How to Avoid Holiday Spending Stress

How to Avoid Holiday Spending Stress

Thankfully, there is more and more evidence that our economy is slowly recovering. For example, according to comScore, online Black Friday sales alone increased 26 percent from last year, coming in at a whopping $1.042 billion.

While rising consumer confidence and spending is good news for all of us, it’s important to employ a healthy dose of common sense during the holiday shopping season. The spirit of giving, combined with a potential newfound comfort level about your finances, is a wonderful and powerful motivator, but you don’t want to start the New Year with unnecessary debt and money stress.

With some simple planning, however, you can make the most of holiday gift giving and protect your financial health at the same time. Consider these great tips from the American Bankers Association:

Develop a budget. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract your normal monthly expenses, and then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.

Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each. In most cases, others will appreciate not having to reciprocate with a gift.

Spend carefully. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to hasty decisions and overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you head to the cash register.

Avoid traps. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. And don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.

Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card, preferably the one with the lowest interest rate, and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.

Save your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.

Be creative. Consider simple, hand-made gifts instead of store-bought ones. Send greeting cards or handwritten notes of appreciation for those outside of your list. Remember, home-baked goods and simple hand-made gifts are what truly exemplify the spirit of the season.


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Support Havertown/Upper Darby Schools at Applebee’s this Saturday, October 27, 2012

I’m dressing as Wanda the Witch so come and join me Saturday, Oct 27th. It’s only $6 for breakfast! AND you get to have your (&/or your children) photoed with me!

Havertown PA 10/27/12 Flapjack Breakfast $6

Havertown PA 10/27/12 Flapjack Breakfast $6

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Safe Shopping Strategies for the Holidays

In today’s financially challenging climate, identity theft and credit card fraud are crimes to be very aware of, especially as the holiday shopping season descends upon us. While many now have a heightened awareness regarding online shopping security, identity theft occurs offline as well. In fact, according to a February 2009 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, of the 9.9 million identity-theft cases reported in 2008, online theft accounted for only 11% of incidents. Stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit and debit cards made up almost half.

Adhering to the following guidelines can help prevent this devastating type of crime—so important in a day and age when a good credit rating is of the utmost importance.

Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Your Social Security number is the key to unlocking most everything about you. Make sure your Social Security number isn’t apparent on other items you may carry as well, such as your health insurance card.
When you head out shopping, take only the credit and ATM cards you really need with you. Most of us carry around every card we own in our wallets on a daily basis, whereas if you only carried a couple of cards, you’d be in monumentally better shape should your wallet be stolen.
We’ve all heard horror stories about ATM crimes. Try to use ATMs that are within a bank’s foyer, protected by a locked outside door, and/or in busy, well-lighted areas. If you’re using your ATM to buy goods at a store, make sure no one is invading the personal space behind you when entering your PIN.
Be sure to select a non-obvious PIN, one that combines upper and lowercase letters and numbers—and NEVER write your PIN on a card or anywhere else—commit it to memory.
People ask all sorts of questions these days, usually aimed at future marketing efforts. Before you give a store clerk your telephone number or a business caller your address, make sure you know who you are talking to and why they are asking for the information. You are usually under no obligation to provide this information, by the way.
When shopping online, stick to businesses you trust and enter personal information only on secure Web pages with “http” in the address bar and a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window. Unless you shop very frequently at a particular vendor, avoid having your credit card and personal information stored in an account.
Choose the credit cards you use online wisely. Try to use cards with smaller limits as opposed to your American Express card or checking account ATM. In the unfortunate event that your card information is stolen, a low credit limit will prevent thieves from doing much damage.
Avoid even remotely suspicious emails and click-through links all together. Only bogus websites will contact you first and ask for account numbers or personal information. If the information is truly important, the sender will find another way to contact you. Unsubscribe to any “junk” email to help keep your inbox free and clear.
Police your bills and checking account information on a regular basis. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, someone who gets your credit card number and expiration date doesn’t need the actual card to charge purchases to your account. As soon as you see unauthorized charges on your statement, contact the credit card company immediately to report them; if you wait too long, you might not have any recourse.
Properly dispose of all receipts, mail, and any papers you no longer need that may carry your personal information. Home office-sized paper shredders are available at reasonable rates.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

Source: Top 5 In Real Estate

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What the Changes to HARP Could Mean for You

Earlier this week, the Obama administration and The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced a series of changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) in an effort to attract more eligible borrowers who could benefit from refinancing their mortgage.

Over the past two years, FHFA has identified several changes that would make HARP accessible to more borrowers whose mortgages are owned or guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie (often referred to as “the Enterprises”). In addition to creating more refinancing opportunities, the government’s big-picture goal with these changes is to add more stability to the housing market.

What makes HARP unique is that it is the only refinance program available to borrowers who currently owe more than their home is worth—aka, “underwater” homeowners. The program hopes to help these homeowners stay in their homes by taking advantage of low interest rates to lower their monthly payments. HARP is available to borrowers with loans sold to Fannie and Freddie on or before May 31, 2009 with current loan-to-value (LTV) ratios above 80%.

