savings

4 Important Homeowner Money Saving Tips

Money Saving TipsThe expenses of owning a home just keep piling up. In addition to all the fixed expenses homeowners face, variable costs keep rearing their ugly head at the worst possible times, like the broken water heater 2 days before christmas. In these tough economic times, homeowners are ever looking for ways to save money without cutting corners to save a dime. There are definitely ways to do this so let’s look at a few strategies to save that money.

Homeowners insurance

The first thing any money saving savvy homeowner should look at is how much they’re paying for their homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance is a necessary evil that must be purchased to ensure against catastrophes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal and save money.

There are many ways to save money on homeowners insurance premiums..like raising your deductible, combining your home and auto policies together, installing security systems, and even maintaining a great credit score can all help save lots of money. And don’t forget to review your policy at least once a year. The price of items in your home may change (5 year old computer?!), as well as the fact that you might get rid of things throughout the year, this might decrease your overall liability.

Maintenance

When it comes to saving money on your home, it’s almost counterintuitive to spend money on maintenance, but the fact of the matter is if you ignore maintaining your home you will end up spending much more in the long run due to major problems that could’ve been avoided. Homeowners in general know what needs to be done around their home. If you’ve got things on your to do list, please don’t wait! Spending a little money now will save you lots of money in the long run.

Taxes

Being a homeowner allows for many highly coveted tax deductions. Homeowners should use an accountant to perform their taxes. Doing your tax returns on your own can cost you money because you might not catch every deductible you can. This is especially applicable if you’re doing home improvements or selling homes. Increasing your homes value drastically can be a very large deductible on a tax return so hire someone to take advantage of all these deductions for you. A trusted accountant is definitely the way to go.

Green energy savings

On a final note for today, there’s much to be done around the home to conserve energy. You don’t have to go as far as installing a renewable energy sources like solar panels to take advantage of green technology. Doing things like insulating pipes and water heaters can save a tremendous amount of money on utilities. Investing in a smart thermostat, one that can be programed to regulate temperature via smartphone or other technology, is also be a very good investment.

Other simple things which are a small investment up front, but can lead to huge cost savings, are things like ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can cool rooms in the summer and heat them in the winner simply by switching the direction. Conserving energy in the home is a marvelous way to save cash in the wallet. There are plenty of other ways to save money as a homeowner. Take a look at how you’re spending your money and be creative in strategizing ways to decrease those costs.

David Glenn is a home improvement expert of over 20 years.  He occasionally freelance writes for Budget Direct, an Australian insurance company that focuses on “cutting the cost, not the cover”.  Check out Budget Direct for more information on house insurance.


What About The 12 Costs of Christmas?

Costs of Christmas

This infographic is produced by Webrevolve for the debt recovery and debt collection service CBC International.


Feeding 10 For Under $75 on Thanksgiving

Feeding 10 For Under $75 on Thanksgiving

via eBay Deals

If you are planning your Thanksgiving dinner at the last minute, you’ll be relieved to find out how you can feed your family a fabulous holiday feast for only $75. Roll over the dishes and plates in the graphic to get shopping tips and click to get recipes to make preparing the Thanksgiving meal easy. Everything you need to prepare, from the vegetables and other side items to serve with your turkey, to the pumpkin pie is made simple and inexpensive, so you can relax and enjoy the holiday with your family. So why stress about food this Thanksgiving? We’ve made things easy for you. Enjoy!


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.

Image credit: 1


Buy Frozen Food in March & Other Seasonal

Buy Frozen Food in March & Other Seasonal

Seasonal shopping is just plain smart. If you can’t afford “it” this season, save for the next season. Of course necessities usually are right now issues, and buying an air conditioning/heating system or plumbing replacements rarely hit at a good time. Let’s take a look at some of the hints offered by the experts, even from my experience, and see if you agree.

January

From my own personal experience, January savings is for Christmas cards and wrap, furniture, bedding linens, some cold weather gear, flooring, and prom dresses. You can also sneak in a mother-of-the-groom dress deal in January! From the experts did you know home theaters are best buys a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl…how about that! Duh!

February

Weddings are much less expensive in the colder weather months, especially February and November. Even Valentine’s Day is not as pricey as June! And think of the colors in early November in parts of the country with palates of gold, reds, oranges, and browns blended with a few evergreens. According to experts boats and cameras are thrifty buys in February.

March

Besides March being the frozen food month, a couple other items available at lower prices are gardening tools (getting ready!) and china and flatware. You may end up with last season’s patterns for a table setting, but lately variety is the spice of an interesting meal. And apparently perfume is best in March, so if you happen to have a summer anniversary, at least that might be one less expensive item to purchase.

