Savings

How To Cut Expenses and Retire Right

Retirement looks different for everyone, as every retiree has a unique budget, interests, passions and hobbies. One thing rings true for all retirees, however: The more you can cut expenses and save your pennies when you are young, the more financially secure you will be in retirement — and the better able to spend your retirement, and your savings, as you please. As you plan out your retirement, don’t neglect to factor in these five simple strategies for trimming your expenses from month to month:

  1. Get out of credit card debt. This is likely the number-one way you can save money when you are younger. If you carry high balances on your credit cards and credit lines, you will be throwing money away on interest — money that you could instead be saving for your retirement. If you are working to pay off credit cards, pay more than the minimum amount due so you can get out of debt more quickly. Decide on a set amount you will pay each month, and stick to it — perhaps even set your bill to autopay through your checking account so you won’t be tempted to pay less than what is due. Above all, pay your bills on time to avoid any dings on your credit report and score.
  2. Pay down your mortgage. As with credit card debt, the sooner you can pay off your mortgage, the sooner you can start putting that money toward your retirement. There can be tax advantages to writing off the interest on a mortgage, so work with a tax adviser to be sure this strategy is right for you, and be sure to check whether there are any prepayment penalties. If you decide it’s best to pay down your mortgage sooner rather than later, try accelerating your payments — for instance, pay every two weeks instead of monthly, or add $200 every month to your minimum payment.
  3. Get a smaller car. If possible and it makes sense for your family, buy a smaller car with lower monthly payments. Look for something with good gas mileage and positive consumer reviews so you can reduce your maintenance and gas costs. Naturally, your choice of a car will be a function of how you want to spend your retirement — for example, maybe you dream of traveling cross-country in an RV. However, if you aren’t able to cut your car expenses, know that you will need to cut costs in another area, perhaps in your home.
  4. Get your house in order. Do as many home repairs, upgrades and maintenance tasks as possible before you retire, when you have the income to spend on your home. Not only will you maintain and increase the value of your home, but you also will reduce problems later, when you won’t necessarily have the money to spend on repairs.
  5. Track your expenses. By simply writing down each expense throughout the month, you will get a clear picture of where your money is going. You might be shocked to learn you are spending $100 per month on lattes, for example. Take things a step further by calculating the retirement savings you could earn by investing that $100 instead of spending it, using one of the many free online financial retirement calculators. When you see an area where you are spending too much, take steps to cut those costs and invest the money in your future retirement.


The compounding effect of saving your money instead of spending it or using it to pay off debt can be huge. It’s well worth your while to investigate any problem spending areas and take steps to correct them. You might not be able to solve every problem before you retire, depending on your age and your income, but make an effort to address as many issues as possible and your finances allow.

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As the creator of www.FeliciaGopaul.com, Felicia Gopaul helps consumers to make smart money choices for their current and future financial health. Her articles appear throughout the Web on various financial websites and blogs focused on providing quick, simple strategies for achieving financial security. Felicia recently moved to California from New Jersey and is happy to be soaking in the sunshine alongside her husband and two daughters.


The Importance Of Retirement Planning

Never Too Early To Start Planning For Your Retirement

Planning for your retirement is one of the most important financial decisions you can make. As a general rule, the earlier you begin to plan for retirement, the better. Even if you are young, it is always a responsible decision to save money for the future. If you are still unsure about whether or not you can afford to plan for retirement, you need to learn why retirement planning is essential. Here are a few reasons why you should begin saving for your retirement now.

Common Misconceptions About Retirement 

The number one mistake you can make it to assume that your retirement will be taken care of by social security and other government benefits. The truth is that no one knows how long these entitlement programs will last or what they will look like in the future. With more and more people retiring every day and less government money available to support them, social security may very well be a thing of the past by the time you reach the age of retirement. To avoid working yourself into the grave, you need to begin your own private retirement planning. If you take your future into your own hands you will have more control than if you leave it to the government.

