Economy

Sandy – Monstrous Wind, Rain, Floods and Fire

Sandy – Monstrous Wind, Rain, Floods and Fire

Once again nature has proved that it is more powerful than mankind. What we propose, nature disposes and Sandy is the perfect example of it. Sandy, the largest ever hurricane (as determined by the National Hurricane Center) and the super storm to strike the Mid-Atlantic, Caribbean as well as the Northeast regions of the United States had the widest diameter of about 940 miles. It is almost double the diameters of other disastrous storms in the recent past, Katrina and Irene.

Sandy damages – An overview

This devastating super storm, Sandy, has caused enormous damages to the Northeastern part of America including New England area, East Cost and farther inland. To name the states seriously affected by Sandy, I must include New York, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Apart from densely populated cities, the tidal surge, heavy winds, intense rainfall and snows have significantly damaged the national parks. An estimated damage of $20 billion to $55 billion has been caused by this tropical cyclone.

  • Loss of life – It is still unknown how many lives are unaccounted for. But approximately 76 people died when the storm stroke as per the report by cnn.com. The storm claimed 28 lives in New York, while the number is 6 in New Jersey. The death toll is expected to rise to 145. Most of these deaths are the results of surging storm, cold weather and downed electrical lines.
  • Disarray and debris – The entire Atlantic Coast along with the New York City is inundated with a moonscape of shattering disarray, disorder, panic and debris. Millions of households in all 17 states (up to Michigan in west) are still waterlogged and out of the reach of any sort of modern communication. Most of these states were without power for many hours. Transit system, especially in New York has been completely out of gear. Sandy-affected individuals as well as businesses are struggling with burned houses, waterlogged houses and loss of power. On the other hand, the cyclone has brought about 3 foot of snow to some places in both Maryland and West Virginia leaving people without electricity. Sandy-struck people are in need of basic help and supplies.
  • Economic loss – The super cyclone is likely to put crimp in the economic growth of the country by keeping aside about 2 million people away from workplace. The physical damage owing to Sandy is expected to surpass estimated $50 billion including insured losses of almost $20 billion. And further losses are still being ascertained.

See Sandy’s activities between 28th October and 31st October.

Sandy damages – State by state

Superstorm Sandy has crippled entire East Coast and Northeastern part of the country. Now let’s have a look at state-wise damages (in brief) caused by Sandy.

  • New York – This is the state that has been affected the most. Highest number of fatalities (22) has been reported in New York City. 80 houses were destroyed. Almost 2 million people were without power.
  • Connecticut – Death toll is reported to stand at 2. Almost 477,000 are without power though it has been restored.
  • District of Columbia – 1461 households were without power that has been restored. Bus and rail services were disrupted.
  • Delaware – 7853 households were without power and being restored.
  • Maryland – The death toll stands at 2. 122,000 households were without power and being restored.
  • Maine – About 16,000 customers didn’t have power in their house, but it has been restored.
  • New Hampshire – Flood warning was in effect for Saco River till Wednesday. About 81,000 customers stayed without power.
  • Massachusetts – 108,000 households were without power.
  • Ohio – 151,000 customers including individual households and businesses were without electricity. The state was affected so badly that it needed about 400 crews to be dispatched to clear the debris.
  • New Jersey – Motorists queued in front of gas stations, while others stood with red canisters for refill gas.  Nearly 6 people have been killed by Sandy. Rail service has been damaged so badly that it may take a couple of weeks to be restored. This state faced maximum power outages. Over 2 million customers stayed without power.
  • Virginia – Sandy killed at least 2 people in this state. 55,000 customers stayed without power. Virginia has experienced heavy snowfall.
  • Pennsylvania – Death toll in the state stands at 3.  Almost 897,000 customers were without electricity.


I could cover only a little percentage of damages caused by the superstorm Sandy. However, practically, the damages are enormous both in terms of money and lives. Although Sandy’s heartbeat has stopped, yet affected people and businesses have still to face an unpleasant reality for coming couple of months, a year or even more.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4


Keeping Gold Industry Standards High

Keeping Gold Industry Standards High

Gold, a beautiful precious metal adorned by many has been a symbolism of love and power throughout the ages.  Civilizations have been built because of it and wars fought over it.  As it was then and still today, gold has an impact on societies and individuals alike.

