The 2009 Personal Finance “How to” Roundup

Welcome to the latest edition of “How to” Personal Finance Roundup. As you can tell from the list, this is a massive roundup. Don’t worry though. You don’t have to read all the entries now. I’d suggest you bookmark (click on the Share this icon at the bottom of the post for saving options) this post so that you can come back later.

I was so busy putting this post together that I left out my own posts. I’ll be adding them shortly.

Enjoy! Oh, and please tell your friends (if you find this helpful).


1. How To Prepare For Car Breakdown And Deal With Roadside Emergencies

2. How To Buy A Car (Without Getting Screwed)

3. How To Buy a Used Car (without sipping lemonade)

4. How to Find a Good Auto Mechanic

5. How to Improve Your Gas Mileage (and How Not To)

6. Hack Your MPG: How to Improve Gas Mileage by 15%

7. How to Save Money on Gas

8. How To Get Help After Your Car Warranty Has Expired.

9. How to Find a Mechanic You Can Trust


1. How To Close a Bank Account in 7 Steps

2. How To Open a CD Ladder at ING Direct

3. How to Create ING Direct Subaccounts


1. How to Create a Workable Budget

2. How to Bring “Shock and Awe” to Your Monthly Bills

3. How To Create A Budget

4. How to Do Your First Budget

5. How To Set Up Your First Successful Budget – Part I (Understanding and Research)

6. How To Set Up Your First Successful Budget – Part II (Organizing and Setup)

7. How To Set Up Your First Successful Budget – Part III (Tracking and Review)

8. How To Save Money ? The 1,001 List Of Money Saving Tips And Ideas

9. How To Earn More Money

10. How to Save on Paint for Home and Craft Projects

11. How to Set Up Google Calendar to Help Pay Your Bills on Time

12. How to Resist the Urge to Splurge

13. How To Turn Your Spending Report into a Budget

14. How To Understand and Overcome the Sunk-Cost Fallacy

15. How To Live Like a Grad Student

16. How To Talk About Money Before Marriage

17. How To Spend Less When Dining Out

18. How To Be a Great Host on a Tight Budget

19. How to Manage Money in Your Marriage

20. How to Handle Irregular Paychecks

21. How To Budget

22. How To Compare Mortgage Refinance Offers

23. How To Become a Coupon Ninja in 15 Minutes A Week

24. How To Save Money Buying Wine

25. How to Save Money on Groceries – 45 Ways to Reduce Your Grocery Bill

26. How to Plan a Wedding Without Breaking Your Budget

27. How to Haggle

28. How to Haggle: More Tips on Haggling

29. How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

30. How to Avoid ATM Fees

31. How to Order Checks Without Getting Ripped Off

32. How To Get Your Monthly Electric Bill Below $25.

33. Drastically Reduce Your Expenses Starting Today.

34. How To Save Energy & Money In Your Kitchen.

35. How to Make a Budget

BUYING A HOME (and mortgage-related stuff)…

1. How To Find The Best Mortgage Rate

2. How To Save on Moving Expenses

3. How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

4. How to Decide When to Refinance Your Mortgage

5. How to Find the Best Mortgage Rates

6. How to Sell a House in a Down Market

7. How to Write a Mortgage Gift Letter


1. How to Find a Job on Twitter

2. How To Ask For A Pay Raise

3. How To Set Minimum Freelance Prices

4. How to Make the Most of a College Degree

5. How to Market Yourself Into a Job

6. How to Keep Your Job – Rule 1 Edition

7. How To Deal With Job Rejection

8. How to Write a Resume (that gets job interviews)

9. How to Select an MBA Program: Introduction to a Series

10. How to apply to and MBA Program

11. How to Write a Resignation Letter

12. How to Resign on Good Terms

13. How to Dress for an Interview

14. How to Evaluate a Job Offer

15. How to Do a Phone Interview

16. When and How to Tell Your Boss You are Pregnant


1. How To Transfer Credit Card Balances

2. How To Get Your Free FICO Credit Score Online

3. How To Improve Your FICO Credit Score

4. How to Check Your Credit Report

5. How To Practice Delayed Gratification

