Financial Literacy The Key to Excellent Financial Health

A recent study revealed that two-thirds of Americans are financially illiterate. Financial literacy revolves around being informed about money and building a solid capacity to be in charge of finances in each area of your life.

Insufficient knowledge about money is the main reason why most people make wrong money decisions. Normally, it’s also the cause of bad financial habits that are detrimental to a healthy financial health. Financial knowledge helps you not only live within your means but also plan for the future.

With a rapidly evolving economy, it’s your responsibility to learn more about money. There are numerous ways to improve your knowledge and this article will explore some actionable approaches.

Take action today

Money is a broad subject and you won’t learn and master in a few minutes. Taking a more targeted approach will be a strategic move in attaining mastery in the long run. With topics ranging from budgets, credit cards, insurance, emergency funds, retirement, and taxes you can easily decide a starting point. Find out the areas that interest you most and start there.

To keep the motivation alive, always aim for progress, not perfection. Track progress by using the many resources found online that can provide a benchmark for assessment.

Master the Rich Dad’s financial approach and the cash flow quadrant

This is a clever approach to finances that has been well outlined by Kiyosaki, a financial expert and New York best seller. Most people don’t know there are four facets to income generation. This will help in a paradigm shift that is necessary for revolutionizing your finances. The insight that is found here can inspire action and reveal an intrinsic motivation that can act as your anchor to developing life transforming habits.

Grab all the free professional advice you can get

Most Americans today have confessed that they don’t understand their debt. That is sad considering all the free information resources scattered around. The next time you walk into a bank take a moment to ask a few questions to the staff. These are professionals with careers they have formed around finances and they have dedicated their life to that. It will serve your interests to talk with someone who understands money.

Make use of online literature

You will be startled to learn that there are tons of online platforms that offer a wealth of information on money. The best thing is that you get to learn almost any topic for free. Most financial blogs are updated on the current financial knowledge and well laid out in simple language.

If budgeting it the target topic, there are blogs that will go as far as providing templates and suggest workable ideas on budgeting. In addition, becoming part of a budgeting community on the platform provides the moral support necessary for success.

There are also some experienced journalists that are dedicated to educating the public on the recent trends. Also, it will be great to follow them online and the lessons you can learn will be worth it.

Enroll in a course

We are in the digital age and that means you can learn just about anything in the comfort of your home. Platforms like Udemy are never short of resourceful courses that you can take anytime. If you want a different approach, there are comprehensive books on personal finance and most will come with worksheets to track your progress.

The government has partnered with local institutions and you can get educated for free. All that is required is to commit some time and the journey begins.

Start reading financial news and reports

In the business world, trends are changing every day and it is very easy to be left behind. To stay updated on the current trends, financial news should become a priority. Scanning through the pages only requires a few minutes but the insight can be priceless.

Determine what motivates your financial advancement

The world is full of useful advice and insight about money. While most people do listen, almost all of them ignore the lessons learned. In short, every great advice received is utterly useless until it is acted upon.

You must realize that there is a similarity between money matters and dieting. They both involve a change of habits that are deeply woven in a lifestyle. No matter how simple the implementation appears, habits are comfortable beds that are difficult to get out of.

If you will ever make any meaningful adjustments to your financial habits, you need some advice and action plans that anchor on your deepest motivations about money. It’s the only way to inspire a deeply rooted action that can stand the test of time.


Becoming smarter about money doesn’t require complicated approaches with long hours per session. Instead, taking a few moments regularly will lead to accumulation of a significant knowledge in finances. Every day ask yourself how much you know about a topic and work relentlessly towards mastery.

All that is needed is the right motivation and the process becomes effortless.

Financial Planning Tips for 2015

financial-planningFinancial Planning Tips for 2015

There are many productive financial planning tips that you may follow in 2015 in order to improve your financial stability. As 2014 draws to a close, many of us are left wishing we had saved more money throughout the year. There are some that wish that they had paid more towards their debts. Several individuals are finding that they have fallen short of the expectations set forth in their personal budget. Then, there are many that simply want to make a change when it comes to personal finance planning. Regardless of where you stand in the mix, there are several productive ways to manage money in 2015. By reading this guide, you are already moving in the right direction. Simply push aside the financial issues that you experienced in 2014 and gear up for that fresh new start in which you are entitled come January 1st.

Establish an Emergency Fund

During the past year, it is quite likely that you have stumbled across at least one financial emergency. Common examples include experiencing work hour reduction, getting laid off, unemployment, unexpected medical expenses, home repairs and mechanical complications with your vehicle. An emergency fund is a type of financial buffer that is designed to assist and protect you should an unexpected situation arise. Simply expect that you may be derailed by unexpected and unforeseen events like those previously mentioned and ensure that you set aside money in a savings account that will assist you in getting through those events. In taking this step, you are less likely to fall back on unconventional means of handling emergency situations, such as taking out a loan or depending on credit cards to see you through.

