Don’t Call Me Rich! Why Women Are Afraid of Money

As a woman working to make ends meet and to raise a family, I understand the challenges and the relationship between the two. That is why I have a personal commitment to help other women become more financially fluent and responsible. Having a money smart mom, helps all of society because she will teach her children. But to have the breakthrough- you have to want to learn. For the money student it needs to be a “want” not a “should.”
Before that “want” can take root I have discovered that women need to work through some money myths first- otherwise the life change will never really take hold. This story is a good start. Stay tuned- there is more to come.

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Paycheck to Paycheck: The New Normal


My job takes me around the country talking to people about their financial health. What I have heard over and over is that there is nothing left at the end of the month. No matter how big or small the paycheck- most families couldn’t stay afloat financially if they lost just one week’s pay.

Today new statistics reaffirm what I have seen; more than four in 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and nearly one in 10 doesn’t earn enough to pay for essentials. The study done for Allstate insurance by FTI Consulting, also revealed 8% of Americans don’t have enough cash to make it through the month. They can’t afford everyday essentials.

So 41% of us live from one paycheck to the next- that is where we are in this country. How we got here is important, but it is a story for another day. Today I want to address the reality of this new normal.

If you find you are part of the 41% here are some steps you can take immediately to start changing your situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Questions: Family Money Strategy

If you want to improve your family’s bottom-line the best way to do it is- as a family. Here is why.

If you have a question for me – hit the comment button or the contact button at the top of the page.

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What is the Best Time to Buy?

When I was growing up my dad worked for a popular department store. He taught me that there was discount season for everything.  Bed linens were discounted in January white sales. Winter coats were marked down in February, etc.  From that exposure I learned that if I wanted to get the best deal, timing is everything. Here are just a few

Smartphones: If you are patient you can save 30-60% new model smartphones by not rushing to buy the latest model.  With the exception of Apple, most smartphones drop in price by at least 30% within 6 months after being released. The less-than-hot sellers dropped about 60%. If you want an Apple product the best time to get a deal is just after a new model is released. After the iphone 5 was released the iphone 4s could be found for $99.

Laptops: Computers are cheapest on Mondays, when manufacturers apply their rebates. Also do some shopping in August when back to school sales are available and manufacturers and retailers off some of their best deals of the year.  April is another great month for laptop deals.  It could be they are looking to get some tax refund dollars. Whatever the reason you can save hundreds of dollars.

Golf clubs: The best time to save big on a set of clubs or replacement clubs is in June and July. The start of the season means last years models get marked down- sometimes as much as 50%.   2nd best- the holiday shopping season. Big holiday markdowns plus retailers desire to shrink end of season inventory – can often result in big savings from 25-60% if you combine deals (markdowns plus store coupons).

Major home repairs like new roofs or furnaces: The number one answer is to make home repairs when you are not experiencing an emergency. That is when you can shop around for the best product at the best price. For HVAC updates consider having your systems changed in Fall or Spring before the busy seasons of Winter or Summer.  Once you know what kind of system you want do an online search of the manufacturers for coupons or rebates and also ask the installers if they are offering any specials. When you aren’t in a pinch you can ask for a deal.

Boats: The boat show season is in February. That is when the new models are unveiled. It is a great place to climb aboard and get to know what you like.  But you may want to hold off buying for a few more weeks. Soon after the shows wrap up- the dealers are looking to clear out last year’s models to make way for the new vessels. That is when you can sail off with quite a bargain for last year’s model.

RVs: Most RV trade shows happen in the first quarter. The shows may be a time for you to strike the best deal. But most experts suggest if you are new to RVing consider renting or buying second hand to save the most. Make sure you are mindful of the added costs of RVing from fuel to hook up and fuel costs.

Digital cameras: Look for black Friday and cyber Monday deals for some big savings offered by retailers and e-tailers. If you missed out on those deals you get a second chance in January when new models are released during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Last year’s models will drop 20-30% as retailers make room for the new models.

Toys : The best time of year to get deals on toys in the holiday shopping period which runs before Black Friday (early November) straight through New Years Day.  You can even sign up for email notification of flash deals from big retailers like ToysRus. The flash sales can be as much as 40-50% off.

Plants/landscaping/garden supplies: The best time to buy supplies is often in clearance after the growing season (November thru January). But the best time to plant is April-May and September-October.  The best deals for plants come just before those seasons and right at the end.

Cruises: April is a good month to get off-season deals on cruises. It is not a big vacation month so often last minute deals saving you 35-40% off your trip are available.

Airline tickets: If you are buying tickets for Holiday travel- the best time to buy is September.  But for other times of year- Wednesday at midnight great last minute deals are released by the airlines. These are worth monitoring as they can shave hundreds of dollars off of a roundtrip ticket.

Mattresses: New Mattress season is in the summer so just before that in May you can often find the best deals on Mattresses- you maybe able to save as much as 40%. Tip: Know exactly what you want before you start comparing prices to make sure you are really getting a deal- not just a lesser model.

Exercise equipment: January is when you will find the bets deals at the big box and fitness specialty stores as they try to take advantage or New Year’s resolutions.

You can make anytime the best time to buy virtually anything if you give yourself time to shop around and get a strategy.  Much of that shopping can be done from the comfort of your home using the internet to compare prices. Lastly, don’t forget to check into store coupons.  Once I narrow down the stores that have the best price for what I want- I check to see if they have online coupons or if they put out weekly circulars. Often I get an additional 10-20% off of my purchase for my efforts.

Mary Caraccioli is a money expert and host of LiveWell TV’s “We Owe What?”

