Could Saving Money Really Become A Habit?

We all run a little low on money sometimes and coming to terms with the fact that we have to cut back on spending or save up isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. Whether it’s cutting back on how much we’re buying, or having to put aside out spare cash as a savings fund rather than simply spending it, coping when things get tough financially can be stressful, especially when you aren’t used to saving. While payday loans direct lenders could provide financial aid in an emergency, building up a spending habit could be the solution to your everyday purchases – but how exactly do we do this? Read on to find out.

Always Spend Less Than You Have

While this may seem like a given to most, making sure that you spend less than you have is the first step to saving money. Say you earned $1,000 a month – think of that as $900, or $800. Pay out what needs to be paid out and if there’s anything left, you’ll have a buffer to get you through the month. This is the first step to starting up a saving habit, simply because you’ll get used to always spending less than you can afford to. Of course, this can be a little more complicated than just starting, but with careful budgeting and a steady start, this could quickly become a habit in and of itself.

Make Sure You Set Saving Goals

If you have nothing to save for you aren’t likely to actually convince yourself to do it. When that impulse purchase is staring you right in the face, you’re more likely to grab for it and throw caution to the wind when you have nothing to make you stop and think. Whether it’s a holiday, an emergency fund, money for a new car or a new home or something else entirely, set your goals. Not only will it help you build a saving habit, but it’ll give you something to celebrate when you finally reach it!

Put It Away Before You Ever Even See It

This point requires you to step back and take a look at your finances. What can you afford to save? Whether it’s a few coins a week, or 10% of your paycheck, make sure that this gets transferred before you even have the opportunity to spend it. You can set up a direct debit with ease at your bank, online or even on your mobile and if you set this up to occur on payday, you can rest easy knowing that the money will get put away where it’s needed before anyone can touch it.

Get Advice

If you’re truly struggling with saving, you can always opt for getting advice. There is plenty of free advice out there, whether through local community non-profit organisations or simply by taking a look online. Whatever method you choose, you can easily reach out for advice on saving whenever you need it. While this isn’t necessarily a way to build a spending habit, it can certainly help you learn the best ways to get started which, after all, is the key to any habit!

Despite what many people will have you believe, saving isn’t always an easy thing to do, but hopefully, this guide has at least given you a good place to start. Through careful planning and strong goals, you could be saving in no time – what method will you use?

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Why You Need A Savings

For some people saving money is easy. For others, not so much. Unfortunately, the proper handling of money is essential to a fruitful life. You need it to pay bills, your food, gas and school expenses. You also need it to enjoy quality downtime and to cover unplanned expenses that come along. This is why you must learn how to manage your money better so that a little bump in the road doesn’t turn into a financial nightmare.

Pitfalls of Not Having a Savings

Talk to anyone who doesn’t have a savings account set aside for emergencies and you’ll find out that they have had a huge financial setback at one time or another during their life. When you don’t plan for unexpected expenses, any unplanned event can cause grief. This can cause even greater difficulty if you have less than perfect or bad credit. If you find yourself in this type of situation, your options are limited to borrowing money. Typical financial institutions will more than likely not approve you and getting an increase on an existing credit line is probably out of the question. Luckily, there are several other ways to come up with the money. You can ask a family member for a small loan or get advance loans through online companies like BlueTrust loans. They are generally small short-term loans with a monthly required repayment of anywhere from 6 months up to a couple of years. Unlike a traditional bank, the requirements for getting an approval are less stringent, making them easier to acquire in a pinch.

Plan for Tomorrow

Ultimately, you want to establish a savings account to prevent this type of scenario from playing out again. You can start out small by just making small initial deposits until you free up additional monies and are able to contribute more. Before you know it you’ll see a savings account that brings you peace of mind.

Save Money Today

There are so many ways that you can save on almost anything you do. Instead of giving away your hard-earned money, find ways to pay less for everything. For instance, if your electric, gas and water bill seem a bit high make changes. Update your appliances and add beneficial features such as a water-saving shower head and an energy-saving programmable thermostat. Your cable and cell bill can also get reduced. Do you really need all the cable channels you have? If not, contact your carrier and choose a different plan. If you’re tight on funds, go to basic service for a few months and rent from Red Box or Netflix. Before you head out to the grocery store, make a list and use coupons. With so many online sites giving them away for free, it’s insane not to. If you buy your coffee and your lunch each day, cut back to a couple days per week and bring your own from home the rest of the time. The same goes for ordering out. Just these few simple changes can save you hundreds in a single month. Multiple the number by 12 and you will have a sizable savings account that you can use for vacations, emergencies and something on your “want” list.

Life is full of surprises. When you plan ahead and have a savings account in place, you can take care of most small emergencies easily and preserve your good name.

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Finding Relief from Debt is Not Easy

Although many people consider debt to be their biggest financial problem, it is really often a symptom of other long term financial issues. It’s true that some people run into unexpected situations, lose their jobs, or can’t make ends meet for legitimate reasons. However, many of us fall into another category. We feel like we can’t make ends meet but it is really do to inefficient, ineffective, or just the lack of financial planning and budgeting.

This post is written for those that have already gone down the wrong path or that find themselves with very few options to get financial help. Debt relief is not easy and the following should be considered.

Good Debt is Hard to Find

If you are already in financial trouble then good debt is going to be hard to find. Good debt comes from the more traditional sources like financing a mortgage, a car, or other asset backed debt. If these sources are not available many people turn to the unsecured debt market, which includes credit card debt. Here you can find a list of the best unsecured personal loans for 2017. Many of these unsecured loans are provided by specialized debt companies. This debt relief company review site is an example of where to find such loans.

Debt is Expensive

The more you need it the more it costs. In other words, when you are in financial trouble it gets harder and harder to find a loan. And when you do find a loan, it is often at extreme interest rates. We all know that credit card rates can easily reach the mid teens. Other sources of unsecured loans can get even higher. They are also expensive because of the payback periods. For example, some unsecured loans are for only a few weeks. If you add up the transactions costs and interest expense, the effective interest rates can easily top twenty five percent.

Debt Makes it More Difficult to Reach Your Financial Goals

The final consideration you should think about before taking on debt is whether or not you will be able to pay it off. The issue is that the more debt you take on, the higher your monthly interest and debt payments become. The higher your monthly payments the less money you have left to manage your personal finances. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this, but the real solution would be to change your financial behavior so that you can stop taking on more debt and find a path back to financial freedom.

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An interesting survey by Dixons has revealed that we are waiting longer to upgrade our phones these days when compared to a few years ago. The results showed that in 2013, people upgraded their handsets, on average, once every 20 months, but in 2017, people are waiting 29 months to get a new phone.

Why Are We Upgrading Less Often?

There are a few reasons why this could be. While most contract providers offer an upgrade every two years, those on pre-pay tariffs who buy their phones outright are dealing with a market full of more expensive handsets (if they want the flagship models), many of which cost more than a mid-range laptop. This makes upgrading a phone a major purchase, so consumers prefer to get the most use from the one they have.

Additionally, there hasn’t been any significant developments in the last couple of generations of phone that have been seen as must-have features. A new phone might net you a slightly better camera or more advanced voice-activated assistant, but the difference between generations isn’t significant enough that people with two-year-old phones feel they are using an outdated piece of technology, as it was in 2013.

Time to Upgrade?

Generally now, it seems, unless someone is particularly tempted by a new model, they upgrade when the phone starts to experience issues – usually with battery life. Older phones had batteries you could replace yourself, but this is not the standard with smartphones, so a faulty battery is usually a sign it is time to upgrade. Mobile phones, like other devices with built-in batteries, are not really designed to last forever, and so issues usually start around the two-year mark.

