Monthly Archives: November 2013

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The Best Ways You Can Save Money On Your Car

After buying a house or any other property, for most in the UK, buying a car will be the most expensive purchase you make. The initial outlay of buying your vehicle will be expensive, often running into many thousands of pounds. But what people fail to take into consideration is the cost of running a car, too. Car tax, insurance, and maintenance will all add up, and add a considerable amount to your monthly outgoings. Many people are beginning to question whether they actually need a car at all (particularly if they are living in a larger city). But if you definitely do need your car, and wish you could save a little money at the same time, here are a few hints and tips for ways to save money on the cost of running your car:

Maintain it yourself

It can be very expensive to take your car to the garage and have a mechanic look at it every time you need some work doing. Of course if you have a large job that needs undertaking, such as work on the electrics or changing the engine, then a mechanic is the best man (or woman) for the job. But for smaller jobs such as giving your car an oil change, replacing a tyre or repairing the windscreen wiper blades you’ll save a significant amount of money if you can do these jobs yourself. If you don’t know how, it’s not hard to learn! Many local colleges will offer a short course on car maintenance: this will be enough to teach you the basics of how your car works and how to complete any small and easy tasks. Even if you have the initial outlay of paying for a short course, in the long run learning these essential life skills will save you a fortune!

Shop Around For Your Car Insurance

Car insurance is expensive, no matter how long you’ve been driving for. But if you’ve only just passed your driving test you could find the cost of car insurance prohibitive to getting your own car altogether! The key to saving money on your car insurance is to shop around. Don’t just search the comparison websites: they only tend to deal with the larger insurance providers. Take the time to get quotes from independent providers too and remember that the more legwork you put in the more likely you are to save yourself some money.  If you are a new driver and you’re concerned that your car insurance premium will be high then think about the kind of car you choose to buy too: something with a smaller engine will fall into a lower insurance category, for example. Smaller cars also tend to be lighter and therefore cheaper to run, meaning you would find yourself in a win-win situation if you opted for a compact car!

Do Your Research

Unfortunately, no matter how well you look after and maintain them, all cars will break down and need new parts at some point. These can cost hundreds of pounds, depending on the parts you need. Before you buy any car, take the time to do some research into the cost of the parts that most commonly need repairing for that particular make or model. If you find that the parts for the car you are thinking of buying are very expensive, it’s probably worth considering choosing something else instead. Fords tend to be the most affordable cars to repair: if in doubt, speak to your local mechanic. They are usually very helpful and can offer plenty of great advice about the most cost-effective cars to choose.

Drive Economically

Finally, watch how you drive! If you learn to drive economically you can save money on the amount of petrol your car consumes. Keep your car as light as possible: don’t carry any extra luggage or other weight that you don’t need. The lighter your car is, the more economical it is with fuel. Check your tyres regularly: having the correct tyre pressure will not only make your car safer, it will also help you to drive more economically too. Finally, plan your route before you go anywhere. It sounds obvious, but by selecting the shortest route to your destination you won’t only be saving time you’ll be saving petrol money too!

4 Practical Ideas for Going to a Fancy School Without Drowning in Loans

If there is one thing about college that everyone can agree on it is that it has become expensive. This is true for lower cost colleges, but when you look at the tuition costs for the fancy colleges, it seems hopeless that anyone can afford to go to college for a couple of semesters, let alone earn a bachelor’s degree. If you borrow the money, it will take too long to pay back the loan. There are a few ideas that may help you keep the costs down and avoid borrowing too much money.

Find out if you qualify for a Pell grant

These are grants not loans. What it means is that you are given a certain amount of money and do not have to pay it back. It is based upon income and is designed to help lower income families afford to send a child to college. The money can be used for a high cost college or a lower cost college. Many people qualify for a grant and do not realize it. It is possible to receive a small grant that pays for a portion of tuition but not all of it, but every little bit helps when trying to pay for a college education.

