Category Archives: TIP TUESDAY



Sometimes I have a tendency to “overthink.” Overthinkers tend to create problems that don’t exist which at times can cause undue stress, strain and anxiety on oneself. This can be manifested in your behavior or in some cases, your body. If you’re in tune with your body, you know when it’s in distress. Let me explain further.

After last night’s Periscope Session ended (Knowing Where Your Money Is Going,) my lower back IMMEDIATELY began aching. It wasn’t that rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, pinch nerve kind of pain, but that “you’re stressing yourself out and this is ONE way I’m going to show you” kind.  I knew where the stress was coming from however, I didn’t immediately address it. I was so drained. I was bothered. I felt defeated. I didn’t even call Mista to say goodnight as we normally do. I sent a text instead. I just wanted to crash out. The problem is, I couldn’t sleep. I woke up the first time. It was almost 2am. I hadn’t been asleep three hours. The second time? UGH OH! Here comes the anxiety. I knew it because an hour later, I woke up in a state of panic. I hadn’t had one of those episodes since my “drowning in debt days,” but somehow I managed to fall asleep once again. My alarm went off at 5am. I tried to lift my head and it felt like a ton of bricks. “Please no,” I said as the pain pulsated from temple to temple. A sinus headache? How can this be when my humidifier is right next to the bed?

I knew what this was all about. As I lay there, I began thinking (because I do that sometimes,) “Why are you stressing about the scope session?” The “Overthinking Perfectionist” in me  didn’t believe the Scope Session went well. Why some of you may ask? I wasn’t getting the positive feedback I normally receive. If you are familiar with Periscope, you know giving “hearts” lets the “Scoper” know someone agrees with what you are saying or likes what you have to say, or likes you period. In a nutshell, hearts can be used to measure a person’s “likeability.” Likeability? What the hell? I’m not on Periscope for followers to “like” me per se. Don’t misunderstand me. Likeability certainly helps. My goal however, is to present information that I pray other people can take, use and benefit from. Perhaps, I stepped on some toes last night, or maybe, just maybe, those that were tuned in were actually LISTENING to what I was saying.

Usually, I will rewatch my Scope Session before bed and critique my presentation, but I didn’t do that last night. I had already made up in my mind the presentation was “craptastic” therefore resulting in a “craptastic” Scope Session. 

What a “craptastic” way of thinking.

Self-talk is so important. It can make or break you. When you are confident in your abilities, you have to trust and believe in them regardless of the feedback you may or may not receive from others. Simply put, had I watched my scope session as I normally do, I’m positive I wouldn’t have awakened this morning feeling like I wrestled with a grizzly bear in my sleep.  

I’ve always said over the years no matter what I was engaged in be it my “marathoning” days, making people laugh on YouTube, teaching my students, or giving back to the community, “If I can touch the life of ONE person, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”

This morning, as I scrolled through my Twitter mentions (I like to go back and individually thank those who share my Scope Sessions,) one person I thanked in particular said, and I quote, “I am loving your work. So many people need this.”

There it is… The affirmation from God that confirmed what I already knew. I did what I was supposed to do. 

To you Shawn S…. Thank you.

~The Financial Hack ©2015





Oh if I could only have SEVEN MORE DAYS… I’d probably ask for seven more.

I’m back from vacationing feeling relaxed and refreshed but slowly transitioning back to “the real world.”  As I reflect on the good times, the smiles and the laughter, there was something different about THIS particular vacation. It wasn’t because Mista and I were together (although that had a lot to do with it,) and it wasn’t necessarily because I got to spend time with a great group of people (although they played an integral role in making my vacation more enjoyable~Happy Birthday Teresa!) but looking at my vacation canvas from a financial perspective, this vacation was like that of no other. But what was different about this vacation? I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, then it hit me…..


In all my years of traveling, I had never traveled DEBT FREE. A weekend getaway here, a few days there was fun, but it was nothing compared to the feeling from my past trip that still lingers. I casually strolled about the ship as if I didn’t have a care in the world. I could truly appreciate taking in the sea air, closing my eyes and slowly exhaling while watching the sun set from our balcony. For the first time in my life, I felt an overwhelming sense of “calm.”

The key to having the “ULTIMATE STRESS-FREE VACATION” is to travel debt-free. Being debt-free is a feeling like no other and traveling debt-free is an even greater feeling. 

How many times have you vacationed and had the time of your life only to have those feelings of euphoria doused after returning home because of the dreaded credit card statement that is sure to follow?

If you are not debt-free, you should not take a vacation.

While traveling, I was able to read Michelle Singletary’s book “The 21-Day Financial Fast” ($15.99-Barnes and Noble.) She wrote of a speaking engagement where a young lady stood and proudly stated she was able to save approximately $2500-$3000 on an impending vacation. She was asked by Ms. Singletary if she had any debt, to which the young lady replied, “Yes.” Ms. Singletary advised her she should not take the vacation she saved for and to use the money to pay down her debt. I’ve got your back on that one Michelle. She spoke absolute truth.