Being Prepared For The Unexpected 

Another reason it is essential to oversee your own retirement planning is so that you can prepare for the unexpected. Often as people near retirement age they find themselves with costly medical expenses. Even if you do receive government benefits when you retire, there is no way those benefits alone will provide you with a comfortable living and cover rising healthcare costs for you and your loved ones. Even if you and your spouse are healthy now, there is no guarantee that an unforeseen medical situation will not arise once you get older. When it comes to planning for retirement it is always a good idea to prepare for the worst. If you do, you will be able to have a comfortable life no matter what financial burdens come your way.

It’s Never Too Early Or Too Late To Begin Planning For Retirement 

There are many reasons why it is important to plan for your retirement. Whether you want to save money to cover unforeseen costs or contribute money to help your children and grandchildren, flexibility is important when it comes to retirement. You never know what curveballs life is going to throw your way and it is always better to be prepared than to be left with no options. It is never too late to begin planning for retirement, but it is never too early, either. If you do not know where to begin, contact a retirement planning professional for help.

Information provided by retirement planning software provider Ask Trak to educate those planning for retirement.

 


10 Tips for Buying an Investment Property

Property investment can be a really fun thing to do if you do it right. Try being resourceful, look for tips and tricks, look the facts up and make confident and educated decisions. Here are some of the best tips considering the acquirement of an investment property.

Location

This is always a huge deal. It’s even more important than the quality of the very building, and it comes very logical when you think of it. You can easily repair a damaged and old house, but a street’s or neighborhood’s reputation is next to impossible to correct. So even if it looks weird at first glance, take special care about the location of the property you are buying. A good street is certainly going to attract good tenants, and also, there is less chance of being seriously affected by property slumps.

Do not over-renovate

Although a fountain in the back yard or a nice gazebo next to it sound and look really nice, these expensive extras can really tighten your budget, and that is the money which you cannot and, most probably, will not ever get back. Go for a simple neutral colored paint, maybe some new carpets or drapes, and keep your renovation fees to a minimum, but still adding a certain amount of the ‘wow’ effect to your new acquisition. For example, try to avoid buying a complete new set of furniture for the bedroom if you can do with just re-painting the old bed and dressers, and maybe changing the handles on the dressers.

Avoid Flipping

To move away from risk, and knowing the today’s market, aim to buy and hold onto your property. 5 years is a nice period of time to do so. This minimizes the risk, and maximizes the return. If you start with buying and selling constantly, you will not only lose money on the very trades, but also lose a huge amount of time (which equals money, right?) moving your stuff from place to place, when you sell them.

Aim for the long term

Long term investments are less risky, and they require way less effort. They can make a nice addition to your current income, and they present a great option for small investors. Also, having time on your hands to lay low during the market lows can protect you from severe losses.

Have cash available

Aside from renovations, there is always need for some additional cash, for example, most lenders will require a 20% deposit on a property. So, a kind of emergency fund for such occasions is a plus to have, if not even a necessity.

Calculate the real cost of ownership

This involves everything from the very price, to mortgage rates, utilities, maintenance, repairs and any other emergency that may pop up while you own and manage a property. The only way to keep things in check is to keep track of every single dollar spent on the property so that you can accurately circle out the final cost of everything that needed to be done.

See the property for what it CAN be

Judging the property by its current state is a common mistake made by new, “green” investors. If you use just a tiny bit of imagination you can do all the renovations and adaptations in your head and imagine what can come out of this ragged old shack you are looking at. Just be careful with the extent of renovations planned, they can mess with your profit.

Hire quality workers

With the rise of the countries in transition, like Eastern Europe, of parts of Africa, comes the serious affordability of actually well-trained workers, who are dying to work abroad. Of course, finding out what stuff you can do yourself, but leave the tricky things to the professionals.

Know your rights as a landlord

Learn everything you need to know about your legal rights and obligations as a landlord. Not knowing these may prove costly in the future.

