How-to Tuesday: Thanksgiving on a Budget

 

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If it’s your turn to host the Thanksgiving festivities at your house, the whole concept may seem more than a little daunting – especially if you’re working with a limited budget.

While you’re definitely going to have to produce at least several main dishes, most likely including a turkey, you can choose to go with a potluck-style affair. Ask your friends and family members to each bring a little something that may not seem like much to them, but that will help bring your overall costs down. For example, ask someone on the guest list to bring: napkins, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, drinks, a side dish, a salad or a soup that may be their specialty. Don’t forget – every Thanksgiving dinner needs a wide variety of pies and sweets, too!

Whether you’re accepting help or not, sit down and write out your Thanksgiving Day menu, including all of the ingredients you’ll need to make everything. It’s a good idea to create your list several weeks to a month before the holiday arrives so that you’ll be able to buy some of your non-perishable ingredients when they go on sale. Clip coupons for items on your list as they become available. Every week, take your Thanksgiving list with you on your regular shopping trip and pick up any items that you know you’ll need, but can safely sit in your fridge or shelf for awhile. Think things like butter, brown sugar, and vegetable oil for your ahead-of-time shopping.

Consider buying some of your menu items in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s, and then coordinating additional meal ideas that utilize the bulk ingredients, saving you a significant chunk of change for the entire month of November!

Another way to save money is to forego any pre-packaged items and create a completely homemade meal from start to finish. While this may add to the time and elbow grease required, you’ll save money on every dish you make from scratch. Instead of picking up powdered mashed potatoes, pre-made stuffing, pre-made pie crusts and pies – buy the ingredients and make your own to save big on your overall dinner costs.

Rather than making a huge spread of 20 different food choices, consider narrowing down your dinner offerings to a few most-loved dishes. Not only will this save you money, but it will allow you more time to work on fewer recipes – making everything you do serve taste that much better.

Another big money saver at any event or holiday is to go without alcohol. Supplying wine for your entire family can be quite expensive! After all, Thanksgiving is a time when we’re all so focused on the food – why add in drinks, too? Stick with simple, inexpensive beverage offerings, or ask someone else to bring the wine if it’s something your family really enjoys.

As far as decorating your home/dinner table for the holiday – just KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly!) Don’t feel the need to buy all new Thanksgiving decor just because you’re hosting this year. Stick with decorations you’ve bought in the past, and add a flair of fall with some spicy candles and things you can find in nature, like dried flowers and colorful gourds.

 

Image credit: Lall

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National Adoption Day: Celebrating a Dream Come True

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November 22, 2014 is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the more than 100,000 children who are currently in foster care waiting to be matched up with their forever family. This is a day that is very near and dear to the hearts of everyone here at Veitengruber Law.

National Adoption Day was founded in the year 2000. The idea for the yearly celebration came from a coalition of partners, including: The Alliance for Children’s Rights, The Children’s Action Network, the Freddie Mac Foundation and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Since the year of its inception, National Adoption Day has helped to facilitate the adoptions of nearly 50,000 children.

Each year, during the week before Thanksgiving, 300+ events are held throughout the United States to help finalize and celebrate the adoption of infants and children nationwide.

The legal side of the adoption process is quite complex, and takes a lot of dedication and patience. Attorney George Veitengruber and his wife, Heather, know firsthand what it feels like to grow their family via adoption. This year, they proudly celebrate the one-year anniversary of officially adopting their baby son. They now know that the long and winding road they were on was leading them to him all along.

Because of his personal life-changing experience, combined with the fact that he is a true humanitarian at heart, George now helps walk other people through the intricate adoption process so that they too can find the happiness of meeting their child. If you’d like more information on how Veitengruber Law can help you grow your family through adoption, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Image credit: Andrew Vargas

How-to Tuesday: Living on a Tight Budget

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We all know it: living within our means is the key to our financial success. However, simply knowing it does not mean that everyone is easily able to master living well on a limited budget.