Challenge Your Current Expenses

One of the most productive ways to manage money is to make certain that you consistently challenge your current expenses. Simply tally the monthly expenses that you have and then go through each item carefully, one by one. Once you have done this, ask yourself if the expense is a necessary one. For example, do you really need the biggest cable television package or a large data plan on your cell phone? If not, eliminate all of the unnecessary items as quickly as possible. Then, start putting away the money you save each month into a savings account that accumulates interest.

Purchase Used and Sell Old

If you are interested in personal finance planning in 2015, you should make a commitment to purchase used items, when possible, and sell the old items that you no longer have an interest in or need. Used items and deals may be found on eBay, Amazon, Goodwill, Plato’s Closet, and Twice. In some instances, you may be able to enjoy saving up to 95% off items that you want by simply buying those items used. As for your old stuff that you no longer need or want, put it all up for sale on eBay, Amazon, Facebook Swip Swap, or even Craigslist. You are sure to generate a little cash that may be put away for other financial endeavors.


Financial planning for 2015 does not have to be challenging. You must simply approach the task of personal finance planning with an open-mind and a little creativity. In doing so, you will find that there are numerous ways to manage money in 2015. By following the short, simple ideas contained in this article, you will be able to eliminate common spending, reorganize your budget, eliminate some of your debt, save some money, and create new spending habits that will work in your best interest. By starting your New Year off with these financial planning tips, you are sure to discover by this time next year the rewards you will reap from working your money in a smart way.

How to Start a Side Business for Easy Extra Cash

start-a-side-businessHow to Start a Side Business for Easy Extra Cash

Learning how to start a side business in order to make a little extra cash may prove to be extremely complex and very difficult for most. Taking your future into your own hands and becoming your own boss is an exhilarating and wonderfully exciting task. Before initiating a business, it is imperative that you are ready for the challenge, on both a personal and professional level. You should decide on your business idea, determine the market potential for your business, determine how much money you are able to invest in the business to get it up and running, and create a business plan. In this guide, we will take a look at the first step – the business idea. Here, we will provide you with a few different service-related careers that you may start in order to earn a little extra cash. By starting these types of side businesses, you will not experience the challenges typically imposed by such an endeavor.

Pet Care Services

Are you the type of person that gazes into the windows of pet-stores and find yourself wishing you could provide homes to the pets that you observe? Are you known to purchase unusual items for your pets, such as sweaters or galoshes? If you adore and let pets, you should consider starting a side business in pet care services. In the year 2004, Americans alone spent an amazing $35 billion on their pets. Since that year, pet spending continues to increase annually. Regardless of whether you are interested in dog walking, grooming, or pet sitting, you are sure to find that, by going into pet care services, you will have numerous customers, which makes the prospects for financial success excellent. Many pet care services may be started as a home based enterprise and all require a relatively low initial financial investment.

Home Maintenance Services

If you are interested in and have the ability to perform tasks around the house – such as repairing leaky faucets, securing shingles, painting, repairing cabinets, mowing and maintaining lawns, and/or repairing floors, you should consider starting a side business in home maintenance services. Homeowners who lack the expertise and/or time constraints often hire individuals that perform these services to take care of home maintenance and repair services. On average, Americans spend nearly $44 million annually on these types of services. There are numerous benefits to starting this type of side business. First, it requires very little money to start. You just need a little expertise, a few tools, a little extra time and you are well on your way to earning some side cash. You will find that your work is constantly changing and is highly gratifying. In addition to targeting homeowners, you may also be able to offer your services to owners of apartment complexes, condominium units, shopkeepers, and real estate agents. The one thing to remember is that you may need a contractor’s license before starting this type of business. You will need to confirm this through a local contractor board or a local commerce department before officially starting your side business.

Family Services

If you enjoy children, have a knack for domestic affairs, and enjoy assisting others, you should start a side business in family services. In today’s world, the number of parents that work outside the home is consistently climbing, which is creating a growing need for family services such as child care, tutoring, home cleaning services, and similar tasks. While it is true that this particular type of side job bears an exceptional amount of responsibility and requires the highest level of commitment, it is also true that this is a very important and rewarding position. You may start a small business where you tailor the family services that you offer. The initial investment is relatively small. Many have developed large family services enterprises that have led to millions of dollars of revenue annually. The route you elect to go will depend upon your personal level of availability and that which you elect to offer in the way of services.


There are many side businesses that you may learn how to start in order to earn additional cash. The most popular and least expensive of these businesses include pet care services, home maintenance services, and family services. If you elect to start any of these types of businesses, you should aim to promote your services by using the internet. You may create pages on social media platforms, such as Facebook, and even create informational products that you may sell that pertain to your industry. In addition to this, you may create an informational website where you offer high-quality content and post products pertaining to your industry. If you want to capitalize on your passions, your skills, and your talents, you should take advantage of both online and offline venues in order to optimize the amount of money that you make.