In the past, I could never truly relax going on “vacation” even on those weekend getaways (sometimes alone) knowing I was in debt. I have passed on TWO trips to Africa and one trip to London because my finances were not in order. I felt if I was in debt, it was in my best interest NOT to go on vacation.

Now. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time off from work. We ALL need that. However, if you are in debt, it is wise to use any monies saved towards a vacation to pay down debt and delay that vacation. NO SACRIFICE NO REWARD. Look at the big picture. It all boils down to discipline and delaying gratification. I’m sure this isn’t what you want to hear, but I promise you, If you follow this principle, you’ll thank me later.

Don’t misunderstand me. Just because I’m debt free, didn’t mean I broke the bank while traveling. Budgeting for my vacation was like budgeting for any other task. I gave myself a set amount to spend and even allowed myself to splurge a little (like arranging for car/limo service to and from the airport.) After calculating the amount it would cost to use the Park and Fly airport shuttle service coupled with the fact I saved boarding fees for my dog Sherlock because my Mom kept him, I was actually saving money, so why not? I was even able to purchase a few Christmas gifts with the spending money allotted for myself, so I still came in under budget.

So the message I pray you take from this posting is simply this: THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL IS TO DO SO DEBT-FREE.


As always, thank you for visiting my site. Feel free to leave your comments/feedback and/or email me at

