximum rate is 25%.

GEORGIA, the legal rate of interest is 7%; On loans below $ 3,000 the
usury limit is 16%. On loans above $ 3,000, the limit appears to be
5% per month. As to loans below $ 250,000 the interest rate must be
specified in simple interest and in writing.

HAWAII, the legal rate of interest is 10%. The usury limit for
consumer transactions is 12%.

IDAHO, the legal rate of interest is 12%. Judgments bear interest at
the rate of 5% above the U.S. Treasury Securities rate.

ILLINOIS, the legal rate of interest is 5%. The general usury limit
is 9%. The judgment rate is 9%.

INDIANA, the legal rate of interest is 10%. Presently there is no
usury limit; however, legislation is pending to establish limits. The
judgment rate is also 10%.

IOWA, the legal rate of interest is 10%. In general consumer
transactions are governed at a maximum rate of 12%.

KANSAS, the legal rate of interest is 10%; the general usury limit is
15%. Judgments bear interest at 4% above the federal discount rate.
On consumer transactions, the maximum rate of interest for the first
$ 1,000 is 18%, above $ 1,000, 14.45%.

KENTUCKY, the legal rate of interest is 8%; the general usury limit
is more than 4% greater than the Federal Reserve rate or 19%,
whichever is less. On loans above $ 15,000 there is no limit.
Judgments bear interest at the rate of 12% compounded yearly, or at
such rate as is set by the Court.

LOUISIANA, the legal rate of interest is one point over the average
prime rate, not to exceed 14% nor be less than 7%. Usury limit for
individuals is 12%, there is no limit for corporations. (As warned,
you cannot evade the limit by forming a corporation when the loan is
actually to an individual.)

MAINE, the legal rate of interest is 6%. Judgments below $ 30,000
bear 15%, otherwise they bear interest at the 52 week average
discount rate for T-Bills, plus 4%.

MARYLAND, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury limit
is 24%. There are many nuances and exceptions to this law. Judgments
bear interest at the rate of 10%.

MASSACHUSETTS, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury
rate is 20%. Judgments bear interest at either 12% or 18% depending
on whether the court finds that a defense was frivolous.

MICHIGAN, the legal rate of interest is 5%; the general usury limit
is 7%. Judgments bear interest at the rate of 1% above the five year
T-note rate.

MINNESOTA, the legal rate of interest is 6%. The judgment rate is the
"secondary market yield" for one year T-Bills. Usury limit is 8%.

MISSISSIPPI, the legal rate of interest is 9%; the general usury
limit is more than 10%, or more than 5% above the federal reserve
rate. There is no usury limit on commercial loans above $ 5,000. The
judgment rate is 9% or a rate legally agreed upon in the underlying

MISSOURI, the legal and judgment rate of interest is 9%.
Corporations do not have a usury defense. (Remember that a
corporation set up for the purpose of loaning money to an individual
will violate the usury laws.)

MONTANA, the legal rate of interest is 10%; the general usury limit
is above 6% greater than New York City banks' prime rate. Judgments
bear interest at the rate of 10% per annum.

NEBRASKA, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury limit
is 16%. Accounts bear interest at the rate of 12%. Judgments bear
interest at the rate of 1% above a bond yield equivalent to T-bill
auction price.

NEVADA, the legal rate of interest is 12%; there is no usury limit.

NEW HAMPSHIRE, the legal rate of interest is 10%; there is no general
usury rate.

NEW JERSEY, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury limit
is 30% for individuals, 50% for corporations. There are a number of
exceptions to this law.

NEW MEXICO, the legal rate of interest is 15%. Judgment rate is fixed
by the Court.

NEW YORK, the legal rate of interest is 9%; the general usury limit
is 16%.

NORTH CAROLINA, the legal interest rate and the general usury limit
is 8%. However, there is a provision for a variable rate, which is
16% or the T-Bill rate for non-competitive T-Bills. Above $ 25,000
there is no express limit. However, the law providing for 8% is still
on the books- be careful and see a lawyer!