Attend part or all of your college online

Today, a person can get a four year degree in a variety of subjects and do so while taking their courses completely online. Generally, online classes are not as expensive as regular tuition. Many universities with great reputations are offering outstanding online programs, not just general classes or electives. However, you can get an entire degree, even your masters, through online classes. Students who have pursued an OU Electrical Engineering Masters Online were able to save money on what is usually an extremely expensive degree. This can be the perfect fix if you are trying to get your masters while also paying off your student loans from your undergraduate degree. Once again, all you need to do is explore your options and you may find that online classes are the way to go.

Go to a fancy college for the last two years

There is no requirement to attend the same university for all four years. One way to save money is to take your first two years of school at a local community college. Just make sure the classes can be transferred to the college of your choice, and you will save a lot of money on tuition. If it is your dream to graduate from a certain school, you can still make it happen—but you don’t need to build up four years of debt and loans just to say that you graduated from that school. Remember, transferring is always an option.

Apply for scholarships

Although it may seem obvious, too often people think of scholarships as being those that pay in full for books and tuition, but the truth is that there are many scholarships available that will pay small amounts. Maybe the amount will only be enough to pay for textbooks for one semester, but this helps. It is possible to receive several of these smaller type scholarships,which could help you make it through a few years of schooling. These days, you can get scholarships for all sorts of things, but you’ll never know about them if you don’t do your research. You could have money waiting for you that you never even knew about.

 

If you think you can’t afford to go to a good college, don’t despair, there are several possibilities to help bring down the cost, so you will not be paying off student loans for the rest of your life. The key to going to the college of your choice is to research your options—make a plan! There may be scholarships, programs, or options available that you don’t even know about. You can make an appointment with a counselor or financial aid counselor at the school to have them help you explore all your options before you give up on your dream of going to a school you love.

Make More Money: Real Estate Tricks to Flipping Houses

Flipping real estate for a profit is not nearly as easy as some of the TV shows might suggest, but there are many professional house flippers who can attest to the profitability of this income opportunity. By following a few helpful tips, flipping houses can become a profitable and exciting income source for you.

 

Design the House to Appeal to the Most Buyers

One of the mistakes that many new house flippers make is to design the house with their unique taste in mind instead of considering what appeals to the majority of prospective home buyers. It is crucial to make color choices and design decisions that coincide with likely buyers. Demographic information can be helpful when remodeling a home.

 

When selecting paint colors, going with more neutral colors is highly recommended. Buyers want to move right in without having to do any work. By using neutral colors, more buyers will feel comfortable moving in without being forced to make immediate changes.

 

Buy Low and Sell Low

Successful house flippers report that they determine the profit on a deal at the time of the purchase. Paying too much for a house makes it impossible to make a profit in most situations. The goal should be to pay a very low price for a house and then to fix it up and sell it for less than the other houses in the neighborhood. If your ultimate goal is to sell it quickly, then you want to have the nicest house for the lowest price. Buyers will jump on a house that is nicer and cheaper than comparable properties in the area.

 

How to Estimate Repairs

A common tendency for novice house flippers is to underestimate repairs. Obtaining repair estimates and then padding those figures with at least 10 percent as an error margin is recommended. Some seasoned real estate investors go so far as to recommend doubling the repair figure to be sure you don’t pay too much for the house.

 

Staging the Property

Buying a house is emotional. When buyers feel an immediate connection to the house, they are more likely to buy it. For convenience, you could keep all staging furniture and décor in a storage unit so they can be easily accessible. This will make it easier to move these touches of comfort into and out of a home when needed. For example, I recently sold a home south of Denver, and we used a Colorado Springs CO self storage unit to stage so we could quickly move furniture in and out of the house when we needed to. Our home sold much faster because it was staged and appeared cozy and livable.

 

There is a success formula that experienced house flippers use. Buying a property for the right price and padding estimated repairs gives investors the best chance of making a profit. Prepare yourself to make a profit flipping houses with these four tips.

