Well, we’re all reeling from our utility bills. So, what can be done to cut energy costs? Obviously, the best way to cut your utility bill is to go with a non-utility company source of energy. Solar power can be used to warm your house, while geothermal can be used to cool and heat the home. While these are great choices, there are a few simple steps you can take to cut that monstrous utility bill. Vent Covers – In most homes, there are rooms that rarely get used. A very simple and very cheap way to cut your heating costs is to isolate those rooms from the rest of your home. To do this, you should close the vents in the room. The vents, however, rarely close well. To make the strategy effective, you should buy vent covers and place them over the vents. The covers are a form of plastic and keep heat from coming out of the vents. Next, close the door to the room in question and leave it. By using this strategy, you can effectively make your home smaller by excluding the square footage that has to be heated. The smaller the area, the small the amount of money to heat the home. Windows – Windows are the single biggest energy wasters in your home. Your windows must seal tightly. If they don’t, heat will escape out of them causing your heater to fire up over and over. If you make sure your window fit tightly into the frame when closed, you can significant cut the utility bill. It sounds like a small thing, but it really ads up. Programmable Thermostat – Heating your home accounts for fifty percent of your utility bill. While a warm home is necessary for basic living in the winter, the home doesn’t need to be heated all of the time. If there are periods during the day where nobody is home because of work or school, a programmable thermostat can be used to slash your heating costs. Simply program the thermostat to turn off during the relevant time and turn back on before anyone gets home. Cutting four to eight hours off of your heating needs each day will add up quickly on your utility bill. If your utility bills are completely out of control, there is something fundamentally wrong with your home. You need to go ahead and get an Energy Audit. An auditor will come out and inspect your home. They can then identify the problem, what should be done and provide other tips to slash your bill. Depending on how bad your situation is, an energy audit can cut your utility bill by 50 percent or more. Power costs are high and expected to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Take steps to cut your utility bill now and you’ll reap the benefits for years.
Proper furnace care and smart purchases can help you reduce the high costs of heating your home. That's good news considering that energy bills-which are already historically high-are expected to continue to climb. In fact, a recent article in USA Today reported that homeowners on average will see a 25.7 percent increase in heating costs compared to a year ago. To reduce heating costs, experts say that the energy efficiency of your furnace is extremely important. According to Jim Miller of Amana brand furnaces, "Homeowners don't have much control over the price of natural gas, but they can take steps to minimize the impact of home heating costs." He offers these tips: 1. Have Your Furnace Checked. "If you haven't already done so this year, have a licensed HVAC contractor inspect your furnace now," Miller emphasized. "He can perform a safety inspection and clean your furnace so that it runs as efficiently as possible." 2. When Buying a New Furnace, Choose High-Efficiency. A furnace's efficiency is indicated by its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency percentage, or "AFUE," a measurement developed by the U. S. Department of Energy. The higher a furnace's AFUE, the more efficient it is. "Furnaces older than 15 years operate at efficiencies of approximately 60% AFUE. This means that for every dollar spent on heating costs, only 60 cents actually helps warm your home, while the remaining 40 cents is wasted. "If you were to replace that 60% AFUE furnace with a high-efficiency unit, such as the Amana brand AMV9 96% AFUE Variable-Speed Furnace, you would get 96 cents worth of warmth for every dollar you spend toward heating your home," said Miller. He added that furnaces with a variable-speed blower are even more efficient because the blowers typically require up to 75 percent less electricity than a standard motor. In addition, a furnace's blower also works with the home's cooling system, meaning consumers experience increased efficiency year-round. 3. Investigate Tax Credits for High-Efficiency Furnace Purchases. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), homeowners who purchase furnaces with an AFUE of 95% or higher in 2006 and 2007 may qualify for a tax credit of $150. And if that furnace uses a variable-speed blower, they may qualify for an additional $50 tax credit.
Whenever the school season is just around the corner, there's only one thing that parents are thinking about - the impending costs. Education is a primary right and a pertinent need of every child but it can become very costly. Availing of scholarships and education grants for your children is the best way to get them through schooling. But of course, only a small percentage of children can be given these privileges. There are simple and effective measures that parents can employ in cutting the costs of their children's schooling, especially during the back-to-school season. Most often, these measures are often taken for granted, but don't miss out! Organize and Save Keep an inventory of your children's school supplies and keep it organized. If you are not organized, you will be spending more money on replenishing your supplies. Small things like pencils and crayons may not cost too much, but if you replenish your supplies unnecessarily, you are losing valuable money. You should also try involving the kids when making the inventory. This will give them a sense of ownership for their things and would know where to take and put their things. Tax Holidays Tax holidays are often offered by many states during the back-to-school season. Price ceilings will be put on different school gears. You might want to do a little research and ask about the schedule and the details of the tax holidays in your area. Bulk Buying It's a basic economic principle - "the more you buy, the more you save". Well, this is applicable if you are buying a specific item which you will really need in the near future. In buying pencils, for example, you might want to buy a box rather than buying one for each of your kids. Face it, you will be needing to replenish these after some time, so might as well avail of the lower price by buying in bulk. Transportation You might want to consider buying your child a bicycle for him to bring to school. This, of course, is not always feasible. Finding a cheap and safe way to bring your children to school daily is an important thing. Car pools and school transportation services are options that you can look at. Snacks Whenever you have the time and energy to prepare food for your children, do so. You will not only be saving on the pocket money that you will give to them but you are also secured that your children are eating healthy and safe meals. Getting your children through school is a hard task and a costly one. Saving money through practical and simple means can assist you in this endeavor. The benefits will eventually add up to bring a brighter future to your children.
