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My new host has Green Panda Treehouse up and running now. Please come over and check it out. Please leave comments about your feelings about it.

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 Photo Credit: The Consumerist

1. Get your current balance on all your credit cards. If you’ve been tucking away the bills as they come in, you may be in for a huge surprise. Many credit cards charge $39 for late fees and another$39 for being over the limit.

2. Write down the balance the due date, and the interest rate of all the credit cards. Write the highest interest rates first and continue in descending order.

3. Go ahead and call all your credit cards and ask for a lower rate. See if you can get a lower rate, even if it’s only 1%. The goal is to reduce your debt and make your payments go further.

4. Examine if you can switch the balance over to a 0% interest card for a few months. Sometimes you can do a balance transfer. Dump as much as you can into the credit card bill to lower the balance. Watch out, though, for balance transfer fees or any other switching costs. This may actually turn out to be worse than stay at your old card.

5. Pay as much as you can on the highest interest card. Part of the debt snowball method is to pay the most on the highest interest card and pay the minimum on the others. When you pay off the first card, put all the debt payments from it into the second card and pay minimum on the others. Continue until you pay off the cards.

JD from Get Rich Slowly has more articles explaining debt snowballs. His approach is to pay your lowest balance first as a way to build mental momentum towards your goals.Trent from The Simple Dollar has a variation called the scared straight debt snowball. He also compares Suze Orman and David Ramsey’s methods of eliminating debt.If you liked this article, sign up to receive updates automatically through email.

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Credit: Phillip C

College can be an expensive investment. With many students graduating with larger student loan balances, finding ways to reduce the cost is valuable to many people. One option for some students is CLEP exams.

These exams test your knowledge in several subjects ranging from accounting, English, History, and even foreign languages. These nationally recognized exams are overseen by College Boardand administered at local colleges. If you feel comfortable in a subject, you can take the exam, get credit for the classes, and pay only a fraction of the costs of taking the class on campus. A CLEP exam at my university is $80.

To show how much can be saved; I used the tuition prices of my university and compared it to ‘clepping’ 5 elementary courses (3 credits each). The totals don’t include room and board, which would increase savings even more.

CLEP In-State Out-State
 $400.00  $   3,264.00  $ 8,874.00

Here’s the amount of savings:

CLEP v In-State  $2,864.00
CLEP v Out of State  $8,474.00

I think this is a wonderful option for some people. I’ve taken exams through CLEP and it does save money. The only drawback is that you have to send a transcript of your scores if you decide to transfer schools. If you’re trying to reduce your college expenses, then this might be a viable option.

The site is now going to be hosted by Nearly Free Speech.  I’m still waiting on Godaddy.com to let me move my domain name, so it might be a couple of more days. Until then, I’ll update this site. Sorry for any inconvience this disruption may cause.

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Photo credit: NessieNoodle

I got my statement the other night on my car loan. I got the car loan through a local credit union.  To get this loan, I had to open a savings account with a small amount of money. A couple of months ago I notice I had a negative balance on my savings account. Concerned, I called them and they said it was a mistake and they fixed the account.

It happened again, so I called them today. After being put on hold, the customer service representative told me ‘what they would do for me’. They’ll credit my account and then they’ll protect my account from having it withdrawn from with a stoppage.

Oh, goodie. I’m glad that my money will be returned to me for no fee. What a deal. Then again, I’m sure Bank of America can figure a way to make a fee out of that.

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Photo credit: NessieNoodle

It seems like health insurance costs keeps increasing every year. I rounded up some tips that can help you keep them lower. Please talk to your doctor before you go on a diet or change medications. 

When comparing policies, please remember to check the coverage offered, not just the premieums. You don’t want to be uncovered for a major illness because you have a horrible policy.

  • Don’t be a smoker: This habit can cut your life short and it has been linked to other health problems. This in turn leads to higher costs.
  • Exercise regularly: Try being active 3x a week for at least 20 minutes. You can lose some
  • Watch what you eat:  Obesity can increase your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.
  • Get a hobby: Hobbies can reduce the stress that you feel. That in turn can help your mental health and enrich your life.
  • Go for generic drugs when possible: Some drugs are available in generic form at less than half the cost.
  • Do routine exams: It’s better to catch something early than to wait until it develops into something worse.
  • Try health clinics: If you’re pinching pennies, this could be a good option. With my health insurance, I pay $30 a month for birth control pills. By going to the university health clinic, I pay $40 for 3 months’ supply.  I save $240/year just by doing that.

It’s amazing how much health insurances charge. Try to mainatin a healthy lifestyle and it’ll reap dividends beyond money saved.

 Pizza is delicious dinner that can be as easy or as complicated as you like. I personally love a NY style pepperoni pizza, but there are many others that I enjoy.

I don’t have a recipe for pizza, as I don’t make it from scratch (pizza kit at Wal-Mart: $5). I did find this recipe at Food Network and thought I’d share it. For the first two installments of Quick and Easy Dinners, check out my ‘Best of’ Page.

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Photo Credit: Sashertootie

Roman Pizza 

Recipe from: Giada De Laurentiis

2 (8-ounce) pieces of purchased or homemade pizza dough, recipe follows
1/3 cup homemade or purchased marinara sauce
1/3 cup (lightly packed) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
1 cup (lightly packed) shredded Fontina cheese
2 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 ounces pancetta, chopped

Position 1 oven rack in the center and the second rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
Roll out each piece of pizza dough into a 13 1/2 by 8 1/2-inch rectangle. Transfer to separate large baking sheets.
Spoon the marinara sauce over the pizzas, dividing equally and leaving a 1-inch border around each pizza. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Fontina cheeses over the pizzas, dividing equally. Sprinkle the mushrooms and pancetta over the cheese. Bake the pizzas until the crusts are crisp and brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted on top, about 15 minutes. Cut the pizzas crosswise into rectangular slices and serve immediately.

Pizza Dough:
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bowl
 
Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl to blend. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor to blend. Blend in the oil. With the machine running, add the yeast mixture and blend just until the dough forms. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draft-free area until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour. Punch the down dough and form into ball. The dough can be used immediately or stored airtight in the refrigerator for 1 day.

Yield: 1 (16-ounce) ball of pizza dough
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive PrepTime: 1 hour

Check out Giada’s show on FoodNetwork.

Does anyone make their pizza from scratch? Please let me know.

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