~The Financial Hack ©2015



Purchasing a home for most first-time buyers is a wonderful feeling. It’s a sense of accomplishment like no other. No more apartment living, and no more renting. For some a home purchase is seen as a place to start or raise a family. For some, it’s seen an investment. For others, it’s seen as BOTH. Going through the home-buying process can be quite stressful. Presenting W-2’s, check stubs, bank statements, tax returns, paying earnest money, scheduling a home inspection and negotiating with the seller can be overwhelming, but in the end after signing that 1 1/2″ stack of papers at closing and getting the keys to YOUR NEW HOME, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. Here are just a few tips for the FIRST TIME HOME BUYER.
  1. KNOW WHERE YOU STAND REGARDING YOUR CREDIT SCORE: Before you start “looking” for a home, start with obtaining a copy of your credit report. Know your credit score. This will ultimately determine if you qualify for a low interest rate (because of a good credit score) or “subprime” interest rate (because of a lower credit score.) In some cases where a couple, for instance, is purchasing a home together, if the credit score of one of the applicants will in some way negatively affect the application process (i.e. resulting in a higher interest rate,) your loan officer will usually suggest removing him or her all together from the loan application. Also, take this time to “clean up your credit.” Perhaps you have some 30, 60 or 90 day late payments within the past year. This can ultimately impact your credit score and possibly ruin your chances of obtaining any type of financing. Dispute anything on your credit report that may be incorrect such as judgements/liens, etc., and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure you are current on your student loan payments. I suggest to anyone who may have a few minor bumps and bruises on their credit report to take 1-2 YEARS to make monthly payments ON TIME on all installment accounts/loans and dispute any incorrect information on your credit report. This time can also be taken to save up a down payment, add to your existing down payment, or save additional monies for any upgrades (painting, carpet, etc.,) that may not be included in negotiations. GOOD RULE OF THUMB: If you have any credit card debt, take the time to eliminate it FIRST before making plans to purchase your dream home.
  2. KNOW HOW MUCH HOME YOU CAN AFFORD: There is absolutely NO POINT in looking at homes in the $200K+ range when you now you should be looking for a home in the $120-$150K range. Bank websites will allow you to plug in information such as income, minimum payment on credit card debts, installment loans, etc., and produce what is called a “prequal” (prequalification) letter but beware. Most people like to “stretch the truth” when it comes to providing certain information online, and although some real estate agents won’t show homes in certain price ranges without one, it’s best to obtain a prequalification letter from your loan officer. The loan officer can provide a more accurate picture of how much house you can actually afford. As a good rule of thumb, your mortgage payment should be 28-36% of your monthly income (given certain circumstances.)
  3. KNOW WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN A HOME: Most people do their research before they even contact a Real Estate Agent/Broker. Websites such as Trulia ( and Zillow ( can provide listings of homes which include listing price, photos, even the MLS number that you can pass along to your Agent. It’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking for when purchasing a property. Is this a starter home? An investment property? What city? Subdivision? Are you looking for a home large enough for a growing family? What about the local school district? Proximity to shopping/retail? How close are you to the nearest freeway/major thoroughfare? How many bedrooms do you require? Is a gourmet kitchen a necessity? A large Master Bedroom/Bath? What about a Game/Media Room? A Study perhaps? A Pool? These are decisions you need to make BEFORE meeting with an agent because your agent will ask the same questions (and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts they’re fingers are crossed upon your initial meeting and/or phone conversation, you already know what your looking for.) FYI: It has been my experience in the Real Estate industry Kitchens and Bathrooms are huge sellers for women. For men, as long as there is a dedicated “man cave” in the home that is all his and he can decorate it any way he chooses, he’ll usually go along with whatever his partner/spouse wants.
  4. KNOW WHAT TYPE OF LOAN IS BEST FOR YOU: I won’t get into loan specifics (I’ll save that for a later posting,) but the Conventional home loan is your best bet. Most lenders assume a 30-year fixed mortgage is what is desired, but inquire about a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. You’ll get a better interest rate, although your mortgage payment will be higher, but you’re also taking less time to pay the loan off. FHA loans are advantageous to the buyer who doesn’t have a large down payment plus the debt-to-income ratio requirements are a little more lax than conventional loans. VA loans are great for Veterans because no down payment is required. Beware however of seller fees. Whether a VA loan is granted depends on the length of time on active duty and the number of past VA loans. STEER CLEAR OF THE FOLLOWING LOANS: ARMs (Adjustable rate Mortgages,) Interest Only Loans and Reverse Mortgages.   
  5. KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY YOU PLAN TO HAVE AS A DOWN PAYMENT: After the housing market crash in 07-08, regardless of how excellent your credit score was, some lenders began requiring a 20% down payment. The good thing about putting down 20% is in some cases it exempts the buyer from paying what is called PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance.) If PMI is being paid on your home, if you can demonstrate the home has accumulated a certain amount of equity in it (20% if I’m not mistaken,) the $50-120/mo that is being paid can be removed. What’s ironic about PMI is some buyers believe PMI protects them… WRONG! PMI protects the lender in case the buyer defaults on making payments.
  6. ALWAYS DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE:  The performance of local school districts is one of the main factors potential home buyers pay close attention to whether they have children, intend to have children or have no children. A school district’s rating with the state can positively or negatively impact the desirability of a home and for some buyers can be a “deal breaker.” Also it is up to the buyer to do their due diligence regarding sex offenders who may be living in the neighborhood or residing nearby.
  7. ALWAYS HAVE A QUALIFIED HOME INSPECTION PERFORMED: As the saying goes, NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. A home may look good on the outside and even on the inside, but the home could be a potential health hazard. Faulty wiring, signs of mold that an untrained eye may not detect, pipe leaks underneath the home, and the infamous “foundation issues” can result in costly repairs all of which aren’t always covered by your insurance carrier.
  8. ALWAYS ANTICIPATE INCURRING ADDITIONAL COSTS WHEN IT COMES TO HOME AMENITIES/UPGRADES: Take into consideration the size of your home and how many A/C units the home will have. A 4000+ square foot home will have at minimum TWO units. And if you’re running both units in the summer, just wait until you get that first electric bill. Does your home have an in-ground swimming pool? If it does, guess what? The pool isn’t going to clean and maintain itself which means either you’ll have to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. Even if you choose to maintain the pool on your own, the chemicals aren’t cheap, however doing it yourself will still save money.
  9. CHOOSE A KNOWLEDGEABLE REAL ESTATE AGENT/BROKER: This is self explanatory. Find a realtor who is familiar with the area(s) you’re looking to purchase a home in. They should have “Comps and Analysis” of homes in your price range and with similar amenities that have sold recently in the area. An Agent/Broker may be working with multiple clients at a time, but that is no excuse for poor customer service. That person is working for you and you deserve nothing less than the best buying experience. Never allow an agent pressure you to make an offer on a home you’re uncertain about it. When you find the “right home,” you’ll know. Trust me on this one.
  10. MAKE SURE YOUR HOME IS PROPERLY INSURED: The worst thing that can happen if a catastrophic event occurs (God forbid) is that the homeowner is “underinsured.” Always check with your insurance provider to make sure you are properly insured. Start with the company that insures your vehicles. Insurance companies such as State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, Farmers, etc. will usually provide a discount for allowing them the privilege to get that additional commission (cough cough,) I mean insuring your property as well. Shop around to make sure you’re getting the best rate. It’s also a good idea each year to make an appointment with your insurance agent to review your policy and make any changes if necessary.
Although this posting was quite lengthy, the information given should get you started on your quest to a successful home buying experience. CONGRATULATIONS…YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY!!!!
Please feel free to leave any and all comments below. If you have a specific question, email me at
~The Financial Hack ©2015


They say the path to millionaire status can be obtained by becoming a landlord. “Buy land,” they say. “That’s something they aren’t making any more of.” I have more than a couple of investment properties and I’m far from millionaire status but I’m on my way. Check with me in about 15 years and we’ll see how close I am.