The following article covers the liabilities of fraudulent activities for credit cards, ATM cards and debit cards. Many people find it easy and convenient to use credit cards and ATM or debit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer procedures for you to use if your cards are lost or stolen. Limiting Your Financial Loss It is faster and easier to process financial transactions today than ever before. Thanks to the electronic age, check cards, debit cards, and ATM cards give us instant access to funds on deposit at the local bank or a financial institution miles away. This also provides an avenue of opportunity for thieves and scam artists to rapidly deplete our financial reserves as well. There are laws in place that provide a measure of protection from total financial ruination, but you need to be aware of your rights and responsibilities should your cards be stolen or appropriated for mischief. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) are two laws implemented on a federal level that can assist individuals targeted by the criminal element. For the laws to work properly, however, you need to invoke the protective measures by doing certain things if your cards are lost or stolen such as reporting the loss or theft promptly to the issuers. Limit Your Financial Loss As soon as you discover the loss or possible theft of your credit cards and your ATM or debit cards you must immediately notify the companies that issued the cards so they will have that fact on record and can monitor the cards for unusual activities. You can usually find toll-free numbers for the 24 hour help line on the back of the card or on your billing statement. It is a good idea to make a list of your cards, along with the account identification and the toll-free numbers, for reporting their loss. When you travel be sure to keep this information separate from the cards so you will have access to the information should you have a need to make a report while away from home. Keep a record of the companies you notified. Follow up the phone call with a letter that includes all of the pertinent information such as account number, when you noticed your card was missing, and the date you first reported the loss. As a side note, you might want to check your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it covers the liability amount you are responsible for in the case of theft. If you do not currently have such coverage, you might want to contact your insurer to include this protection in your policy. Under the Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges (FCBA) act, the maximum liability for illegal use of your credit card is $50 per card. If you report the loss before any unauthorized charges are posted you cannot be held liable for any of the charges. If the charges are made using your account number, but not the card itself, you will not be held responsible for any of the charges. The FCBA specifically says the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges and limits your loss to $50 of the charges made on the cards prior to you reporting them lost or stolen. You should always review your card billing statements for errors, but following the loss or theft of the cards you should be even more diligent. If you notice anything amiss in the statement, send a letter to the card issuer along with a description of the questionable charge. Remind them of the phone call you made and the letter you previously sent notifying them of the loss or theft of the cards. There is usually a separate address on the statement to which you will direct billing errors. Do not send the letter along with your payment unless you are directed to do so by the card company. The Electronic Fraudulent Transfer Act (EFTA) also protects you from fraudulent use of your bankcards. Federal protection from loss due to unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss. For example, if you report the loss before the card is used, the EFTA protects you from any loss. If the report is made within two business days after noticing the loss you will not be responsible for more than $50 on each card. If you fail to make a report within two business days after you discover the loss, you could be held responsible for up to $500. If you wait more than 60 days after you receive a billing statement reflecting fraudulent activity to make a report, you risk unlimited loss. For example, if you do not file a timely report on the theft of the cards, you could lose not only all of the money in the account, but also be held liable for the amount of overdraft protection you are granted. You must report unauthorized use, loss, or theft of the cards within 60 days of the mailing of your card statement or face unlimited loss. You are liable for charges made between the date of loss and the date the loss was reported. If the thief only uses your account number and not the card itself, however, you will not be held accountable for those charges. Protecting Your Cards To protect yourself against fraudulent use of your cards, you should know where they are at all times and keep them safe and secure. If your card requires a password or personal identification number (PIN), don’t write the number down so the thieves will get the code along with your cards. Do not use your address, birth date, phone or Social Security number as the PINmit the pass code to memory and don’t share the information with anyone. In addition, the following suggestions may help you protect your credit card and ATM or debit card accounts. For Credit and ATM or Debit Cards: * Do not reveal your account number over the phone unless you know you're dealing with a reputable company. * Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard. * Draw a line through blank spaces on charge or debit slips above the total so the amount cannot be changed. * Don't sign a blank charge or debit slip. * Tear up carbons and save your receipts to check against your monthly statements. * Cut up old cards - cutting through the account number - before disposing of them. * Open monthly statements promptly and compare them with your receipts. Report mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible to the special address listed on your statement for inquiries. (For more information on the federal laws regarding FCBA and EFTA, click here) * Keep a record - in a safe place separate from your cards - of your account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of each card issuer so you can report a loss quickly. * Carry with you only those cards that you anticipate you'll need. For ATM or debit cards: * Don't carry your PIN in your wallet or purse or write it on your ATM or debit card. * Never write your PIN on the outside of a deposit slip, an envelope, or other papers that could be easily lost or seen. * Carefully check ATM or debit