This week’s enhancements to HARP include the following:

Eliminating certain risk-based fees for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term mortgages and lowering fees for other borrowers
Removing the current 125% LTV ceiling for fixed-rate mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie
Waiving certain representations and warranties that lenders commit to in making loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Eliminating the need for a new property appraisal where there is a reliable AVM (automated valuation model) estimate provided by Fannie and Freddie
Extending the end date for HARP until Dec. 31, 2013 for loans originally sold to Fannie and Freddie on or before May 31, 2009
The above changes are designed to encourage borrowers to utilize HARP to refinance into shorter-term mortgages by removing certain risk-based fees. If you owe more on your house than it’s currently worth, you might be able to reduce the balance owed by taking advantage of today’s low-interest rates and shortening the term of your mortgage.

Details of the HARP changes are expected to be delivered to mortgage lenders and servicers by November 15. Bear in mind that participation is not mandatory, so implementation of these changes will vary from lender to lender. Check with an experienced real estate professional to stay in the loop as these changes unfold.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

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Springfield, Pa. – Many people find fall to be their favorite time of year. With changing leaves and cooler temperatures, it certainly is an enjoyable season. At Crozer-Keystone Health System, the fall also signals the start of our annual Holiday Food Drive—an initiative designed to help our less-fortunate neighbors put a holiday meal on the table this Thanksgiving.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 24, Crozer-Keystone will embark on a five-week campaign to collect donations of non-perishable food. All donations will go directly to the people of Delaware County via the following food banks: Community Action Agency/Chester Food Shelters; Life Center at 69th Street, Upper Darby; and Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, Prospect Park.

Food should be packaged in cans, boxes, or plastic bottles/jars (no glass, please). Some examples include canned fruits/vegetables, instant mashed potatoes and gravy, dessert mixes, canned yams, tuna fish or canned meats, cereals, bottled water, peanut butter/jelly (in plastic jars), soups, and cranberry sauce. You may also donate a $10 gift card to a local grocery store. Any donation, even one item, will go a long way to help our friends and neighbors who need us most.

Crozer-Keystone is the largest employer in Delaware County and a leader in community service. Please join us and donate to our food drive. Bins will be located in the Main Lobby of three of Crozer-Keystone’s hospitals (Community Hospital in Chester, Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, and Springfield Hospital in Springfield); the Lobby of the Professional Office Building at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, and outside the Volunteer Office at Taylor Hospital. For security purposes, all lobbies will be under video surveillance.

For more information, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).

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Saving for College? How Much You Should Budget

With universities becoming more competitive and more expensive each year, many parents find the challenge of saving for their child’s college tuition daunting, to say the least. But even in today’s difficult economy, you can work towards building a college fund—of course, the earlier you begin, the better.

As tuition costs have risen, so has the popularity of 529 college savings plans, which are designed to help parents regulate their savings for a child’s education without resorting to loans. But if you open a 529 account, how much will you need to save each year in order to avoid being caught short?

According to Fidelity Investments, one of many firms that sells 529 account programs, it depends at least partially on the value of gifts and scholarships your child may qualify for based on the family’s annual income. By crunching the numbers, the company has come up with some interesting savings guidelines.

To create the guidelines, they first estimated what the expenses of four years of in-state public and private college would be 18 years from now for a parent with an infant today. The guidelines are based on data from the College Board about the average cost of public and private colleges today and how much those costs are growing annually, and assumes a 5.4% annual growth rate in costs for the next 18 years.

Next, using Sallie Mae data, Fidelity estimated approximately how much in scholarships, grants and family gifts families currently making $55,000, $75,000 and $100,000 annually could expect to receive – and subtracted that amount out from the expected cost. Then it estimated how much parents at each of those income levels would need to save in a 529 plan to cover future college costs. These annual numbers are based on starting the 529 while your child is still a baby:

According to Fidelity, a family now making $55,000 would need to save $48,000, or $160 month, to cover expenses of a public university or $107,000 ($410 per month) for a private one.
By contrast, a family making $75,000 would need to save $51,000 total, or $190 a month, for a public university and $115,000 total, or $410 monthly, for a private one.
Finally, a family now making $100,000 would need to save $55,000, or $250 a month, for a public university and $123,000, or $460 monthly, for a private one.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

Source: Top 5 In Real Estate

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TOUR & POUR – Lansdowne Theater Event

Historic Lansdowne Theater Opens Doors, Announces Vision

TOURS The beloved Lansdowne Theater is opening its doors offering the curious a unique peek of the historic landmark that remains largely unchanged since its opening in the 1920’s. The public spaces—the grand theater complete with lit large main chandelier and the projection booth – will be open for tours and picture taking.
The tour marks an exciting milestone in the emerging plans to restore this grand theater. The premiere showing of a 5 minute promotional video about the future of the project will debut for Tour & Pour attendees.
POURS Attendees will receive a coupon upon entering the theater which will entitle them to discounted pints of Yards Beer at 2312 Garrett Restaurant in nearby Drexel Hill. (Directions from the theater to the restaurant will be provided.) A portion of the proceeds from all food and drink at the restaurant will go to the campaign to restore and reopen the theater.
WHEN: TOURS Sunday, November 6th / 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
POURS Sunday, November 6th / 4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

WHERE: TOURS Historic Lansdowne Theater
31 N. Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne

POURS 2312 Garrett
2312 Garrett Road, Drexel Hill

ETC: There is a $10 tax-deductible contribution per person for the tour. There is plenty of free parking directly across the street from the theater. Children are invited to attend, but must be accompanied by a parent.