There are 100 million people worldwide relying on the industry for a living, jobs ranging from the miner to the jeweler.  The mining industry is a positive force for those people involved in it, but it has not been without concerns and problems.

There are a number of organizations, such as the World Gold Council (WGC) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) working together setting guidelines, standards, and responsible mining practices for the industry.  All the organizations work together assuring that the gold products you have, use, sell, and enjoy are not at the expense of the people and the communities involved in the industry.  

Society

Gold has influenced societies since it was first discovered 4000 thousand years ago.  It has always been a symbol of wealth; civilizations have been built because of its perceived wealth and beauty.  Even today, the gold industry has a positive impact on communities and its people.  Communities grow; living standards improve.  Gold mines provide steady employment and high incomes. 

Environment

Gold mining affects the environment and not necessarily for the better.  Policies pertaining to hazardous materials, waste and chemicals, and water conservation have been orchestrated or are in the process to improve the residual affect of the industry by the WGC and other organizations.

Health and Education

More times than not, gold mines are in developing and impoverished countries.  The WGC and mining companies have been working to improve standards.  General education is a more common practice now and there are health care initiatives in place to help workers and their families.  This has come about because of the social responsibility programs in place.

Roads

Mines are usually located in remote areas.  Accesses to the mines come by way of poor roads.  Large-scale mining companies often put money and effort into upgrading the regions transport infrastructure benefiting the company, its workers, and the community.

Utilities

Mines need constant water and power to operate.  This necessity is often lacking or is inferior.  Mining companies build or upgrade utilities in order to undertake their operation.  By doing so, everyone benefits with clean, fresh water, the workers and the surrounding areas.

Conflict-free gold

Gold, being associated with wealth and power will often bring out the worst in mankind.  The industry is aware of forced labor and extreme violence that has taken place.  In trying to improve conditions, the WGC along with other organizations and companies, have initiatives in place to free the industry from armed groups reaping financially from conflicts.

The gold mining and refining industry has a positive and economic impact on the miners, their families, and their communities.  Watchdog organizations improve and keep standards high in the industry.  Policies, standards, and initiatives are in place so you, the consumer, can buy gold with confidence that conditions for everyone involved is humane.

Karla Brown is a writer from Los Angeles, CA. If you are looking to invest in gold, consult experts to help you on your way, like from Scottsdale Bullion and Coin, which will guide you in the investing process.


Qatar’s Incredible Economy!

Qatar is an incredible country by whatever measure you care to use. Its economic growth figures are the envy of much of the world. Yet its rise to dominance not only within the Middle East itself, but also much further afield, has all occurred within living memory. Prior to the Second World War, the country struggled economically, relying in the main on fishing and pearl hunting. When the Japanese cultured pearl flooded world markets, Qatar’s economy crashed. But everything changed dramatically with the discovery of oil in the 1940s. The rest, as they say, is history.

Financial institutions, including the multinational HSBC bank in Qatar, have played their part in the country’s dynamic growth of recent years which now even surpasses its wealthy Gulf neighbors. Qatar in fact is often tagged the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita, elbowing Luxembourg into second place in the richest-country list.

According to figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Qatar’s economy has nearly tripled in size since 2005, growing by 18.8% in real terms in 2011, and forecast to grow yet further in 2012 by some 6%. So many countries around the world are struggling economically at the moment but Qatar is most certainly not one of them!
Qatar’s more than 1.9 million population is massively boosted by the large number of immigrant workers seeking employment in the country from around the world. The largest numbers come from neighbouring Arab countries, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. When combined together, immigrants make up around nine-tenths of the country’s labour force. Unemployment in the country, estimated in 2011 to be around 0.4%, is the second lowest in the world after Monaco.

The people of Qatar are pretty sophisticated in outlook and have high expectations in terms of healthcare, housing, education, finance and other services. It’s hardly surprising in so wealthy a country that personal banking – not to mention online banking, of course – plays such an important role in day-to-day life. Qatar Central Bank is the regulatory authority for the country’s many financial institutions and companies. As well as having a supervisory role, the Doha bank, which was established in 1993, has a number of other responsibilities including the prevention of money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

Opening a Qatar bank account is a relatively straightforward process for expatriates. Obviously when you apply you’ll need to show some official documentation such as your passport, work visa and residency permit. You’ll also need to show a letter from your employer stating what your salary is and that the employer approves of you opening a bank account. On successfully opening an account, you’ll then need to give your employer a letter from the bank, confirming that the bank is willing to receive your salary. And that’s all there is to it!