card transactions before you enter the PIN or before you sign the receipt; the funds for this item will be fairly quickly transferred out of your checking or other deposit account. * Periodically check your account activity. This is particularly important if you bank onlinepare the current balance and recent withdrawals or transfers to those you've recorded, including your current ATM and debit card withdrawals and purchases and your recent checks. If you notice transactions you didn't make, or if your balance has dropped suddenly without activity by you, immediately report the problem to your card issuer. Someone may have co-opted your account information to commit fraud. Paying For A Registration Service There are service providers who, for an annual fee, will contact all of your credit card and ATM bank card issuers in the case of theft or loss of your cards. This service will notify the issuers and request new cards for you, but other than allowing you to make one phone call and saving you from making numerous phone calls yourself, you do not need this service. The FCBA and the EFTA allows you to contact your card issuers’ customer service department directly to notify them of the theft, loss or unauthorized use of your cards. If however, you would enjoy the convenience of a notification service to make the calls for you, be sure to compare the companies’ offer versus the fees they charge. Be sure your card issuer will work with such a service and find out if the service pays any fees if they fail to notify the card company in a timely manner and you incur charges on your card. If you decide to purchase service from a registration company, compare offers. Carefully read the contract to determine the company's obligations and your liability. For example, will the company reimburse you if it fails to notify card issuers promptly once you've called in the loss to the service? If not, you could be liable for unauthorized charges or transfers.
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and sixpence, result misery”. Mr. Micawber's remarks on debt remain just as true today, perhaps more so with the explosion of credit cards, as they did when Dickens wrote them. We might, like Mr. Micawber, indulge in wishful thinking and try to convince ourselves that “something will turn up”. In reality, though, we all know deep down that sooner or later debt problems have to be faced, the sooner the better. Nowadays we might not face debtors' prison for consumer debt, but we should not fool ourselves either into thinking that credit repair or filing for bankruptcy are easy options. Whichever you choose, self-help or credit lawyer, the road ahead will be a long one. It's well to face this fact at the outset. Presenting the options for dealing with debt as a stark choice between self-help and legal relief is a bit misleading. In truth, whether you seek a lawyer or not, you still need to help yourself by acknowledging bad spending habits and poor budgeting management. You must bite the bullet, and the first very important step to take is to take responsibility for the situation you find yourself in. Second, if you want to avoid the courts, you'll need to set up a budget plan which, unlike lawyers' fees, will cost you very little. For a small fee you can enlist the services of nonprofit organisations which will be only too willing to give you assistance in drawing up a plan. You don't have to feel you're fighting a lone battle. But perhaps you're a natural self-helper, and you want to get yourself out of your financial mess by using your skills to draw up a budget plan yourself. Software programs are now readily available which will enable you to begin budgeting your money with a view to repairing your credit. Being proactive is the best way to build solid foundations for fiscal fitness in the short and long-term: you are retaking control of your life. Remember: your flexible friend will only keep you fit to live beyond your means. If you want to keep fiscally fit, stick rigidly to living within your means and the strict discipline imposed by a budget plan. Living within your means sounds very laudable, but real self-help should mean living below your means, well below. Why? Simply because you're looking to repair your credit as soon as possible, and you can achieve this by paying off as much as you possibly can on all your debts simultaneously. Paying off a small amount monthly to each company you owe money to is a good start, showing both commitment on your part and a safeguarding of your position to ensure you don't face court proceedings. Some debts, however, gain interest and you're therefore paying off less of the principal each month. Increase your monthly repayments and you put yourself in a good light with your creditors as well as working towards an earlier credit repair. Living below your means: sounds a good idea but how is it done? Realistically, If there's no pain there's no gain. Changes in your lifestyle have to be made, some quite radical, particularly if your debts are substantial. Of course, you will have got rid of your credit cards and curtailed your spending habits, but you'll need to go much further if you're to count as a serious self-helper. Raising your income by taking on another job is one option. Selling your home and moving into rental property is another. These potentially are very stressful lifestyle changes, but the alternative of bankruptcy could hardly be described as stress-free. You might feel, though, that filing for bankruptcy is the only way forward and that your debt situation is intractable. At this point hiring a credit lawyer might seem necessary to protect your interests, particularly if your debt is very large and your case complex. Before we look at the pros and cons of taking such action, it's worth pointing out that new laws have recently been introduced which make qualifying for bankruptcy anything but a foregone conclusion. On current trends, we're likely to reach the stage quite soon when it will become very difficult for anyone to file for bankruptcy. This tightening of the bankruptcy laws in the US seems to contrast with the apparent liberalization of UK bankruptcy law. In the UK the period of a bankruptcy has shortened from three or two years to one year for 'honest', first-time bankrupts. For serial bankrupts, and others who have contributed to their plight through neglect or fraud, the period of bankruptcy has been lengthened to a minimum of five years. So, for first-time bankrupts, the aim is to encourage financial institutions to give first-timers a fresh start by easing credit restrictions post-bankruptcy. By contrast, serial bankrupts are made to face the seriousness of their delinquent actions. But returning to the US, the question that tightening the rules on bankruptcy qualification throws up is, do you go