Enjoy the benefits of your investment

After all of the renovations and consultancies, it is now time to enjoy your investment. Having regular tenants gives you a stable monthly income and, also, a sense of security a human being needs to feel happy. In the end, learn from every investment you make, and soon you’ll be a property investment mogul. Well, maybe not, but you’ll surely enjoy a life with regular monthly income, almost without lifting a finger.

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Damian Wolf has been a blogger and an online marketing pro since 2009. Currently, he works on http://www.simplehomeinvest.com.au project. Damian loves to meet new people and discover efficient ways to achieve business goals of business clients.


Real Property Remains a Solid Investment

Investments in real property are generally considered solid options because they build equity over time. Land titles are tangible proof that the holder possesses something of value. However, it is crucial for property owners to acquire property at the right price to make sure that the investment pays off given time.

Property Assessment Defines the Price

When it comes to real estate, valuation is never random even when bidding wars ensue for highly desirable properties. Property assessment is both a science and an art. It is a science because solid numbers, historical and current data are used to come up with the property’s value.

Valuation metrics may take recent sales of comparable properties into consideration. It may also factor in local economic conditions and business initiatives that would impact property values.

There is some creative input involved when it comes to property valuation. Intangible factors and subjective considerations will come into play when choosing which recently sold properties to include as comparable sales to compute for property value.

Uses of Property Valuations

The valuation metrics used will vary depending on the type of property and purpose of the valuation. Assessment of real properties can be the basis for setting market price when selling a home. In this case, it is important to use reliable values culled from prices of similar properties that recently sold within the same market area. This determination becomes an issue in a down market when few properties are changing hands. Property assessment can also pose a problem for unique properties that have few comparable estates within the area.

Property valuation is undertaken by the local taxing authority to determine property tax for the upcoming year. In this case, the considerations will include improvements made on the property and on surrounding public and private properties. The current market climate will also come into play in the analysis of values. In any case, sale price valuation will usually differ from taxable valuation.

Property Search in a Digital World

Property ownership has played a big role in the fortunes of many families throughout history. Ownership of real estate is the core of the prototypical American dream. Land titles have been a source of pride, family feuds and financial skullduggery.

Fortunately, technology has changed the way property is acquired, exchanged and analyzed. Record keeping is mostly digitized, as are detailed maps of populated areas. Property searches are automated, making information accessible to anyone with access to the Internet. Access to information has improved decision-making on the part of buyers, sellers and their agents.

The accuracy and timeliness of market analysis and the resulting valuation has improved with easy access to up-to-date reports. In addition, application software capable of crunching statistics into usable reports have leveled the playing field for buyers and sellers in the real estate market.

The prevalence of portable digital devices reduced the time it takes to complete a transaction from property search to closing. Social media energized the marketing aspect while improved communications made transactions more transparent.

Technology has transformed the business of buying and selling property making it more efficient and productive for all parties involved.

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  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://www.depositphotos.com

A Geowarehouse subscription includes thorough and in-depth reports that make it easier for you. From a property assessment to searches, Geowarehouse provides real estate and non-real estate professionals the information and tools to make their work easier


How Payroll Outsourcing Helps Small and Large Business Houses

How Payroll Outsourcing Helps Small and Large Business Houses

Payroll is perhaps the most important department of any organization. Even the most productive and the happiest employee would be more than shocked when he/she gets a paycheck with an incorrect amount.

There was a time when most of business houses including big and small prepare payroll and performed payroll functions in-house or within the company. In many cases, the employees faced disputes with their paychecks. And thus nowadays, many companies outsource payroll related tasks to a professional payroll services to avoid any sort of discrepancies in the paychecks and ensure that the employees get paid properly. Outsourcing payroll has come a long way in the recent past. In fact, outsourcing payroll services is now in vogue in the corporate world.

Simply put, an in-house operation opens you up for a plethora of errors. Sometimes just one seemingly simple error can cost you one or more employees. Unfortunately, this is the least of your worries. Failing to properly classify your employees can land you in deep trouble with the IRS. All it takes is a couple mistakes on your payroll, such as a setup error, or failing to make tax deposits on time, or doing payroll late, to land you in serious trouble. Thankfully these problems can be completely overlooked by outsourcing payroll to an external organization.

