Personal Finance 
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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays Snowman CardI wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season. It’s Christmas Eve today, so we’ll be using it as an excuse for the day off and hopefully you can too! We’ll return with the regularly scheduled programming on Monday, the 28th.

Have a safe long weekend and may you be able to spend it (stress-free) with family and friends!

(Photo: nez)


 Credit 
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The 10-Second Credit Limit Increase

I logged into my Citi credit card account online today to make some changes to my profile when I decided to try to get an automatic credit line increase. I figured I was already logged in doing other things, a few button clicks to see if I could increase the limit certainly wasn’t going to cost me much time. I swung up to Tools & Services and click on Request a Credit Line Increase. If you recently did this, the option won’t be there.

I clicked on it and this is what appeared:
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 Frugal Living 
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10 Quick Ecofriendly Things You Can Do Right Now

Beautiful Green ParkAbout a year and a half ago, did you know how much a barrel of oil cost? I bet you did a year and a half ago… that’s because it was big news. Around June 2008, it was over $125 a barrel. Today, a barrel is in the high seventies. With the recession, unemployment and lower oil prices (though recently they’ve been gaining compared to months ago), the idea of being “green” and ecofriendly has fallen by the wayside. The latest climategate scandal certainly didn’t help but the most recent resurgence can be attributed to the talks in Copenhagen.

In the end, it comes down to simple dollars and cents. There are several ecofriendly things you can do right now that are both simple and money saving. Let’s take a looka t some of them:
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 Debt 
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Borrow Money With Prosper & Lending Club

Earlier this year, I hosted a guest post by Jonathan sharing his experiences with borrowing money from peer to peer lending network Prosper. Just recently, I received the following email from a reader singing their praises:

I’ve borrowed twice now from Prosper and I love it. The first loan was $7000 at 8.65% for three years and the most recent was $8000 at 9.65% for three years. I got the 2nd in response to the credit cards jacking up my interest rate and slashing my credit limit no reason. I was so angry about the credit card behaviors that I wanted to get my debts as far away from them as possible.

There is no hassle, I applied for the loan, watched people bid the initial interest rate down, and eventually got the cash. Once the loan was funded, they called me to verify who I was. You have to provide documentation that you are who you say. They direct deposit the money into the account you specify a day or so later.


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 Investing 
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Where Dividend Stocks Fit in Your Portfolio

NYSE American Flag“The only thing that gives me pleasure is to see my dividend coming in.” –John D. Rockefeller.

I’ve been taking a look at dividend stocks lately, if recent post about how dividend stocks rock is any indication, because of how dividends are taxed. To help me make sure I’m not going off track, or falling too much in love with them, I asked The Dividend Guy to write a guest post on where these types of stocks fit in your portfolio.

Dividends have been helpful in my portfolio. However, I have not simply used dividends for the sake of using dividends because I like the income. Instead, I have a very specific strategy that has worked well for me. Perhaps this strategy may work for you, or you can adjust it to fit your own needs. Either way, I would love to hear your comments so that we all can learn a little bit more about this game we call investing.

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 Credit 
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PenFed Visa: Best 5% Cash Back Rewards on Gas Credit Card

Pentagon Federal Credit UnionYears ago, when both credit and champagne flowed freely down Wall Street, the fabled 5% cash back reward credit card freely frolicked among elm and oak trees of Central Park. Nowadays, finding a decent 5% cash back reward credit card is rarer than seeing a unicorn… but today I saw one. His name was PenFed.

PenFed is short for The Pentagon Federal Credit Union, a credit union for the branches of the military and government, and has been a popular credit union for personal finance enthusiasts. A few years ago, you could get some pretty high interest rates on their certificates of deposit. Today, the interest rates are more pedestrian but I bet they’ll be more attractive in the future.

However, the real claim to fame, at least today, is their 5% cash back on gasoline credit card.

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 Devil's Advocate 
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Automating Your Finances is an Expensive Mistake

Devils Advocate Logo
This is a Devil's Advocate post.

Automation Robots!The allure of automation is obvious. Look at the famous Ronco Rotisserie catchphrase – “Set it and forget it!” Automation is appealing because it lets computers do the work and lets you do something else more interesting. Set your 401(k) contribution each month, set the allocation, and then go spend time with your family. Set credit cards on auto-pay, go all electronic for the statement credit and for the environment, and spend more time playing video games and watching television.

I get it and I love automation too, but there’s something you should know… automating your finances can lead to bad habits, bad habits can lead to tragic losses and big mistakes. In this Devil’s Advocate post, I explain why automating all of your finances can be an expensive mistake.

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 Philanthropy 
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Your Take: Favorite Year End Deduction?

With the year drawing to a close, a lot of people are thinking about year end tax moves, including myself. In general, there aren’t many year end tax moves you can make on December 18th. If you’re going to buy a house and take advantage of the home buyer tax credit, you would’ve started the process by now. If you wanted to buy a car, while it’s certainly not a terrible time to buy, it’s not terribly likely you’ll be able to do an in depth search, especially with the holidays getting in the way.

However, there are a handful of steps you can take and my favorite of them all is to pick out a few charities to support. You have to be sure to follow the documentation rules for tax purposes but it can pay dividends both financially and spiritually. I won’t get into the mechanics but each year we donate some money to a half dozen charities we’ve supported in the past and find a few new ones to support on a smaller level.

Anytime you can give, whether it’s time or money, the organization benefits. It can be $10, $100, or $1,000 but the important part is to remember those who are working hard to provide more good in this world and help support them when you can.

What’s your favorite year end tax deduction? If it’s charitable giving, what organizations do you support and how? It’s always fun to learn about smaller organizations doing great work at the local level.


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