 

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Use Your Credit Card to Your Own Advantage

Many people worry about having credit cards: the effect they can have on your credit rating and the importance of making the monthly repayments can be scary. However, if you pay your credit card off in full every month (to ensure you’re never hit by high interest rates) you can take advantage of some incredible credit card offers and incentives. Use your credit card to your advantage and ensure that it doesn’t cost you a penny whilst still taking advantages of all of the rewards credit card companies offer to entice people to sign up. Just remember to pay off your balance in full every month! Here are five ways that you can use your credit card to your advantage:

Consumer Protection

A huge advantage of using your credit card to pay for any purchases, particularly any big purchases such as holidays or large white goods, is that you generally get more protection when you use your credit card than with any other payment method. Credit card companies are bound by a consumer law (commonly called section 75) that says that if you pay for something with a value of between £100 and £60,260 on your credit card then you will get your money back in full if anything goes wrong with your purchase. Money.co.uk explain that Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 is a piece of legislation designed to “remove the risk that you, as a consumer, will ever get into debt paying for goods or services that you didn’t receive, were faulty or were otherwise not as described.” That means if your washing machine leaks or if your holiday company goes under then you can have the safety and confidence to know that your money is protected. And don’t worry if your card is used fraudulently: whilst this is, of course, massively inconvenient you are also protected from fraudulent use of your credit card and will get your money back from your credit card provider.

Take Advantage of Cash Back Programs

Don’t apply for or use a credit card that doesn’t come with any additional perks. Competition between credit card companies is fierce so many credit card companies offer fantastic incentives to entice people to make an application. If you already have a credit card then contact your provider to ask if they have a cash-back or other reward program you can join and take advantage of. If they don’t, consider switching your provider to one that does offer a cash back programme. An example of this is American Express, who are currently offering 5% cash back on all purchases for the first three months of your card ownership. Capital One are also offering 5% cash back on all purchases for the first three months, and then up to 2% cash back each month after that. As long as you pay your credit card bill in full every month (for at least that three month period) so that you don’t get charged any interest, you could actually make a profit from using your credit card!

Look For an Air Miles Credit Card

If you are a frequent flier for business purposes, or just love taking regular far flung holidays, then you should look for an air miles credit card. Much like a normal frequent flier programme, with an air miles credit card you will earn miles every time you spend on your credit card rather than every time you fly. Once you’ve collected enough miles you can turn your points in to flights and then, voila! You can enjoy a holiday at a dramatically reduced rate, and all because you switched your credit card. Be mindful of the golden rule though: this kind of credit card is only a good deal if you pay the balance on your card every single month. Otherwise the cost of the interest will negate the benefits you are receiving from your credit card’s reward scheme.

Build Up Your Credit History

It’s important to have a good credit history, as this is essential when it comes to applying for larger credit such as a car loan or a mortgage. However in order to show you have a good credit history you first have to have utilised your credit: and that’s where a credit card will come in.  Even if you’ve never had a credit card before or prefer not to use credit cards for whatever reason, put a small amount on your credit card every month (use it to pay for your supermarket shopping or petrol, for example) and then set up a direct debit to pay off the amount in full. Using your credit card regularly will have a positive effect on your credit score, whilst paying back your full balance means you never have to pay for the privilege of using the card.

Credit Card Rewards Programmes

Finally, you could choose a credit card from the highly competitive rewards credit card market. If you are a regular shopper in Marks and Spencer, for example, a Marks and Spencer credit card could be the best option for you as it will offer rewards points for each pound you spend on the card, and then four times a year these points will be converted into shopping vouchers. Tesco offer a similar scheme where you earn Tesco club card points which are converted into vouchers to spend on your supermarket shopping (a great way to use your credit card and turn it into a tangible profit). If you do all of your monthly spending on your credit card rather than your debit card, paying it back in full at the end of the month of course, then these schemes could see you receiving a hefty return at the end of each period.

The main thing to remember is that if you use your credit responsibly, there are some incredible rewards to be had. However if you’re not good at managing your money, or remembering to make your payments on time, then these credit card offers are best left for someone else. You would pay more on the interest for a missed payment than you would gain from your credit card benefits.

6 Tricks To Help You Get Out Of Debt Quickly

Debt is something that the majority of people today have to deal with, which is unfortunate. With this being said, if you do have debt, there are simple things you can do to increase the rate at which you are able to pay it off. Below are six tricks to help you reach a debt free lifestyle as quickly as possible.

 

1) Get Organized 

Organization is key when it comes to overcoming debt. Getting all of your bills and debts in order will allow you to take a calculated approach at paying them off. Having an organized approach will also reduce your stress, as you will know exactly what to expect at all times and never miss payments.