Since my last “Tip Tuesday” blog posting “Hacks for Tenants/Renters,” I thought I would follow up with “Hacks for Landlords.”



Based on my 10+ years of experience being a Landlord and Property Manager, I’ve learned “what to do” and “what not to do” when it comes to “Landlording.” Just as the tips for tenants proved useful (at least I hope they did,) these hacks should prove useful to the Landlord as well. For all practical purposes, I’ll be speaking to those who own and/or manage Single Family Dwellings.

  1. ALL RENT IS NEGOTIABLE: Just as I mentioned “All Rent is Negotiable” in the Hacks for Tenants/Renters posting, obviously the same goes for Landlords on the flip side of the coin. Some Landlords are firm on their asking price, however, depending on the level of motivation, an Owner may be willing to bend slightly on the rent. When you think about it, if you’re talking about a difference of $50-100, it’s worth it to negotiate and find a middle ground, especially if you think you’ve found the perfect tenant.
  2. NEVER JUMP ON THE FIRST TRAIN SMOKING: This is the biggest mistake I see new Landlords make. The Landlord is so eager to lease the home and because the potential tenant(s) look good on paper, have the deposit and first month’s rent and “appear” to be “really nice,” the Landlord rents to that potential tenant in haste. The rest of the story in some cases is a complete disaster!
  3. POTENTIAL RED FLAGS: These are some of my personal favorites: 1) The potential tenant who has the deposit/first month’s rent, will do the once over of the property, complete the lease application on site, run to 7-Eleven, get a money order for the app fee(s), brings everything back to you within 30 minutes, (this could be on a Monday no doubt,) and expects a Friday move in. WHAT!!!! THOSE VERY ACTIONS SIGNAL TO ME A TENANT THAT IS ABOUT TO SKIP OUT ON PAYING RENT WHERE HE/SHE/THEY CURRENTLY RESIDE. If they’ll skip out on a previous Landlord, they’ll do the same to you. Beware. This is not always the case, but in my experience RUN FOR THE HILLS!!! Nine times out of ten, it is. I require a copy of a Driver’s License/ID Card, Social Security Card, Utility Bill (to verify current address) and the most recent check stub. Some may believe I’m asking for too much information, but this is actually a part of the “weeding out” process. If a potential tenant doesn’t feel it necessary to provide me with the information I require, another one will come along who has no problem doing so. 2) The potential tenant, who after reviewing the Residential Lease Application informs you for the last FIVE YEARS of residential history (which is what I ask for) they lived with a sick relative usually a mother or father. I always find it comical when this happens because I’ll ask them to go back another five years, and I’ll usually get another relative they lived with or another type of excuse. Bad rental history is better than no rental history: It may be shaky, but at least a Landlord knows where an applicant stands.
  4. WHEN SHOWING YOUR PROPERTY TO A POTENTIAL TENANT, TREAT IT AS AN INTERVIEW PROCESS: I hate to say it, but APPEARANCE DOES MATTER. Your potential tenant doesn’t have to dress as if they’re interviewing for a Fortune 500 Company, however, they shouldn’t look like they just rolled out of bed to meet you either. Don’t discount potential tenants because of their looks, but do pay attention. Ask questions and observe their behavior. You can learn a lot just by asking simple questions such as where they work. Ask them to explain what it is they do. Ask about their family (or how many will be occupying the property) especially if a person comes alone to view the property. Also, take notice whether the potential tenant is on time or late. I try to arrive at the property 15-20minutes before the scheduled time to make sure I greet them when they arrive. In some cases, I have had potential tenants arrive at the property before I did even though I arrived early. Nothing looks worse than a Landlord/Property Manager who is late to their own showing. If a tenant hasn’t contacted me to inform me they’re running late, I give them 20 minutes tops, and I lock up and leave. Time is a valuable commodity that is not to be wasted.
  5. ALWAYS PROTECT YOURSELF: If you can, have another person present when you are showing a property. If you are alone, arrive early (you should do that anyway) and wait outside while the potential tenant views the property. I usually have protection (if you know what I mean) whether someone is with me or not, however I still wait outside.
  6. HAVE YOUR TENANT COMPLETE A RESIDENTIAL LEASE APPLICATION: Make sure it includes the necessary questions including bankruptcy, foreclosure, judgements/liens, evictions and my personal favorite: HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN A LEASE FOR ANY REASON? If yes, please explain. The application should have the potential tenant list their social security number, employment history, past rental/purchase history, previous addresses (5 years,) number of occupants, vehicles, you get the picture. Ask them to explain any evictions, judgements/liens and bankruptcies. Some tenants will be forthright with any potential damaging information, others will allow you to find out on your own. The last page of the application is a signature page where the potential tenant attests the info included in the application is factual and correct and their signature authorizes you to access their credit report as well as verify employment/rental history.