April

In April, you will find malls advertising running and other types of gym shoes on sale; some will even have coupons for making better brands more appealing. And would you know it, snowblowers are hot items for late March and April shopping! If you can file early and expect a tax return, April can be a great time for televisions, as well as vacuum cleaners.

May

Speaking of appliances, I found out the hard way that refrigerators actually go on sale in May. Just tell your 16 year old fridge that! One good thing to note is that mattresses and box springs are available at great deals in May, so after stocking up on linens in January you can put them on that brand new mattress in the spring. Other interesting items available in May are picnic and BBQ items, and almost any party supplies; so your June wedding doesn’t have to be quite the expense fiasco you imagined…well, maybe!

June and July

For June and July, I have a surprise, or at least I had never considered it, stock up on butter! Its freezer life is about six or seven months…just in time for holiday baking! Both interior and exterior paint happens to be a hot commodity this time of year as well. Wonder if you could paint the interior with the AC on and then keep the exterior paint  till early fall and paint it then when it’s just a bit cooler?! Also, in the early summer months berries, peaches, and many summer vegetables are at their peak so outings to pick them or, if you have a green thumb, gathering your garden wealth, and freezing them is prime.

August

Home playground equipment and lawnmowers we found were best August purchases. Now, depending on your local climate, plants and flowers are available for good deals, as are swim suits and other beach apparel. (Note to self, by now for that cruise you booked in April for September.) And in at least one state, August offers a tax-free weekend for shopping for items like school supplies, some clothing items, back packs, and other things with the hopes of providing opportunities to purchase necessities for families.

September and October

September and October are good for stocking up on some canned goods, broths, and hearty frozen pies as the cooler months approach. For the tip I am always grateful, October is car buying month. And it is common knowledge that purchasing seafood in the months from September through December means fresher finds. Of course as you begin thinking about the holidays, October is a great month to check on any specials for those must haves. Fortunately, I just ran out of pecans and almost to the end of the walnuts so will be stocking up very soon!

November and December

Rounding out the calendar year, besides the holiday goodies and pre-sales, remember to see if your favorite nursery has bulbs, trees, and various shrubs on sale. Another item our family has enjoyed is the RV purchased in late November. The deal included a much fancier one, with many more “bells and whistles” making our summer adventure a great time. Oh, remember you can keep frozen turkeys for several months, after all who doesn’t love a smoked turkey in the summer?! One tidbit I certainly did not know is that the best time to buy golf clubs is December! One Christmas gift checked off! And a couple more items include those small appliances you hate getting for anniversary gifts…maybe they would be ok for Christmas; apparently pools are a good December item as well.

Coming to a Close

As the year and these thoughts come to a close, keep in mind the above offerings are certainly not all. If you are a newcomer to your area, spend at least a full calendar year getting acquainted with sales, items in those sales, and the time of year of the sales. It really would not be wise to embark on a dispute because that certain small appliance should be on sale in December. Oh, and before I neglect to mention about the air conditioners, October is usually the month to replace one. Happy shopping!

Jennifer Hawkins is a professional chef and restaurant owner who saves a ton of money every year by shopping smart. She loves to blog and she covers everything from cutting down your grocery bill to tips on serving quick, healthy meals.

Image Credit: 1,2


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


What Should You Do With Your Savings

What Should You Do With Your Savings

So, you are looking at some serious cash in your savings account. No matter how you got it or where it came from, you now have some serious decisions to make. Should you spend it, save it, or invest it?

The possibilities are endless, but there are a few things you can do to continue to improve your current situation. Here are three options for taking the money and making it work for you.

Spend It

The easiest option is to spend it. There are probably all types of things that you would love to spend your savings on. From a visit to an exotic location to new furniture, there are always things that you will want to buy.

Before making that purchase, remember that once the money is spent, you won’t be getting it back. It can no longer benefit you. While you will have new merchandise, it is drastically dropping in value. While you did have a great time away, all you have are some photos and souvenirs to show for it.

There is one instance in which spending could be a good idea. If you have a balance on a high interest credit card, it could be to your benefit to take the money out of savings and pay it off. While your money, or a portion of it, is still gone, you have also taken away a monthly bill that was continuing to cost you in interest each month.

Save It

You could keep the money in a savings account. Here, it is earning interest and remains nice and secure. Be sure to check out different types of savings accounts to be sure that you are getting the highest interest rate available. Many times, the higher your savings account balance, the higher the interest rate offered.

Aside from traditional savings, look into other no risk opportunities. You can put your money into something like a CD. While you will not have instant access to it, the money will grow at a higher interest rate and you are not taking on any unnecessary risk. Expand your idea of what a savings account really is.

Invest It

If you want to take that money and grow it, consider investing it. For some, the thought of investing is a little scary. However, this is one of the best ways to increase your money. There are many different opportunities and you can choose the one that works best for you.