NORTH DAKOTA, the legal rate of interest is 6%; the general usury
limit is 5 1/2% above the six-month treasury bill interest rate. The
judgment rate is the contract rate or 12%, whichever is less. A late
payment charge of 1 3/4% per month may be charged to commercial
accounts that are overdue provided that the charge is revealed prior
to the account being opened and that the terms were less than thirty
days, that is, that the account terms were net 30 or less.

OKLAHOMA, the legal rate of interest is 6%. Consumer loans may not
exceed 10% unless the person is licensed to make consumer loans.
Maximum rate on non-consumer loans is 45%. The judgment rate is the
T-Bill rate plus 4%.

OREGON, the legal rate is 9%, the judgment rate is 9% or the contract
rate, if lawful, whichever is higher. The general usury rate for
loans below $ 50,000 is 12% or 5% above the discount rate for
commercial paper.

PENNSYLVANIA, the legal rate of interest is 6%, and this is the
general usury limit for loans below $ 50,000, except for: loans with
a lien on non-residential real estate; loans to corporations; loans
that have no collateral above $ 35,000. Judgments bear interest at
the legal rate. It is criminal usury to charge more than 25%.

PUERTO RICO, the legal rate of interest is 6%; all other rates are
set by the Finance Board of Office of Commissioner of Financial
Institutions. Judgments bear interest at the same rate as the
underlying debt.

RHODE ISLAND, the legal rate of interest and judgment rate is 12%.
The general usury limit is 21% or the interest rate charged for T-
Bills plus 9%.

SOUTH CAROLINA, the legal rate of interest is 8.75%, and judgments
bear interest at the rate of 14%. Subject to federal criminal laws
against loan sharking there is no general usury limit for non-
consumer transactions. The South Carolina Consumer Protection code
provides regulations for maximum rates of interest for consumer
transactions. Please consult with counsel for the latest rates.

SOUTH DAKOTA, the legal rate of interest is 15%, judgments bear
interest at the rate of 12%. There is no other usury limit. There are
certain limitations on consumer loans below $ 5,000.00.

TENNESSEE, the legal rate and judgment rate of interest is 10%. The
general usury limit is 24%, or four points above the average prime

TEXAS, the legal rate of interest is 6%. Interest does not begin
until 30 days after an account was due. The judgment rate of interest
is 18% or the rate in the contract, whichever is less. There are a
number of specific ceilings for different types of loans, please see
counsel for information.

UTAH, the legal rate of interest is 10%. Judgments bear interest at
the rate of 12%, or a lawfully agreed upon rate. There are floating
rates prescribed for consumer transactions. Please see counsel for

VERMONT, the legal rate of interest and judgment rate of interest is
12%. On retail installment contracts the maximum rate is 18% on the
first $ 500, 15% above $ 500. The general usury limit is 12%.

VIRGINIA, the legal rate of interest is 8%. Judgments bear interest
at the rate of 8%, or the lawful contract rate. Corporations and
business loans do not have a usury limit, and loans over $ 5,000 for
"business" or "investment" purposes are also exempt from usury laws.
Consumer loans are regulated and have multiple rates.

WASHINGTON, the legal rate is 12%. The general usury limit is 12%, or
four points above the average T-Bill rate for the past 26 weeks,
whichever is greater. (The maximum rate is announced by the State
Treasurer.) Judgments bear interest at the rate of 12% or the lawful
contract rate, whichever is higher.

WEST VIRGINIA, the legal rate of interest is 6%. The maximum
"contractual" rate is 8%; Commissioner of Banking issues rates for
real estate loans, and, may establish maximum general usury limit
based on market rates.

WISCONSIN, the legal rate of interest is 5%. There are a myriad of
rates for different type of loans. There is no general usury limit
for corporations. Note that a loan to an individual, even if a
corporation is formed, will violate the law. The judgment rate of
interest is 12%, except for mortgage foreclosures, where the rate
will be the lawful contract rate.