  7. ALWAYS PULL A CREDIT REPORT: In a nutshell, a person’s credit (FICO) SCORE will tell me how well they can manage debt. NEVER RELY SOLELY ON A CREDIT SCORE TO DETERMINE WHETHER A POTENTIAL TENANT WILL BE A “DEAL” OR A “DUD.” As I stated in my Hacks for Tenant/Renters posting, my BEST tenant of 8 years (and counting) had an initial credit score of 505 and has NEVER been late on the rent. The tenant was forthright in disclosing her financial situation upon our initial meeting. That spoke volumes on her behalf.
  8. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A “THOROUGH” LEASE AGREEMENT: The lease agreement should not only protect you the Landlord, but it should also protect the tenant as well. Become familiar with your state laws regarding Landlord/Tenant relationships. If you have certain rules regarding your property (such as no smoking,) it must be expressed, not implied. Stipulate your rules in the lease. If no pets of any kind are allowed on the premises (this includes fish, gerbils, snakes, iguanas llamas, flies, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, and zebras…Oh and dogs and cats too,) be sure to specify that in the lease as well. Some tenants have to have it spelled out. Be as specific as necessary in order to cover your “assets.” Information regarding rent grace periods, late fees, the eviction process, and even procedures to place a work/repair order must be included as well. Leave no stone unturned.
  9. STRESS TO YOUR NEW TENANT THE IMPORTANCE OF SECURING RENTERS INSURANCE: If the home is destroyed by some catastrophic event, the insurance on the property covers the structure ONLY, not the contents inside. By law, as a Landlord, you can’t insure property that doesn’t belong to you. The cost is relatively inexpensive (apprx. $10-$12 for about $20K of coverage.) It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  10. NEVER “COMMINGLE” YOUR MONEY WITH THE TENANT’S DEPOSIT: All security deposits should be kept in a separate escrow account.
  11. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEO OF THE PROPERTY PRIOR TO THE TENANT’S MOVE-IN DATE: Do the same once a tenant vacates the property as well. Make sure the picture and video is date/time stamped. This is a little “insurance policy” in case you have to prove or defend your case in court.
  12. WHEN DEALING WITH REPAIRS, YOUR RESPONSE TIME AS A LANDLORD IS EVERYTHING: A prompt response to the Tenant builds trust between the Landlord/Property Manager and the Tenant. My response time is usually the same day and in most cases the issue is resolved within 24-48 hours. I answered a call while vacationing in Canada for a few days. THAT’S TOP NOTCH CUSTOMER SERVICE!! Always have an “Elite Team” of dependable repairmen (licensed and bonded) that you can contact when necessary. Let the Tenant know SPECIFICALLY the procedure(s) to follow when placing a work order/repair request. Now when I vacation, I inform all Tenants the duration of my vacation and who they are to contact in the case of an emergency.
  13. PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE CAN SAVE A LANDLORD COSTLY REPAIRS IN THE LONGRUN: Routine maintenance (HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, Even Yearly Extermination/Pest Control) can save you money down the road. Just as you schedule routine maintenance on your vehicle, performing routine maintenance on your properties serves the same purpose.
  14. STRESS TO THE TENANT THE IMPORTANCE OF SCHEDULING A “WALK-THROUGH PRIOR TO THEM VACATING THE PREMISES: By doing this, the tenant isn’t caught off guard by deductions taken from the security deposit.
  15. IF RENTING TO FRIENDS/FAMILY MEMBERS LET THEM KNOW IT’S BUSINESS… NOTHING PERSONAL: Beware of friends/family members who may attempt to take advantage of your relationship. Think long and hard if you believe the relationship may be damaged if things go south.
  16. JOIN ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS THE LPA (LANDLORD PROTECTTION AGENCY): This organization has helpful information for Landlords, sample leases and most importantly, the ability to run credit checks on potential tenants for a nominal fee. It’s wise to take advantage of these types of organizations. A one year membership to the LPA is less than $100. Visit their website at
  17. If “all of the above” seems like too much of a headache for you, find an “experienced” Property Manager to take away the hassle of “Landlording.” A Property Manager will charge you a monthly fee, which is usually a percentage of the rent collected. MAKE SURE THE PROPRTY MANAGER YOU SELECT IS SOMEONE YOU CAN TRUST TO GET THE JOB DONE. Real estate agencies provide these services as well as independent brokers such as myself. Always do your due diligence when making your selection. Years of experience, number of properties managed and knowledge of the state’s law regarding Landlord/Tenant relationships is a great place to start.