Some options are high risk but have the potential for higher rates of return. Others may be lower risk and will have a reduced rate of return. In either case, you have the chance to use your money to make more money than you could if it just sat in a savings account.

No matter what you choose to do with the money, be sure to set some aside as an emergency fund. You want to keep it easily accessible for those times when unexpected bills come in or something doesn’t go as planned.

You don’t want to spend it all and come up short. You also don’t want to invest everything and not have enough to pay your bills one month. Leave some of it in a savings account that will give you instant access should the need arise.

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Save Money Booking a Flight

Save Money Booking a Flight

Save money alwaysSome of us can remember the times when we would go to the travel agent up the street  if we wanted to fly somewhere. It was quite simple. The only real decision you had to make was which travel agency to use if there were more than the one in the same area. On most occasions you didn’t even have to make that decision as travel agencies were well scattered around the suburbs and major country towns. It was only in the cities where any real competition occurred. The way of purchasing airline tickets was soon to change.

For example, loyalty was more common in the past. When you went for a drink in the bar of a hotel you would usually be confronted with a large picture of an aeroplane, or an airline hostess inside a large frame, telling you the phone number of your favourite carrier. You would never make enquiries about the prices charged by any other airlines. You only travelled on the one carrier and that was that. It was a time proven system and the airlines themselves were never challenged, they advertised on their safety record on not the prices they charged.

Things all changed when the internet came along. All of a sudden the airlines had to compete against one another on prices. Passengers threw loyalty out the window and flying suddenly became less expensive. Former competitors merged with each other and previously unknown airlines from foreign countries began flying in looking for customers. The internet shopper became very sophisticated and when armed with a credit card, he or she found they could snap up a bargain on the spot. The airline didn’t matter all that much, it was the seat price that your decision was based on.

However, the major carriers were not to be beaten. They went about reviving the long held tradition of loyalty and introduced loyalty rewards programs. The more you travelled with the one specific airline, or one of its partners, the more rewards points you earned and these points could be cashed in at a later date for cheaper travel. If you flew frequently you could even grab a freebie every so often. Rewards points became so popular that you could even earn them while doing your grocery shopping in supermarkets.

How to Save Money When Booking a Flight

Once in the market the internet was too big to be dominated by any one airline company and it still remains the one true vehicle for finding the cheapest airline tickets, no matter what the different airlines tell us in their glossy advertising brochures. When it all comes down to dollars and cents nothing can beat the ability of an airline customer sitting down in an airport lounge comparing prices. This is particularly valuable if the airline is soon to leave and it still has many seats to fill. If you are not a naturally stressful person and your itinerary is flexible you can save quite a lot of money by being a last minute traveller.

There are many sites on the internet that specialise in cheap airline tickets. These sites keep an up to the minute eye on ticket price movements and can be quite a valuable tool in your armoury when seeking the cheapest flights. For instance, in spite of the advice that the cheapest flights can sometimes be arranged in airport lounges at the last minute, it is not an appropriate way to take your family around the world, especially during the holiday season when most flights are fully booked out well before departure time. It is therefore much safer to have your passage fully arranged as early as possible.

The best and safest approach is to book your seats at least three months out. This will give you plenty of time to look around to make sure you get the best deal possible. When you are sure you will be travelling and what routes you will be taking, start looking around for the cheapest flights. When you book early many airlines will allow you a refund if you have paid any extra fees. Other airlines will give you an option of being able to reuse the tickets on a later date as a part of their standard fare. Whatever you do make certain you understand what the ticket covers, especially in the event of something occurring that you had not planned for. Reserving your seats early can often save you a lot of money in that the airlines generally increase their prices 21 days out, then 14 days, seven days and even as close as three days. If you are flying internationally it is advisable to book as early as six months out to get the best deals.

The biggest advantage you have by being able to use the internet is that you have the ability to shop around from the comfort of your home. You no longer have to walk around the various travel agencies, nor do you have to spend hours on the phone waiting for someone in a call centre to finally get to talking to you. However you must never book the first offer you come across. There are many cheap airline ticket agencies online. Check them all out. While doing so you will be gathering information about the flight you are after, such as which airlines dominate each specific route, what the average fare is and if someone is offering any specials. If it all seems a bit dear, don’t panic, leave it for a few days and look around again. If one of the airlines feel the seats are filling too slowly they might drop their price a little and this could start a rush with the others doing likewise.


5 Benefits of Contributing Early to your Pension

5 Benefits of Contributing Early to your Pension

Contributing to a pension early offers many benefits that will certainly pay off in the long run. Retirement might seem a long way off, but it’s never too early to start contributing to your pension. The sooner you start putting away some of your money for your older years, the better the benefits you will reap. Just look at these five benefits that early contribution to a pension can give you and you’ll soon see why you should start making a contribution.

