Thursday, March 15, 2007

Plan your summer vacation the right way

Planning your summer vacation? Try This website is well planned and laid out. Navigating it is easy and the thing I liked best was you can search for rates and find deals without having to register. Something I find really annoying.

The deals online are fantastic. I found car rental in Long Beach for as little at $15 per day. Of course that was for an economy sized car but you can book anything you want. I found sedans and SUVs and even sports & near-luxury cars.

The days of visiting your local travel agent to plan your vacation are over. Most having been out of business for a while now. Hotel Reservations gives you the ability to be your own travel agent. Finding the right deals, and travel options for you and your family.

Online you can even plan and book more complicated trips than your family reunion up north. It easy to find packages for popular travel destinations or create your own. The savings on this site make it possible to create your own package, Airfare, hotel or vacation rental property, rental car and more all at once from your couch.

If you are like me though and sometimes like to actually speak with someone about your travel plans (or just verify that your reservations are in place) you can call 800- 447-4136 for assistance. With more than 70,000 properties worldwide, including Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts. Condominiums, and resorts, booking the perfect trip is effortless online. According to the website reservations are backed by their Price Guarantee so you can rest assured you’re getting the best deal.

Hotel Reservations

If you haven’t already, give it a try and book your next vacation online at Hotel You’ll find it rewarding and fun to do-it-yourself.
If you need help or have more questions, the FAQ page offers solutions to the most important questions such as: What happens when I make a reservation?, I don’t have long to wait for a conformation, what should I do?, and the all important – How do I cancel a reservation?.

Have you thought about upgrading your lighting lately?

It might be a good idea because it can affect the desirability of your home when trying to sell and create a comforting atmosphere while you are living in it. Lighting has many purposes, most of us use task lighting for reading in the den, cooking in the kitchen, and mood lighting for romantic moments in the bedroom.

How your home is lit, definitely has an effect on our moods and perceptions of the things we see. Harsh lighting causes a withdrawal of your visual senses and generally isn’t pleasing aesthetically. While a toned down, soft lit room will help us unwind and relax and the end of the day, it might not help much while trying to prepare dinner if we can’t see too well in the kitchen.

Finding a balance between light levels and types of lighting in each room of your home can be daunting to say the least. Keeping in mind what purpose our lighting design serves helps to find just the right balance. Having a good selection of lighting fixtures helps even more. We’d invite you to check out Home Lighting Fixtures an, Arizona based lighting store that features all the latest trends in indoor and outdoor lighting, as well as a plethora of educational documents to help with design, & planning your lighting projects.

This site has everything you need to create the perfect atmosphere, making your home more inviting, and comfortable for your family & friends. Make sure you check out the outdoor lighting as well. We all know that a nicely landscaped home with just the right lighting will improve curb appeal, often the first thing people see when looking to buy a home.

Remember also, to try to stay true to your home’s architectural style. You wont want Craftsman fixtures all over a Tudor house. That’s another area I’ve found useful is available of architecturally matched collections.
So go out and spruce up your home. Lighting is an inexpensive way of completely changing the look and feel of your home and if done well, can be a personal benefit also.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Five Factors of Credit Scoring

There are five factors that impact consumer credit scores. They are listed here in order of importance:

  • Payment History has a 35% impact. Paying debt on time and in full has a positive impact and late payments, judgements and charge-offs have a negative impact.
  • Outstanding Credit Balances have a 30% impact. Debt ratio of outstanding balance to available credit is important. Keeping that below 50% is wise and below 30% even wiser. It is never a good idea to close an account; the debt ratio will go up and the number of seasoned lines will decrease. Pay outstanding debt down as close to zero as possible and evenly redistribute the remaining balance among the open lines. The increased interest incurred by moving a balance form a 0% card to a 23% card will be minimal relative to what the increased mortgage debt might be with a low credit score. Hitting the maximums of available credit can be very negative. It may be worth calling and asking the credit company to increase your available credit to lower the debt ratio, provided they can do that without a hard credit inquiry.
  • Credit History has a 15% impact. The length of time a particular credit line has been opened is important. A seasoned borrower is stronger.
  • Type of Credit has a 10% impact. A mix of auto loans, credit cards and mortgages is positive, rather than a concentration in credit cards only.
  • Inquiries have a 10% impact. Hard inquiries for credit will negatively impact the score. Auto and mortgage inquiries receive a special treatment and 20 inquiries can be made in a 14-day period for auto or mortgage and will be treated as only 1 inquiry. The maximum number of inquiries that will reduce the score is 10. Any inquires beyond that [11+] in a six-month period will have no further impact on the borrower. Each hard inquiry can cost 2-50 points on a credit score.

You Credit Score

A good credit score can mean the difference between a low mortgage rate with conventional financing and a restrictive, higher-rate loan. There are some simple but very important steps you can take to clean up your credit.