Other reasons to upgrade could be that you want to move from a lower end phone to a premium phone for extra features, you want more storage space for media, or you want to switch between iOS and Android.

What About That Old Handset?

Of course, once you get your new phone, you still have a fairly valuable phone that you no longer need. Some people simply leave them in a drawer somewhere to use as a backup if something happens to their new phone, and this is a valid approach. However, there are some other ways you can get some use out of your old device too.

One of the best is simply to sell it. There are some great companies that buy old iPhones and other handsets to recycle, and this can be really convenient. You simply get a quote from the website for the model and condition of your phone and they provide you with a means to send it to them. This can be a great way to get some money for something you no longer need, and unlike selling it on eBay or local Facebook groups, you can still get some money for it if the screen is broken or it doesn’t work properly.

Another thing you can do is keep using your old phone as a music library. If the battery isn’t too good anymore, dock it to a phone speaker set and use it as a control panel to select your music. This way it is always receiving a charge through the dock, so battery issues won’t prevent it from being useful. You can use all of its storage for your music and you won’t need apps and other media anymore.

Whether you choose to sell or keep using your phone, or simply have it as an emergency backup, making some use out of it when you upgrade is always a good idea!

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8 Ways to Save Money on Your Home Bills

Home bills play a big part when you are planning your budget. Without a proper plan of your statements, it becomes very hard to make a decent saving as more money used on utilities that can be reduced or done away with completely. There are various ways that you can implement to ensure that you cut on your home bills significantly.

1. Use energy saving bulbs
High voltage bulbs consume more power as compared to the energy saving bulbs. Although the energy-saving bulbs may be more expensive than the conventional bulbs, they are longer lasting and save a significant amount of energy and reduce your power bills by almost 25%.

2. Use containers to clean
Water bills contribute to a large part in your home bills. Using a hosepipe to clean your car or house leads to water wastage and significantly increases your water bill. You should consider using a bucket when cleaning to ensure that you do not waste too much water which is employed in doing another essential cleaning.

3. Invest in solar power
Electricity bills contribute to the largest part of your home bills. Installing solar panels which tap the energy from the sun will see you reduce your electricity bills by almost 90%. The initial cost of installing the power panels may be expensive, but you can be sure to see a significant change in your savings.

4. Power saving gadgets
Some of the conventional iron boxes, TVs, and fridges consume a lot of power. The continuous use of these devices will only lead you to pay more on your energy bills. You should consider purchasing other gadgets that have a low power consumption rating. Changing your devices is expensive and should be done in phases if you cannot afford to buy all of them at once. To reduce the amount spent in buying the gadgets, you may consider selling the old ones and adding money to purchase new ones, instead of keeping them in your house.

5. Internet bills
Many people have been paying huge internet bills for subscriptions that do not match their use. A simple online research will help you in finding the best service provider who for fibre optic internet at a considerably low price. Broadband Choices is the best platform where you can compare prices for the best deal around your area. A broadband optic is the best option if you are looking for a fast, yet affordable internet connection.

6. Cancel newspaper and magazine subscription
Having a journal or magazine delivered to your mailbox on a daily basis escalates your home bills. If you feel that you only receive them but do not have the time to read them, you may consider cancelling these subscriptions. In this era where the use of internet has gone up, it is possible to access news and information online free of charge.

7. Saving on meals
Preparing your food at home rather than buying ready-made meals is a great strategy for reducing the amount of money that you spend on foods. You may also consider carrying your home-made meals to school or work, rather than buy overpriced meals in the hotels. In most offices, there are for employees who bring home-made foods to work, and so you do not need to worry about eating cold food.

8. Buy in bulk
If you are planning on shopping for house items, you may consider buying them in bulk. Many retailers sell bulk items at discounted prices to encourage more shoppers to buy goods in bulk while increasing their sales. When shopping, however, you should be wary of buying items in bulk that are nearing their expiration date or go bad faster. Buying items like cooking oil, flour, sugar and salt in bulk will see your home bills reduced significantly.

Have a habit of saving may not be easy at first, but it becomes enjoyable when you realise how much you can save on your home bills. Cutting on some of your home bills may seem insignificant at the start, but you will realise that they have contributed more to your savings.

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Ways to Save Money Painlessly

Saving money can sometimes seem to be a Herculean task. However, if you take baby steps and implement your changes over time, you might not even realize at first how much you are saving. Here is a look at a few things you can do to save money painlessly.

Get a Loan

What? How can getting a loan save you money? Think about it. How much interest are you paying on your credit cards? Now, what if you took out a short term alternative to a payday loan to pay off one of your credit cards? How much money could you be saving while you are paying off some of your debt at the same time? These loans are easy to get from places like MaxLend. All you need in order to qualify is a job that they can verify, a social security number that is valid, and a checking account that is active. You can get approved for as much as $1,250 and the funds can be deposited in your account as soon as the next business day after you have been approved. Repayment terms are flexible too.

Food

One very easy way to save money painlessly is to approach your food purchases differently. Try to pack your lunches every day with things like small snacks, fruits, and vegetables that are both cheaper and healthier than getting fast food. When you need to eat out, getting the lunchtime portions as opposed to dinner portions can save you a few bucks too. Avoid eating out when you can, though. It is always more frugal to make your own food than it is to eat out.

Banking

Did you know that you can save money by choosing your bank wisely? Look for banks that make a lot of sense to you. Some of them will have various perks that can include things like no overdraft fees, savings accounts with high interest, and no ATM fees. Banks that are smaller might offer things like better perks and interest rates. Find out what your current bank offers. If they don’t offer what you need, maybe it is time to move on to a bank that can save you more money.

Automated Saving

Setting up saving to be automatic can be the most effective and easiest ways to save money. It can put any extra funds out of your line of vision and therefore, out of your mind. Each time you get paid, you can have your employer take a certain amount out of your paycheck and then transfer it either to a savings account or a retirement account. If you want to find out more about how this works, talk to your human resources representative. Another way to do this outside of work is to have your credit union or bank transfer a set amount of money from your regular checking account over to an investment or savings account.

IDA

Is your income low? If it is, you might be able to qualify for an Investment Development Account or IDA where any money you save will be matched. How this works is that you will attend sessions for financial education and plan to save money for a business, home, or education, and in return, you will generally be matched dollar for dollar in your savings. This means that by saving only $25 of your own money each month, you could end up with more than a few hundred dollars at the end of the year.

Debt Counseling

Consumer Credit Counseling Services is typically the most readily available help you can get for managing your debt. CCCS has a network of counselors who are non–profit and can work with you judgement free and confidentially in order to assist you with things like coming up with a budget, determining what your options are, and negotiating with your creditors in order to get your debts paid off. The best part of all of this is that the counseling sessions that last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, are available with no obligations and they are free.

Have a No Spend Day

Set aside one day each week where you will not spend any money on anything. Eat at home, go to the park, whatever, as long as it is free.

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A major part of earning and saving in modern day life involves investment and wealth creation and management. This process involves purchasing bonds where you lend the issuer your finances in return for a constant return on the investment. In short, bonds are recognized as investments that give you a fixed income to you, the creditor.

The issuers can be the federal government, state or the corporations. You need to pay the interests quarterly and on the date of maturity your issuer gives you the payment levied on the principal amount of loan.

The US government issued bonds; these are known to be exceptionally safe in terms of investment. The investments coming under high risk investment category include:

• Municipal bonds
• Corporate bonds
• State issued bonds
• City issued bonds

These bonds don’t always guarantee the safety of your investments. Wealth creation undoubtedly carries some amount of risk element with it. As you purchase a bond, your interest amount gets locked and this involves the risk factor.