 

2) Adjust Interest Rates 

Getting on the phone with the companies that are handling your debt is a great thing to do if you want to reduce your interest rates. This can often take some time and considerable convincing on your part, but you can often reduce your interest rates simply by asking and staying persistent about it. If this does not work, considering consolodating your debt into a single payment, or go through a specialized organization that can cater specifically to you. For example, www.lowvarates.com offers low VA rates on loans to veterans, and veterans only.

 

3) Work Only With a Cash Budget 

If possible, try to keep your living expenses and debt payments all contained within a cash budget. Using credit cards will only make things worse as time goes on, and you will be fighting a constant uphill battle against accumulating interest rates. This often takes some lifestyle adjustments, but is well worth the effort.

 

4) Earn Additional Income 

Even if you work a full-time job, there are still opportunities that could earn you some extra money here and there. Even just a handful of additional dollars a week can put a serious dent in your debt over time. Consider your talents and whether or not you could apply them to a freelance gig of some kind. There are often part-time positions available at local companies as well, which could help a great deal without taking up a lot of your time.

 

5) Prioritize Your Debt Payments 

By simply focusing on your debts that have the highest interest rates first, you can save a lot of money in payments over time. Pay off your most expensive debts before focusing too heavily on ones with lower, more manageable rates.

 

6) Cook at Home and Enjoy Free Activities 

Nights out on the town are fun and a necessary part of life if you want to remain happy, but this does not mean that they need to be expensive. For example, try cooking a delicious meal at home, then go out for a free activity. If you search hard enough, you will likely find that there are a lot of free and fun things to do in your area that you never realized were an option before.

These are just a few of the easiest things that you can do to help reduce your debt quickly. Try them out starting today.

 

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Five Ways to Save Money with Space & Storage

Have you got hidden pockets of wealth hiding in your home? Most of us could benefit from a good clear out, a reorganisation, or rethinking our working methods. Here are some suggestions on ways you could save money by using the space you already have, and alternative available spaces, to better advantage.

 

Reduce Energy Bills

Anything you can do to reduce energy bills is good news right now. Invest in low energy, green lighting for your work or office areas to cut down on wattage used, and eliminate door and window draughts with thermal drapes and draught proofing strips. Get into the habit of switching off lights or heaters in rooms left vacant, and if you work with others consider taping up a notice to remind everyone to switch off.

 

Consolidate Working Areas

Business owners with stock to keep often struggle to find storage space at home that’s both out of the way and secure. For sellers of larger items, home storage might be a total nonstarter. Self storage units help such businesses in two ways:

A safe and secure, lockable room that’s accessible out of hours. Some will also accept deliveries on your behalf, freeing up your time and giving you more freedom of movement for other business activities.

Rent slightly larger room than you need for stock storage so you can also use it for packing purposes. You’ll save on fuel for the car or van if you don’t have to fetch stock and take it home to pack.

 

Create a Home Office

If you’re renting an office but don’t strictly need one to run your business, consider creating a home office instead. No more driving to work, and with virtual document storage environments such as cloud computing the space needed is minimal.

Ideally you’ll convert a spare room, which may involve getting rid of some existing furniture to make way for a desk and computer equipment. But selling or storing little used furniture to take advantage of business opportunities is a win/win exercise. You’ll either raise extra cash or you’ll save time and money by not paying for, or travelling to, the rented office.

 

Rent out a Room

An alternative to using a spare room as an office is to rent it out to a lodger. If you don’t want to offer a long term rental but live in a college or university area, letting to a student may do you both a favour. Either put the money made on the room towards the cost of your rented office, or towards paying off the mortgage that bit sooner.

 

Sell Unwanted Items

We all hang on to objects far past their useful life. Most of us have cupboards full of forgotten items that we no longer use. Raising extra cash and reclaiming the space for those items we do use are the dual benefits of holding a sale. For smaller items that are cheaply posted, choose online auctions. They’re easy to set up and monitor and you can set a reserve price if you’re worried things will sell too cheaply. Alternatively, or for bulkier items, hold a garage sale or use local advertising to attract local buyers.