There are many reasons for which businesses outsource payroll services and some of them are discussed here.

  1. Saves time – Although big business houses may have the financial capacity to hire people to take care of the payroll-related jobs, but most small businesses don’t have that capacity. As a result, the task of payroll maintenance often falls on the accountant, bookkeeper or manager or even the owner himself. In most cases, these personnel have others works to manage apart from handling payroll and taking care of whether or not the employees get paid on time. Outsourcing payroll to a professional service significantly removes this burden from the employees and the management, and let them be more focused on other important works. Not only small businesses, large business houses also get the same benefits by outsourcing this tedious and onerous task to a company specialized in handing payroll
  2. Saves money – This is another important aspect of payroll outsourcing. The employees managing the payroll jobs need to spend several hours and sometimes do overtime to prepare paychecks and handle tax document for the staffs. Since time is money, to get the payroll job done within the house, the businesses often need to render extra dollars along with actual salary to the employees handing payroll.  And that often needs the businesses surpass budget. Outsourcing payroll to a professional service can remarkably reduce this expense and thus the businesses can save significant amount that they can use for some other important purposes.
  3. Ensures accuracy – Businesses, both small and large, need to be updated on all tax laws and regulations related to the business operations including payroll functions. Big business houses with separate department somehow manage to keep themselves updated and knowledgeable about the ins and outs of such rules and regulations. But staying up top of such information is really difficult for small businesses with no dedicated payroll department and thus managing the payroll functions within the scope of latest laws is next to impossible. However, with a professional payroll services, a business can expect that the payroll of the company will be surely handled within the scopes of the recent rules and regulations. Most of the professional payroll service providers keep updating software allowing for amendments and adjustments to ensure precision.

These 3 are the most significant benefits that both small and large corporate houses may get from outsourced payroll service. Besides these, the businesses can also expect to get tax advantages through payroll outsourcing.


Investment Ideas for Families

Investment Ideas for Families

popular investment Investments are an important part of any family’s financial health. They help give you the security of knowing you have something to fall back on. And they can teach you and your children how the financial world works. Even if you’re a low-income family, you can still find investment options that work for you and your children.

Savings Accounts

This is one of the most popular investment options. Anyone in the family can open a savings account, even newborn children.

Savings accounts have many different interest rates. For children, the interest rate may be fairly low, perhaps 0-2%. But if you’re only teaching your children the importance of opening an account and saving money, then the low percentage shouldn’t matter.

Savings accounts with higher interest rates usually come with fees. But they can be waived if you maintain the minimum balance.

Investment Retirement Accounts

These type of accounts are also known as IRAs. The money in an IRA can grow without being taxed. Sometimes the taxes are deferred; other times the account is completely tax free.

There are several different types of IRAs, but the two most popular choices are Traditional and Roth. A Roth IRA is a retirement planning account that is tax-free as long as some conditions are met. A Traditional IRA doesn’t need a minimum yearly income amount to make a contribution. However, the money will be taxed once it is withdrawn from the account.

Both Traditional and Roth IRAs can be opened for minors. Although they cannot legally sign binding contracts, at certain financial institutions parents are allowed to sign for them in their stead. It might be helpful to seek from professional advice in this issue, and authorities like Mr. Brian Prince can help you with any investment or banking questions you may have.

How to Find Family Friendly Banks

Just like you would shop around for the best rates on anything you would plan to purchase, you need to shop around for banks. Try not to go with a bank that offers complicated financial investments to their customers. A bank that only does a few things, such as loans or mortgages, can focus better on customer service and on your needs.

Look for a bank that doesn’t have too many add-ons with your account, like extra fees for insurance. A bank that has reasonable or no fees should be your first choice. Remember that you’re making an investment. You don’t want to pay more in fees than you would get back in annual interest. You’ll actually be losing money instead of making it.

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Estimating Total Cost of Driving

Estimating Total Cost of Driving

Interested in how much driving actually costs you? Let’s do some basic analysis and find out – the results may surprise you.