Locking your bonds at lower rates of interest is a better thing to do, especially, when the market rates are fluctuating. Taking your decisions on the present market conditions is very important. There are the bonds rating companies that rate different bonds as safe or high risk investments. They are rated from A to C where “A grade bonds” are considered the safest. The high yield bonds are also known as “junk bonds”. This also sends out a warning to the investor who must know about his bonds clearly before investing.

As against stocks, the bonds are traditional investment platforms and are considered a great way to give your wealth creation efforts a steady footing.

However, before investing in a bond you must understand what type of the bond it is. The government issued bonds that are identified as treasury bonds, agency bonds and agency bonds. Post issuance the rate of the bond can always fluctuate in the market.

Further the investment in your bonds must be based on your needs and the amount of risk you are ready to take. Before investing you should also learn thoroughly about the different types of bonds. For instance, the debentures are the unsecured taxable bonds. There are the mortgage bonds which most people try to avoid if they are not strongly financially secured. The Treasury Bonds are considered to be the safest as they have no credit risk.

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It’s no question that lack of money or savings can be a huge source of stress, and for the most of us it can be tough attempting to save whilst paying for the month to month necessities. We all know that savings are important not just for peace of mind but for any unplanned or unexpected expenses. However, for those with a spare personal budget this can be a great thing to utilise to start up something on the side and help bring in some extra cash to boost those savings. Whether it’s to boost that retirement fund, help clear debt or save up for that next trip, here are ideas to consider to help you get started.

1. Get creative!

For those lucky ones born creative, creativity can be a great thing to harness when looking to bring in some extra cash. From jewellery to soft furnishings to even wedding invitations, there are so many ways you can use your creativity to make money – providing you have the skillset and talent, of course! Look into any opportunities in your local community (such as craft fairs), or more effectively, research into selling online via sites such as Etsy.

2. Blogging

Despite what you may think, blogging can actually be incredibly time consuming, and so because of this it may not be for everyone. However, if you have part time or flexible work then blogging can be a great way to make money, providing you have the patience and budget to put just a little money behind it. Choose your niche, do your research into other successful blogs and having worked out your spare time, get blogging! You can even do an online blogging course for as little as $49. There are lots of hosting sites that are able to provide you with a template for a relatively small cost (even better, look for ones offering a free trial), and once people are familiar with your content, you can start hosting sponsored content or affiliate market links and make money.

3. Online trading

For those with a background (or even interest) in finance, online trading or investment can be a lucrative way to boost your savings. However, it’s imperative that you have an in depth understanding before considering this as an option. Access to the internet and a computer will be required, but once you understand the ropes you’re able to start trading with a minimal amount of capital. Look for companies that offer free trials and a ‘learn’ function (such as CMC Markets), as well as good starting rates and minimum commission. However, always remember to never invest more than you can afford to lose, otherwise this could end up jeopardizing your savings, not increasing them! This would be better to suited to someone with a larger spare personal budget.

4. Create a Vlog or YouTube Channel

If you have experience or knowledge of a particular industry that you feel would benefit others, you might consider starting a YouTube channel, with the foresight to monetise this content. If you like to share your experiences in a more visual way, then this could be a great venture for you, but bare in mind it’s important to establish whether or not your content is genuinely of relevance and interest to prospective viewers. All you have to do is be consistent in your content to get a good audience that will increase your income.

5. Become an amateur photographer

Some people take amazing photos, but would never consider monetising this talent. For good photographers, there are so many opportunities to make money, largely for stock photos. Utilise any upcoming trips and get together a portfolio of city scapes or scenery. You will, however, need to be in possession of a proper camera – not just an iPhone. Look into online markets (such as Shutterstock) that will pay you for a decent photo.

6. Freelance writing

If you’re a graduate of English or Journalism but have gone slightly off piste in your career you might want to consider freelance writing. This may be a little more time consuming that other options, so would be better suited to someone with either flexible or part time work. Start by deciding your niche and putting together a few solid samples to put out there. There aren’t may cost effective resources available to help you start out, so have a look online if any established writers offer any advice, or even free of charge courses to help you get started. Be warned though that you may have to do quite a bit of writing for free before you can start charging, so this may be more a long term option.

There are plenty other ways to make money from your spare budget, ranging from bake sales to renting your spare room to reviewing. Thinking of things to do on the side can be a great and really resourceful way to utilise your spare personal budget and boost your savings. You might even end up making more than you anticipated and save even faster than planned. If you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, then perhaps it’s time you considered other methods to help you get out of your current financial status. However, never invest too much into a side venture and be sure to do your research fully before getting started.

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Money doesn’t always flow in and out of our budgets in predictable amounts. And even though we all try to create a savings account, the reality is that at some point in time we are going to need to spend more money than we make. Hopefully, if you are living within your means, this will be a short term phenomenon that you can recover from. This post addresses a few ways to use short term loans to your advantage.

Step 1. Develop a Plan

If you are running out of money you need to realize that getting a short term loan can easily turn into a chronic long term problem. The real solution is to find a way to start getting ahead of your spending. Getting a short term loan will get you money in the near term but will make your life more difficult when it comes time to repay the loan. Review your income and expenses and do what it takes to raise one and/or lower the other.

Step 2. Find Your Loan

Shop around for a loan that will work for you. Analyze your credit and your loan options. If you have good credit, income and assets it should be easy to get any sort of traditional loan. Pay close attention to interest rates and compare your options. If you have income but bad credit you might be able to get a loan against your income. If you have a car that is paid for, you could even consider getting a short term title loan. I have used this site to find title loans near me. If none of these options work you can always hit up your friends or family for help. And in the worst case, you can stop paying the bills that aren’t secured. This would destroy your credit so you should see a credit counselor before being this drastic.

Step 3. Prevention

If you’ve taken the steps above then you’ve surely realized that the most important thing you can do now is to prevent this from happening again. It’s time to create a long term financial plan that will balance your income and spending, and that will allow you to build some savings as well as start to prepare for the long term.

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How to Quickly Finance a Foreclosure

It’s never a good thing when there are lots of foreclosures hitting the market. It means people are losing their homes and that the economy is likely in the dumps. However, where there’s misfortune sometimes a fortune can be made. I’ve had several friends invest in foreclosures and discovered that there are more ways than you’d think to quickly finance a foreclosure.

Traditional Mortgage. Of course, if you have the time (not at an auction) and the house is in good enough shape to meet the traditional mortgage guidelines, you can get a traditional mortgage. The good news is that this is usually the lowest interest rate you can find. The bad news is that this type of loan takes the longest to secure.

Home Equity Loan. This type of loan is only available to those that have a lot of equity built up in another real estate investment, but it does have its advantages. Home equity loans are fast and somewhat easy to obtain, and they offer rates close to those of traditional mortgages.

Bridge Loans. A bridge loan is another alternative. Its possible to get a fast bridging loan approved and funded within a few days. The disadvantage is that you’ll have to pay a higher interest rate than for a traditional loan.

Hard Money Loans. A hard money loan is similar to a bridge loan, but instead of financing it through a traditional lender the money comes from a hard money lender. Hard money lenders require a lower loan to value and usually charge a higher interest rate than other loans.

Credit Cards. If the foreclosed property is cheap enough, you can use cash advances from your credit cards to pay for the property. While this isn’t typically recommended, it actually makes sense in some scenarios.