1. Look for any past due balances on the credit report and bring them current.

2. Reduce all outstanding debt to as close to a zero balance as possible. If unable to pay all debt down, evenly distribute any remaining debt among open credit cards, or consider opening a new line and transferring some of the balances. Try to keep balances below 50% of available credit; below 30% would be even better. Do not close existing accounts.

3. If married, keep separate credit cards. This provides flexibility in transferring some or all of the balances to one spouse to increase the credit score of the other. This provides the possibility of one spouse becoming the sole borrower and it does not change the ownership of the home.

4. Request an increase in available lines on cards to reduce debt ratio, but only if your credit card company can that without a hard credit inquiry.

5. Pay off past dues and charge-offs within the last two years. Beyond two years, it will have no impact on your score if wiped out. In fact, the act of paying it off can actually take your score down temporarily.

6. Request that creditors and credit bureaus delete any outstanding debt that is incorrectly charged to you or has yet to be cleared. They have an obligation to react within 30 days. If you choose to pay off an outstanding debt (less than two years old) mark the back of the check "accepting this check is evidence that the transaction is complete and this charge will be deleted from my credit." You may be able to use the cancelled check if the outstanding debt is not removed.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Its Tax Season Again

Its Tax Season Again.

This year Tuesday, April 17, is the deadline to file your federal tax returns. And this is a good time to remind our friends to double check your returns before sending them off whether electronically or the old fashioned paper method.

The IRS has been touting via public relations officials with the agency, its increased audit efforts. On the radio this morning a spokesman for the IRS stated that the agency has upped its audit efforts and is trying to close the gap on non-payers. He also reminded listeners that not filing a return in many ways is more serious than not being able to pay your taxes, or willfully filing incorrect information. That is because the fines and penalties for not filing, are higher than other tax infractions.

Having been audited myself several times, I know it’s a pain in the butt and I would not wish the experience on anyone. In order to avoid being an audit victim, and I say that with all sincerity, make sure to keep your records organized and available. Remember that there is no statute of limitations for the IRS to come after you for failing to file. Here are a few questions and answers you’ll find useful.


A: Anyone who is employed, receiving earnings more than $8,450 in this tax year, and anyone who is self-employed or independent contractor, earning ‘net’ (after expenses) income over $400. (yes four hundred).


A: Yes, I Will.


A: I think the IRS itself is a good source of information. The website has every single form and publication available for download, or you can request that they be mailed to you. I would urge you to request your forms now, because, they won’t get to you in time to do any good if you wait much longer. The IRS website is

If you don’t have internet access, please e-mail me at and let me know how you are reading this blog.


A: Only once.


A: I am not! You should seek the advice of a qualified tax professional, and I would suggest you find someone who can represent you during an audit.

Some things I would like to remind you of is the long distance phone tax credit available this year. Every individual who has paid for long distance phone service is likely to qualify for this credit. You must however request it on your tax form (any of the 1040 forms) or if you don’t need to file a return, but want to receive your credit, you can file form 1040EZT. The EZT version of the 1040 is used only to request the credit.

Also, make sure you look at other available credits like the EIC or Earned Income Credit. While we are at it, I would like to mention that TAX CREDITS are better for most filers because a CREDIT means REFUND! When a tax credit is available to you, it means the IRS is holding money just for you. The caveat is that you must ask for it in order to receive it. Whereas, a deduction is a dollar amount that reduces your taxable income and possibly your tax liability (the amount you owe the IRS).

Remember a self employed person earning more than $400 must file a return? In theory if you earned $100,000 but had $99,600 in expenses that are deductable on your return, you would meet the qualifier for not having to file a federal tax return. (Don’t take my word on that – this is theoretical)

Some other things to remember are if you file zero income tax returns because you subscribe to certain beliefs such as ‘taxes are illegal’, you might end up in jail. The courts have tried many cases like these and the filer always looses. When the IRS comes after you, it will most likely cost you more than you would ever pay just filing an honest return.

For our home sellers and buyers, remember to get your 1031 and IRC 121 figures together now because in my personal experience, these transactions are audited more frequently (the IRS officially disputes this). If you are audited, don’t panic – Until you are called into an IRS field office. In which case, you shouldn’t go alone. Bring along your CPA, Tax Advisor, or advocate.

Having said that, most tax audits are ‘correspondence audits’ which are very painless, and easy to complete. They’re scary for tax payers because the notice comes in ‘official IRS – you’re about to be horse whipped stationary’. But really, this type of audit basically says, “Hi – This is the government. We have a question about line 22 of your tax return. Would you mind clarifying it please?” See, that’s not so bad! Just answer their questions and all will be okay.

A final thought; tax auditors are not the brutal, meanies that they are portrayed as in comedy sketches. In fact, I’ve never met one that wasn’t pleasant, friendly, and helpful except for one and he’s a jerk.

Go Download Publication 17 for more information on taxes – and remember that taxes are the cost of free society.

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