1) The sooner you begin contributing, the less you will have to put in each month.

Taking into account the state pension and employers contributions, if you want to retire with a pension equivalent to £25,000 today, you would need to contribute £430 every month from the age of 30 to the age of 68. By contrast, if you started paying in at the age of 25, you would only need to contribute £345 a month for the same reward.

2) Your money has more time to grow

The more time your money has to generate a return on investment the more it will be worth. According to the pensions minister, every £1 that you invest at 20 could be worth 40% more on your retirement than the £1 that you invest at 40. It stands to reason that the earlier you start saving, the better your return on investment

3) Neglecting Pension contributions could be turning down salary.

Many employers offer to contribute to your pension as long as you do so also. By not contributing to a pension when young, you are basically turning down extra money from your employer. A worker on the average wage is generally given £1,400 a year in employer pension contributions if they take advantage of the schemes that are offered. You would have to be crazy to turn down free money from your employer.

4) Starting early gets you used to contributing to a pension.

By leaving pension contributions to later in life, you are in some ways setting yourself up for failure – after all, you have grown accustomed to living your life on your full salary. By contributing a percentage of your salary from the day you start work, you get used to the idea that your take-home salary is less than you would expect otherwise. It can be hard to adjust your spending habits to take account of these new pension deductions, so the earlier you get used to it, the more successful you will be.

5) A pensions scheme helps you to succeed at saving

You might decide to simply save money yourself rather than contribute to a pension scheme. However it can be tempting to dip into those savings from time to time for emergencies, bargains and treats. With a pensions scheme your savings are tucked away until you are in your 50s, meaning that you can’t succumb to temptation and take money out before then, undoing all your hard work and stopping your savings from growing.


Buried Treasure: A guide on how to reclaim forgotten accounts

Buried Treasure: A guide on how to reclaim forgotten accounts

We’ve all experienced the joy of finding cash down the back of the sofa or in an old coat pocket. Now multiply that feeling and imagine the loose change as lost bank accounts worth a substantial amount of money.

For many it would seem inconceivable that bank accounts could be lost or forgotten about, but it happens more frequently than we imagine; moving address and a change in personal circumstances such as getting married, divorced or widowed are main factors.

It is estimated that up to £1 billion is sitting dormant in accounts in the UK in the form current and savings accounts, premium bonds, pension schemes and insurance policies. Banks do try and trace the owners of accounts which is usually prompted by returned letters and statements and accounts with long periods of inactivity.

Legislation set in 2009 now means if an account remains dormant for over 15 years it automatically gets transferred to the government fund and invested into public and social programmes. This however does not affect your right to money which is rightfully yours and you are entitled to reclaim in at any time.

Tracing lost bank accounts
Recent figures suggest that there are around 150 million bank accounts in the UK and around half a million ‘lost’ which can easily be recovered. If you know the provider your account is with, begin by contacting them with as many of the account details as possible such as account name and number. Remember to search accounts that may have been set up in a maiden name. The bank has up to three months to respond and decide on the validity of a claim. If it refuses you can complain to the internal complaints department and if this is unsuccessful you can contact the financial ombudsman service. There are also special websites which offer a free tracing service such as the NS&I’s My Lost Account. It’s worth a go as lost accounts can sometimes build up to a substantial amount due to interest accrued over the years.

Tracing Lost Pensions
On average we change careers five to seven times in our life so its unsurprising that keeping track of all pension paperwork might be difficult. It’s also difficult to keep abreast of insurance mergers over a lifetime as companies dissolve and merge into one another. Those most likely to be affected are those who may have been starting their career amidst the boom of company pension policies in the 80s. Until 1988 it was compulsory to pay into a company pension scheme if there was one in place and if you worked there for a couple of years it’s likely your pension may have been preserved. Recent pension legislation changes have also allowed small personal pension pots of up to £2,000 to be accessed as a lump sum rather than a paltry annuity amount.

Firstly, contact the Pensions Tracing Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, who keep the details of up to 200,000 pension providers and their latest contact details. Details of both company pension schemes and personal pension schemes are kept. Try to remember important details: where was the policy run from, did the employer trade under a different name for instance, what type of business was it and when did you belong to the scheme? It’s up to you to contact them and its important to check whether you are entitled to any pension. You may also be able to claim the pensions of relatives that may have passed away.

After being reunited with a potentially substantial amount of money, it’s always a good option to enlist the help of an independent financial advisor and re-invest. For your savings a high yielding savings accounts such as a savings bonds or an ISA will find the best interest rates. Similarly, make the most out of lost pensions by exploring your options regarding annuities.

This post was written by John Hughes who is the resident blogger at Independent Financial Advisor , a UK based site that provides access to financial advisors as well as to debt advice charities for those struggling with their debts.


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