There are so many additional tips for the Landlord I could have included. Perhaps I’ll save my additional Landlord tips and anecdotal stories for my second book (after I write the first one.) Hopefully these tips will get you started if you’re new to the world of “Landlording.” If you have any questions, or would like additional information, email me at Feel free to leave your comments and feedback below and as always thank you for reading.
~The Financial Hack (copyright 2015)


People have different reasons for renting. Perhaps they have “graduated” from apartment living and want to get a sense of what they may expect from living in a home before they decide to buy. Perhaps, divorce, foreclosure or some other unforeseen circumstance is the reason behind renting or maybe, just maybe, a person simply has no desire to own a home because they don’t want the responsibility that comes along with home ownership. The list could go on and on.
Having over 10+ years of experience being a Landlord of my own properties and in Property Management, I’ve seen and heard it all. I always watched and paid close attention. This is how I learned. For all practical purposes, my focus in this blog is primarily for “home renters” although these basic tips/principles can be applied to renting an apartment as well. These hacks should prove helpful when renting:
  1. ALL RENT IS NEGOTIABLE: Just because the ad in the newspaper states rent is $1000 doesn’t necessarily mean that amount is firm. How motivated the Landlord/Property Manager/Owner is to lease the property MAY affect your ability to negotiate. NEVER LOWBALL. That’s the fastest way to have your application rejected because you won’t be taken seriously. Suggest an amount that is reasonable and fair, but be prepared to walk away if your counter is rejected.
  2. TAKE INVENTORY OF THE PROPERTY: Upon signing a lease, I give all tenants a checklist similar to what one would receive if renting an apartment. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Torn and/or loose carpet, cracked windows, carpet stains, anything other than normal wear and tear that could possibly be used by the Landlord/Property Manager to justify keeping a portion of your security deposit should be well-documented. Videotape your walk-through and take photographs to document the condition of the property prior to moving in. NOTE: Upon vacating the property/returning any keys, remotes etc., schedule a walk-through with the Landlord/Property Manager. One hanger left in a closet or cleaning supplies left under a cabinet can be considered “trash out” which could result in a deduction from your security deposit. 
  3. UNDERSTAND WHAT A SECURITY DEPOSIT REALLY IS: A security deposit is usually equivalent to one month’s rent and it serves TWO purposes: 1) It covers the rent should the tenant decide to “skip out” on paying and 2) It covers any damages (other than normal wear and tear) the tenant may be responsible for. This is why it is necessary to schedule a walkthrough upon vacating the property. Holes in the wall/sheetrock, broken handles/fixtures ruined carpet and infestation are a few examples of deductions that could be taken from your deposit.
  4. DOCUMENT ALL REPAIR/WORK REQUESTS THOROUGHLY: This is for your protection. Did you know a tenant has the right to break a lease for “Landlord breach of contract?” In Texas, a tenant can. For example, if a tenant’s A/C conks out in the middle of the sweltering summer, the tenant made their first and second requests via phone call/text message (with no or slow response,) it has been longer than seven business days and the Landlord/Property Manager is taking longer than what is considered to be a “reasonable amount of time” to make the repair, send him/her a Certified Letter (Returned Receipt Requested of course) stating they have seven business days from receipt of the letter to make the repair. If the repair is not completed on or before the specified time, the tenant has the right to vacate the property and is entitled to ALL security deposits/pro-rated rent paid. NOTE: Rent cannot be withheld while repairs are being made. You are still responsible for paying the rent on time.
  5. BEWARE OF “RENT SCAMMERS” Always request to meet AT THE PROPERTY, not the local Starbucks or nearby cafe. If a Landlord/Property Manager refuses to meet you at the property especially for the initial viewing, an alarm should go off. Request proof of ownership. Explain this is for your protection. Any Landlord/Property Manager worth his salt would welcome the request. I do. This establishes trust between the Tenant and Landlord/Property Manager. If he/she gets angry and/or refuses to honor your request, (even if everything is legitimate,) that’s a sign to move on to the next property.
  6. RED FLAGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN VIEWING A PROPERTY: 1) The outer perimeter of the property is unkempt. If there’s trash in the yard and/or the lawn isn’t manicured (and by manicured I mean cut, edged, shrubs pruned) there may be very little hope to expect any better inside. Curb appeal is everything. 2) The utilities are disconnected. I don’t know about you, but I flip every switch, turn every knob open every door and push every button to make sure everything is  working when “previewing” a property for a client. At the very least, the electricity should be connected. 3) An unkempt interior, signs of possible infestation, foul odors, torn, worn or dirty carpets/walls, holes in the walls, chipping paint, unclean appliances or appliances that don’t work, and bathrooms that aren’t clean are just a few items that should set off red flags. A lot of these are “no brainers.” Beware of the Landlord/Property Manager who makes a promise to repair/replace items and/or paint and replace carpet prior to a tenant moving in. DO NOT give him/her your security deposit let alone sign a lease until the repairs/upgrades have been made, you have viewed the property a second and possibly a third time and are satisfied with the property’s current condition.
  7. NOT ONLY SHOULD YOU ASK QUESTIONS, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: When is rent due? Is there a grace period? What about late fees? Is the property’s mortgage CURRENT? Is the property currently in foreclosure/pre-foreclosure? NOTE: You have the right to ask this question. There have been so many cases where tenants become displaced because the property owner continued collecting rent knowing foreclosure procedures have, had or are about to commence. Is the property pet-friendly? Is there a weight limit for my pet? Is a pet deposit required? Is the property “smoke free?” What appliances will the owner provide? What utilities am I responsible for? NOTE: Tenants, it is imperative to do your “due diligence” in finding out if registered sex offenders reside in the area or close by.
  8. BE HONEST: If your credit is “less than stellar,” let the Landlord/Property Manager know upfront. I don’t solely use credit scores to determine if I’m going to rent to a Tenant, but I do run credit reports. Case in point: My BEST tenant of EIGHT YEARS (and counting) had a credit score of 505 and has NEVER been late paying rent… EVER. Don’t tell the Landlord/Property Manager only you, your spouse and your young child will be residing at the property when it’s actually you, your spouse, your young child, your two step-children (who come bi-weekly) and your mother-in-law who will actually be living in the home with you. Any misrepresented information on your application could justify means for eviction. It’s easier to just tell the truth.
  9. KNOW HOW MUCH RENT YOU CAN COMFORTABLY AFFORD: Don’t look at homes to rent you know you can’t afford. I wish there was a “pre-qual” letter for potential renters as there is for potential home buyers. This way precious time isn’t being wasted.  As a good rule of thumb, like a mortgage, the amount of rent shouldn’t be more than 28% of your net income.
  10.  ALWAYS REVIEW YOUR LEASE (PREFERABLY WITH THE LANDLORD/PROPERTY MANAGER) BEFORE SIGNING: Ask for clarification on any clauses of the lease you do not understand. The duration of most home leases is one year. Find out procedures for renewing your lease (if applicable,) holdover amount (i.e. month to month) work/repair order procedures and the like. There is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to understanding your lease and ignorance is no defense.
  11.  SECURE RENTERS INSURANCE: I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW INPORATANT THIS IS. Many tenants assume because the property is insured, their contents are insured as well right? WRONG! If a catastrophic event at one of my rental properties such as a fire (God forbid) were to happen, and everything was completely destroyed, my insurance will cover the replacement cost of the structure ONLY. A Landlord IS NOT responsible for your property/personal effects, so if you have Cantoni furniture and top of the line flat screen televisions/surround sound systems in each room, even if you have your furniture from college, RENTERS INSURANCE is highly recommended. Paying $13/mo for approximately $20K of coverage is worth it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
These are just a few important tips any renter should know. Although a Landlord/Property Manager may be knowledgeable,  there’s no reason why you, the tenant can’t be knowledgeable as well. Happy House Hunting!!!
~The Financial Hack