ATMs are growing in number throughout the country and are widely available. So there should be little difficulty in accessing your cash. ATMs typically accept debit and all major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. However, always bear in mind that although the use of credit and debit cards is common, cash is still very popular when it comes to paying for everyday items.

Click here for more information about Qatar.


How to Secure Financial Support for Your Business

How to Secure Financial Support for Your Business

In these austere times, some of the biggest businesses on the planet are struggling financially. Therefore it is inevitable that there are also a number of businesses who are not so prominent that are also finding it tough to meet their financial obligations and carry on providing services to their usual high standards.

There are many options available for securing cash or rejuvenating your business’ financial situation, and we looked at some of the best ideas.

Private Equity Investment

If you are seeking additional motivation and support in the running of your business then private equity investment could well be the way forward for you. The downside is that you will be giving up a portion of your future profits, however that is probably a favourable option if you have found yourself in the situation where you desperately need a cash injection to even stay afloat.

Whether you seek this investment from a private equity fund or a venture capital provider, you will need to produce a strong plan of how you are going to generate revenues and profits moving forward, and be prepared to be brutally honest with yourself and potential investors with regard to the situation you have found yourself in. Demonstrating an ability to learn from past mistakes and not allow them to cloud judgment or decision-making moving forward will also see you looked upon favourably.

Bank Loans

Bank loans have always been the most traditional manner of seeking a cash injection, however with the difficulties now associated with getting credit many are moving away from this and looking at other areas. If you are able to secure a favourable rate, however, and perhaps even a payment holiday at the start of your repayment period, then a bank loan could be just what you need.

One of the big advantages of a bank loan is that you are repaying small chunks constantly, where should you seek private equity or venture capital investment you are more likely to find yourself paying a lump sum at the end of an agreed period of financial backing.

Visit the Accountant

Of course, you would visit your business accountant anyway, at least we hope you would, before taking out a loan or seeking another form of equity.

Take the opportunity to review your current business practices and outgoings first. Taking out a loan or seeking private equity can be a huge commitment for a struggling business, and it is often worth seeing if anything on the balance sheet can be cut out or operations streamlined before seeking larger scale support.

Dealmarket is a recent start-up company that shares insight on accessible private equity marketplace which includes venture capital.


Eight Ways To Feed Your Family In A Frugal Fashion

Eight Ways To Feed Your Family In A Frugal Fashion

If you have a family, you are likely to be well aware of the significant cost associated with feeding them on a weekly basis. Therefore, although there are certainly many ways to cut down on your spending, when it comes to family households, some of the biggest savings can be made by simply being careful how you stock the kitchen. Should you be interested in cutting down on how much you spend on food each week, here are eight tips for doing just that.

Purchase Ingredients Not Meals

Although ready prepared food is certainly convenient, said convenience isn’t exactly cheap. If you are a good cook, or you are willing to learn, you can save a significant amount of money each week by simply cooking most of your meals from scratch with fresh ingredients. And depending on your culinary skills, you might even find that what you cook yourself is not only significantly cheaper, it also tastes better.

Purchase Generic Products

Many of the products that you purchase each week can be purchased in generic form without sacrificing on taste. And because supermarkets often offer basic generic products at cost price, you can make some real savings.

Despite the fact that such goods are often priced as low as twenty five percent of the cost of branded alternatives, most of them taste almost identical. Although there are some items that it’s worth paying extra for, items such as tinned vegetables, cereals and fruit juices are all better off purchased in generic form.

Stock Up on Discounted Favorites

Although you should never purchase something that you won’t eat solely because it’s on sale, when the food in question is something that you generally purchase every week, it is well worth stocking up. Even popular brands that generally cost quite a bit occasionally go on sale at significant discounts. If you take advantage of such offers when they come up, the savings over the course of a year can add up to a surprisingly high amount.