for self-help or a credit lawyer? Opt for self-help and you could be doing yourself the best possible favor. If the law is going to make it increasingly difficult to file for bankruptcy then there seems no alternative but to implement a budget plan as outlined earlier. When the going gets tough, and tougher, the tough get going. On the other hand, opt for a credit lawyer and you could benefit from an experienced attorney's expertise to secure your bankruptcy qualification. Credit lawyers would argue their experience and detailed knowledge of bankruptcy law could prove invaluable in matters like reaffirmation agreements where you'll be able to keep your residence or automobile by continuing to make payments on your home or car. This is possible because they are secured loans. The distinction between secured and unsecured loans, and its importance to the debtor, is well appreciated and used to best advantage by experienced bankruptcy lawyers. So, self-help or credit lawyer? On balance self-help, because, as the person who created the problem, you must utimately be the one to restore your fiscal fitness. With the increasingly draconian nature of bankruptcy law self-help can only assume greater importance. As a last resort, though, seeking legal counsel might best protect your interests. But only you hold the key to keeping your annual expenditure down to “nineteen pounds nineteen and sixpence”.
A lot more people are becoming interested in debt settlement as an alternative to bankruptcy. That's because a new bankruptcy law was enacted on October 17, 2005, which means a rude awakening for many consumers seeking a fresh start in bankruptcy court. It used to be that 7 out of 10 people filing personal bankruptcy were granted Chapter 7 status, where the unsecured debts are totally wiped away. That has changed under the new rules. If your income is above the median for your state, or you can pay back at least $100 per month toward your debts, then you'll be turned down for Chapter 7. Instead, you'll be shifted into Chapter 13, where you pay back a portion of the debt over 3-5 years. It gets worse. When the court calculates your allowable living expenses, it will use the approved IRS schedules, not your actual documented expenses. So even if you don't think you can pay $100 a month or more, the judge will probably disagree. Instead of a fresh start, many people will be faced with the grim reality of a harsh 5-year plan, on a court-mandated budget that forces them to adopt a much lower standard of living. That's where debt settlement starts to look pretty attractive. Yes, I know debt settlement has its critics. I've criticized aspects of the industry myself. But what the critics don't seem to understand is that this approach is for people who would otherwise go bankrupt! Let's examine the three main complaints against debt settlement and see where the critics are missing the mark. "Debt settlement has a negative impact on your credit score." Wow. Big deal! Pretend it's two years from now. Would you rather have an A+ credit rating or be totally free of debt? Pick one please, because you can't have both. All debt reduction programs have a negative impact on credit scores. That's why only people who truly can't keep up with their bills should go into one of these programs. But it's pointless to worry about your credit while you're being crushed with debt. That's like worrying about how the yard looks after your house has burned down. "You might have to pay taxes on the canceled portion of the debt." I've always been amazed at how frequently this lame criticism is repeated in article after article. Yes, it's possible that you may need to pay taxes on forgiven debt balances, but the odds are against it. That's because the IRS allows insolvent taxpayers to exclude canceled debts. So unless you have a positive net worth, you probably won't need to pay taxes on your settlements. And even if you did, so what? You'd be paying taxes because you saved a bunch of money off your debts! And this is a problem? "Collection activity will continue and you might get sued." Yes, if you fall behind on your bills, your creditors will most certainly continue attempts to collect what's owed, and one or more of those creditors might sue you in civil court. But again, this criticism totally misses the mark. Collection activity is already a function of being in debt trouble. At least debt settlement allows the consumer to use the collection process to eliminate debt through negotiated compromises. Even lawsuits need not be cause for panic, since they can often be settled out of court. The only reason to allow a legal action to proceed to the point of wage garnishment, property lien, or bank levy is lack of financial resources with which to settle. And if that's the case, the debtor should be talking to a bankruptcy attorney anyway. In contrast, let's look at some of the positives of debt settlement. 1. You can save $1,000s versus any other method of debt elimination (except for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is much more difficult to accomplish now that the new law is in effect). 2. You can get out of debt in 2-3 years, and much faster if there is some available home equity to work with. This is a lot better than 5 years in the financial boot camp of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or 5-9 years in a credit counseling program. 3. You keep control over the process more than with any other approach. 4. You maintain personal privacy. With bankruptcy, your case file becomes a matter of public record, easily located via Internet search by future employers, landlords, or creditors. 5. You retain your dignity while working through your financial problems. Bankruptcy still feels like failure to a lot of people. Debt settlement represents an honest and ethical alternative to that extreme solution. 