Archive for April, 2009

When AAA is more than just towing your car

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Hello from a toasty day in Connecticut!  Since we had visitors last week (or was it the week before? I am losing track), I thought I would share with you some AAA savings that we’ve used while they were visiting…

Our friends came to visit us from overseas and they have a particular affection for Six Flags New England.  So instead of paying face value for the tickets, we go to our local AAA office and buy them there–for almost 40% off!  Usually, the day pass is $41, but at AAA, they are $26.  And they have a discount on parking as well.  All told, our group of 6 (Nicolas is free because he is under 2) saved $97 on park entrance and parking fees! 

Again, I am not a big membership person (note my lack of Costco member status), but even though AAA can seem expensive, I have found them to be worthwhile.  There have been times that my car battery died in our driveway after my husband left for work (thanks to me leaving the interior light on overnight) and AAA had someone out to jump the car within 15 minutes. 

Also, I believe I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating: if you have lost your prescription coverage at work, lost your health insurance all together, have a medication that isn’t on Walmart’s generic list, etc., get your AAA prescription discount card.  It’s free with membership and it just might save you a few bucks.  And the prescription card works for pet meds as well–as long as the medication can also be taken by humans.  So things like insulin, heart meds, etc. all qualify!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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What the heck is Open Source?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Open Source software, that is software that is non-proprietary and in other words, free.  In the world of Open Source, you have simplified, user-friendly versions of the Microsoft Office suite (i.e. Open Office) as well as pretty much anything else you can imagine.  Mozilla Firefox is a great example of Open Source software that works very well.

If you like this concept, are a tiny bit computer savvy and are tired of paying through the nose for various types of software, Open Source might be the way to go.  To get you started, here are two great Open Source sites:

Open Source As Alternative: www.osalt.com  This site will help you find Open Source alternative to your favorite proprietary programs.

For Windows users, there is also: www.opensourcewindows.org

Finally, definitely check out www.cnet.com.  They have a giant proprietary and non-proprietary download database plus user reviews that are extremely helpful–which is where I learned about my favorite encryption software, TrueCrypt.

Because of the nature of my work, I need to have my data and backup sources encrypted at all times.  And encryption software and support can be expensive, time consuming, and not to mention scary if you don’t install it correctly.

After carefully reading through the TrueCrypt instructions, and following them step-by-step, I found it quite easy to use.  If you have a need for this type of software, check it out on www.truecrypt.org.  It works with Windows, Mac & Linux.

Have a great week!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Traveling on the cheap

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

hello all! Now that tax season is winding down, my brain will start to function more normally shortly! And with springtime technically in full swing, a lot of folks start thinking about planning summer vacations…so I thought I would talk about 2 of my favorite websites for saving money and headaches!

First off is www.travelzoo.com. Sign up for their Top 20 deals and get an email once a week of excellent deals for domestic hotels, domestic & international flights as well as shows & events all over the country. If you are the kind of family who ends up last minute planning your vacations because of work, school/sports commitments, this is the site for you.

Once you find a deal, but before you book, I encourage you to check out www.tripadvisor.com. This site has saved us from many a headache and disappointment from booking what we thought would be “good” hotels. TripAdvisor is a website where regular people write review about their vacations, hotels, etc. and some even post photos so you can see what places really look like, not what their brochures have to say!

Have to be short since we are having visitors from overseas this week and the house needs a major clean-up. If anyone else can chime in with favorite travel websites, please do so!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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Boring (but Necessary) stuff

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

This is probably going to be a shorter post today because we are at the height of tax season and I am up to my eyeballs in tax return work!

However, here is a non-tax related but important item for Turbo-Moms everywhere. Tax time is also a good time to get thinking about other information that we need to get in order, such as life insurance policies, wills and such.

Here’s why:

  • Have you had another child or 2 since you took out that term life insurance policy? Be sure to contact your agent and get a “change of beneficiary” form and add your newest family members to the policy. 
  • Do you have a will?  If not, there are all sorts of programs out there to help you along with the process.  The best deal I’ve found is the Family Lawyer software package offered by Broderbund Software (www.broderbund.com), the same company that manufactured “Print Shop” and still does.  For $20, you have a whole suite of documents, including wills, trusts, etc. as well as hundreds of other documents (example: if you need to sell your car or need to complain to someone but aren’t sure what to say).   What I recommend is drawing up your basic will using the software and then taking it to a trusted estate attorney to review it to make sure that it fits your state’s laws.
  • Did you have a big refund or owe a lot this year? If so, it’s time to adjust your W-4, i.e. your tax withholding from your paycheck.  Check out www.paycheckcity.com for an easy to use calculator to help you adjust it.

Gotta get back to taxes but have a great week!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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To Refinance…or Not to Refinance

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for  delay in getting these posts out on Mondays…tax season is busy and so my schedule gets shifted around  a bit!   This week, I thought I’d delve into the world of refinancing for those of you who might be curious about whether it is worth it or not, given that interest rates are quite low these days.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a mortgage professional, I do not sell mortgages, and I do not get kickbacks from people or banks financing mortgages.

There has been much word out there about help available for those who are being forclosed upon or who are upside down on their mortgages (i.e. they owe more than the property is currently worth).  But what about those who have some equity?  Is there any saving grace in this economic situation for those of us who fall in this category?

Considering refinancing right now just might be a good idea.  Generally, the rule of thumb is if you can go down 1% on your mortgage interest rate (i.e. from 6% to 5%), it’s worth doing the refinance, particularly if you pay no points to get there.  It might even make sense if you can shave .75% off your mortgage, depending on your situation.

If you are planning on going this route, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around (because, after all, it is shopping!)

  • Bankrate.com and lendingtree.com are not the be-all and end-all of mortgage comparisons. Yes, both sites can be useful as a starting point, but I would really encourage you to also take a look at your local banks to see what they have on offer.  In our area, I have found that the local banks are offering better rates, clearer explanation of (and lower) closing costs, and have a more friendly, personable attitude toward the mortgage process.   Two local banks in my area that I have found to be great are Webster Bank & Savings Bank of Danbury.   Webster Bank has an added incentive for customers who have both their mortgage and a bank account w/ them–they shave an extra 1/4% off your mortgage if you have the payment direct debited!  That is a great deal.
  • Shop around for attorney fees.  If your state requires an attorney at closing for your refinance, get recommendations from your mortgage person and call around.  The fees can vary widely for a generally straightforward process.  So unless you know a particular attorney is really lousy, spending a lot on an attorney is not really necessary.  Also, if you live in a town where attorney fees are high because of your zip code, call up some attorneys a couple of towns over and price shop that way.  This approach also works for plumbers and electricians!
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate and play the banks off of each other.  If you are uncomfortable with this, read (or re-read) the “Ask Ask Ask” chapter of Turbo-Mom’s Guide to build up your courage.  After all, the worst that could happen is that someone tells you “no”.  And so what?  It wasn’t meant to be.
  • Try to shave years off your mortgage in the refi if you can.  I have come to a “meeting of the minds” with Dave Ramsey’s approach.  Getting rid of your debt sooner rather than later (including your mortgage) is a healthy thing.  Yes, if you pay off your mortgage you lose that tax deduction.  But on the flip side, you have that much more income in your pocket–and you are saving yourself a boatload of interest!

Any good mortgage (or refi) stories/tips are welcome!

Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.

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