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Six Common Budget Mistakes

American culture is inextricably tied with capitalism, materialism and debt. It seems that no matter how hard individuals and households try to save money and manage their finances well, financial security is elusive to most. Seventy-seven percent of American adults surveyed said that they are “always trying to save money,” yet out of the 47% of US households who have credit card debt, the average amount owed is $14,517. So why does such a discrepancy exist? Maybe their methods of financial management need reexamination. Here are six of the most common budgeting mistakes that Americans make every day.

1. Not living within your means. If you spend more than you make, you will eventually have nothing, and then you will have less than nothing. When you have less than nothing, everything is more expensive because you borrow to buy it. A budget is crucial; it doesn’t have to be precise to the penny and it doesn’t have to be complicated, but you need to know how much you make, how much you spend and how you spend it. When you start to have money left at the end of the month, save it!

2. Not saving for emergencies. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you are unprepared to handle non-routine expenses which are, statistically speaking, guaranteed to happen eventually. Something as simple as an unexpected week off work to care for a sick family member, a little fender-bender or an appliance that suddenly bites the dust becomes a catastrophe if you don’t have some savings to cover the immediate costs. Without savings, people use cash-advance services or credit cards, which will both cost far more in the long run with interest and other fees. Such situations often lead to a slippery slope of debt. One of the easiest ways to save is to have money taken directly from your paycheck to a savings account so that your savings can grow consistently.

3. Buying more car and house than you need. A car is a depreciating asset; the longer you own it, the less value it has. If you borrow money to pay for it, as most buyers do, you’re paying interest on a depreciated asset. If you need personal transportation to and from work, an SUV or large truck is much more car than you need, and it will be more expensive to buy, fuel and maintain. Unless you need it for towing or hauling power, you don’t need it. The same mentality applies to housing. A bigger house is not always better. While you need sufficient space for living, the rest is just extra. A bigger house means a higher mortgage payment each month, while if you bought a house just big enough for your needs, you could pay it off sooner and save money in interest as well. Factor in higher property taxes, maintenance and the time it takes to keep all that space clean and organized, and that McMansion suddenly looks a lot less appealing.

4. Paying again and again. Maintaining subscriptions, services and membership fees is like giving a retail store money when you walk in the door regardless of whether you actually buy anything. If you don’t watch most of the channels in your cable package, visit the gym just once a month or barely skim the magazines that arrive in the mailbox, why pay for them? Rethink whether you are still interested in the service; if so, consider other less expensive ways to achieve the same end. If not, just cancel it already!

5. Treating investing as a game. Fact: you can’t maximize returns on stocks simply by “timing the market” or suddenly “getting lucky” and having one of your obscure stocks become the next big thing. The stock market is not a slot machine or a lottery. Trying to make a quick buck in the short term by constantly buying and selling will earn you a headache and stress but probably not profits. Be rational in your investing; a solid portfolio will have both high-risk and low-risk assets working over time to build wealth.

6. Not checking your credit score. Your credit score is a number that will determine interest rates on car loans, home mortgages and insurance. The quality of your score could cost or save you thousands in the long run, so why wouldn’t you want to know it and maximize it? The three credit rating agencies –Equifax, Experian and Transunion- are each required to provide you with a free report once per year. Check the report carefully for clerical mistakes that could harm your credit score. The report is also a straightforward way to detect and stop fraud before it causes irreparable damage. This simple check performed just a few times each year can save you money and hassle in the long term.

Since the recession began, Americans have been learning – almost always the hard way –the value of thrift, the problem with keeping up with the Joneses, and the necessity of saving for emergencies. Saving money doesn’t have to be a full-time job itself, but it does take discipline and conscientiousness. This list is not a complete how-to for saving, but it provides key points to begin tackling your individual financial problems. After all, the first step of any process is the hardest.

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Help For Shopaholics

Do you suffer from oniomania? The term comes from the Greek words onios and mania, meaning “for sale” and “insanity” respectively. The condition is better known as compulsive buying or being a “shopaholic.” Almost everyone overspends occasionally or buys on impulse, but for many the spending is truly out of control, ruining their financial health and steadily building debt. Those who spend to alleviate negative emotions like anger, sadness or disappointment, those who get an adrenaline rush from spending money, and those who consistently buy more than they intended may be compulsive shoppers. Social and cultural conditions reinforce such behaviors. Magazines, TV, movies and other media glorify “retail therapy” and blur the distinction between needs and wants. Credit cards give consumers easy access to money they don’t have. Advertisements are everywhere we turn, and shopping isn’t limited to a physical store location; you can buy from your computer, TV or Smartphone. You can even shop during a flight! Conditions may encourage you to shop ‘til you drop but offer no help or dealing with the debt that follows. Break the destructive spending habits and splurge no more with these easy, creative tricks.

Avoiding Temptation
No one has superhuman willpower. The best way to avoid giving in to temptation is to avoid encountering it. Switch the channel away from home shopping networks and stop browsing store websites or one-stop online shopping like Amazon or eBay. Don’t window shop, or if you are going to do it, do it after hours. Recycle catalogs that come in the mail or, better yet, call customer service and unsubscribe. Discount and dollar stores can also present pitfalls; it’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. Since credit card usage often facilitates excessive spending, put your plastic somewhere else. Keep it in a file with your statements so you can’t use it without seeing the balance. Give it to your spouse or partner so that you must justify each purchase to someone else. Having a support system in place will also help you stick to your goals. As a last resort, consider freezing your cards in a block of ice. Waiting for it to melt gives you time to rethink your purchase.

Taking Control
Good news: you don’t have to quit cold turkey. Set aside a specific amount each month for shopping. You won’t feel deprived, and you will actually appreciate your purchases more when they are fewer and more thoughtful. If you’re shopping for little extras, donate one item to charity for every item that you buy. This trick helps you consider what you already have that is similar or maybe better than what you are buying. If you overspend on little items a few dollars at a time, make a list before shopping and stick to it.

Press Pause
Controlling an impulse of any kind requires creating space between the trigger and your response. Like hitting the pause button, you need to be able to stop and consider your reaction. Try the two-day rule: if you must have it, wait two days. If it’s really great you can go back and get it, but chances are you will forget about it as soon as you leave the store. A personalized credit card sleeve with an inspirational quote or picture to remind you why you’re saving also helps you stop and think before you buy. If you’re home and the urge to go shopping hits, sit down and make two lists: ten things you would like to do but never have the time and ten things you would like to do but you never have the money. Consider all these ways you would rather spend your time and money. Make a plan to do one of the things on your list, and you’ll find much more fulfillment that you would by shopping.

Satisfy the Craving (Safely)
You really can keep the fun in shopping while keeping more money in your wallet. Your friends and family can be a great help in this area. Shop with a friend who is also trying to save money and both can act as a reality check for each other.

Instead of buying new, check out local thrift stores and garage sales. The variety and uniqueness of what you’ll find is a shopper’s dream, and the prices are a fraction of the retail price for the same items. Most items are like new or gently used; some items still have store tags (maybe from another shopaholic who couldn’t resist something he or she didn’t need). Many thrift stores also support philanthropy or local charities: Goodwill, one of the most widely known, supports employment and job training programs. The Society of St Vincent de Paul also uses proceeds for works of charity.

Act as a personal shopper for someone who recently changed jobs and needs a new wardrobe or moved and wants to redecorate the new place. You can help them browse, compare, choose and buy without spending a dime, and they will appreciate the shopping help and the second opinion on their purchases.

If you shop with friends for the social experience or if your friends are shopaholics too, host a clothing swap. Everyone brings clothing or other items they no longer use or want and set them on “display.” Guests barter and make trades until all are satisfied with their “purchases.” Everyone gets to clear out the closets and goes home with “new” items. Donate leftover items to charity.