A large portion of US residents are currently living below the poverty line, and those who live just slightly north of the poverty line are also feeling the strain of limited funds. Even those people who bring home significantly larger paychecks have acknowledged the importance of living within their means, especially since The Great Recession, which began around 2007.

If you have decided to live within a monthly budget, you have already taken the most important step toward achieving financial solvency regarding your personal finances.

By following a set of rules every month, you will be able to stretch your dollar further and ensure that you will not run out of money before your next paycheck.

First and foremost, you must have a good handle on exactly how much money you are earning each month, how much you will take home, and what percentage of that money will go toward paying your bills.

Make a list of all of your recurring bills that you are obligated to make payments on every month. Once you are sure that you definitely have enough money to cover all of your fixed expenses, you can then take a look at your discretionary spending.

This is where most people can make cuts in order to live a more comfortable life without money stress hanging over their heads making them feel irritable and less likely to enjoy life.

Be sure you take a hard look at all of your discretionary spending. Be sure to separate your wants and needs. Get into the habit of making yourself wait at least 24 hours before making a purchase that falls into the “Wants” category.

Living life on a budget does not mean you can never purchase something you want – but what it does mean is that you will have to decide which “Want” item(s) will make you the happiest. Life on a tight budget means you will not be able to live in the good part of town, in a cute house, with a bunch of children and a houseful of the latest technological gadgets, however, you can probably choose one item from that list. Choose wisely, and be sure that your choice(s) will fulfill you the most.

Once you have your priorities set, you’ll be able to take a look at some items in your discretionary spending that you can do without. Areas where you can cut back include: cable TV, Internet access, cell phone plans, clothing and household items (try thrifting!), and food (stop eating out and go homemade).

As a whole, Americans spend a ton of money on food each month and that doesn’t have to be the case. Even if you hate cooking, it actually pays for you to take the time to learn how to cook some simple recipes at home several days a week, if not every day of the week.

For some simple at-home recipes with inexpensive ingredients that taste delicious, simply click here.
Stay tuned for next week’s edition of How-to Tuesday!

Image credit: Katie Brady

 

NJ Foreclosure: Can You Afford to Save Your Home?

 

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If you find yourself facing a looming foreclosure date but still desperately wish that you could save your home, you may feel that all hope is lost. In all honesty, moving ahead with the foreclosure may be your best option. However, if you have yet to seek a professional opinion about your particular foreclosure case, there is a chance that with the right foreclosure defense team, you could actually remain in your home by stalling or even stopping the foreclosure altogether.

Naturally, the most important question you need to ask yourself is, “Can I actually afford to stay in my home?” It is important that you take a cold, hard look at your overall financial situation and give yourself an honest answer to that question. Set up a monthly budget chart with all of your incoming and outgoing money to get a clear look at how much money you make and spend each month.

A good rule of thumb as stated by the HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) is that your mortgage payment should be no more than 31% of your monthly income. By creating a monthly budget chart, you will be able to clearly see the percentage of your monthly income that is going toward your mortgage payment.

When you create your monthly budget, if you discover that your mortgage payment makes up less than 31% of your monthly income, but you’re still struggling to make the payments, you’ll have to take a look at other areas of your budget to see where you can make some changes. If keeping your home is your priority, you will have to do away with some line items on your budget that you may want, but simply cannot afford while paying for your home at the same time.

If your figures show you that your mortgage payment is more than 31% of what you make each month, keeping your home is going to be difficult. That is, it will be difficult unless you enlist help from an experienced foreclosure defense firm.

You must act quickly if your home is already in an active foreclosure proceeding. By working with a foreclosure defense lawyer, you will have his experience on your side, and you will have several strategic options that may allow you to keep your home.

Your NJ foreclosure defense attorney can request a forbearance (or modification) of your mortgage. Forbearance means that you will be given a short period of time where you will not have to pay your scheduled mortgage payments. The idea behind this is that it gives homeowners time to “catch up” and get finances in order. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate you a lower payment each month that fits into your budget and falls below 31% of your monthly income.