WYOMING, the legal rate and judgment rate of interest is 10%. If a
contract provides for a lesser rate, the judgment rate is the lesser
of 10% and the contract rate.

How to Get out of Debt... Say what?!

1. Stop increasing your debt. If you have any credit cards that are maxed out, cut them in half. If you have more than one remaining credit card, cut them up. When you finish, you should have no more than one credit card. Also cut up any "convenience" cards, such as gas cards, department store cards, etc. You will use your one credit card ONLY to buy "must haves" (see below) until you can get your spending fully under control.

2. Record your spending. The idea of writing down what you spend is a concept most people find annoying at best and useless at worst. However, this is actually your key to getting out of debt. You're in debt because you spent money you didn't have. If you're like many people, your debt didn't come from one single huge purchase; it was trickles of spending amassed over time. Avoiding more debt starts with knowing what you are spending your money on. Each day for one month (at least), write down every penny you spend, no matter how small.

3. Categorize your spending. Categorize your monthly expenses into logical groups of "Must have," "Should have," and "Like to have." "Must haves" are things that will cause harm if you don't buy them, such as food, rent, medicine, pet food, etc. "Should haves" are things that you need, but can do without for a little while, e.g., new clothes for work, gym membership, etc. "Like to haves" are things that you don't need, but enhance your life, e.g., magazine subscriptions, newspaper, cable tv, weekly coffee with friends, IM on your phone, etc. By doing this, you'll have a good idea of what you spend your money on, and you'll be able to figure out where you might need to cut back on spending. You don't want to eliminate all of the "should haves" and the "like to haves," but take a look at those first. One of your expenses will be paying off your debt. You will want to always pay more than the minimum required, otherwise it will take a really long time to eliminate your debt. For example, a single credit card with just a $1,000 balance and 19% interest will take about FIVE YEARS to pay off by making only the minimum payment of $26. Paying the minimum, you will spend $1556.40, with the Total Interest Paid: $556.40! Paying only the minimum payment will equate to giving them 55% more than you actually borrowed.

4. Make a budget based on your spending record. Write down the amount you spent in each category of spending last month as you budget for spending for the next month. Don't sweat if you feel like the amount is too much. For now, just write it down. If you spent $250 on clothes last month, write it down. If you spent $200 on gas for your car last month, write it down.

5. Figure out your debt paydown fund amount. Looking at your new budget, you're going to be able to see areas where you might be able to cut back. You might also see categories where you need to increase spending. In doing this step, no one is suggesting that you come up with budget amounts that are unlivable. Think about going on a diet--if you try to restrict your calories excessively, what's the first thing you want to do? Krispy Kreme here you come, right? The key here is to be realistic. Are you paying money for a gym membership you never use, despite your best intentions? What about the $4 a day, every day, morning coffee you get before work, or your 5-cans-of-Diet-Coke-a-day habit? Chances are, your budget has some fat that can be trimmed. At the end of this exercise, you should have come up with a figure, a number of dollars that can be put toward debt paydown.Make a note of this figure. Day-to-day, if you don't want to keep taking note of all your expenditures, just write down what you spend in the categories you are trying to cut back. This will give you a very clear idea of how well you are doing, and, if you know you're going to go over your budgeted amount, it may help you decide to hold back on a purchase, . If your still unable to find money in your budget, you may be able to find it in your paycheck. Statistics show that the average employee pays over 30% in taxes. Meaning that if your salary is $50k per year, your take home pay is only $35k. There are millions of employees who have filed their w4 forms incorrectly which means that their job is taking out more money than they should. If you are interested in determining your witholdings visit this website You should review your filings with an CPA to determine your exemptions. Chances are, you can refile your w4 form and increase your paycheck almost instantly. However if all else fails, and you still can't qualify for a more exemptions than start a home base business to take advantage of the write offs. You must work them to make a potential profit but the tax write offs alone are worth it. There are a lot of businesses out there that you can plug into, but there is one that may be more helpful because their services revolve around getting you out of debt as quickly as possible using your same money, credit restoration, unlimited access to CPAs and Financial Planners, and building wealth, because while you are getting out of debt you should be building wealth.