If There Is A Will, There Is A Way
By incorporating these strategies; avoiding any instances that you would be tempted, taking control of your money and money spending habits, pausing before you purchase and making any purchase you do make safe, you will indefinitely lose the title of shopaholic. Not to mention, thousands of other people who are suffering from being shopaholics will have one more person to look up to.

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Common Trust Deed Questions

One of my friends was telling me about a unique debt solution that is used to help debt burdened citizens in Scotland.  I started doing some research to help answer some of my Scottish trust deed questions.  Here are some of the answers I came up with.  If I’m wrong or have missed something, feel free to add your feedback in the comment section.

What does a trust deed do?

A trust deed is set up by a third party based on your specific circumstances.  The trust deed reduces the amount of debt you owe and creates a contract between you and your creditors for you to pay back your debts over a 3-4 year period.

Who is eligible for a trust deed?

To be eligible, you have to be a Scottish citizen and demonstrate that you have more debts than you can afford.

What is the disadvantage of using a trust deed to get rid of your debt?

As far as I can tell, the main disadvantage is that your credit will be ruined for at least several years.  Other potential disadvantages would be that you could lose some of your real assets like your car or house in some situations.

Which debts does it cover?

A trust deed is a contract that only covers your unsecured debts.  If you have debts that are based on real assets – like your home or car, a trust deed will not resolve those debts.

Who enforces the contract?

A trustee is appointed to you and it is that person’s duty to make sure that you pay your contributions and that the creditors get the money that was agreed upon when the contract was entered.

Does the service cost money?  If so, how do I pay for the trust deed service?

Like any service, it costs money to enter into this contract.  Hopefully the money you save will more than offset the costs of the service.  Fortunately, the costs are part of the contract and the service fees come out of the contributions you make to the trust.

Can I get out of a trust deed contract?

Probably not.  You are obligated to pay the agreed upon contract payments. If you stop payment or go into default the trustee has the right to freeze your bank accounts and perhaps sequester you to the courts for resolution.

How is the trust deed payment calculated?

The amount of money that you can afford to pay is calculated by looking at your income and then subtracting the payments from all of the secured debts that you owe.  The amount that is left over is used to compute how much you can afford to pay each month.

Any other questions or answers you’d like to know?

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Why Government Budgeting is a Joke

Government budgeting is a joke!  Now that the latest government shutdown is taking place and everyone is up in arms, it seems like an appropriate time to share a few thoughts about how ridiculous government budgeting has become.

For starters, no matter which side of the political divide you’re on, you probably agree that Washington has gotten out of control ridiculous.  If not, then you probably haven’t been paying attention.  Without trying to take sides, I’m going to point out a few comparisons between a business budget, a household budget and the government budget.  When I’m done, please feel free to agree or disagree.  You can always make an argument for or against these points, but I hope you find them interesting and thought provoking.

There are No Rules in the Government Budget

The first thing about the government’s budgeting that is ridiculous is that there are no rules.  What I mean is that, normally, if you own or work for a business your budget is tied to your income and to your bottom line.  The goal of a budget is to make sure you are profitable at the end of the day.  The rule is that over the long term, you will eventually get out of debt and run your company in the black.  The same can be said for a household budget.  While you may get behind some times, the general rule is that you spend less than you earn, or at least close.  For the government, they don’t see things like that at all!

First of all, the government spends somewhere in the range of two dollars for every dollar it earns.  No budget can ever work under these circumstances.  Just imagine if you did that at home, or your business took that approach.  In the past, the government was run with much smaller deficits, but the short term outlook by members over the past several decades have completely disregarded any of the historical rules that drive traditional budgeting.

No one addresses the solution!

It’s clear that government spending is out of control.  If my household spending was out of control, I’d find out how I could reduce it and take any necessary steps to improve it.  The government, on the other hand, when they have a chance to pass a budget that can reduce their expenses and deficit, completely ignores the situation and instead passes a law that allows the government to take on more debt.  Think about how ridiculous this methodology is!  If I continually spent double my income every year and took the government approach, I would end up getting a new loan each year to cover my overspending.  Instead of addressing the problem (low income, high expenses) they instead raise the amount of money they can borrow.  Can you say “house of cards”!

Entitlement Syndrome is Now Widespread

Even if the government could get their act together, I’m not sure it would matter.  That’s because the average voter, or the average American, has gotten so used to fat government that they now feel entitled.  That’s right, I said it.  But think about it, every time you look out your window and see a road in disrepair, a streetlight that doesn’t work, or a park that is in dissarray, what is your first thought?  That someone should fix it.  That someone is big government.  Also, think about what goes through most voters minds when they are voting.  If they are given the option of the government paying for more of their needs or less, where will they vote?  And of course there are also the big abusers of the government programs.  The people using welfare to buy drugs.  Many of the nearly 20% of Americans claiming disability (compared to less than 4% 4 years ago).  Or those unwilling to look for a job because they can get what they need for free.  While some of these are a bit on the extreme side, I hope that most would agree that entitlements are a big part of the problem with government budgeting.

That’s all I have for now.  I apologize this wasn’t written with a great outline and with better organization, but I’ve been falling behind in posting on this budgeting blog and wanted to put something out there that may generate some thought.

Leave us your comments – good or bad – about what you think about government budgeting.

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Methods Of Saving For College Early On

If you’re already worried about paying for college while you’re still buying diapers, there’s help for that. You can start saving now, and you can do more than putting your change in a jar with clip art of a mortarboard taped to it. Here are a few ways to get started now.

Use a 529 Plan to Save for College Early

The 529 college savings plan, named for the section of tax code that outlines the plan, is a way to put money aside for your child’s college education and take advantage of a few tax benefits to do so. Most 529 plans are sponsored by a state, but in general you can enroll in any 529 regardless of what state you or the beneficiary lives in. There are “direct-sold” plans available for anyone or “advisor-sold” plans provided through financial advisors.

A 529 plan is a tax-deferred savings account, giving it an edge over putting the money in an ordinary savings account and earmarking it for college expenses. Withdrawals are also tax-free as long as they are used for qualified educational expenses. Many states offer additional incentives with a 529 plan, most commonly a deduction on your state income taxes so you may want to find a tax calculator to determine that. In addition, individuals can contribute up to $13,000 per year without incurring a gift tax, and those married, filing jointly can give $26,000 per year with no gift tax. There are no income restrictions and you can open a 529 plan with as little as $25, so it is accessible and affordable to anyone.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

A Coverdell ESA is a savings account designated for the beneficiary’s educational expenses, similar to a 529. One important difference is that the per year contribution limits are much lower – up to $2,000 per year- and the allowable amount depends on the individual’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Multiple Coverdell ESA accounts may be established for one beneficiary, but the total amount contributed each year cannot exceed $2,000 or the amount allowed based on MAGI. In both Coverdell ESA and 529 accounts, the money does not belong to the beneficiary but rather to the account holder, an important distinction to increase financial aid eligibility, since parents are generally expected to contribute 6% of their assets versus the 35% of the child’s assets. In addition, the account owner can change the beneficiary of the account without penalty if the new beneficiary is an eligible family member of the original beneficiary.

Qualified education expenses for a Coverdell ESA are not limited to postsecondary education but also include any K-12 educational expenses, making it ideal for those hoping to send children to a particular school that might otherwise be financially out of reach. The Coverdell ESA also has an age limit, while most 529 plans do not; the balance of the Coverdell ESA must be disbursed on qualified expenses before the beneficiary reaches age 30. If not, the remainder is subject to additional taxes and penalties.