6. How To Avoid The Debt Trap With Your First Credit Card

7. How To Get A Free FICO Credit Score

8. How To Pick the Best Credit Card

9. How To Review Your Equifax Credit Report

10. How To Build Your Credit History with Tradelines

11. How To Properly Loan Money to Family, Friends

12. How To Stop Credit Card Offers

13. How To Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates

14. How To Max Out Credit Card Rewards

15. How To Start A Credit History

16. How To Fight Debt Collectors

17. How to Get Out of Debt

18. How to Fix Errors on Your Credit Report

19. How to Profit from 0% Balance Transfer Credit Card Offers

20. How and Why to Freeze Your Credit

21. How To Fix Your Credit Report After Identity Theft

22. How to Understand Credit Card Offers

23. How to improve your credit score

24. How to Handle Late Credit Card Payments

25. How to Avoid Credit Card Fees

26. How to Save Money on ATM Fees

27. How to Avoid Payday Loans

28. How to do a 0% Balance Transfer

29. How to Improve your Credit Score

30. How Two-Cycle Billing Works

DEBT (and getting out of debt)…

1. How to Get Out of Debt

2. How To Eliminate Credit Card Debt On Your Own

3. How To Stay Out of Debt

4. How To Prepare for Hospital Expenses

5. How To Use a Student Loan Deferment Period Wisely

6. How to Prioritize Your Debts for Payoff

7. How To Complete College With No Debt

8. How I Paid Off My $17,000 Student Loan in 6 Months

9. How We Paid Down our Debt and Saved Money At the Same Time

10. How To Avoid Bankruptcy

11. How to Compute the Remaining Balance on a Loan (pardon the formatting issues with this post)


1. How To Name a Trust as a Beneficiary

2. Stretch That IRA – An Example

3. Stretch That IRA


2. How to Do a Financial Checkup

3. How To Get A Free Financial Checkup

4. How To Calculate Your Net Worth

5. How To Set SMART Financial Goals

6. How To Set Joint Financial Goals With Your Partner

7. How to be a Money Strategist to Reach Your Financial Goals

8. How To Open a Roth IRA for the First Time

9. How To Set Up a CD Ladder

10. How To Care {Not Worry} About Your Finances

11. How To Save Money Like a Madman

12. How to Simplify a Financial Life

13. How to do a Background Check on Your Financial Advisor

16. How To File A Complainst Against Your Broker

15. How Long To Keep Your Financial Statements

16. How to Calculate the Time Value of Money

17. How to Create an Asset Allocation Plan

18. How to Meet Future Goals

19. How to Create a Cash Flow Statement

20. Analyzing Your Financial Statements with Ratios


1. How To Value Your Clothing Donation

2. How to Turn Down Charity Telemarketers and Find Legitimate Charities


1. How To Be Thankful When Life Is Tough

2. How To Deal With A Job Loss

3. How To Save Your Home From Foreclosure

4. How To Handle a Pay Cut (Financially Speaking)

5. How To Find Cash Fast When Unemployed

6. How to Deal With a Drastic Decrease in Income

7. How to Prepare for a Layoff

8. How To Prepare For a Layoff

9. How To Pepare For an Emergency and/or Storm


1. How to Find Affordable Health Insurance Online


1. How To Build Your Own Desk

2. How To Paint a Room for Less

3. How To Buy a Flat Screen TV

4. How To Build Your Own Bookshelf

5. How to Prepare for a Power Outage – Without a Generator

6. How to Get Rid of Ants Safely and Without an Exterminator


1. How To Create A Strong Password You Can Remember

2. How to Recognize a Scam

3. How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

4. How to Protect Your Privacy in Three Easy Steps

5. How to Prevent Identity Theft and E-mail Scams

6. How to Avoid Identity Theft

7. How to Avoid Credit Card and ATM Scams

8. How To Avoid Counterfeit Goods

9. How to Detect and Avoid IRS Tax Scams

10. How To Avoid Investment Fraud


1. How To Buy Life Insurance Without Getting Screwed

2. How to Save Money on Life Insurance

3. How to Save Money on Car Insurance

4. How to Save Money on Health Insurance

5. How to Save Money on Your Homeowner’s Insurance Rates

6. How to Lower Your Car Insurance Rates