 

These are all tried and tested methods of getting organised in home and business life so you can save money, and hopefully make a bit more too. Even if you adopt just one, you should see some improvement in your finances.

 

Drew writes for Big Yellow Self Storage has 76 purpose-built self storage sites across the UK.

Your Monthly Budget: Five things you Might Forget to Include

A budget is a very good tool for managing personal finances. The effectiveness of a budget relies on the accuracy of the numbers. People developing a monthly budget often forget different irregular charges. This can cause overspending every month. Many people forget to include certain things in their monthly budget. Here are some items you’ll want to include.

Seasonal Expenses

It is easy to forget to plan for seasonal expenses in a monthly budget. These expenses can include landscaping during the summer, buying new clothes in the winter or inspecting a heating and cooling system in the fall. Monthly budgets should be adjusted each season to reflect these costs. This will prevent expensive surprises throughout the year.

Entertainment

Some people forget to include entertainment expenses in a monthly budget. These expenses are items like eating at a restaurant, seeing a movie or going out to a game with friends. These expenses can quickly add up and create budgeting problems. The budget should include a small amount of funds that can be used generally for entertainment. Entertainment expenses should be curbed once the funds are gone.

Car Maintenance and Tires

Everyone must deal with car maintenance expenses. Budgets should include enough for annual inspections and one or two tune-ups. Tires will also wear down over time. It can help to purchase cheap tires if you find a deal and save them so that they do not have to be included in the budget later. This can help you manage your budget. It is a good idea to save a little extra throughout the year for unexpected car maintenance.

Pets

Pets are often left out of a monthly budget. Pets incur expenses beyond food. Pets need grooming, shots and sometimes medical treatment. Pet owners will want to plan for scheduled pet expenses. These expenses should be increased a little every year as the pet grows older and requires more attention.

Financing Fees

Financing fees are very easy to forget when creating a monthly budget. Financing fees are charged by banks or other institutions when an automatic teller machine is used or when money is transferred between accounts. These also include annual fees to keep credit cards or bank accounts active. The budget should include scheduled annual fees as well as a certain amount for small daily or weekly fees.

Budgets need to be assessed at the end of every month. This often means reconciling receipts and bills with what was spent during the month. You’ll need to adjust your budget for your next month and try to lower your food or entertainment expenses if you go over.  A simple way to find forgotten items is to investigate any differences between planned spending and actual spending.

 

Author Bio: This article was written by Kandace Heller with help from Rhett Stone from Simpletire.com. Kandace is a freelance writer in Orlando, Florida. She loves to do research and share what she learns.

Four Reasons You Should Invest In Real Estate And How To Get Started

Real estate is an interesting sector of the market to be invested in. There are a variety of ways to make money from a real estate investment, and even a novice investor can learn how to get the best return on his or her money. What are some good reasons to invest in residential and commercial properties?

1) You Can Keep The Property In The Family Forever

When you pass on, you can give your houses or commercial properties to your heirs to continue making money for your family. If your heirs don’t want the properties, they can sell them for a hefty profit. Having all of the debt paid off will be a great asset for your loved ones. They can use the property without over-bearing payments or sell it for money that might be needed elsewhere.

2) Tax Rates Are Lower On Rental Income

Rental income is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. In addition, capital gains taxes only apply if you sell properties outside of a retirement account. The best thing to do is put a portion of your real estate holdings inside of an IRA and avoid capital gains and income taxes until the money is taken out in retirement.

3) The Housing Market Is Priced For Growth

Housing prices are low and interest rates are low as well. This means that you should buy now when houses and other real estate are priced below market value. In a few years when the market rebounds, you will be in prime position to make an easy profit.

4) Make A Passive Income

Rental income is income that you don’t have to do anything to earn. All you need to do is find a tenant and that tenant will write a check to you each month simply to occupy your rental space. To make things even better, commercial tenants are usually required to sign leases for up to three years or more.

How Can You Get Involved In Real Estate?

Getting involved in real estate is as easy as finding a property that you want to buy and having a plan to make money from it. You can sign up for an investor newsletter that will help you determine how to make the most from your investment or find investors who are willing to help you fund your first housing purchase. Staying informed is the key success with you investments.