The Answer

If you just want the answer from this example driving costs $6,150 per year, or $0.60 per mile driven. The car payment is less than half the total cost of driving. See the model here:

Driving Assumptions

First we have to enter our assumptions for the calculation.

  • How much is your car payment?   In this example we used $200. You might also have paid off your car, in which case the car payment could be $0 — but average monthly maintenance might be higher.
  • How much is your car insurance? If you pay annually, just divide the amount by 12.
  • How much is car registration? Your inspection? These costs can vary state by state.
  • How much is maintenance per month on average? Think about how oil changes, new tires — it adds up quick.
  • How much does it cost to fill up your tank? How much is gas per gallon? What is your MPG? How many fill-ups do you have per month? This info will help calculate how many miles you drive per year.
  • How much do you pay in parking? You may have to pay to park near your work or school, or even to park at an apartment.

Analysis

One important piece of analysis is the implied miles driven per year. In our example we estimate driving 10,286 miles per year. Thanks to statistics provided by the US Department of Transportation we know the average American drives 13,476 miles. So, we drive 24% below the average of most Americans. If this seems incorrect we would need to adjust our assumptions. We can also see the break-down of costs by mile driven. In our example it costs an average of $0.08 per mile to be insured, inspected, and registered. This is 13% of our total costs. With the assumptions we made the cost of the car is only 39% of the total cost of driving.

We know we didn’t account for every possible cost. There are extra costs for traffic tickets, or auto accidents. Economists might even want to value the opportunity cost of time you spent driving when you could have done something else. Our goal is just to get a reasonable estimate so we ignored these costs.

Conclusion

I hope this model helped you think about the total costs of driving. Once you factor in compliance costs, fuel, parking, and maintenance driving can get expensive.

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Jess is the author of ExcelModelsForSale, a site offering analysis tools for everyday decisions.


Bringing a Business Back From The Graveyard of The Recession

Bringing a Business Back From The Graveyard of The Recession

financial advice

Many post-recession attempts to bring a business “back from the grave” leave the “revived” company looking more like a zombie than the benefactor of a glorious resurrection. While analysis does suggest that the recession has ended, residual effects are still resonating within SMEs in every industry. Fortunately with a bit of research, dedication, and patience, any company can rebound and become lucrative again.

Debt Restructuring

The first step to recovery is eliminating debt in order to free up cash flow and allow for unrestricted expansion. The primary detrimental effect that the recession had on most businesses was sending them into a downward debt spiral. Some debt restructuring options to consider include:

  • Formal or informal negotiations – you can contact creditors independently or contract a professional to draft and propose an official company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
  • Consolidation loans – transferring all of your debts to a single lender will simplify management by centralizing monthly repayments, while also reducing the total interest owed.
  • Asset financing – even if your company has bad credit you may be able to take out a secured loan by offering up some of your assets as collateral. The funds could then be used to repay debts or invest in the business.

Finding New Ways to Source Leads

Once your debts are in order you need to start focusing on progression by finding new ways to advertise and reach your target audience. If you don’t have an official website and you haven’t been using the internet then that is probably one of the reasons why you struggled during the recession. Consider some of these options for sourcing new leads:

  • PPC advertising – pay-per-click ads let you pay for advertising based on results and puts your ad in front of targeted visitors.
  • Joint ventures – cooperate with other companies in your industry and offer them a commission for referring clients.
  • Search engine optimization –  although this is a long-term strategy that requires a bit of patience, within a few months you could be ranking at the top of the search engines for keywords that have a high commercial value, ultimately leading to increased sales and conversions.
  • Banner Ads – placing banner advertisements on sites in your niche can be a surprisingly effective way to spread brand awareness and attract visitors.

How Have Others Survived and Thrived?

To really understand how to recession-proof a business, consider the attributes of companies that survived and thrived through the recent recession. These companies fulfilled a need, supplied a product with a growing demand, and/or had low operating costs that allowed them to maintain high profit margins. Overall, innovators and brands with extensive awareness faired best during the recession. For example, Snuggie, the maker of the world-famous portable blanket sensation, managed to sell 20 million units in the height of the recession (2009), primarily because of the uniqueness of the product and the marketing outreach.