Another option that your foreclosure attorney may present to you is filing for bankruptcy. A chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to repay the debts you owe your mortgage lender with affordable payments over a set period of years, allowing you to gradually get back on track with your mortgage.

Remember: if your ultimate goal is to save your home, it is essential that you act quickly in order to have your attorney negotiate with your lender before the date of your foreclosure sale. Failure to act before that date means that you may very well be evicted in the near future. Call our office today.

Image credit: William Brawley

I’m Married; Can I File for Bankruptcy Without my Spouse?

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Deciding if and when to file for bankruptcy is a huge decision in anyone’s life.  There are a multitude of factors that you must weigh in order to determine if bankruptcy would be a good solution for you.

Making that decision can become infinitely more difficult if you are married. Naturally, if your spouse is also deep in debt and has no other course of action, you may both jointly decide to file for bankruptcy together. Filing jointly does give you the benefit of erasing more of your total debt as a couple. Also, if you have a lot of jointly owned assets, your creditors will be able to collect from and/or seize those assets to repay your creditors, so filing jointly would make the most sense.

However, if you and your spouse keep your finances mostly separate (different bank accounts, etc) – you can file for bankruptcy on your own. You should consider doing so if you are the only one with significant debt issues. If your spouse has good credit and no long-standing, unpaid debts, there is no reason to involve him/her in your bankruptcy filing.

But Will the Court Take My Spouse’s Money into Consideration?

This is a big question that everyone asks in this particular situation. If you file for bankruptcy on your own, will the court take your spouse’s income into consideration? Will they be able to take his or her money in order to repay your debts?

Generally, if you had generated all of your unpaid debts outside of the marriage and you don’t have any or many jointly held assets, you can file for bankruptcy without worrying that the court will simply take your spouse’s money to pay for your mistakes. If you have a significant amount of debt that you incurred in your name only, especially before getting married, filing alone is a valid option for you.

Additionally, if your debt is due to a failed or struggling business, your spouse’s income will generally not be taken into consideration unless he or she is part owner of the business.

You will, however, have to include your spouse’s name and income in your bankruptcy paperwork. If your spouse makes a modest income, that money will most likely not affect your ability to file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, if your spouse happens to have a high paying job, that may affect your ability to file for bankruptcy, or may affect how much you are required to pay back (in a Chapter 13 filing), especially if you have jointly owned assets (marital expenses) like a home, car(s), and bank accounts.

Luckily, there is something called the Marital Adjustment Deduction that can potentially allow you to make deductions that will ultimately lower the amount of your spouse’s income that you must include in your bankruptcy paperwork.

Most importantly, there is no shame in filing for bankruptcy – whether you are single or married. The first and most crucial step toward a better financial future is asking for help when you need it most. Find out exactly how your life can change – for the better – by calling Veitengruber Law today. All initial consultations are free.

Image credit: Leland Francisco

How to Get a Handle on Your Budget Using the Envelope System

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Do you have difficulty staying within your financial budget each month? Does it seem as though, no matter how many raises or yearly bonuses come your way, you still manage to spend more money than you earn?

Many people measure their wealth by how much income they can generate. A better, more effective way to measure your wealth is by how much money you can keep each month.

The safe way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” ~Frank Hubbard

A good way to end up with money left over each month is to allot funds from each paycheck you receive to each financial responsibility that you have, preventing you from spending money frivolously on things you don’t need. Working from a detailed budget each month will allow you to see all of your “Money In” and “Money Out,” leaving you much less room for error.

Your first step is to set up a basic budget that works for your lifestyle and your income. Begin setting up your budget with how much money you bring home every month. You’re going to want to make a written chart or typed spreadsheet that will include all of your expenses and extras – basically everything you “owe” each month. Once you have a basic budget created, you will know how much money you need to allot to each expense every month or every paycheck, depending on how often you get paid.