Save for College Early With Upromise

Socking away cash for college far in the future can be especially difficult for those struggling to make ends meet now. Instead, you can save for college by earning rewards on regular everyday purchases. Upromise is an account you can set up to earn cash back when you shop at partner stores, including many grocery stores, drugstores, clothing retailers and hundreds of online retailers. Sign up with a credit or debit card, use that card to pay for eligible purchases and automatically earn 2-10%, small amounts that add up to something big. In addition, you can invite family and friends to link to your account and contribute cash back on their purchases.
The money from your Upromise account can be disbursed into a 529 or high-yield savings account. When the time comes, you can use the account to pay tuition or request a check to use for living expenses.

Save for College With a 401K

Perhaps the wisest choice for parents hoping to provide an education for their children is to invest in their retirement. Many adults are just beginning to really think about the financial reality of retirement when their children are preparing to leave the nest. Colleges do not count retirement savings when evaluating a family’s ability to pay for a college education, and a parent who hasn’t started saving for retirement early will have to play catch-up in later years, making it more difficult to support a college student’s tuition and living expenses. Most companies offer some level of matching funds to employees who direct-deposit a portion of each paycheck into their 401(k). If you’re not saving the maximum amount that the company will match, you’re giving up free money. Regular savings into your own retirement account will help ensure your own financial stability and put you in a better position to assist your child in covering the costs of higher education.

Paying for college is a constant worry for many students and their families. Ever-increasing tuition feeds fears of being “priced out” of an education and the chance for a personally fulfilling and financially substantial career. Advanced planning is key; financial stability has to precede college savings, but the two are not mutually exclusive. There are options for those in all income brackets to help students prepare for college, financially at least. The rest is up them.

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5 Reasons to Start a Budget

The term budget can send a chill down the spine of the average consumer. We like to think that our paychecks will accommodate our basic needs as well as our hobbies and personal interests. This belief runs hard against the realities of a slow economy where people have to work multiple jobs just to stay afloat. Creating a personal or household budget might seem like a big deal but the process is simplified when thinking about legitimate reasons to manage earnings.

A great reason to start a budget is to keep more of your weekly pay. Imagine how much money the average person spends on snacks, coffee, and other frivolous items. Each purchase might be a dollar or two but these dollars add up when purchases are made each day. These purchases along with poor decisions on major purchases like health insurance and transportation can eat into take-home pay. You can hold onto more of your money by creating a reasonable budget for your monthly income.

Your weekly, monthly or annual budget can anticipate unforeseen problems that we all experience. We don’t often think that our cars will break down until a tire goes flat or engine gives out. An unexpected medical or legal expense can be devastating for anyone who doesn’t have an emergency fund. A lost job without savings means a cycle of loans and credit card usage that leads to heavy debt down the road. An effective budget sets aside money each paycheck to anticipate these problems.

Individuals and couples looking to move up from their current economic status find budgeting very beneficial. You can use a household budget to set money aside for renovations or repairs to an older home. A budget is useful for anyone who has a steady job and is looking to purchase a condo or home instead of renting an apartment. Your budget might be used to balance monthly expenses with tuition bills for a first college degree or graduate school. Budgeting your paychecks can also make room for a down payment or monthly payments on a new vehicle.

Another good reason to start a budget is to anticipate the high costs of raising kids. New parents might be aware generally of expenses created when raising kids but they don’t realize these expenses until they have children. The combined costs of healthcare, clothing, food, education, and entertainment can dig deep into parents’ pockets. A smart move for aspiring parents is to spend some time before having children sticking to a reasonable budget that accounts for the aforementioned costs. This budgeting warm-up allows parents to get comfortable with expenses and set money aside early in the process.

The ability to retire after decades in the workplace also depends on budgeting. Potential issues with Social Security payments as well as dwindling pension opportunities offered by employers means that workers have to take retirement planning into their own hands. An effective method for budgeting for retirement is to assume that 401(k) and Social Security payouts won’t be around. This approach means that a retiree will have a safety net in this doomsday scenario but should have a sizable nest egg in more realistic scenarios.

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How I Budget at My Business

For those of you that don’t know me, I have been working as a financial analyst for the past year.  I am working at a $250 million fitness equipment manufacturer, and as part of my job I am responsible for creating a massive budget that is used to hold all departments accountable for their spending and revenue goals.  While I won’t go into all the details, there are steps that we take to get the end result – a completed business budget.

The business budgeting process begins several months before the budget needs to be finalized.  That’s because it takes a lot of time to get each manager to give their feedback on the budget.  After all, their top goals aren’t budgeting and they often see it as more of a nuisance.  Also, there is a lot of time spent doing multiple reiterations of the budget that are also very time consuming.  In the end, you need to get both top management and every last employee to buy into the numbers if you want it to work.

We start the budgeting process by getting the sales and expense forecasts from each department manager.  This takes a couple of weeks.  The best way to get managers to comply is to give them an easy to understand template that you can easily incorporate into your final budget template.  Of course you should offer to sit down with anyone that wants your help or requires any explanations of how to forecast or budget.  Also, you should give guidelines for them to follow.  In my case, I give them last year’s numbers and some guidance as to how they should approach this year.  For example, you may be experiencing a slowdown in sales and you need managers to reduce costs year over year.  Or maybe, you have lots of growth in the forecast so you want to stress the items needed to reach that growth.  Whatever the end goal of your budget, you should give as much guidance to the managers as you can.

Of course there are two sides to a budget.  The business budget that management wants, which always includes higher sales and higher profitability.  And then there’s the budget the sales department wants, which has sales that they can exceed (higher commissions) and much higher spending than the year before.  That brings us to the next part of the budget process.  Gathering the information and finding middle ground.  As a budget analyst, you need to try to bridge the gap between all involved parties.  That means finding out the final requirements of executive management and using negotiation and a higher starting point to get both sides to agree.

After you’ve gotten all the information you need its time to build the budget model to include everything and summarize the overall budget.  Many companies do this in Excel.  Our company uses a hosted software solution known as Adaptive Planning.  In the Adaptive Planning Budget Software, each revenue and expense line item is entered once.  It is entered directly into the cost center or profit center that it occurs.  Profit and cost centers are typically the same as departments.  For example, there is a profit center for sales (they have profit) and there is a cost center for Finance and HR (they have only costs).  Profit centers also have cost centers assigned to them, but for the most part I hope you can get the idea.

In our budgeting program, we can save multiple versions of the budget and it will automatically summarize and report the data as it is changed real time.  In Excel, you would have to just save different versions and create the summary pages that you desire.

The next step is to have the executive management team review the budget.  They will provide feedback as to where you need to increase, decrease, align, improve or reduce something, and you can then circle back to the manager of that area and further negotiate the required changes.

When this process is done, the business budget you’ve just completed can be finalized and then used to track all of your business metrics such as revenue goals, expenses, shipping rates, etc. – that is until the next budget is due.  Hopefully you only have to do your business’s budget once a year.

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How to Budget for the Holidays

Many people struggle with how much money to spend during the holidays.  Making a holiday or Christmas budget is a great way to help you control costs during these times.  What people don’t understand is that a holiday budget includes much more than just presents.  Let’s take a closer look at the things you should look at when making a budget for the holidays.

Quantify Your Holiday Budget.  This is something most people already do.  For example, our family sets a dollar amount per person for buying gifts.  Some families set an overall dollar amount to make their holiday budget.  This is the part that most people do, but this is also the place where most people go wrong. Budgets get out of control mostly because people spend more on gifts, buy gifts for more people, or don’t take into account the other ways that they spend money for the holidays.  Here are some of the other spending that you should include in your budget.