6. You can adjust your monthly funding into the settlement program up or down depending on real-world conditions in your financial life. If your income fluctuates from one month to the next, or you get hit with an unexpected expense, it won't torpedo the whole program. The built-in flexibility of debt settlement gives it a huge advantage over other options, all of which require a fixed monthly payment. Once you're made the determination that debt settlement makes sense for your situation, you'll need to decide whether to go it alone or seek professional assistance. For people who aren't easily intimidated, there's no question that the do-it-yourself approach is the way to go. For others who can't handle the least bit of pressure or just want to focus their time and energy elsewhere, hiring a professional settlement company may be the correct choice. If you do decide to take the do-it-yourself approach, follow these tips: * Use a privacy manager on your telephone service to screen creditor calls so that you only speak to creditors when you're ready. * Make sure you have a solid game plan for building up money to settle with, and set the funds aside in a separate bank account. * Do not send settlement funds until you have the deal in writing. No exceptions! * After paying the settlement, follow up to obtain a zero balance letter from the creditor, so you don't have bogus collection problems later on. * Know your rights as a consumer by reading the free resource articles on debt, credit, and collections at the Federal Trade Commission website: ftc. gov * Don't be intimidated or pressured into accepting a settlement deal that you can't handle. Remember, thousands of people settle their own debts every year, without the need for lawyers or bankruptcy. You can do it too if you're disciplined, determined, and prepared to ignore some of the crazy stuff that bill collectors say. When you're finally debt-free, you'll feel a lot better about having worked it out on your own. Good luck on your road to debt freedom!
According to a recent "Retirement Trends" survey by Fidelity Investments, 96 percent of Americans saving for retirement don't know the current contribution limit for an individual retirement account, with some guessing as low as $1,000. The reality is that for tax year 2005, IRA contribution limits increase to $4,000 -- up from $3,000 in 2004. When it comes to knowing the facts about retirement, misperceptions can lead to missed opportunities. Today's workers will face rising health care costs when they retire, as well as declining pension benefits and a higher cost of living. That's why it's important to save as much as possible, and as early as possible, in tax-advantaged accounts like IRAs. Knowing the facts can help dispel common myths that may keep some investors from making the smart move of saving in an IRA. * Myth No. 1: My 401(k) savings should be enough. Nearly one-third of Americans in their prime savings years who have not yet opened an IRA account think their 401(k) savings will be sufficient for retirement, according to the Retirement Trends survey. However, Fidelity estimates that retirees will need approximately 80 percent to 100 percent of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably. Using an IRA now to supplement workplace programs can help investors make sure their savings will continue to grow and last throughout retirement. * Myth No. 2: I have to come up with thousands of dollars all at once to open an IRA. For the one in four non-IRA owners surveyed who say they can't afford the initial investment required to open an IRA, opportunities to save even more for retirement may be daunting. But getting started without an initial lump sum is as easy as setting up automatic monthly payments through a Fidelity SimpleStart IRA. * Myth No. 3: IRAs are for older people with lots of money to save. The truth is that younger investors could benefit the most by starting to save early because they have time on their side. Nearly two-thirds of young adults have started to save for retirement before age 30, according to the Retirement Trends survey. That's good news; starting to save as early as possible is one of the best ways to prepare for the future.
This is probably the most requested topic that I receive, normally after someone gets a large unexpected expense, or they start thinking about retirement and realize that they have saved a woefully inadequate amount of money. I recommend using a monthly time-frame to look at your cash inflows and outflows, because most bills are monthly and four weeks is a short planning period that most people can manage. The first thing to do is determine your monthly after-tax income. Usually, this is the amount of money from your paycheck that gets deposited into your checking account. If your income is variable, then use an average of the last three months. (Any savings account interest income would be a bonus.) Next, list out your fixed monthly expenses, such as rent, mortgage, car payment, phone, electric bill, etc. All of these numbers can be changed in the long-term, but first you need to determine a baseline budget of where you are right now. Make sure you include all of your utilities; some are only paid quarterly or annually, like car insurance, the water bill, or an association fee. Take these expenses and calculate what they would be on a monthly basis. For example, if your water bill comes quarterly, divide it by 3. If you have semi-annual car insurance, then divide it by 6. So now you have your fixed monthly income and your fixed monthly expenses. Deduct one from the other, and you have the variable amount of money that you are free to spend any way you want for the remainder of the month. From this remaining amount of money, start listing out your main categories of variable spending: groceries, entertainment, medical expenses, clothing, dry cleaning, personal care (haircut, nails, etc.), and gifts. Take each of these variable expenses and put an amount next to them that you think represents your average monthly spending for that category. Make as many subcategories as you need to make an accurate estimate. The more precise it is for your spending habits, the more effective it will be for you. For example, food can be broken down by grocery store/fast food/dining out/work lunch/etc. Then go through the last few months of your checkbook and credit card statement looking for any spending that hasn’t been covered so far that you need to include for your situation. Now you should have a total number for your monthly income, total monthly fixed expenses, and total monthly variable expenses. The moment of truth is when you deduct the two expenses from your income to see if there is anything left over. Don’t panic if it is a negative number – it is far better to discover this out now, rather than building up credit card debt later. Most people comment somewhere along this process, “Oh, so that is where my money is going. I had no idea I spent so much on that!” Seeing all the numbers in black & white can help you prioritize (and negotiate with all the other spenders in the family). From this beginning budget, you can start to set monthly targets for spending categories, you can focus on reducing the largest expenses, and find areas where you should start doing some price-comparison shopping. And did I mention that saving a 5-15% of your income should be an additional fixed expense? Yes, you need to pay yourself first! Having a budget is the critical first tool in managing your money. Wielding this tool allows you to finally start making financial decisions based on the facts instead of fiction. You can plan for expenses instead of being caught by surprise. And most importantly, figure out how to move forward with goals like a big vacation, a new car, or investing.