Now you need to figure out how to make sure you have enough money each month to fulfill all of your obligations that you have just acknowledged in the monthly budget that you’ve created.

The old-school cash and envelopes system used to be pretty popular when most people were still using cash to pay for most things. The envelope system entailed making enough paper envelopes for every line item in your budget – ranging from rent/mortgage payments to entertainment funds and pet expenses.

With each paycheck, you would simply fill each envelope with the money for each monthly obligation. When the bill came due, you would take that amount out of the envelope in order to make a payment.

Luckily, this system can also be copied electronically in many modern banks. Because online banking is so popular and simple today, it’s preferable to most people to create an e-version of the envelope system. Find a bank that will allow you to set up a checking account where your paychecks can be deposited electronically. Next, look for a bank that gives you the ability to open unlimited (or at least enough to cover all of your different budget categories) savings accounts so that you can deposit portions of each paycheck into each monthly bill category.

Then, either manually or electronically (if your bank supports it), you can transfer the necessary funds for, say, your mortgage payment, when it comes due, right out of the mortgage savings account and into your checking account, and – VOILA! Pay the bill with the allotted funds!

Do you have interesting tips to share regarding budgeting and keeping on track financially? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments! If you’re interested in more ways to improve your finances, give Veitengruber Law a call so we can sit down with you to come up with a plan to raise your credit score.

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Do I Need a Lawyer to Fight a Foreclosure?

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If you are about to enter into the home foreclosure world, you may be wondering if it is something you can handle on your own. While it is true that you are legally allowed to deal with your own foreclosure case, it is highly recommended that you seek counsel to assist you through the foreclosure process. The only exception would be if you are in agreement with the foreclosure commencing – in which case, you would simply need to find alternative living space.

On the other hand, if you want to remain in your home and are being foreclosed upon, whether justly or in error, it’s in your best interest to hire the most qualified foreclosure defense attorney in NJ that you can find. It may seem counter-intuitive to pay some of your valuable money to retain a lawyer to handle your foreclosure defense. After all, if you’re going through a foreclosure, chances are good that you are stretched a little thin.

However, in this case, going the cheap route (handling the matter without an attorney, or hiring an attorney who knows little about foreclosure) can often end up being more expensive in the long run. The reason for this is because foreclosure laws are extremely complicated, as are rules surrounding foreclosure litigation. As a matter of fact, it is an area of law that many attorneys know nothing about.

This makes it all the more important to find an attorney who is extremely qualified to represent you in your New Jersey foreclosure defense. You will want an attorney who specializes in foreclosure defense, and who has quite a few successful cases under his belt.

Every foreclosure case is complex and unique. Good foreclosure defense attorneys know this and do not treat all foreclosures equally. You want to work with an attorney who has a deep understanding of foreclosure rules, procedures and legalities.

Your qualified New Jersey foreclosure defense attorney will sit down with you and examine all of the details surrounding your specific foreclosure case. He will ask you about your goals and then tell you what your options are. Working closely together with you, a qualified NJ foreclosure defense lawyer will create a strategy specific to your case details and your goals.

Whether you are already knee-deep into the foreclosure process, have simply fallen behind on your monthly payments, or if you are keeping up with your payments but really struggling, you can benefit from meeting with George Veitengruber, Esq. George is a highly qualified foreclosure defense attorney in New Jersey and makes it his goal to keep clients in their homes. He has an extremely high success rate when it comes to foreclosure defense.

To learn more about how Veitengruber Law can help you get through your foreclosure case and end up where you want to be, simply call now for a free consultation appointment. (732) 852-7295. That’s right – we said FREE! If you feel more comfortable emailing rather than calling, simply click here to send us a message about your needs. In the meantime, feel free to browse through some our previous law blog entries regarding foreclosure so that you can begin learning the ins and outs of the process.

Image credit: Ethan Lofton