Have you ever stopped to open your Valpak coupon envelope that comes in the mail?


I can honestly say EVERY TIME I got a “Valpak” envelope, it went STRAIGHT to the recycle bin. Why you may ask? I’ll tell you….

I opened one once (insert eye roll.) I saw so many coupons for dry cleaning, which I rarely took advantage of, discounts on garage door repair and service (which I don’t need because as a Property Manager, I have a contractor who does all the work not only for my properties, but those that I manage as well,) oh and let’s not talk about the endless coupons for local restaurants not to mention the Quick Lube/In and Out oil change locations in the area. I say all of that to say, perusing Valpak coupons to me was a HUGE WASTE OF TIME… Or so I thought.

Since I’m really focused on meeting financial goals by saving money where I can, I decided on a whim to open a Valupak I received a couple of weeks ago. Let me tell you about the TOP 3 TREASURES I found inside:

  1. BANK COUPON: I received a coupon from a local bank that would give me $150 for opening a checking account as long there was a monthly EFT going into the account. POW!!! Right on time. I was able to pick up a job (yet another stream of income) where I set my own work schedule, hours and guess what? IT OFFERED DIRECT DEPOSIT!!!  So guess who received $150 in addition to the opening balance that was placed into the account. (High fives myself here.)
  2. LOCAL SPA: Although I take care of my skin, I like to treat myself to an occasional facial. I found a coupon for a $45 facial (which includes a 15 minute shoulder massage.) Excellent!! This will be a “treat myself for remaining vigilant in reaching my financial goals” reward.
  3. LOCAL HIBACHI RESTAURANT: I found a coupon that offered a GIGANTOR discount on the final bill. This restaurant is very special to me for “personal” reasons. We plan to go at the end of this month. ALL OF US. 😎
So you see. The Valpak isn’t that bad. The Valpak is your friend. Before you toss the next one that comes in the mail, open it. It’s like going to the thrift store. The treasures are hidden…. YOU JUST GOTTA DIG FOR THEM!!!
~The Financial Hack ©2015

TIP TUESDAY: Free Madden ’15!!!!