Presents and Gifts.  Gifts are one of the larger expenses for many families.  Most people start with a ballpark budget for gifts and then, as the holiday gets closer, they get excited and outspend their gift allotment.  In my case, when I struggle finding a gift for someone, my tendency is to increase the price range.  Also, I’ve gotten into trouble some years when I started buying gifts for people like teachers, mailmen or friends.  Keep your gift giving simple and set hard and fast budgets and you can help reduce overspending.

budgeting for the holidaysFood.  Food is sometimes the biggest expense for some families and is often overlooked when creating a holiday budget.  Not only do people splurge on buying treats and exotic foods, but people tend to go out to eat more often during the holiday season.  Also, when it comes to Christmas parties and other events, it’s easy to drop a few hundred dollars on food for a party that you don’t even consider a holiday expense.

Decorations.  Don’t forget to include decorations, lights, flowers, Christmas trees and ornaments as part of your holiday budget.  These costs can add up quite a bit if you don’t budget for them properly.

Christmas Cards.  Sending out holiday cards can be very costly.  Especially if you make custom cards and have a big list.  The stamp price alone is nearly $50 for every hundred you send.

Things You Buy Because You’re In a Good Mood.  I find that when I am out holiday shopping and enjoying all of the decorative shopping malls and store displays, that I am more likely to spend money.  I feel like the holiday itself is a way to justify spending more money.  Try not to let this happen and you can help save your budget.

Going Overboard.  As the holiday gets closer and you see your kids excitement levels rising, don’t go overboard.  Don’t try to outdo the gifts you gave your girlfriend or spouse last year.  Going overboard can end up costing you more money every year, because expectations get set and you can’t afford to disappoint.

Do you have some tricks that help you stay on budget during the holidays?  Please share them if you do.

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25 Ways to Save Money

In difficult economic times, we all spend considerable time figuring out how to make our paychecks last longer without giving up essentials. Earning additional money can be difficult when part-time jobs are unavailable and temporary positions are too fleeting for reliable earnings. Your family can develop a checklist of 25 methods of saving money that can turn pennies into dollars over time. An important step toward saving money is to think about every purchase made on a daily basis and determine whether that purchase is important.

An easy way to save money is to cut down on expensive food purchases. You can pack lunches each day with affordable fruits, vegetables and small snacks that are more affordable per item than fast food. On occasions where dining out is required, choosing lunch rather than dinner portions equals a few dollars saved per meal. Another cost-saving tip is to create burritos, soups, and other items that can be frozen and enjoyed later when you don’t feel like making dinner. The best bet when saving money on food is to always make food rather than paying for the convenience of fast-food or casual dining restaurants.

Apparel, shoes, and fashion accessories can be costly for tight budgets. The latest fashions might seem out of reach but a few shrewd moves can yield an affordable wardrobe. A trip through the local secondhand store might highlight dress shirts, pants, and accessories donated by people moving out of the area. You can shop at your favorite retailer but simply wait after new releases to find shoes, underwear, and other apparel on clearance. As one season moves into the next, you can often find past releases as clearance items discounted 25% to 75% off initial prices. Families can keep kids clothes if they anticipate new members of the family or to swap with neighbors. You can also arrange a clothing swap with your friends and family to share fashions without spending a dime.

A few sensible changes to your household routine can also contribute to greater savings. Your heating and air conditioning system can rack up high costs during temperature extremes. You should lower your heating and air conditioning when out of the house while keeping use moderate when at home. The electric bill can be reduced by planning your laundry and dishwashing routine. A fully loaded dishwasher or washing machine is more cost-efficient than a hastily filled machine. Families with ample backyard space can grow their own fruits, vegetables and spice to avoid costly trips to the grocery store. This abundance can be shared regularly during potlucks with friends and neighbors that cut food costs for everyone. It is also possible to reuse plastic bags, bottles, and jars in the future, which cuts down on waste as well as the costs of storage products.

Commuting to work is not only wasteful in terms of time but gas money and tolls where applicable. These costs are felt not only by employees but employers that send out couriers, sales people, and other staff. You should consider public transportation options in your area to save fuel and avoid wear and tear on your vehicle. This review might yield ride-share schemes, commuter buses, and other services that are more affordable than commuting costs. Another approach is to ask your employer if your work could be done through telecommuting rather than driving to the office. Major corporations have been allowing IT professionals to telecommute for years and many tasks can be completed from home computers.

The workplace can produce major expenses for the average employee who feels a need to develop camaraderie with colleagues. You should consult with co-workers to reduce costs from birthday parties, group lunches, and other events. For example, a birthday lunch with gifts at a local restaurant could be an office potluck with a modest limit on gifts. You can also adopt cost-saving methods from the workplace in your personal life. These practices range from reducing printing costs by using electronic documents to shutting off lights when you walk out of a room.

You need not eliminate fun from your life when trying to save money. Most communities offer free concerts, festivals, and public events designed to attract broad audiences. These programs might be hosted at local colleges or high schools, providing educational elements to your entertainment. Your local library not only offers the latest books but magazines, CDs, and DVDs at no charge. The added benefit of using the library is that greater use will lead to higher funding for new acquisitions that keep users happy. You can also trade books, movies, and music with friends and co-workers to stay entertained on a budget.

A major cost for many families is the monthly expenses for cable television. Quickly glancing at your monthly cable bill might show unnecessary expense based on your programming tier. You should consider reducing your cable package at least one tier if possible to save a few dollars each month. You might be able to negotiate free premium channels or reduced rates on higher tiers when speaking with your customer service representative. Movie fans likewise might not like missing their favorite films as they reach theaters but second-run theaters offer affordable tickets for recently released movies. These theaters often sell tickets at least 50% cheaper than first-run theaters.

These cost-cutting tips should equal money saved even after a few weeks. You should focus on how to put aside this money to highlight the value of saving. A change jar where coins and bills can be placed each day will fill up quickly to reward thrifty behavior. The 52 Week Challenge requires participants to save $1 in the first week and add a dollar to each week’s savings for an entire year. This popular savings method equals a total haul of $1,400 for the faithful participant. You can also focus on more conventional savings methods like a basic savings account that will accrue relatively low interest over time. As you use these various cost-cutting methods, the amount you deposit in this account should rise each month.

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Get That Discount: How To Negotiate A Sale

If you get sticker shock from something you want but can’t afford, think again. Many prices are negotiable given the right setting, and you may be able to get what you want for less.

  1. Just Ask

Many people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about it, but negotiating a price really benefits both parties. A salesperson would rather make a sale at a lower price than none at all, and you get what you want for less. Practice your skills often to increase your comfort level. Garage sales and flea markets are a great place to start. Once you feel confident, go for a better deal on your next big-ticket item such as an appliance, electronic equipment, furniture, hotel stay or car rental. The simplest path to a discount begins by asking “Can you do any better on the price?”  You can also ask if any markdowns or promotions will begin soon, and you may be able to buy at that price if the seller fears you won’t make a second trip back later.

  1. Be Casual

If you really want a particular item, don’t let the seller know. Your willingness to decline an item if the price is too high gives you negotiating power. If the seller thinks you will pay a high price, he or she will insist on a high price. Give the impression that you are just browsing and picked up something that caught your eye.  Say “It’s nice, but I can take it or leave it.” Show hesitation about the purchase; a long pause as though you’re having difficulty deciding will usually push the seller to offer a better price or add something extra to the deal. If the seller doesn’t budge, do walk away. There’s a chance they’ll chase you to offer a better price.

  1. Knowledge is Power

Research the typical price for the item you want. Knowing the going rate enables you to spot the markup that less informed customers would pay without question.  You can also use a competitor’s price to negotiate. Retailers hate to see a sale walk out and take their business elsewhere, so knowing that a customer is already looking elsewhere gives them incentive to make the sale at a better price.