Never Grocery Shop Without a List

Speaking of discounted goods, those in charge of supermarket design are highly adept at getting consumers to purchase food that they really don’t need. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are when you enter a supermarket, if you don’t arrive armed with a strict shopping list you are highly unlikely to shop in a frugal manner.

Hit the Street Markets

The convenience of purchasing all of your food from a single place certainly cannot be denied but once again, such convenience is costing you money. While supermarkets offer the lowest prices on most goods, when it comes to fruit and vegetables, the best prices are almost always found at street markets. And when it comes to meat, the lowest prices, and the best quality, is usually found at the butcher. Therefore, if you are serious about saving money on food, and you have the time to spare, don’t purchase everything in the same place.

Avoid Loose Supermarket Produce

On the other hand, if you insist on purchasing your fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, you should always purchase the packaged variety. This is because when supermarkets sell loose fruit and vegetables, they charge consumers according to the weight. Packaged produce on the other hand is generally sold by the unit. And due to the variation in how much a unit of produce generally weighs, packaged produce always offers more weight for your money.

Forget About Loyalty Cards

Most people head to the same supermarket week in and week out, and in doing so they get a few dollars back each month thanks to their loyalty cards. The savings offered by loyalty cards however are typically only around one percent, and supermarket loyalty tends to cost people significantly more than that.

What supermarket is the cheapest tends to change every week, as each throws different promotions and price reductions. Taking advantage of such promotions each week is always going to save you far more than the cash back offered by a loyalty card.

Printable Coupons

Finally, it would be difficult to write an article about frugal food shopping without mentioning the benefits of coupons. Although many people assume that only minor savings can be made, if you head to the supermarket with enough of them, you might be surprised by just how much you can save.

The key is to not rely on supermarkets to send you coupons in the mail. Instead you should head to their website and find the printable variety. Provided you are careful not to purchase products that you otherwise wouldn’t, you might find that savings of up to ten percent are not uncommon. And when you start searching online for manufacturer coupons also, you can expect to save even more.

Richard Braine writes on behalf of Cash for Gold UK, specialists in turning your unwanted gold into cash with simple, safe and secure processes.


Claiming a Home Office on You Taxes

Claiming a Home Office on You Taxes

A home office can be one of the best tax deductions for professionals that choose to work at home. Unfortunately, a home office tax deduction is also one of the biggest red flags for an IRS audit. To avoid tipping off the IRS audit monsters, make sure your home office follows the guidelines for a true home office.

Here are a few guidelines to follow to ensure that your home office won’t trigger an audit.

  • According to the IRS, areas in your home that are used for anything that’s not business related can’t be considered home offices. This means that you can’t use your dining room table as a tax deduction. Instead, make sure that your home office is a separate room in your house that you use for business and business only. Ideally, your home office should be a completely separate room from the rest of your home. If this isn’t possible, you may be able to separate a small portion of a larger room using room dividers.
  • In order for your home office to qualify for a deduction, you must use it for business more often than not. This means that you should spend more time doing business related tasks in your home office than anywhere else. For example, if you have an office at your employer’s place of business, you can only use your home office deduction if you spend over half of your business time in it.

Once you’ve determined whether or not your home office qualifies as a real home office in the eyes of the IRS, you can then start deducting your business expenses.

For example, a portion of your rent or mortgage, along with portions of your utilities and home insurance, can usually be deducted. You can’t deduct all of the money that you put into your home, however, and you must first calculate what percentage of these expenses that you can deduct.

To find out what percentage of your expenses that you can deduct, you will first need to measure the square footage of your home office as well as the square footage of your entire home. Once you have these measurements, divide the square footage of your home office by the entire square footage of your home.

Here’s an example…

  • Your home office is 150 square feet, and your entire home is 1,500 square feet.
  • Divide 150 by 1,500 to get 0.01.
  • Multiply 0.01 by 100 to get 10%.

This means that you can deduct 10% of all home expenses. As long as they are used solely for business, you may be able to deduct other expenses as well, including internet service and phone service.

Even if you follow all of the rules and deduct only business related expenses, there’s still a chance that the IRS might audit you. While this shouldn’t be anything to really worry about if you have nothing to hide, it can be quite inconvenient and annoying.

There are a few things that you can do, however, to lower the chances of being audited.