6. Figure out how much you owe, to whom, and on what terms. Debt can often feel overwhelming because you really don't have a clear idea of how much in debt you really are. Gather your bills, and make a simple list or spreadsheet of all the debts you have. Write down all the pertinent facts, including name of the creditor, your total balance, your minimum monthly payment, and your interest rate.

7. Start paying it off. Take the debt paydown figure of money you trimmed from your budget in step 4, and apply it to debt repayment. It's a good idea to prioritize the debts to which you are going to apply this extra money. Do you have debts that are past due and the creditors are hanging out on your door step demanding your first-born? Do you have debts with exceedingly high interest rates? Consider these top priorities. Let's say you determined in Step 4 that you could comfortably trim an extra $250 from your monthly budget to go toward paying debts, and that from your list of debts in Step 5, you owe $2,000 on a store credit card that has an interest rate of 19.5%, $1,000 on a Visa with an interest rate of 11.5%, and $25,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 5%. You would want to pay the minimum on your low interest rate debts, and apply the bulk of your $250 to the highest interest rate, in this case, your 19.5% store credit card, despite the fact that the actual cost of the student loan interest is highest. Also, consider that if you are already paying a minimum payment of $50 on that high interest card, if you start sending $300 per month (the minimum you are already paying plus your debt paydown figure), once it is paid off, then you will have increased your debt paydown figure. The next creditor can get the amount they are already getting plus the $300. Each debt gets easier to pay off than the last.

8. Wash, rinse, repeat. Just kidding, but you get the idea. This process gets easier. Once you've figured out your spending and what debts you owe, keeping it up gets easier and easier. You'll refine your budget over time, increase the amount of money you can pay yourself (see tip below) and the amount you can put toward debt. Continue to pay off each debt in your priority list. As you pay off convenience cards and high interest credit cards, call those credit card companies and cancel those accounts.

9. Don't give up. Chances are you didn't get into debt in a day, and you won't get out of debt in a day. Quick fixes don't last, but learning how to manage your money can bring great peace into your life, and you can spend your mental energies on more fun things.Also checkout this company had some great feed back about them,

Free Free Free... Free?

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I love it! I just hate buying books because they're not cheap, unless you're like me and raid Goodwill every now and then for a new book or two. Good investment at .50 cents a pop.

But if you have access to a computer, which you do, and if you like to read, which you do--blogs at least--, here is a great list of sites where you can read for free on the internet.

Project Gutenberg:This is the first stop on your tour. 100's of free ebooks from classical to modern works, best place to go to finish up that brit lit paper without running out to buy The Canterbury Tales.

Forgotten Books: 1736 titles encounting, nearly the same content as Project Gutenberg, but a more simplicistic layout to maximize your reading potential.

4share: Encyclopedias: From Card Tricks to Water Technology, this website provides downloadable “encyclopedias” on a wide array of topics. Make sure to have an unzip program installed and your antivirus updated just in case. (I haven’t checked the validity of every title yet and I’m unsure where they retrieve their content)

Free Classic Audio-Books: This is for those of us who can’t sit and read in front of a computer as long as we’d like to. Download these great audiobooks and pop them onto your ipod or mp3 player and away you go. Another great website for those that enjoy reading but if left to our own devises, would never stop. For layout purposes the books are typically divided into sections, allowing us to stop in a timely fashion on our own or continuing on to the next chapter. A book Swap exchange website that allows you to trade or barter the books you already have for other books. A great alternative to get the books you want, but don’t forget to factor in the shipping costs!

