Monday, October 31, 2011

Parmesan Chicken

I found an inexpensive recipe that my family loves, and it costs less than $9.00 to feed a family of four. Serve with some rice, and your choice of veggies.

Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup Dijon or coarse ground mustard
1/8 cup apple juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cups fresh soft bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

To make Chicken Parmesan, Line a 13x9" pan with heavy duty foil and add a wire rack. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In shallow pan, mix mustard, apple juice, garlic, and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. In other pan, mix the crumbs, Parmesan cheese, almonds, 3 Tbsp. melted butter, salt, pepper, and dried basil. Toss until evenly mixed.

Coat chicken in the mustard mixture, then roll it in the Parmesan cheese and bread crumb mixture until thoroughly coated.

Place Chicken Parmesan on rack on top of the foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.

Saving money on grocery shopping

We all spend hundreds of dollars a month on food. The best way to save money is to clip coupons on products you buy regularly. I always buy Sunday and Wednesday newspapers every week. On Sundays paper will have general merchandise ads along with coupons. The Wednesday newspaper has grocery ads. I generally look through the ads to find products I use often. If you shop at Walmart they will honor most advertised prices (with the exception of buy one get one free, and percentages off). I have found that Walmart is generally less expensive on most grocery and general merchandise than other stores are. Ad matching and using coupons can saves hundreds of dollars every month. It also helps for you to know you got the best price possible. I’m not talking about extreme couponing, just getting good deals. It will only take you about 30 minutes a week to get a better price, not the hours a day extreme couponing takes people.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everyone needs savings

Everyone needs money in savings. Homeowners may need savings for unexpected circumstances that may arise. You never know when a water heater may fail and require replacing or maintenance. If you have a family, it is always good to have money set aside be it for vacations, or anything financial that may arise. Most people think that you should set aside money for your children’s college education, however I do not believe in this. I believe you should save for your own retirement. If you have enough money to send your children to college, than do so. If you are struggling however, I believe you should save it for yourself. If you instill good work ethic into your children at a young age, they may qualify for a scholarship. They will become better people knowing that they can work towards and achieve a goal for themselves. If they don’t qualify for a scholarship there are always student loans. Your child will take school more seriously if they are paying for their own education, thus receiving higher grades. The one thing in life you can’t get a loan for is your retirement. There are no such things as retirement loans. If you are living with your parents saving 15% of your money will help you greatly when you decide to move out. Everyone should try to have at least 6 months of their living expenses should an unexpected job loss occur. People living in apartments are throwing away thousands of dollars a year on a place you don’t own. Saving for a home is the best alternative to apartment life. Than when you are paying your mortgage, you are creating an asset that will pay you more in return should you decide to sell your home later. There are so many countless opportunities when saving your money.

Your transportation

As stated earlier you should spend no more than 15% of your income on transportation. This means your auto loan, auto insurance, and gas must all come out of this 15%. Car shopping can be very a very stressful ordeal. The dealer will try to sell you a car that you probably don’t even need. Explore all the options when buying a car, and research into them. You will need a car that will accommodate for your lifestyle, and fit your needs. Once you have narrowed your choices down to a few different options, go to a dealer that sells those cars. Make sure you test drive the vehicle(s) to ensure yourself that you will like the automobile. If you still want to purchase the vehicle, check with the dealership to see if you would be able to check the car out with a mechanic so there are no surprises. When it comes time to purchasing try to haggle with the dealer, they will most likely reduce the price on the vehicle. Don’t sign any paperwork if you are unsure about the purchase you are about to make. It needs to be your choice, not something you were pushed into by the dealership. Once you’re comfortable with the transaction, you will need to either pay cash or finance the automobile. Don’t get into anything you can’t afford to pay off if you finance. Having a down payment saved before financing will save you tons when it comes to interest. Find the lowest interest rate possible, having a higher credit score will help you achieve this. Now that you have that automobile, you will need to find the best insurance you can. If you are financing, check to see if you can afford Gap insurance. If your vehicle has been totaled by accident, theft, fire, flood, tornado, vandalism, or hurricanes your insurance company will pay you the cash value on the automobile. This cash value will most likely be less than the retail value in which you still owe. Without Gap insurance, if your automobile is totaled you will still owe that gap between the cash value and the amount of your loan. Gap insurance will pay the difference between the two, which will ensure that you don’t pay for a vehicle you don’t own. Although you have Gap insurance you will still need auto insurance to protect yourself from accidents. Do your research on the correct insurance company for you. Most insurance companies will give you an estimate on what you will pay for it. Weigh out how much you want to pay for your deductible, and how much each insurance company will charge you. Saving money on gas is really tough with gas prices skyrocketing. To save money, plan your trips out. If you are picking the kids up from a school close to the bank, post office, or grocery store that you will need to make a trip to later, than do it in one trip. This will save you money by not driving back and forth. If you are in the market for a new car, consider the cost effectiveness of getting a better gas mileage vehicle. You may pay more for an eco friendly automobile, however in the long run you will save money in gas, which will only go up.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The life category