7. How To Prepare For Next Medical Exam For Life Insurance

8. How To Use Your Emergency Fund to Save on Insurance Premiums


1. How to Buy Partial Shares of Berkshire Hathaway with ShareBuilder

2. How to Avoid a Mutual Fund’s Minimum Investment

3. How To Pick Your First Mutual Fund

4. How to Re-Enter the Market as a Conservative Investor

5. How to Probe for Signs of a Market Bottom

6. How to Start a Money Making Blog

7. How to Evaluate a Mutual Fund in 60 Seconds Flat

8. How To Easily Evaluate your Asset Allocation with Morningstar Instant X Ray Tool

9. How to Start an Investment Club

10. How to Prioritize Your Retirement Accounts

11. How to Make Money in the Stock Market

12. How to Make Money in the Stock Market (Revisited)

13. How to Make Money in the Stock Market, Re-Revisited

14. How to Build a CD Ladder

15. How To Build and Maintain CD Ladders

16. How to be Sure Your Money is FDIC Insured

17. How to Manage Your Asset Allocation With Multiple Accounts

18. How to Evaluate Online Brokers

19. How to Invest

20. How to Trade Stocks

21. How To Invest in Your 40’s to 50’s

22. How To Be Listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average

23. How the Dow Jones Industrial Average is Calculated

24. How to Calculate Your Personal Rate of Return

25. How to Compute Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)

26. How to Calculate Tax-Equivalent Yield

27. How ‘Total Returns’ Are Calculated

28. How to Calculate the Expected Return on a Portfolio

29. How to Insert Refreshable Stock Quotes into Excel


1. How To Budget for a New Baby

2. How to Make a Baby Registry

3. How To open a 529 college savings plan for your children

4. How to Introduce the Concept of Credit to Your Kids

5. How to Teach Children to Save Money

6. How to Introduce Money to Preschoolers

7. How To Be a Stay At Home Mom

8. How To Prepare Financially for Your First Child

9. College Funding Math – Part 1

10. College Funding Math – Part 2

11. College Funding Math – Part 3

12. College Funding Math – Part 4


1. How to Get a Payday Loan (if you must)

2. How to Return an Item

3. How to Watch TV for Free

4. How to Save Gas and Time With Google Maps

5. How to get the Best Cell Phone Service for the Deaf

6. How to Get a Free Education in Economics

7. How to End Over-the-Top Gift Exchanges

8. How to Write a Goodwill Letter

9. How to Get Rid of Semi-Used Gift Cards

10. How to Make an Accumulation a Collection

11. How to Find Rotated Die Errors

12. How to Comparison Shop on eBay

13. How to Bid Intelligently at an Auction

14. How to Calculate Melt Value

15. How To Earn Money With CashCrate

16. How to Sell Your Stuff on eBay

17. How to Sue Wal-Mart

18. How to Be a Gold-Digger

19. How to Save Money on Airline Tickets

20. How to Get the Best Deal with Priceline

21. How to Cancel Your Cell Phone Contract Without Paying Early Termination Fees

22. How To Turn Your Office Green

23. How To Be Approved On Suze Orman

24. How To Buy Property at an Auction


1. How To Set Up a Limited Liability Company (LLC)

2. How To Improve Your Productivity When Working From Home

3. How to Start a Blog for Profit of Fun

4. How to Start a Blog – What to Write About

5. How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Blog

6. How to Scare a Loved One – Start a Business


1. How to Handle Marriage and Money Talks

2. How to Respond if a Family Member Asks for a Loan


1. How To Fix Mistakenly Forgetting your Required Minimum Distribution

2. How to Take a Loss on an IRA

3. How to Track Your Roth IRA Contributions… and Why You Need To!

4. How to Make Early Roth IRA Withdrawals

5. How to Make Your Retirement Money Last

6. How To Stretch an IRA For Your Beneficiaries

7. How To Tap Your 401k Without Penalty


1. How to Deduct Mileage on Your Personal Car

2. How to Request an Income Tax Filing Extension

3. How to Calculate Tax Equivalent Yield

4. How to Decide if Travelling to a Sales Tax Holiday is Worthwhile