  • Don’t lie about your income. Ever. There’s really no point in trying to hide the amount of money that you make. Not only is it dishonest, but it’s the IRS that you’re trying to hide it from. They will find out.
  • Back up your deductions with physical proof. This will usually mean filing a paper tax return, but also lowers the chances that the IRS will pay you a visit. Keep all of your receipts throughout the year, and include copies with your tax return.
  • Include an explanation about any drastic income changes. One of the biggest red flags for an audit is an extreme change in income from one year to another. For example, if you made $200,000 last year and only made $20,000 this year, attach a note explaining the reason for this.

This article was written by Jonathan Koenig, who is an expert blogger on many different topics.  In addition to writing about finances and technology Jon also writes about cna training on http://cnathive.com


10 Extreme Ways to Improve Your Savings Accounts This Summer

10 Extreme Ways to Improve Your Savings Accounts This Summer

Sometimes regular budgeting just isn’t enough. If you need extra money, then some extreme lifestyle changes can be made to find some extra money within your income. If you’re looking to enjoy yourself this summer, you might want some extra money in your savings account. Here are ten extreme ways you could save money to such an end.

  1. In The Shower

This option is practical because it can be done to different extents. For example, in extreme cases you could shower every other day, but simply learning to take quick effective showers can shave a surprising amount on the water bill. Further reductions can be made by skipping the shower on a Sunday – if you’re not going out it can occasionally wait till Monday.

  1. Your Mobile Phone

At the end of the day, a mobile phone needs to make calls send texts and, depending on your immediate needs, access the internet. Since most phones can do this these days, there’s no need to upgrade to this year’s latest smart phone. By downgrading or keeping your phone, you’ll save money.

  1. Grow Your Own Food

While vegetables can often be cheap, growing them yourself can be even cheaper. Doing this regularly will reduce your shopping bills. Plus, you get vegetables at their freshest, with the added benefit of knowing you prepared them yourself. Even if you live in a flat, there are ways to grow your own vegetables, you just need soil, water and sunlight.

  1. Buy Second Hand

Not the most extreme option, buying used goods can save a lot of money. Whether it’s clothes, DVDs or other products, the quality is often very close to brand new products at a fraction of the cost. This is can be rather easy to keep up once you get into the habit, and you’ll save a surprising amount.

  1. Wash Clothes In Cold Water

 Hot water doesn’t always have its benefits. It costs you more and cold water will still wash clothes all the same.

  1. Compare Everything

More than just utility bills, check for cheaper options everywhere. Being complacent and accepting the current prices won’t reduce the costs, finding a cheaper solution will.

  1. Negotiate

Whether you find somewhere cheaper or not, never be afraid to negotiate. More than just your utility bills, you can let other services know if it’s cheaper elsewhere. This includes the likes of computer repairs and garages, where your custom is appreciated. Letting them know of a better deal elsewhere might reduce the costs for you.

  1. Walk

A simple option, yet many don’t consider the benefits. Not only will you save money, you’ll get some exercise too. You don’t need to drive everywhere, it wastes fuel and money. If the weather’s good, a long walk can be rewarding in itself.

  1. Car Share

If you have to drive somewhere, and public transport isn’t an option, consider joining or setting up a car share. If you know people who need to go the same way you are, then sharing the costs of driving can benefit everyone.

  1. Nights In

While nights out are always fun, they are expensive. Instead of buying lots of drinks at a bar, invite your friends over with a cheap bottle of wine. It may not sound as exciting, but the end result is usually the same.

Author | Amie is a passionate about personal finance in her spare time she enjoys reading about high interest savings account deals, and looking at savings and investment plan sites like Fair Investment Company

Image courtesy of tomazstolfa from Flickr


Ways to Stay Fashionable this Summer on a Budget

Ways to Stay Fashionable this Summer on a Budget

My sister has the absolute greatest knack for unearthing the best sales in the mall, or stepping foot into a thrift store only to throw together the most amazing outfit for around $15 from top to bottom. Since I was not so lucky to have been born with the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out such steals, I’ve employed some research and some of sis’s best tips for scouting out sales and deals, and putting together a fashionable closet on a budget.

The trends this summer are pretty bold, and of course nothing like they were last summer. What’s a girl to do to keep up with the trends while sticking to a budget? Although it can be tricky to find items that both meet the budget and are trendy and wearable, it can certainly be done with some tips and tricks of the trade. Read on for the guidelines that can help steer you towards maintaining a sense of style and sticking to even the strictest of budgets.