As I said earlier 25% of your monthly income should be in what I call the life section. This doesn’t mean entertainment although that is part of the life section it isn’t all of it. In this section you would account for your entertainment, cable, internet, food, etc. Make sure you are not going over 25% if you can’t afford cable or going out to eat, then don’t do it. The best way to keep this on budget is to keep track of your budget for a month or more. Then look at what you can cut back on. Do you get gourmet coffee every morning? If so make your coffee at home before you leave work, you will be amazed at how much money you can save. Try quitting a vice if you have one, like smoking, or going to the bars every weekend. Make all the adjustments to your budget that you can to keep yourself at or under your 25%. Shop around for bundle deals with cable, internet, and phone lines. Make sure you get the best deal. Sometimes not having a home phone is economical. My family only has cellular phones that way we can always reach people when we need to. I haven’t had a home phone in quite some years. However you will need to ensure that you don’t go over your minutes or texts (that can cost you quite a bit of money). Make sure you do your research also when looking for cell phone plans, and cell phones. Read reviews on phones you like. Maybe your life better suits you to have an iphone, maybe it’s an android or a blackberry you should go with. Every cell phone will have different things they can do and different ways to account for your lifestyle.
When grocery shopping, make sure to create a list of the items you will need and stick to them. Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, that causes you to purchase items that you don’t really need. At the end of the shopping trip the cart will be filled with junk food. I always plan a weeks’ worth of meals that I will make for the week and create a list, that way it saves time from wandering down the aisles wondering what I will buy. Try to eat in as often as possible; it’s always cheaper than going out. Make a little extra dinner than you know your family will eat and save leftovers to take to work. When you run out of ideas for meals try to buy a magazine subscription to give you more ideas.
Trying to stay entertained is quite a feat if you don’t have much money. If your budget doesn’t allot for much entertainment (after all your other necessities) look into free entertainment. Take your family to the park; go for bike rides, and every once in a while go see a movie. The more exercise you and your family get the better you will feel.

Paying off your Debt

The average American family with at least one credit card has about $10,000 in credit card deb. Americans seem to live off credit cards which can dig them into debt quickly. Some debt is good and some debt is bad. Good debts would be a mortgage on a home, or college, or car loan. However even though it can be a good debt, don’t borrow more than you can pay back. Shop around for the best interest rates. Bad debt is credit cards. Although credit cards if used wisely can be good for your credit, many people find that they are an easy way to pay for wants in life. It is all too easy to swipe a card for lunch, or maybe a TV you want, however if you can’t pay off your full credit card bill within a month the debt starts stacking up, until you are paying on a card for years. The best way to manage a credit card is to only use it for one or two purchases you can pay off within the next month. When you pay off your card in full you avoid all those interest charges you would’ve paid otherwise. If you are planning on purchasing a big purchase such as a new TV, save up over a few weeks or months until you can pay for it. Charge the big purchase on your credit card, and then pay it off in full when your bill arrives. Never get stuck paying the minimum on credit cards, the minimum will barely cover your interest charges and you will forever be paying off your credit cards. Make sure when paying off your debt to pay off your highest interest accounts first (well above the minimum), while you pay at least the minimum on your lesser interest accounts. Make sure you are allotting 15% of your monthly income towards your debt. Once your debt is paid off, use your credit cards very wisely so they don’t become debt again. Use the 15% that was going towards debt and put it towards savings or investing the money another way. I will go over ways to invest your money another time but you can look into savings bonds, stocks, and mutual funds. Hopefully you will all be out of debt soon and then you can look forward to your well invested retirements.

How much should you spend on your rent or mortgage?

No more than 30% should be spent on your dwelling. That means that renters should include rent, insurance, and utilities into that 30%. For the homeowners that cost would need to cover your mortgage payment, homeowners insurance, utilities, and your monthly taxes. You should break up your income into these 5 categories Housing 30%, Debt 15%, Life 25%, transportation 15%, and savings 15%.

Housing – Make sure you do your homework when looking for a house or an apartment.
Renters - When looking for an apartment sometimes it is better to look close to colleges. A lot of times these apartments are cheaper because their demographic would be students or recent grads without deep pockets. Sometimes you can make deals with landlords so don’t ever be afraid to ask for money off rent, or your first month free. Make sure you get renters insurance. Most insurance companies will give you a bundle deal when you bundle renters insurance with your auto insurance. Most people would think they would never need renters insurance they believe the land lord will pay for everything which in fact most wont. Renters insurance can cover the cost of your valuable items in your house should you lose them due to a natural disaster or a fire. Renters insurance will also pay for a hotel for you to stay in until your property is move in ready again. When I was going through State Farm Insurance, they bundled life insurance, auto insurance, and renters insurance in one low price. Broken up individually I was practically getting the renters insurance for free. Check with your landlord to see what services they will cover. Most landlords will cover some of your bills whether it’s trash, water, gas, sometimes free cable or internet. The more your landlord will cover with your rent, the more money you can have for your life section of your budget.

Homeowners – When looking for a home, make sure you are staying within your budget of 30% this must include your utilities, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and mortgage payments. Make sure you look into your property you will buy with the amount of money you’re putting into owning you want to make sure it will be a home you will love in an ideal location for you. Homeowners insurance is a must have, and like renters insurance, homeowners insurance can also often be bundled into your auto insurance for less. When buying a home always try to offer what you want to pay, and a lot of times you can get the seller to pay all or some of the closing costs on the home. Do your research and make sure you find out what similar homes or homes in the area are going for. Do your research when getting financing towards your mortgage. You can apply for several banks to finance your purchase and find the lowest interest rate. When looking for a home your credit report will report these inquiries as one when they are done in a short time period (about a month), therefore will not lower your credit score by many points. You will need a higher credit score to get the best interest rates on a home. A credit score of at least 720 will get you the best interest rates.