All of these sites make me want to get started on my reading list for 2009. The primary goal will be to read books that I should have already read but do it for free. Here’s my list, feel free to join me:

Niffenegger, Audrey – The Time Traveler's Wife
Stoker, Bram – Dracula
Benderson, Bruce – The Romanian: Story of an Obsession
Lengyel, Olga - Five Chimneys
Lagnado, Lucette Matalon and Sheila Cohn Dekel - Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef
DuPrau, Jeanne - The People of Sparks
Scott, Michael - The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Keneally, Thomas - Schindler's List
Segal, Lore - Other People's Houses
Riordan, Rick - The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones
Stroud, Jonathan – The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Three: Ptolemy's Gate
Black, Holly - Ironside
Barry, Dave and Ridley Pearson – Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
McEwan, Ian - Atonement
Blake, James – Breaking Back
Barrie, J.M. – Peter Pan
Haggard, H. Rider – King Solomon's Mines
Clarke, Susanna - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Larsen, Eric - Devil in the White City
Willig, Lauren - The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Sparks, Nicholas - The Notebook
Berendt, John - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Austen, Jane - Sense and Sensibility
Gaiman, Neil - American Gods
Goldman, William - The Princess Bride
Pierce, Tamora - Trickster's Queen
Rice, Anne - Interview with the Vampire
Golden, Arthur - Memoirs of a Geisha
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Maguire, Gregory - Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Virgil - The Aeneid
Dumas, Alexandre - The Count of Monte Cristo
Japrisot, Sebastien - A Very Long Engagement
Carroll, Lewis - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
O'Neill, Jamie - At Swim Two Boys
Bray, Libba - A Great and Terrible Beauty
Gaiman, Neil – Neverwhere
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray

Good luck to me and good luck to you!

Gifts in time of Cholera...

Financial Cholera that is. I'm a gift-giving fiend and that is going to be a hard habit to break. Every holiday, birthday or just-because day it seems I'm passing along gifts to friends, family and co-workers. This year that has to change. Does that mean nobody gets a gift? Well, no, it doesn't mean that at all. It just means that when it comes down to gifts, I'm going to have to get creative, get smart and get thrifty.

Luckily for me I'm a crafty packrat that enjoys making things anyways, so it should come relatively easy for me. Having hordes of crafting materials at my disposal also means that I won't have to shop for supplies and most gifts that I do make will be next to free.

Things I enjoy making that would make great gifts include:
Shopping Bags! Old T-shirts + Scrap Fabric= Instant green shopping bags! Fun and trendy.
Great Looking Bags!

Instructions for another bag

My Personal Favorite

Jewelry! Necklaces, earrings, bracelets... Its all beautiful! Buy these supplies in bulk though. Even at Hobby Lobby, glass bead prices can get seriously out of hand.
A fun, informative Blog
Buy in Bulk with Google Shopping

Knitting hats! Perfect winter gifts for friends, family and new babies! Who doesn't love a winter beanie? Get a loom and do it in a flash with no previous knitting experience required.
Fantastic Loom-knitting Blog!

Baby blankets! I'll post my mom's secret blanket recipe at a later date, but its fabulously easy, its fast and its fun! They make great baby shower gifts celebrating the wonderful new-edition!

Gifts I will try my hand at this year:
Baking! Who doesn't love cookies, cakes or pies? You can find great baking supplies that are gently used at goodwill or other thrifty stores. Baking cookbooks and recipes are available all over the internet too, just have to look for them. You can also get packaging for your gifts to have them look professional. This is only a cheap investment if you bake gifts often, so plan ahead for holidays as baking ingredients aren't cheap.
Baking Supplies at

Bake sweet treats!

Search for Cookie Gift Boxes/Baked Goods Gift Boxes/Treat Gift Boxes

Jars! Creating your own jams, spreads and other jarred goodies might become an expensive endeavor, but you should be able to find the necessary supplies for relatively cheap if you shop smart. There are also fabulous websites, and I mean fabulous, that have all the information you could care to know about creating your own jar-masterpieces.
Here is one of those fabulous websites!