I LOVE VIDEOS… I really do. At almost 45 years old, I’m not ashamed to say I play them to relax. I’ve loved video games since the days of Ms. PAC MAN, Centipede and Galaga, as I stated before, when the FIRST Atari video game console was presented, you know, when video game arcades were where the kids hung out. Does that make me old? HA! Hardly! I still play video games, not at much as I’d like to, but when time allows, any kind of shoot ’em up bang bang, Call of Duty, Resident Evil, Resistance Fall of Man type games are always right up my alley.

The problem with video games and the consoles that are required to play them, not to mention joysticks (I know they’re called “controllers” now,) can be costly. EA Sports “It’s In The Game” released its first Madden NFL Football video game on PlayStation around 1997 and Xbox followed around 2002. I know there was the Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64 etc, but I’m going somewhere with this. As technology advanced, the graphics improved, and the games became more expensive. Game cartridges (yes I said CARTRIDGES) that were once $20 have now been replaced by CDs that run in upwards of $59.99-$75 for the Deluxe Edition. Who has that kind of money to spend? An Xbox One or PlayStation 4 (PS4) game console starting price is $400. Again I say. WHO HAS THAT KIND OF MONEY TO SPEND? Or maybe I should ask… WHO WANTS TO SPEND THAT KIND OF MONEY? Especially when you’ve got financial goals to meet right? For those who want the Madden NFL Football experience but not the Madden NFL Football price, HERE’S HOW TO GET IT:



The Maden Mobile app is FREE FREE FREE… And who doesn’t like FREE right? I love the NFL experience you get, however you’re not able to trash talk with other online gamers as most do through their headset when playing on an Xbox One or PS4. The best you can hope for is to trash talk through your keypad in the form of typing a message. If trash talking is your thing, join a league or form your own (you need 3 other players to compete with other leagues) otherwise, just trash talk to your iPad as I do. I trash talk period when I play. Madden Mobile is a lot like Fantasy Football. You can put together your own team as opposed to playing with the actual NFL squad (on the real deal game consoles.) For instance, here is my offensive squad….BECAUSE I KNOW YOU WANNA SEE IT!!!



I had Michael Vick as QB (76) but was able to acquire Cam Newton (84) and he has yet to disappoint. I’m trying to get Marshawn Lynch as my FB but dude doesn’t come cheap. I need beaucoup dinero for “Beast Mode” but, I digress. You can buy and sell players at any time to build up a solid offensive/defensive squad and even special teams, or you can trade them in to earn rewards on various challenges. You can play other Madden Mobile users around the country to get money, gain fans and experience points to advance you to the next level. Because I’m so proud of my progress, here’s a snapshot of my division ranking. I’m Cowgirl75237 by the way….


At level 22. I’m ranked #1600 In the All-Pro II division and about 50K fans shy of All Pro I satus. I am absolutely stoked about this app. THAT’S OBVIOUS! The graphics are pretty decent or as decent as they can be….


You call plays just as you do playing the real deal, Players celebrate in the end zone after touchdowns, kick onside, sack QBs, gain points via safety, pretty much everything you can do playing the actual game. Once you’ve reached your limit of playing other Madden Mobile users (I hate the app does that,) you can make your way on over to the Season Menu and win your way to the Super Bowl. I won Season 1 and 2 Superbowls, lost Season 3 playoffs and am in the middle of playing Season 4 now.


So there you have it. If your money is acting funny and your change is mighty strange, no need to go out and buy an expensive video game console or the expensive game to go accompany it. Download the Madden Mobile App and play it until you have SAVED the money to purchase the real deal. The app is available on iPhone and Android. In this day and age, nearly everyone has a smart device of some sort. I DO NOT advise you to play this on a smartphone unless it has a larger than average screen. Try playing on an iPad or another tablet device. If you’re able, connect it to your television for an even greater football experience. NOW…. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!


As I dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, I hope I’ve sold you on what to expect from the FREE FREE FREE, FUN FUN FUN Madden NFL Mobile App!!! It’s FUN and it’s FREE!!! Oh and did I say the app was FREE and FUN? Enjoy….

~The Finacial Hack ©2015

TIP TUESDAY: Did You Know?


The 8oz “short” size as compared to the 12oz “tall” size is Starbucks’ best kept secret. You’ll never see it on the menu (and probably never will) so be sure to ask for it specifically when ordering. The “short” is a STEP DOWN from the 12oz “tall” which most think is the chain’s smallest size. Not true. “Java Junkies” like myself already knew about the “short,” but usually go for the Venti or even the Trenta . For those who may be “trimming the fat” from their budgets and not yet ready to eighty-six the gourmet coffee experience all together, ordering the “short” size satisfies the gourmet coffee experience without blowing the budget. For a few extra coins, go ahead and ask for an extra shot… Of expresso that is. ENJOY! 

~The Financial Hack ©2015