5. How to Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

6. How to Claim the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

7. How to File a Federal Tax Extension

8. How to File Your Federal Taxes For Free

9. How to Claim a Dependent on Your Tax Return

10. How To Survive an Audit For Small Business

11. How To Save On Property Tax

12. How to Determine How Long You Should Keep Bank, Financial, and Tax Statements


1. How to Become a Millionaire

2. How to Become a Millionaire – Tips on Getting Rich from the World’s Richest Man

3. How to Become a Millionaire – The Simple Truth

4. How to Become A Millionaire

5. How to Become a Millionaire – Invest Your Money

6. How to Get Rich

7. How to Determine if You Are “Wealthy”

JLP’s Kids and Household Chores Experiment

My wife just came off a plant turnaround. For those of you not familiar with a turnaround, it’s when a plant shuts everything down to do maintenance. Naturally, when the plant is down, they aren’t making product, which means they aren’t making money. In other words, they want it back up and running as soon as is safely possible. Bottom line: my wife worked LOTS OF HOURS. L-O-T-S!

While she was working, the house pretty much became a hellhole. It was a disaster. Why? Well for one, I’m kinda lazy. The second reason was that we didn’t have a plan for who does what. Sure, my boys have had chores that they are supposed to do but the timing of those chores was kind of vague.

We needed a plan.

So, this past weekend, I put one together, showed it to my wife, and instituted it. The boys were griping and complaining at first but the results have been wonderful so far (yes, it’s only been day 3 but I like what I’m seeing so far). The plan is still a work in progress but so far, so good.

The first part of the plan was to simply make a schedule for when things should get done. It looks like this:

Weekday Schedule

The second part is their daily chores:

Daily Household Chores

When I presented this to the boys they didn’t like it because they thought it would take up too much of their time. But, what we have found is that they actually have MORE time because they’re not wasting time. They also like it because there are no surprises. And, since they have their chores, I’m not asking them to do other stuff.

Yesterday morning I was getting my shower and I heard the vacuum cleaner going (and I didn’t have to tell anyone to do it). My son did scold me because the schedule said that it should only take 10 minutes to vacuum but it took him longer. I told him to vacuum faster…lol.

The goal of all this is to have some sort of balance in our household. Our typical routine is to mess the house up all week long and clean it on the weekends. That sucks. Who wants to spend the weekend cleaning? Not I! If this plan works, spending the weekend cleaning will be a thing of the past.

Let’s hope it works…

A Review of “People Are Idiots” by Larry Winget (and GIVEAWAY)

People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It!: The 10 Ways You Are Sabotaging Yourself and How You Can Overcome Them*

I love the title and cover of this book! That said, DON’T LET THE TITLE FOOL YOU…this is a VERY positive book!

For those of you not familiar with Larry Winget’s work, he’s known as The Pitbull of Personal Development. That should tell you something about his style. Larry tells it like he sees it. He has no tolerance for stupidity and refuses to sugarcoat his medicine. Personally, I think this is EXACTLY what people need! I almost always find myself nodding in agreement as I read Larry’s books—”People Are Idiots” is no exception!

Larry opens the book with examples showing why he thinks people are idiots. He breaks down his examples in categories such as health, parenting, finance, etc. Some of my favorites:

“Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services. Wouldn’t it be a lot chaper to just eat less and go for a walk? People complain that they have no money—I could save society $33 billion a year in this area alone.”