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Considering a Home Equity Line? What You Need to Know

Considering a Home Equity Line? What You Need to Know
A form of revolving credit where your home serves as collateral, home equity loans must be carefully considered, especially in today’s market, to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Therefore, before applying for a home equity loan, discuss the idea with your real estate agent and review the following considerations from the Federal Reserve Board. While an equity line can be a great way to fund a college tuition or pay off a big debt, such as medical bills, it can also put your home on the line should you find yourself unable to repay.

Interest Rates
Home equity lines of credit typically involve variable rather than fixed interest rates. In such cases, the interest rate you pay for the line of credit will change, mirroring changes in the value of the index. Because the cost of borrowing is tied directly to the value of the index, it is important to find out which index is used, how often the value of the index changes, and how high it has risen in the past. See if your lender will allow you to convert from a variable interest rate to a fixed rate during the life of the plan, or let you convert all or a portion of your line to a fixed-term installment loan.

Fees and Costs
Many of the costs associated with setting up a home equity line of credit are similar to those you pay when you buy a home, such as: paying for an appraisal; an application fee; up-front charges, such as one or more “points;” closing costs, including fees for attorneys, title search, mortgage preparation and filing, property and title insurance, and taxes. Make sure the investment you make to establish the home equity line isn’t more than the amount you actually draw against the line—otherwise, the initial charges would substantially increase the cost of the funds borrowed.

Repayment Plan
Before taking out an equity line, create a realistic plan for paying it back. Some plans set a minimum monthly payment that includes a portion of the principal (the amount you borrow) plus accrued interest. But, unlike typical installment loan agreements, the portion of your payment that goes toward principal may not be enough to repay the principal by the end of the term. Other plans may allow payment of interest only during the life of the plan, which means that you pay nothing toward the principal. If you borrow $10,000, you will owe that amount when the payment plan ends. Whatever your payment arrangements are, when the plan ends, you may have to pay the entire balance all at once.

Selling or Renting?
If you sell your home, you will probably be required to pay off your home equity line in full immediately. If you are likely to sell your home in the near future, consider whether it makes sense to pay the up-front costs of setting up a line of credit. Also keep in mind that renting your home may be prohibited under the terms of your agreement.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

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5 Important Steps for First-Time Home Buyers

As you’ve probably heard, today’s market offers many opportunities for  first-time home buyers. While shopping for your first home is an  exciting time, it can also be a stressful experience as you navigate  today’s market.

Before you begin looking, make sure  you’re completely prepared and know what to expect. Work with a  professional real estate agent who can help guide you through the  following five steps:

Step 1: Take an honest look at your  finances. Before you dive into the exciting part of  home-buying – the  search – make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Figuring out your  finances and crunching some numbers will allow you to set a realistic  budget.

Step 2: Secure a loan. After you get your finances in order, talk to  lenders and mortgage brokers to ensure you can secure a loan. Shop  around to get the lowest interest and overall best deal possible and  make sure you understand all the fees involved. Talk to your agent whose  brokerage may have an in-house mortgage lender you can work with.

Step 3:  Map out your criteria. Now that you have your funding in order, begin  your search. With a plethora of online home-search tools at your  fingertips, it’s relatively easy to map out different types of homes and  neighborhoods and find what is right for you. Make big decisions – like  urban versus suburban settings, an estimated property size and  neighborhood requirements – before you start to physically look at  properties. This will save you time and money.

Step 4: Take  notes. On your own and with the help of an agent, you’ve found some  houses you’re interested in looking at. Don’t venture out without a pen,  paper and camera. Keep track of important details by taking notes and  pictures. Have a list of questions ready and scope out neighborhoods by  driving around for a bit.

Step 5: Close the deal. If  you’ve found a home you love, don’t wait to make a move. I’ve seen many  first-time buyers miss out on a home because they got cold feet and  continued shopping around. Make an offer and be ready to negotiate. Once  a deal has been made, thoroughly read the contract and make sure you  understand everything before you sign. Then you will be ready to begin  with the appraisal and home inspection process.
As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

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Electronics Recycling Event – Saturday, Oct. 1

Electronics Recycling Event – Saturday, Oct. 1

Here’s a fantastic way to recycle your old, unused, or broken electronics. Come out this Saturday, October 1st, from 9 am to 12 pm to the Highland Avenue parking lot next to the Lansdowne Fire House. We are accepting Computers, Laptops, TVs (CRT & Flat Screen), Printers, Monitors (CRT & Flat Panel), DVD/DVR/VCR Player and more. And the really good news is that the recycling is being handled in a responsible fashion: nothing will be shipped overseas, it won’t cause dangerous landfills, and everything is re-purposed in some way. For more information go to:

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