Preparing For Another Crisis

Now that your debts are being eliminated and you’re bringing in new business, it is time to take some precautions to prevent being taken off-guard by another financial crisis. Set aside a percentage of your monthly profits in a savings account to be used in times of hardship. Create an investment portfolio and invest in precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. Try to keep your employee count and payroll low, consolidating positions whenever possible. Finally, reduce dependency on other companies like suppliers or advertising partners so that your success is not riding on theirs.

Debt restructuring and formulating a new profitable business strategy can be hard and some situations are more complex than even experienced business people can deal with. At that point it is best to consider bringing in a company rescue professional. There are specialists that deal with sole trader rescue and others that deal with the whole spectrum of businesses. Just be careful to do your research and ensure that you aren’t being given advice that serves to line the pockets of the supposed advisors than resurrect your business.

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Written by Jason Morrison on behalf of Trust Deed Scotland — a renowned debt recovery agency based in the UK.


How to Afford a Car Even on a Tight Budget

How to Afford a Car Even on a Tight Budget

In Australia where places can be quite far from one another it’s almost unthinkable not to own a car. Many people nowadays view the car not just as a gadget of convenience but a necessity especially if you live far from where you work, or if arriving at your destination on time all the time is a must which is true for many professionals.

Despite the car’s growing significance in the lifestyles of many, it often does not get its necessary portion of the household or individual budget. Oftentimes, people will prioritise other things over getting a car and it ends up as a far off dream, or a source of problems.

If you have been one of these people, it’s time to stop wishing and start driving. Even with a tight budget in your hands, it is possible to get the car you’ve always wanted and needed, and not get caught up in a web of debt.

Start Your Engines
But before you go marching straight into a dealership, you must first be fully prepared. This means you need to do your research and shop around for the best deals in terms of car prices and financing options.

  • Picking the right price

If your budget is tight then you definitely cannot afford to choose a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari, so stay realistic. You have plenty of other good options here, and the first is choosing between buying from a dealership or from a private seller.

When you buy from a dealership, chances are you’ll be getting the retail price, which is much bigger than the wholesale price or trade-in value. If you buy from a private seller, you’ll probably get a lower price, but not as many benefits as buying from a dealership.

The price of a car can also vary depending on different factors including age, condition, mileage, optional equipment, and even the place where it’s sold. The asking prices can also be different from the actual price that you pay.

To get the best deal on the car you want, make sure to compare prices of cars with similar features. You can do this by hopping from one seller to another, checking classifieds or dealer ads, or going online and checking car selling sites. Knowing the prices of different sellers can give you the upper hand when it comes to negotiating prices and making sure that whatever you pick comes at a price you can manage.

  • Picking the right financing option

Just as important as shopping for the right price is shopping for the right auto loan. Having an auto loan even before you step into a dealership gives you bargaining power, so it’s best to have one before you even start your search for a car. There are several places where you can get one, such as:

a. Banks. Banks are the most convenient place to get a car loan as you probably are affiliated to one already. They offer really competitive loan rates but have very specific, conservative loan policies. They will only cater to those with good credit standing, so if you have bad credit, you might as well forget the bank.

b. Credit Unions. Credit Unions are not for profit so their lending rates will be quite competitive. However, you’ll have to be a member of the union for a period of time first, and depending on the union there may be other conditions necessary before you can apply for a loan.

c. Dealers/Manufacturers. Dealers and auto manufacturers can also finance your car but this can often cost you more, despite whatever prices and deals they may be advertising. Sometimes though, they can also offer you the best deal, but you will have to compare between dealers to really know for sure.

d. Online Lenders. There are plenty of online lenders, such as Money3 that offer cash advance loans, bond loan application as well as used car finance. These lenders have very manageable payment schemes and even loans for those with bad credit, so they’re a good choice for a bad credit car lease.