“People say they want good public schools for their kids. Yet only a small percentage of parents belong to or attend PTA meetings or go to parent-teacher conferences.”

…and my ultimate favorite:

People sign contracts with credit companies, agreeing to pay their bill on a certain date. While the print is small, the rules and regulations are clearly laid out in black and white—all you have to do is read them. Then people don’t make their payments on time and don’t pay the minimum amount as they agreed (probably because they spent their money at the mall or eating out). Why are these people surprised when their interest rate goes up and the company reports their late payment to the credit bureaus and their credit score goes down?”

In the second chapter, he lists ten reasons why people are idiots and tells the reader to confess how they qualify for each one (yes, I did the exercise!):

People are ignorant.
People are stupid.
People are lazy.
People don’t give a damn.
People lack vision.
People have low expectations.
People don’t recognize the consequences of their actions.
People have bad habits.
People have poor role models.
People have no plan.

Chapter 3 begins the “idiot healing process” through recognition, education, and application.

The Second Section of the book contains what Larry calls “Idiot Fixes,” which are lists…lots and lots of lists. I like lists. Larry has a list for everything! There’s a list on how to take responsibility, how to set and achieve goals, how to be smarter, how to make great conversation, how to manage time better, how to solve problems, how to be a better communicator, and lots of other lists.

There’s even a list for how to dress better. His fashion tips for men cracked me up—especially his thoughts on shoes:

“Shoes should always be shined. Loafers never go with a suit. Penny loafers don’t really go with anything, Fonzie. And in my personal opinion, tassel loafers work only when you want everyone to consider you a pretentious goober named Biff.”

Dang! I have a pair of penny loafers on at this very moment (and I own and wear tassel loafers too)! I think they look nice. To each his own, I guess.

Anyway, despite his fashion advice, this is his best book yet. Everyone—both idiots and non-idiots—will benefit from reading (and APPLYING) this book.

Larry was also kind enough to send me an extra signed copy of his book to give away. So, if you’re interested, please leave a comment below and I’ll randomly-select a winner on Wednesday, January 7. Just remember my two rules:

1. You must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada (I won’t ship internationally).

2. You can only enter once.

Related – Larry’s website

10 Questions for Larry Winget – An interview with Larry

Larry Winget on the Housing Crisis – An interesting interview I did with Larry last spring

A Reveiw of “Shut up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life”

* Affiliate Link

What a Loan with a 171.54% APR Looks Like

How to calculate APR using Microsoft Excel or a financial calculator.

I recently heard about a loan company that specializes in short-term loans. Here’s a typical example of a loan that this company offers:

Loan Amount: $1,250
Loan Term: 36 bi-weekly payments (72 weeks)
Payment Amount: $91.66
Total Payments: $3,299.76 ($91.66 × 36 = $3,299.76)
Total Interest: $2,049.76 ($3,299.76 – $1,250 = $2,049.76)

What’s the APR?


Now I’ll show you two ways to calculate the APR on this loan.

Here’s how the APR is calculated using a financial calculator:

N = 36
I/Y = ? (remember that you will need to change the P/Y to 26 since they are bi-weekly payments)
PV = $1,250
PMT = $91.66 (entered as a negative number)
FV = 0

Then you simply solve for I/Y by pressing the CPT button followed by the I/Y button. Your answer should be 171.54.

You can also calculate the APR with Excel, using the RATE formula and inputting the numbers like this:

Microsoft Excel RATE Function

You then need to multiply the answer (0.065977) by 26 to get the APR, which should be 1.7154 or 171.54%.

Now, here’s what an amortization schedule looks like for this loan:

High Interest Loan Amortization

It’s amazing to think that 90% of the first payment goes to pay interest!

One would have to either be desperate or uneducated to agree to these loan terms. Needless to say I won’t be advertising for this company.

How The Dow Jones Industrial Average is Calculated

Have you ever wondered HOW the Dow Jones Industrial Average is calculated? Here’s how!