The fight for financial freedom isn’t fair. No matter what kind of spin you try to put on it, the path to comfortable living seems either impossible or too long to attempt. Many people these days are spending copious amounts of money going to see professional financial planners for advice on how to get their money situation under control. But let’s be honest, while a financial planner can show you how to prioritize your spending and how to go about consolidating your debt, surely there must be a way to plan your finances that doesn’t cost you visits to a professional? This article has been written to open some people’s eyes to the fact that it is possible to properly plan your finances from the comfort of your own home. The main aim when planning your finances is to make everything as simple as possible. There is nothing worse than sinking so far into depression that you can’t see a way out. Whether you are in debt and looking to get out of it of if you are simply looking for a way to keep a little more spending money aside each month, the simpler you make your planning the better the result you will get. From the beginning, you need to be realistic. I’ll start with the example of a single income situation, firstly you need to calculate what your net pay is per month. If you’re self employed or not on a regular pay, always calculate the worst-case-scenario, what is the lowest you might get paid. Then go through your monthly bills and write down the ones that are a fixed amount. Do the same for all other bills but use the worst-case-scenario again, what is your estimation of the most that those bills might be. Add everything up and subtract it from your net income total. Next onto the incidental expenses you might run into on a monthly basis. These might include petrol, car upkeep, public transport fares, food etc. make a list of all the little expenses you might need money for in a month. Even things that you’re not sure you might need to buy. Don’t add general spending money to the list, be specific. Always add more to the totals if you’re not sure as you can fine tune it later. Again, subtract your total from the money left over from your bills. Don’t worry if you’ve gone into the negative figures here, we can fix it. Once you’ve got your expenses total in front of you, obviously any money that is left over is your profit for the month. In the event that you have nothing left or have gone into the minus figures, the next step is to minimize your expenses. Pretty straight forward, huh? Any incidental expenses that you might not need, remove them. And any expenses you know you will have, like food and petrol for example, really get down to the lowest spend on them. How much do you really need to spend on them? Your aim should be to save at least $50 per month after spending money. All that extra builds up and gives you a nice petty cash at the end of a few months! If you are in a multiple-income situation, the same process applies. You need to start building up that petty cash tin. There will always be unexpected expenses, everyone knows that. In truth, the basis of comfortable living is really the knowledge that you can afford to pay for something unexpected. To finish, all of this can be done on a piece of paper if you want to invest a little time, or you can lay it all out on an Excel spreadsheet. The way that saves the most time is to use a Financial Planning software program, you enter the numbers and the program gives you an automatic monthly planner. Whatever way you choose to go, always remember to keep it as simple as possible. When you’re following a plan, the pressure on you will decrease. What more could there be to comfortable living?
So you’ve made your budget and it looks good on paper. Great! Now it is time to implement it. But are you ready to follow the budget you’ve developed? Here are some helpful tips to keep you on track with your budget. 1. Determine why you made a budget. There is a reason you have put time into developing your budget, now you need to put into writing what your goals are. Do you want to be debt free, live on one income, or save for retirement? Make this into your personal or family financial mission statement. Write it down or type it up nicely and then have it laminated and display it in a prominent place where you can see it often. Many times we just need a reminder to ourselves for why we are doing a particular thing, and that can be just enough incentive when things get tough. 2. Set small range goals so you can see progress. It can be very difficult to keep up the discipline necessary to stay on budget if you can’t see any measurable progress. Develop some short term goals that you can celebrate meeting. If your goal has been to reduce your grocery spending by $100 per month, then your weekly goal would be to cut grocery costs by $25. Likewise, if your goal is to pay off debt, make a chart to show how much you’ve paid off. Reward charts just aren’t for children! Use a type of chart where you can color in a bar to show your progress, and then color it in every time you make a payment so you can see the progress you are making. Put it up on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror as a reminder that your hard work is paying off! 3. Identify your weak spots and develop a plan to battle them. In sticking to your budget, you need a clear idea of where you may be tempted to break the budget. If you are prone to impulse spending, then you must remove that temptation from yourself. If you go window shopping, leave your credit cards and check book at home! Especially in the early days of sticking to your budget, it is important to re-train yourself to curb spending. Making a budget is really the easy part in financial management. It is sticking to the budget and making your spending match your plan that is the difficult process. By disciplining yourself and retraining your spending habits, you can achieve your budget goals.