  1. Pay Cash

For an independently owned business, paying with cash instead of plastic could net a discount. Processing a credit card costs the business, and checks take time to clear along with the risk of a bad check. Cash is better than inventory, so the upfront payment also gives you negotiating power, especially if you have cash but are just a few dollars short of having the sticker price.

  1. Be Patient

Salespeople are trained to control a sale. Be friendly but firm and stay focused on the price. Negotiation takes patience, and the side with more of it will get the better end of the deal. If a salesperson says he or she doesn’t have the authority, ask for a manager.

Remember that grocery stores, discount stores and large chains may not be willing to negotiate price, so don’t waste your time and theirs. Be friendly and stay confident and you will be able to negotiate like a seasoned shopper in no time.

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Save Money By Doing It Your Self

To Do It Yourself Or Not To Do It Yourself?

Are you a do-it-yourself type? Do you aspire to be? With the increased specialization of labor in today’s workforce, the character of the jack-of-all-trades handyman is disappearing. You may want to save money on a job by doing it yourself, but is it always cheaper? Even if it costs less, will the savings be worth the time you spent on it? Several factors can help determine whether you should tackle the challenge or stick to what you know and leave the rest to the pros.

Do you have the skills?

Do you know what the project requires, or could you learn by doing a little research? Are you prepared for unexpected complications with the project? There are plenty of resources out there for those who are willing to learn, but some skills require experience, practice and finesse that you won’t learn in a week. Also consider if you would be proud of the job you did yourself, or if you would rather trust

Do you have the tools?

Once you have the skills, you need the equipment for the job. If you have the equipment or can borrow it from a friend or neighbor, then you can go ahead with confidence. However, if you have to buy all new power tools for the job and you only use them once, the project will probably cost you a lot more overall than if you had hired a professional.

Do you have the time?

Will you be able to complete the project just working nights and weekends or taking a few vacation days off work to finish it? If you have great enthusiasm starting a project and your motivation wanes as time goes on, a do-it-yourself job may turn into a half-finished nuisance you’d rather be rid of. Before starting, estimate a best case, worst case and most likely case for how long the project will take. If it seems likely to take more time than you can reasonably commit, outsourcing is best.

Is there danger involved?

There are some situations in which the potential danger far outweighs the potential benefits of doing the job yourself. Some work that you should never do yourself unless you are a professional in the field: electrical repairs, plumbing, asbestos removal, gas appliance repair and roofing. Safety always comes first, and an expert will do the job correctly without risking injury or damage to your home.

Is it worth the time?

How do you value your time? Is the task something you would enjoy doing yourself, or are there other ways you would rather spend your time and resources? Consider the time you would spend as hiring yourself. Put a monetary value on your time, a cost per hour for your time. Compare the cost estimate from a professional to the hours required for you to do it yourself. Considering the numbers along with less tangible factors will help you feel confident in your decision.

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Eight Everyday Items Worth The Extra Dollar

The classic conundrum: when shopping, do you seek to spend or search for savings? Is it always true that “you get what you pay for”? While you can sometimes find a great product for a lower price, often a lower price means less durability, reliability and value. There are three basic rules of thumb for products worth spending the extra dollar. If it is used daily, you will almost definitely notice a difference in quality and wear over time. If it is a big-ticket item, something you buy only once every few years and costs a lot of money, you might lose money buying two or three cheaper products over the lifetime of one higher quality option. Lastly, if a breakdown or malfunction would be inconvenient, choosing the cheapest option incurs risk that you don’t need. Think of the dishwasher that breaks and floods the kitchen or the car that breaks down in the middle of the family road trip. Here are 8 everyday items worth the extra dollar.

Cookware

If you enjoy cooking at home, you need good quality pots, pans, kitchen knives and other utensils. If you don’t cook often, quality cookware will make cooking simpler and the results better tasting. Pots and pans with a copper bottom heat more evenly than cheaper counterparts so that food cooks more evenly and burns less easily. A good block set of knives will include every type of knife you will need in the kitchen, last longer than cheap cutlery and require less maintenance.

Weather appropriate clothing

If you live in a climate where temperatures are below freezing from November to March, a quality winter jacket is worth the investment. In order to really stay warm, a down jacket, wool coat or waterproof shell with fleece lining is a must. Retail for such a coat ranges from one hundred to several hundred dollars. Same goes for warmer climates; you’ll be glad you splurged on lightweight, breathable clothing for the added comfort. Clothing designed to keep you cool with synthetic fibers will be much more comfortable than a standard cotton t-shirt.

Living Room Furniture

Furniture is a big-ticket item that you will probably own for 5-10 years. Since it will probably be used often, it makes sense to pay more for comfortable furniture that will last. You will feel the difference, and so will your family and friends. You only want the best for them too, right?

Bed and Bedding

Your daily health and energy level largely depends on the quality of your sleep. A more expensive mattress is often the better value simply because it will outlive a cheaper mattress and last about ten years, not to mention the better sleep quality. Can you put a price on a good night’s sleep?

Bag

Do you carry stuff every day? Is the way you carry it comfortable? If not, you could be causing yourself unnecessary muscle aches and back pain. Students with backpacks often carry heavy loads and depend on one backpack for several years. Since backpacks are often tossed, dropped, overloaded, and carried everywhere, backpacks made of cheap materials won’t do the job. Comfort is also key, so durable materials and thick, well-padded straps are requirements. Consider also the inconvenience if your bag rips on the way to class. You have to find a new way to carry books, supplies and possibly a laptop for the day, then shop for a new backpack as soon as possible. For those in the white-collar world, a leather briefcase or attaché case is more reliable, durable and professional than a cheaply made cloth bag.

Your Car

An unreliable car is both costly and inconvenient. If you have a long daily commute, both comfort and reliability become especially important. The right vehicle depends on each individual’s needs and wants, so a more expensive car may or may not be “better” for everyone. Bottom line: don’t choose a car based on its prices. There is an extraordinary variety and potential for customization in automobiles, so know your own wants and needs, find a car that suits you and forget the rest.

Home Appliances

The idea is simple; a more efficient washer will save money in energy and water usage over time. But how long will it take to recoup the higher cost? An Energy-Star certified washer uses 14 gallons of water per load versus the 27 gallons that a traditional model uses. At EnergyStar.gov calculators for appliances, lighting and electronics can give you a detailed overview of savings from increased efficiency. Since washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and the like are large, costly and (hopefully) durable goods, high quality pays for itself in savings and convenience of not having to replace it frequently.

Entertainment

If your TV is a silent fixture of your living room and speaks only in the voices of news anchors and weather forecasters, the most basic of television sets will work for you just fine. However, if you avidly follow sports televised sports, love movie nights or host parties to watch a popular TV series, you’ll enjoy the bigger, better electronics every time you turn on the tube. Same goes for the home stereo system; for those who really enjoy quality sound, the difference between the high end and the bargain is the difference between the New York Philharmonic and your preteen’s school band concert.

Toss-up: A Cell Phone

This comes with a disclaimer. A broken cell phone is a hassle; personal and professional contacts wonder why you suddenly stopped responding while you do your best to find other means of communication. A durable phone means you may not have to rush to replace a broken one but instead upgrade when you choose. It is important to have a cell phone that really suits your needs, so if your phone is your right-hand man – figuratively as well as literally – the phone that works may be worth the extra cost. However, if you prefer to carry the newest model at all times, it doesn’t make sense to splurge on a phone that you won’t be using in a year.

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