When choosing a loan, remember to look at the big picture. A lower down payment may not always mean a good deal as this may result in higher interest rates. Likewise, a longer length of loan can be more manageable but can most likely mean you pay more in total costs. So don’t just focus on these aspects- view the costs in their entirety. Try to make your length of loan as short as you can manage with your down payment as high as you can afford. This will often result in you paying a lot less for your car and a shorter “upside down” time, or time wherein you owe more than what your car is really worth.

Going the Extra Mile
To make purchasing a car even more manageable for you, here are a few more tips to remember:

  • Buying used or new – Used cars are often a lot cheaper than new ones, but this can depend on the model, age, mileage, trim level, options, condition and other such factors. Sometimes newer cars can also give you more value overall, as they have lower interest rates, longer loan terms and newer parts. In the end, what matters is that you buy the one that gives you the best value and the one you’re sure you can manage to pay fully within a period of time.
  • Trade in – Trading in your old car (if you have one) for a new one significantly lowers the price you have to pay, but this depends on the trade-in value of the car you want to purchase. If the trade-in price is not low enough and you think you can sell your current car for an even bigger price than how much it’s knocking off the trade-in, then better sell it first before buying the new car.

Debra Wright blogs about a plethora of topics including cash advance loans in personal finances and other fields. Debra considers Money3 as one of the leaders in personal finance and loans.


Budgeting Tips for Students Abroad Seeking an Affordable Lifestyle

Budgeting Tips for Students Abroad Seeking an Affordable Lifestyle

The opportunity to study abroad can be a formative and life-changing experience. It is a thrilling chance to further your learning whilst exploring another culture and seeing exciting things. It is an opportunity to grab with both hands and here are some ways to ensure that your hands are not tied by those purse strings.

Here is how to make the most of your studies abroad – and still see and do what you wish – simply by living an affordable lifestyle.

Do your homework

You wouldn’t write an essay without first doing some research would you? If you want to have an affordable lifestyle you need to prepare yourself to save money by researching the place you are to stay in. Look out for travel deals that can save your cash and find inexpensive accommodation, restaurants and attractions to visit.

Use your network

Friends and family may know people who live where you are going so ask around. Get information from classmates, teachers and on-site programme directors on how best to enjoy your experience abroad without draining your finances.

Make your phone a truly smart phone

Internet calls from overseas are so much cheaper than suffering horrendous mobile roaming charges or traditional phone networks international rates but this does not mean you have to be in front of your computer every time you make a call.

Service providers such as Vonage give you an adapter that can convert any phone near a broadband router into an internet phone and let you call home for much less.

Ask the experts

Speaking to the locals is a must if you are to find out the cheapest ways to do things or the best value deals. It is also a great way to start feeling really at home.

Keep on track

Set yourself realistic spending limits and stick to them. Depending on your preferences these can be detailed daily plans, a weekly budget or simply a monthly allocation.

Some prefer to have living and luxury budgets that they keep separate so that treats such as trips, meals out and purchases are kept apart from general living costs. If you are going to effectively budget an online banking account is essential to make it easy to keep a regular eye on what has been spent and on what.

Explore your accommodation options

A large proportion of your budget will go on accommodation so making sure you explore all your options here is crucial. If your university-sponsored programme offers reasonable and affordable dormitory-style housing on campus then this is likely to be your best bet.

Another avenue to explore is accommodation that caters specifically for students but is provided by other organisations than the university you will attend. If neither of these is available there may be a homestay program, an opportunity to house-share with other students or local hostels that are available at cheaper rates than renting a place on your own.

Prepare to have the time of your life

With some careful preparation, ongoing research and a little bit of self-discipline there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to live within a budget that allows you to make the most of your time studying abroad without getting the first degree from your bank manager back home.

About the author

Mat Fidge studied in Seville in Andalucía for a year in 2010, taking advantage of a VoIP service to make affordable calls when in Spain. He lived with a local family who he still regularly calls, using the Vonage VoIP phone service.

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