With an ever-increasing level of personal debt being reported, along with record numbers of bankruptcies and insolvencies, it's no surprise to anyone that money is becoming a big problem for thousands if not millions of people. Most of us would equate 'money problems' with 'debt problems', and indeed servicing high levels of debt is a major cause of worry and stress for those of us who've perhaps borrowed too heavily in the past. There is another kind of money trouble that doesn't receive quite as much publicity. It's called Financial Phobia, and is a real clinical condition that causes untold problems for its victims. Recent research has suggested that up to 20% of adults suffer from full-blown financial phobia, with nearly half of the population showing some signs of a milder version of the condition. Sufferers find it extremely difficult to keep on top of their finances, as the prospect of doing simple things like opening bills causes them feelings of anxiety, nausea, and even - in the worst cases - full panic attacks. They will dislike checking their bank balances, will put off paying bills, and in extreme cases will avoid opening mail altogether and throw it away rather than deal with the contents. So what causes this condition? One of the main triggers is a sense of finances being out of control, sometimes through debt, but also through having a bad experience with finance such as losing money in a bad investment, or of following bad advice. Victims of mis-selling of inappropriate products can lose trust in banks and by extension the whole realm of finance. The irony is that by avoiding paying attention to their financial situation, sufferers will tend to make matters worse as they can't pick up on problems early on. Missed payments, for example, can go from being a minor issue to a cause of legal action if they are ignored rather than tackled. As their financial situation deteriorates, the sense of being out of control increases, leading to a vicious circle where other problems including full depression can arise. So is there a way out? As with all genuine phobias, counselling may be required if the problem has got out of hand, along with professional financial help from debt advisors which is often available for free from charities. However, people in the early stages of the condition can help stop the situation deteriorating by starting to get back on top of their finances, fighting their urges to ignore the problem, and starting to tackle any underlying causes such as debt.
Frugal living requires skills and ways of looking at things that help you take advantage of the money-saving opportunities in life. The truly frugal person makes these into habits. Six of these habits are outlined below. These are techniques that can be learned in a matter of a day or two, and made into new habits a few weeks. Then they will save money for you for the rest of your life. 1. Frugal living requires a knowledge of values. How can you get a great deal on a car if you don't know what a great deal is. Get in the habit of educating yourself on prices, especially before you're ready to buy anything that costs a lot. It takes a few hours of looking at listings for sale, for example, to know what homes are selling for in an area, but this is knowledge that can save you thousands. 2. Learn from other people. Most of us know someone who always gets the best deal on cars, boats, homes, or even groceries. Why not ask him or her how they do it! One person will tell you that the cheapest coffee in town is $3 per cup, while another will say 50 cents. Ask the latter about coffee shops. People near you are living a good life on half of what you make. Investigate that. See how others do things, and you'll know your options. 3. Frugal living means always looking for alternatives. You might have just as much fun taking a discount trip to Mexico as you would going to Jamaica. Maybe you happen to enjoy pizza more than fine French dining. If so, why not skip the expensive restaurant and call Dominoes. This isn't about sacrificing, but about getting even more of what you really enjoy by paying less for cheaper alternatives that work just as well. 4. Pay cash. What happens when everything you buy costs an additional 20% because of the interest you pay over the years? You can't buy as much! Everything is cheaper when paid for in cash instead of credit. If you want that new patio set, divide the price by the number of weeks you can wait to get it. Set aside that much each week, and buy it for cash when you have the money. Not only do you save on interest, but you'll often get a better price when you pay cash. 5. Learn to do the math. Did you really save $400 on that car if it costs you $500 more in gas each year? Did you know that some stores are cashing in on shopper's assumptions that larger is cheaper? It's true. That gallon of pickles might actually cost more than four quart jars. Make it a habit to do the math if you want to save money. 6. Tell people what you need. Mention it in conversations. Many people get free or cheap things, just because they talk. For example, a neighbor wanted to upgrade her living room debt, and was thrilled that I would take her three-month-old couch off her hands for $30. I sure am glad that I mentioned I was looking for one. You need to make this little trick a part of your frugal living habits.