Pay Attention to shipping costs when buying online!

Make sure you're informed!

If you're not in the creating mood, don't waste your other talents! You can offer to babysit for friends and family so they can have a special night out, mow a neighbors lawn or offer to put up christmas lights for the holidays. Helping out is usually the greatest gift you can give.

Hugs and Pennies!

6 ways to save money! All year around!

Before I get into today's content, I would like to present exhibit a: flat tire. This flat tire awaited me after leaving the office on wednesday. Oh the horror! Heh. Luckily I have a coupon and the repair will cost me nothing. :) HURRAY!

AS for today's content, lets start the new year off right: 6 of my all-time favorite ways to save money. Not that I've been a huge saver in the past, but it's a new year and a new time to start!

1. Services: Improve them or Lose them! You are not a slave to your landline, cable, insurance or internet plan providers! The one thing they don't want you to know is that their competitors are willing to beat the price you're currently paying to get your business. Shop around for a great deal and at the very least, contact your current provider and very nicely tell them you've found a better deal and if they want to keep your patronage they'll beat or match it.
Compare Internet Service Providers
Compare Phone and Long Distance Providers
Compare Auto Insurance Providers

2. Services: Sell your Cell! Maybe not literally, but based on my own experiences my cell phone is a convenience that can be very inconvenient. Generally, the only time that it would be cost-effective to shop around for a new cell phone carrier is when your contract with your current carrier has expired. If thats not the case for you, it may be to your advantage to ride out the remaining couple of months. If you have a substantial amount of time before your contract expires, it may be more cost-effective to eat the cancellation fee and ditch your cell phone carrier. At this point you are now free to shop around for a new carrier or purchase a pay-as-you-go phone. Most top carriers now have their own p-a-y-g phones, so check it out.
Compare Cell Phone Carriers

3. Dear Diary: Record your purchases in a journal. It may sound cheesy, I thought so when my financial coach slid a journal across the table to me, but it works. I took a unique spin on my journal and use it not only as a log for my purchases but also as a book that holds all of my receipts. Each receipt tells a story and has a moral or a lesson. You'd be surprised how much this curbs your spending especially those of the impulsive nature. This in combination with a transaction register, ask the helpful teller at the counter for one of these free at most banks, will help you to start saving with results you can see.

4. Goodwill: Goodtimes. I bought the majority of my christmas gifts online... at and have nothing but pleasant things to say about the quality and the pleasure each gift brought. And the deals at the stores are just as fantastic. Like any store, you'll want to do your research first. Most Goodwill stores have a 50% color for each week. Determine what color is on sale and shop primarily from that selection. Also like other stores, have a list. It's easy to make unnecessary purchases when things are as cost-affordable as they are in Goodwill, but this won't help you save.

5. Give goodwill: turn junk into benjamins. Spring is going to creep up suddenly on us in the next couple of months. While you're spring cleaning--which can help save money if you tackle dusty coils on your fridge, chimney sweeping and cleaning vents-- start sorting through stuff you don't use anymore, don't want any longer or just don't need. Turn this junk into benjamins by having a yard sale, selling at a discount to friends, family and coworkers, selling to a thrift or consignment store or by collecting a tax deduction by giving it to charity.
Yard Sale Queen has great tips.
Charity guide explains more about donating clothes.

6. Print, Cut, Save: Online coupons. For starters NEVER pay money for coupons. Defeats the point. There is a difference between getting a good deal and paying for a good deal. There are a wealth of great companies online that offer coupons for the products you buy everyday. Check out the websites for your favorite grocery brands for valuable coupons, samples and discount opportunities. If you want more bang for your time, there are a few websites out there that compile coupons for thousands of products. If this is the route you choose to go, remember, keep it easy and keep it free.
Retailmenot-- you'll thank me later