Real estate is a sector of the market that you shouldn’t ignore. If you are looking to make a passive income that can be used today or for your future retirement, consider investing in real estate.

 

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A Close Look at The Utilities: Four Ways to Reduce Your Bill During the Winter

If you’re looking to save money this winter, start by taking a closer look at your energy consumption. With a few easy steps, you can save on energy bills and make your home more comfortable. These changes are easy, affordable and effective at lowering energy usage.

Make Use of Drapes

Invest in some attractive drapes for the windows. During the day, let the sun stream in and warm the home. When the sun sinks in the sky, close the drapes to block any drafts and stop heat loss. Your home will feel cozier with the curtains closed, and you’ll use less energy to heat the home.

Weather Stripping for Every Room

You don’t have to buy new doors and windows to make the home more energy efficient. Check the weather stripping around your home. If it’s torn, missing or crushed down, it should be replaced. This simple step will keep drafts out and make the home warmer.

Add Insulation to Key Areas

You don’t have to rip the walls open to bump up the insulation. Put more insulation in the attic, but take care not to block the soffit vents as you work. Add insulation to crawlspaces to warm up the floor. You can also buy special insulating pads to go around light switches and outlets on exterior walls. The extra insulation reduces heat loss and ensures that your home remains comfortable.

Embrace Automation

Companies like Vivint security offer home automation systems that help you save money. They can link your home’s lights and thermostat to your smart phone, so you can enjoy superior temperature control. With Vivint home security and automation, you can turn off lights from the office and adjust the temperature with an energy efficient thermostat. You can also turn on a few lights right before you return home so you can easily find your way when you come home after a long day at work.

Invest in Basic Maintenance

Your furnace will run more efficiently if you invest in regular maintenance. Annual tune-ups are affordable, and they provide you with several important benefits. The furnace will last longer, and it won’t pull as much energy when they’re properly lubricated and cleaned. Cleaning your kitchen appliances will also help them run more efficiently and last longer.

With these easy adjustments, you can effectively lower your home utility bills this winter. These changes are all surprisingly affordable and highly effective. Your home will be more comfortable, and you’ll watch your electric and gas bill drop when you embrace these smart improvements.

Are You Covered? 5 Tips in Giving You Peace of Mind and Control over Your Future

While identity protection companies put the fear of financial ruin in people, the reality is that only 3% of the US population has any financial data stolen (guides.wsj.com) each year. If you are in the small percentage, however, it can wreak havoc in your life. There are several reputable firms that will monitor your accounts and alert you of any suspicious activity, generally for a monthly or annual fee. You can do the same work yourself and provide your own level of asset assurance.

There are five basic steps you can take to protect yourself. These steps are the same ones identity monitoring firms use. They can protect you from identity and credit card theft, as well as check fraud.

Banks, credit card firms and other entities NEVER ask you to confirm your personal or account information online, by phone or by mail

Any financial service company you do business with has this information. If you receive a request such as this, take the extra time to actually call the company that is requesting the information. This allows you to report there is a phishing expedition and allows them to pursue any breaches to their security.

Anything that sounds too good to be true generally is.

Chances are you did not enter a lottery then forgot about it. Take a step back and ask yourself if the scenario sounds legitimate, then delete it and forget about it. Trust your gut no matter how badly you need the money.

Check every bank and credit card statement as soon as they arrive.

Fraudulent charges must be reported within a specific period of time in order to have them removed from your account. Often thieves will start with small charges or withdrawals they hope will be overlooked, escalating into major expenses that can empty your bank account or ruin your credit. A few minutes now saves hours of work later.

Keep every financial document in a secure location

This includes statements, blank checks, tax returns and credit/debit cards. Any document containing your address, phone number, account number, SSN or other sensitive information should be shredded.

Review your credit report annually

Each credit reporting agency must provide you with a credit report annually for free. Spread out the requests, say one in January, one in May and one in November. Immediately contact the agency if you spot any errors. These can be time consuming to correct, but the longer the error is on the report, the longer it takes to correct.

These five steps can provide you with asset assurance and keep your finances and identity safe.

 

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