That’s a good question, do you know whether or not your pension plan is stable, and if so will it remain that way? Well, if you’re part of your employers pension plan, you should find out the answers to these questions. Once you find out, stay informed about your pension plan. You say you know you have a pension plan but really don’t know what this is. A pension plan is a retirement account that your employer contributes funds as part of your future retirement. The amount paid to your retirement fund by your employer is based on the number of years you have worked and the amount of income you have earned. How long will it take for me to become eligible for my employer’s pension plan? It is normally between 3-5 years that you become eligible for the plan offered by your employer. What if I no longer work for the employer after I become eligible will I still be vested? Yes. I hear some employers have terminated their pension plans, why is this? Some employers are finding it very expensive to continue with their pension plans due to: increased number of retirees, low interest rates and instability of the stock market. My employer is terminating our pension plan, how will this affect me? The government agency Pension Benefit Guaraty Corporation will pick up pension payments when the employer defaults. Note, this agency pays a certain amount of your pension benefits on an annual basis. Unfortunately in most cases you will receive less for your annual pension amount then you would normally have received via your employer. Is there any way to know if my employer’s pension plan is in trouble? If your company is showing signs of financial trouble, normally the first thing to go is the pension plan. If you are trying to find out if your employer may be headed for financial trouble consider checking the following: financial news information on your company, newspaper financial section, stock market, business financial magazines and the internet. I just recently found out that an employer I worked for a few years ago just went out of business. How would I find out about the status of my pension plan that I had with this employer, I’ve been unable to contact them directly? If your past or former employer defaulted on it’s pension plan, check the Pension Benefit Guaraty Corporation website at pbgc. gov to see if this program has taken over the handling of your former employer’s plan. Stay on top of your pension plan, by keeping yourself informed of your plan’s current status. This is important because your pension is part of your retirement for your future! If you don’t stay informed about your pension, you may loose valuable funds that are important for your future retirement funds.
I have notice that keep on changing new car has become a trend of today’s life in city. People keep on switching to new car for no reason. It seems like car has become a way for people to express and show their status. Every year there are so many new car models coming up. So they keep on changing the car whenever they saw some new models that they like. I had even heard people saying this: ‘Since I need to pay for my installment every month, then why don’t I switch to a better new car?’ It seems like paying car installment has become part of people’s routine life where if they don’t pay for the installment, they don’t know what to do with the money. Maybe people have forgot that they don’t have to pay for car installment if they don’t want to. I know that I may offend a lot of people by saying that buying a new car is not necessary. However what I am saying is not that you cannot buy a new car. But when you wanted to buy a new car, think about why do you want to buy it. Is it neccesary? Do you want to buy it because you need it? Or you want to buy it simply because you wanted to show off to people that you are rich. Do you buy the car to boost up your ego? For me, I only buy a car when it is needed. When I say needed, I mean that I really need the car. Not for no reason, not for showing off purpose. If my house is located at an area where I have no access to public transports, then I will consider to buy a car. If my old car has too many problems, then I will consider to switch to a new car. Currently I have a car of 5++ years old. I have no intention to change a new car right now as my current car is still in good condition. I plan to use the car for at least 10 years if the conditions are ok. Actually the car is currently used by my wife to drive to work. For myself I am actually taking public transport (LRT). I have no intention to buy a second car although there is no problem in getting one financially. With this I can save at least RM1000 per month. I would rather leverage this RM1000 per month for other purpose for example paying extra for my house loan. This way I can finish my house loan faster and reduce the interest. Why do I want to increase my expense to somewhere that I don’t really need. I can even use the extra money to do some investment. This will improve my financial situation.
One of the biggest vacation expenses is a rental car. Below are a few suggestions on how you can save money on your next rental car. If you are flying to your vacation destination and have booked the flight either online or through a travel agency, you can more than likely get a discount on your rental car if you book it as part of the package. The majority of car rental companies collaborate with at least one airline to provide frequent flyer miles or other types of rewards when you rent a car. In addition, many airlines offer incentive and bonus programs where you get extra miles or extra credit, so be sure to inquire about these programs when making your reservation. When choosing your rental car, a compact or subcompact economy car is usually less expensive than a full size sedan or minivan. Therefore, selecting an economy will not only be less expensive, but you will also get better gas mileage thus saving on gas expenses. If you need a large sedan, SUV or minivan for the comfort of your family, it is well worth your time to shop around. There is usually a high demand for these types of vehicles and therefore a larger price tag. Travel related web sites are a good place to start your research to familiarize yourself with the average price in your vacation area. The duration of the rental will have an influence on the cost as well. Weekly rentals are usually far less costly than a daily rate spread over a week. Therefore, if your vacation plans are for a week or more, be sure to inquire about special rates. If you are taking a weekend vacation, many companies offer weekend specials on certain makes and models of their cars. In addition, a number of national car companies and local smaller companies rent their used cars for much less than a new car from a rental agency. In most instances, these cars are only a few years old and provide the same protection as a new car. For the business traveler, joining a frequent renter club, or using the same rental car company each time, is a great way to get some special coupons and some very good deals that you could use for the family vacation. Most people purchase car insurance from the rental agency. Usually, this is not necessary. If you have purchased your rental car on your credit car, you may already have coverage as part of your credit card plan. In addition, as an automobile owner, you car insurance may provide coverage for rental cars. Therefore, it is necessary for you to check your credit card plan and automobile insurance, if you are covered, then purchasing insurance from the rental car agency is not necessary.