Buy “It” Pieces at Inexpensive Stores

Trends that are very “of the moment” do not warrant spending your hard-earned cash on them, since they will probably only be here for a season. Sure, you want to keep with the times and be in style, but don’t blow your whole summer budget on a neon yellow skirt, as hot as it may be right now. Instead, buy these sorts of items at stores like Charlotte Russe and Forever 21, where you won’t feel buyer’s remorse if the item you purchased experiences a very short shelf life in its trendiness. Current trends include bold colors like bright orange, acid yellow, and neon’s. Soft pastels are big as well, by way of shorts, skinnies, and tops.

Shop Second-Hand

We are particularly lucky this summer because a lot of older trends are coming back, and that means thrift store heaven! Don’t knock thrift store shopping until you’ve tried it. It can be fun, creative, and of course inexpensive. Some tips I’ve learned from my sister are to look up zip codes of the wealthier neighborhoods in town, and find second-hand stores in these neighborhoods. You can certainly shop in Goodwill’s or other thrift stores in the trendy areas, just realize that you are probably up against some stiff competition. If you search out the more suburban stores, chances are there will be more merchandise and less people sifting through it.

This summer, look for wedge heels, which are making a huge comeback (maybe also peruse your parents’ closets or the attic for some classic wedges.) Another popular trend that’s making a comeback is sheer long sleeved blouses, worn with a bra or slip underneath. And denim button-up shirts are experiencing a revival as well, so scour a thrift shop or consignment store near you to score sweet deals on these retro comebacks.

And my last word on second-hand stores is to also look at what you can turn a shirt or old pair of pants into. I once bought a pair of high-end jeans that had stains on the knees and jagged bottoms, paid no more than $10 for them at a thrift store, and went to town on them with a pair of scissors. It now appears that I have name-brand jean shorts, and I wear them with everything. Be creative and don’t dismiss an awesome item just because it has a few buttons missing—ask for a discount and think or ways to spruce it up for cheap.

Save Up for the Staples

The best advice I’ve gotten from my fashion-savvy sister is that staple items like white button-down shirts, black slacks, and your favorite pair of skinny jeans are worth a small splurge. That’s not to say that it’s okay to drop an excessive amount on these pieces just because you need them, but think of them as the foundation for many other outfits to come.

For example, I love Gap slacks but cringe at paying the full $70 or so full-price. Instead, I weathered the post-Christmas shop rush on the counsel of my sis and low and behold scored a pair of straight-leg black slacks on the Clearance rack for a whopping $12.50. I did have to pay $13 to get the hem tailored, but a total of $25.50 for my staple black slacks that fit like a glove is still a steal. The bottom line with staple items is to constantly be on the hunt for these items, and get them if you can at a good bargain—even if it means weathering holiday weekend shopping rushes. And don’t be afraid to shell out a little more money for something you are going to wear ALL the time, as opposed to a “hot now” item.

Shop the Outlets

If you have never been an outlet shopper, it’s worth it to go once just to see what you’re missing! I’ve gotten so many good deals at outlets and swear by them. My advice is to make a list of things you need, such as a new work shirt or a fall jacket. I got one of my favorite work shirts at Banana Republic’s outlet store, although I would never buy one full price. I found a BR outlet about a half hour from my house, shopped the day after Thanksgiving, and got my “go to” white button down for 25% off the outlet price (around $30.) Even if there hadn’t been an additional sale going on, it still would have been a good deal. Stores like Coach sell clutches and wristlets for a fraction of the price you’d find in the mall stores, too. I scored a white-and-yellow summery Coach wristlet a couple of years ago for $23 that I still have and goes perfect with a little sundress.

Use Accessories

Use nail polish and an at-home manicure to add some pop to your outfit without splurging too much. Likewise, hats, jewelry and hair accessories can go a long way towards giving your look that little extra kick. I purchased a tan colored fedora last year at a swap meet for $6, and it is like my summer sidekick. It looks great with all of my outfits, and is perfect for keeping rays off my face at the beach. It made me cringe when a friend of mine purchased on from J. Crew for almost $70, when I had gotten mine for so much less. Hers did come with a colored band around the hat, which mine didn’t, but I added a ribbon from my craft kit for nothing and they look nearly identical.

