Popular finance blogs are full of smart strategies for paying down debt, negotiating lower prices, and much more. We scoured the sites for their writers' best advice.
By Christina Tynan-Wood
"Track your spending for three months," insists J. Money at Budgetsaresexy.com. True, this is the only way I can learn exactly where our money goes. What a huge eye-opener—so much so that instead of stopping at three months, I do this daily. I pay for everything with a credit or debit card and use Mint.com to trace every penny. The free program connects to all of my accounts, applies transactions as they happen to specific categories, like gas, groceries, and shopping, and compares my spending with the budgets I've set up. If I go over my allotment, I get a text message or e-mail (as does my husband) immediately, often before I'm even out of the store. (Yikes.)
Real Estate Secrets
If you pay a mortgage monthly or might list your home, keep this advice front-of-mind:
The Mortgage and Credit Diva (mortgageandcreditdiva.blogspot.com) says you can negotiate the commission you pay your real estate sales agent. "Consumer Reports conducted a survey recently of sellers," she says. "Only 46 percent tried to negotiate the fee with their real estate agents, but 71 percent of those who did were successful. You won't know if you don't try." I absolutely plan to do this if we sell our house. What do I have to lose—the respect of my real estate agent? Highly unlikely I had that anyhow.
Fivecentnickel.com helped me feel better about the $300,000 in interest my mortgage will cost over 30 years by showing me how to nearly effortlessly reduce that number. "Try making a payment every two weeks instead of once a month," he writes. "By sending in half of your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, you end up making the equivalent of an extra payment each year." This will cut years off the life of the loan. Another way to accomplish the same thing is to overpay the mortgage by a fixed amount every month—as little as 10 percent extra does the trick. If I shave just five years off my mortgage, according to my bank's online calculator, I will save $59,000. Now that's a shopping spree!
Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.