According to the Dow Jones website, the index is calculated as follows:

The Dow Jones averages are unique in that they are price weighted rather than market capitalization weighted. Their component weightings are therefore affected only by changes in the stocks’ prices, in contrast with other indexes’ weightings that are affected by both price changes and changes in the number of shares outstanding.

When the averages were initially created, their values were calculated by simply adding up the component stocks’ prices and dividing by the number of components. Later, the practice of adjusting the divisor was initiated to smooth out the effects of stock splits and other corporate actions.

According to this weekend’s Barron’s, the current divisors are: Continue reading How The Dow Jones Industrial Average is Calculated

How to Insert Refreshable Stock Quotes Into Excel

Warning: this is a really long post!

There’s a cool little tool available for Microsoft Excel users that will allow them to insert refreshable stock quotes into their spreadsheets. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it: Continue reading How to Insert Refreshable Stock Quotes Into Excel

10 Ways to Get the Most Pay Out of Your Job

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an extra section called Your Money Matters. The cover story for the section is an article by Perri Capell titled Ten Ways to Get the Most Pay Out of Your Job ($). Here’s some of the highlights from the article:


The best performers received raises averaging 9.9% in 2005, compared with 3.6% for average performers and 1.3% for poor performers, according to a survey by Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm in Lincolnshire, Ill. Thanks to compounding, those differences translate into a lot of money over time.

Hewitt offers the example of three hypothetical employees, each hired in 2001 at a salary of $50,000. They then received salary increases related to their performance. After five years, the poor performer earns $52,807, the average performer makes $57,821, and the top performer earns $72,078. (Hewitt calculated the final salaries based on actual increases for the three types of performance since 2001.)


Having a bonus tied to performance goals and hitting them can get you more money annually. More than 95% of companies offer a chance to earn annual bonuses to executives, while 80% offer them to managers, 68% have plans for professionals and 54% award them to clerical and technical workers, according to Mercer HR.

Target bonus awards vary by industry and company type, but a typical bonus for an employee earning $50,000 might be 10% of salary, while someone earning $75,000 in salary might have a 15% target bonus and a $100,000-a-year employee might have a 20% target, Hewitt reports.


The article talks about how most executives know little about managing their own money. Therefore, they should either learn the concepts themselves or seek out financial advice. One mistake like not knowing how to deal with stock options could have significant negative consequences.

One little-known Internal Revenue Service regulation allows executives to pay tax on the value of restricted stock when they receive their grants. This may help lower capital-gains taxes when you sell the stock.


It never hurts to ask about special awards. My wife has earned a few of these awards in the past.


I wrote about this a few months ago. You might want to read that post. Having too much withheld out of your paycheck is the same thing as giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan.


At the VERY LEAST, put enough money into your 401(k) to get the FULL company match. Once you get used to it, you won’t miss the money. You would be surprised at how much you can save in a lifetime.


Take advantage of Section 125 plans (cafeteria plans or flexible-spending accounts) for paying for medical expenses and daycare. During the enrollment (usually in October), figure out your annual out of pocket expenses for things like medical deductibles, eye care, prescriptions, and daycare. If you figure it is $6,000 per year for all of those expenses, you can opt to have your company take that much out of your paycheck pretax. You have to pay for the expenses upfront and file for a reimbursement. Be aware that any money left in the account at the end of the year is lost so be conservative on your estimates.


The author suggests taking on more responsibility or consider moving to a department that gets paid more. Or, if you are a valued worker and the market heats up for people with your skills, the company may give you a raise just to keep you from leaving. It can really pay to stay on top of that information.


Health insurance is expensive. If you already covered by your spouse’s health insurance, consider approaching the company and asking them to bump up your pay if you opt out of their insurance program. Just be sure that your spouse’s job isn’t in danger of being lost.


The article suggests reading through the employee manual to find out if there are any additional benefits you might have missed. Don’t forget about tuition-reimbursement.

That’s the gist of the article. I thought it was pretty good information. If I missed anything, please feel free to comment.