If you’re using jewelry to amp up your look, try finding pieces from thrift stores or summer festivals. Often times at fairs and craft festivals you can barter for price tag, and they’re original pieces that can double as conversation pieces.

Be a Coupon Clipper

Gone are the days of getting every single coupon and deal in the Sunday paper. Instead, search for coupon codes to redeem online, or even coupons that you can print out and bring in the store. Some stores will even allow you to simply pull the coupon up on your Smart Phone, and show it to them when you check out (but call ahead to see if this method is accepted.)

If you sign up for shopittome.com, you can note which brands and sized are of interest to you, and the website will send you alerts when these things go on sale in your area.

Have a Closet Swap

My girlfriends and I get together every couple of months to do a closet swap, where we all rifle through our clothes and pack up what we haven’t worn in months, then meet at somebody’s house and swap pieces. What’s old becomes new again, for somebody else. I do this with one girlfriend where we don’t each keep the pieces we exchange, rather we simply borrow them, but it’s fun to do give-aways as well.

Follow Blogs like the Budget Fashionista

Just to name one, but there are many blogs out there devoted to staying up on the current fashions for a fraction of the price. The Budget Fashionista, for example, found a few summery skirts for excellent prices and posted them on her site, including a very trendy polka dot swing skirt for under $20, a breezy white skirt that can become a weekend go-to for $29, and a versatile maxi skirt for $25.

Put Together a Budget for Pieces You “Have” to Have

Last but most certainly not least, make sure that if there is an item out there that you find yourself longing for, make a budget to save up the money to purchase it. This is a good way to avoid buyer’s remorse, since you will have to think on it and save for it for awhile, and if it doesn’t end up being that important or special you just won’t buy it. It’s also a surefire way to avoid accruing shopping debt. And with the times being what they are, and living in a nation plagues with credit card debt, student loan debt, and credit scores that have seen better days, trust me, it’s worth saving up for something instead of making an impulse purchase.

If you enjoyed DK’s article, check out RoadFish.com for more articles on personal finance.


Medical Tech Advances that Will Save Consumers Money

Medical Tech Advances that Will Save Consumers Money

There have been several advances in medical technology that have the potential to save consumers money as the cost of using the equipment starts to drop. New medical technology is notoriously expensive when it is first introduced into healthcare institutions. The costs begin to drop as the technology is better integrated into everyday processes and becomes a tool that is in widespread use.

There have been three recent advances in medical technology that will definitely reduce the cost of healthcare for consumers:

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) 

EMR systems and electronic health record (EHR) systems have already started to appear in most hospitals and associated medical businesses. The expense of the systems has been mitigated by some tax breaks and there is already legislation in place to ensure proper usage. EMR in a hospital gives doctors and staff the ability to work with electronic patient records using digital devices such as tablet computers. EHR systems give hospitals and patients the ability to quickly transmit complete electronic health records anywhere in only a few minutes.

The combination of these systems reduces the costs associated with hospital administration, reduces the chance for errors because of missing documents or handwriting, and allows patient data to be portable. This will reduce the cost of healthcare over the coming years as the systems become standard in all medical practices.

Advanced Diagnostics 

Many advances have been made in the area of diagnostic equipment, techniques and preventative medicine. Technology such as computed tomography (CT) scanners and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines can now see greater detail with reduced radiation emissions and a lower cost of operation. Software for these devices is faster and more accurate. Institutions like Huntingdon Life Sciences have helped to developed better preventative medications.

New robot-assisted surgical equipment allows minimally invasive procedures to be performed with close to no in-hospital recovery time for the patients. These advances are leading to better preventative care that will reduce the cost of healthcare for consumers as diseases are caught and treated before escalating into an issue that requires expensive and risky medical procedures.

Telepresence 

Doctors have been able to use robot-assisted surgical equipment to perform procedures on patients from remote locations for decades now. New technology allows faster connections and more accurate manipulation of devices. Collaborative technologies are also making it possible to consult with specialists who are half-way around the world. This will reduce the cost of healthcare for consumers because the pool of available doctors and specialists will be expanded so that there is a reduction in travel expenses and less stress on individual doctors.