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Do You Know What Your Kid is Thinking?

When it comes to money teenagers know more than you think. But that doesn’t mean what they know is good for them. The only way to know about their money values and attitudes is to listen and then talk. That is what I did with 3 teens from 3 different backgrounds. Their story may just help you have a better conversation with your kid.

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Find New Love for an Old Career

When I met the Stewart family the most heart-breaking part of their story wasn’t the lack of cash but the lack of passion Dad had for his job.  Forced to take steps back in his career did not sit well with him, especially the pay cut.  But the worst part was the bitterness was threatening to rob his future.  No one wants to hire someone who is bitter.  Being hurt over a job loss or step back is normal, but you have to find a way to deal with it and get over it because if you don’t it will hurt you even more. I saw this play out with LaShawn. He has so much talent, but the disappointment with his career is the first thing that greets you. If I saw it- his friends see it. Our friends are our network for looking for new work. In this economy even a friend will hesitate to recommend you if your attitude will reflect poorly on them.

What about mom Carla? She has a ton of passion for her work- but she doesn’t have a paycheck that reflects that- in fact she doesn’t have a paycheck at all. She works for herself and pays everything and everyone else before herself.

This family needs my help and fast! So it was with some urgency that I got to work.

Mary Caraccioli meets Carla and LaShawn Stewart

Catch the show Monday and Thursday nights at 7pm on the LiveWell TV network and catch some of the Stewart’s story right here:

http://livewellnetwork.com/We-Owe-What/episodes/The-Teacher-Becomes-the-Student/8958226?pid=8958203#

The Stewart kids are hard at work on my secret weapon for dad!

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Finding Money

When money is tight we often think about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. I get it – but I also know that is a self-defeating mindset and a surefire way to miss an opportunity.
Looking for money? Start your search at home and shift your thinking to what you do have. My guess is you probably have more than you think. Making the most of what you do have is like finding money. Let me show you how it works by starting at home.

3 Places to Find Money in Your House

1) Act Like a Beancounter!

We may like to make fun of them but a good beancounter not only looks at how much was spent but why and asks, “could there be better solutions?”
How it works: Review every purchase over the last year. Get out the checkbook register, credit card statements and piles of receipts. If you make a lot of cash purchases – track every dollar you spend for a month.
Why: No don’t worry I am not going to ask you to give up that latte. I want you to know where your money is going and even more importantly ask if there are better deals for your regular purchases- the boring stuff like car insurance and internet access, a storage unit. Every family who has done an audit for me has found hundreds of dollars in savings without sacrificing anything. This is found money!
Key to make it work: Look at every purchase and ask is this the best deal or the best fit for me or my family where we are today. Routines we had 5 years ago may not work for us today.


2) Treasure Hunt!

Go through your house and make a list of all you have – not just the obvious stuff but the hidden possessions to.
How it works: Go through those boxes buried in the back of closets, the attic, garage or basement. The stuff you’ve moved from place to place without unpacking- what is in there? The baby gear you’ve been holding on to- do you still need it? The recreation equipment that you used to use- but just don’t have the time to use these days- clearing out this stuff will not only give you the gift of new square footage- but it could put cash in your pocket.
Why: if you are not using it anymore then you need to ask yourself if warehousing it is really worth it- because that is exactly what you are doing- paying to store it. Taking a hard look at what you no longer use and investigating whether it can be sold to someone else or donated can give you cash, space or a tax benefit.
Key to make it work: This can be a dirty job and you will make a mess before you get the space back. So get a partner to help you. A partner will also help you when you start rationalizing why you should keep something that has outlived its usefulness.
Tip: To find out what something is worth – list as much info as you have: make and model, year purchased, use, etc. Then jump on the internet and try to find similar items for sale. That will teach you where the item should be sold and how to price it. If it is an antique, don’t repair, but clean it up. You’ll get more money for the item.


3) Energize!

Forget the caffeine, I want you to think, gas, electric and oil. A simple assessment of your home’s energy use can save you big bucks.
How it works: No need to install a major geothermal system- chances are simple weather-stripping and caulk can go a long way. I like to call it sealing the envelope of your home. Don’t want to pay for an assessment (about $150) you can do it yourself. click here to learn how http://maryandmoney.com/videos/diy-energy-assessment/
Why: It not only saves you money when its hot and when its cold- it also makes your home more comfortable year round!
Key to make it work. Follow up. Find the leaks and the big problems and fix the cheapest stuff first. If you need to make big changes- check into state and federal programs for tax incentives and low interest loans.
Some helpful links
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=mortgages.energy_efficient_mortgages

http://www.phfa.org/consumers/homeowners/heelp.aspx

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DIY Energy Assessment

A reputable pro can do an amazing job showing you where you are wasting energy in your home. But if you don’t have the cash to hire a pro you can still seal up some major leaks. Here is how to get started.

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Do’s and Don’ts for Your Treasures

Grandma gave you the chair. You bought that lamp in college for $5 and it is the envy of your friends. The wedding gifts were carefully placed in a china cabinet. These are your treasures – but do you really know how to take care of them? If you are using a glass china cabinet- you probably don’t. I learned the hard way how to protect my treasures. The best in the business taught me and I’m sharing her tips with you.

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Home Need Some Work? Watch This

I am looking forward to seeing friends this Saturday at 3pm at the Philadelphia Home Show. I will be doing a brief talk in their lecture area at the back of the hall.  Stop by if you can.

If your home is looking tired or springing a few leaks then check out my tips for paying for your fix-up. Share your ideas too!

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