It can also result in a more accurate first diagnosis, better treatment from skilled specialists and shorter hospital stays. The cost of healthcare will drop as telepresence becomes even more common and easy to use in professional medical settings.

One of the problems with tracking the cost savings that new medical technology provides is that it is hard to attribute specific long-term financial figures to a single device or procedure. The largest amount of healthcare savings that consumers will see will stem from a combination of advances. These emerging technologies will focus on every area of healthcare from preventative medications to chronic disease management. Keeping a person healthy for a longer period of time and reducing the impact of medical procedures will eventually reduce costs significantly.

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Top Tips on How to Save and Invest your Money for College

Top Tips on How to Save and Invest your Money for College

With tuition fees consistently rising, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to get a college education. While there are college grants and scholarships, the level of competition for these places is insane; getting a student loan is also not an easy job.

The Spiralling Cost of Tuition

According to the College Board Report, students doing a four year course at a private college can expect to pay (in tuition fees, boarding, and lodging) about $38,589 in the year 2011-2012. On the other hand, students at a public institute paid about $17,000 for the same course.

College fees are rising even faster than inflation. In the last five years it has been noted that tuition fees have risen 5.6% while inflation just 3%. There is no way to exactly predict the increase in cost but it is estimated that the cost of private education will be $200,000 by the year 2016.

#1 Option – a 529 College Savings Plan

If as a parent you want to save at least a part of the funds for your child’s education, the best place to start is 529 college savings plan. This plan is popular as it helps you save on taxes as well. As longs as the money is used for education related purpose such as tuition fees, boarding and lodging etc you need not pay taxes when the amount is withdrawn.
Investing in a 529

The 529 should be created as a custodial account. It should be in your name with your child as your beneficiary. Begin by determining a dollar amount required for the college education of your child and invest accordingly. You can make use of the online college fee calculators to help figure out the amount you need to save. As the amount saved in 529 is exclusively for college education it is very important to get the numbers right as you do not want to risk over-saving.

But what happens if you do over-invest? If the money is withdrawn for a non-college expense then, a 10% penalty is imposed on top of the regular income tax on the earnings. The beneficiary can be changed to another child though to prevent incurring the penalty. The best strategy to avoid a shortfall of funds or investing excess funds is by using other investment plans that can be used for college expense as well.

Other Investment Ideas

Apart from 529s there are many other investment plans that will help you save effectively and could offer many ancillary benefits as well.

1. Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are retirement accounts that are similar to traditional IRA but here you can withdraw contributions made for any purpose without any penalty being imposed.

Earnings can also be withdrawn without incurring the 10% early withdrawal penalty but only if it is used for educational purposes. Tax will be imposed on those earnings if the withdrawal is more than the total contributions however.

2. Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance is a plan where there is an insurance component and a cash component that can be withdrawn or borrowed. The additional perk is that the cash value of the life insurance policy is not considered as a liquid asset when the college determines the financial aid that your child is qualified to get.

When the money is borrowed against the cash value, tax need not be paid. But, interest on the loan has to be paid. You can borrow against the investment component to get a portion of the investment tax-free; but, if you make a withdrawal you will have to pay taxes on your earnings.

Permanent life insurance policies are complicated hence the various available options need to be reviewed carefully. It is better not to invest in a life insurance as a saving component unless you have the need to do so.

Permanent life insurance is also not a liquid investment. They usually have a particular time period in which they have to be paid or else one would have to pay a penalty. The ramifications on borrowing and withdrawing from the life insurance before taking out money from it to pay for the college should be understood before investing.

3. Fixed Annuities

Fixed annuities are those from which you can withdraw during retirement or alternatively receive a fixed income. Fixed annuities will not count against you when being assessed by colleges for financial aid as they are classed as retirement savings. The downside is that the IRS charges a heavy penalty for early withdrawals. You will also likely incur a penalty for tapping into the fund during the initial surrender period.

However if you are more than 59.5 years old when your child is attending college, the annuity can be a great choice as it is long out of the surrender time by the time you tap it. But, if you are not 59 years old then the annuity is likely a very poor savings instrument for any other purpose than your retirement.

This was a post by James from Broker Review – a user driven stock broker comparison site. Click here to check it out the popular Scottrade Review!


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