Make Extra Money As a Blogger For Hire

Want to make extra money as a blogger? It’s possible. It’s also not as easy as it might seem. While your writing dreams are well within reach, your income expectations may require adjustment! Additional information available HERE.

There are a few great places where it is easy to get set up and begin submitting your writing. In some cases, it’s almost as simple as that.

While there are many bloggers out there and there are a lot who are earning great incomes from it, they are the exceptions. Most bloggers write to supplement existing revenue streams, and most use it as a means to get opportunities to speak to live audiences.

usefulness-can-be-deliveredWhat you want to know, however, is that there is one key that makes blogging work and because of that, there are opportunities to get paid.   In his recent article “Content Isn’t King… Here’s What Is”, Darren Rowse, creator of the ProBlogger network talks about how over the years, he’s seen various schools of thought around the notion of what is ‘King’. He’s noted that ‘Blogging is King’ was the hype for a while, that ‘Content is King’ surfaced as the next big thing, that ‘Facebook is King’, that ‘Twitter is King’, and now even ‘Google Hangouts is King’.

He goes on to make the point by saying, “The arguments for all of these things being ‘king’ are good… but they all kind of miss the point.”

Darren goes on to say that as far as he sees it, “‘Usefulness is King’.  Creating content is just one way of being useful. Building community is another. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and G+ are just ways of delivering usefulness.  Infographics, videos, podcasts and even blogging … all just different mediums for being useful.” Additional information available HERE.

I tend to agree.

Now, how does that help you get paid?

There are 5 things you want to consider to make money blogging:

  • Deliver useful information.  

It would be helpful to have had some practice, blogging for yourself as a hobby or blogging for others in order to test and build your skills. Use your experience and write in a way that has readers returning.

  1. Be ready to produce useful content, even when you don’t feel like it.

To get paid, you not only have to deliver value in the content, blogging is a way to get the message out in creative content that can change minds and possibly help change the world for the better.

  • Be aware of what’s going on in the blogging market.

Times have changed and continue to change. Mommy blogger, Amy Corbett Storch, first began blogging in 2003. In an article published in NY Daily News, “Can You Make Money Blogging”, Amy referenced that change, mainly fueled by the down economy, drastically reduced the income potential from blogging.

Storch says “In the heyday, you might get [blog advertising] campaigns for $15 or $20 CPM (cost per thousand readers) [and now her average] CPM ad is paying $6. Most are around $2 or $3.”

If you’re writing for someone who is paying you, your potential income is also subject to that change. Where you may have been paid upwards of $100 per 600-1,000 word blog article, your income could be as little as $20-$40 per article.


  • Write more to earn more.

If the numbers work out, it would only make sense to increase the number of articles written, even submitting to multiple blog sources, and increase your potential income. As you do more writing, and expand the number of sources you write for, your income will reflect the amount of time you’ve expended. Remember, it’s all in the numbers … the numbers of words and the numbers behind the dollar sign.

  • Consider how much time you want to spend blogging, because it may amount to a lot.

Most people, especially those who are just getting started, underestimate the amount of time writing a good blog will take.  Regardless of whether you’re an expert in your field, you will want to do some research and bring the views of others into your article discussions. That takes time.

Blogs are no longer the singular rant of the author. Today, they are more a purposeful, useful piece of pros, a valuable message.

Amy Lynn Andrews states in her blog article “How Much Do Real Bloggers Actually Make?” that “your income is proportional to the amount of time you put in.”

She goes on to say that “in other words, it’s not likely you’ll make full-time income writing and networking 2-4 hours a day. You could probably make a decent part-time income doing so, but getting to that point would require a good amount of blogging knowledge and experience.” I add to that … and time!

If you’re passionate about a subject and you have decent writing skills, blogging could definitely be a way to earn extra money. It is also possible to make a living, a very good one, even … by becoming a blogger. On the other hand, the hard and fast truth is most of the millions of bloggers today don’t make enough to support themselves just with their blogs.

In the end, you can make extra money as a blogger for hire and with this information; you have a realistic view of what it will take.


[1] Amy Corbett Storch, 35, who lives in Bethesda, Md., with her husband and three kids. She first began blogging in 2003

[2] Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School.


[3]  Amy Lynn Andrews teach people how to blog. She writes posts with tips, tools & tutorials, is writer of The Useletter, a neatly packaged Saturday brunch of bite-sized highlights.

Article Author Bio:  

V. Lynn Hawkins is a small business strategist, co-author of Woman Entrepreneur Extraordinaire and founder of the P3 Academy of Social Entrepreneurship, and host of the weekly BIZ Info Zone WebTV Show hosted in Google Hangouts on Air.

Best Time to Buy Christmas Lights

christmas lightsPreparing for the holiday season often entails more than simply purchasing gifts and cooking for family, friends and loved ones. If you want to get even more creative to celebrate the year’s festivities, investing in Christmas lights and decorations is highly recommended. Christmas lights are sold all year round, but vary in pricing depending on when you choose to shop and the type of lights you are interested in. Shopping for Christmas lights at the right time can make a drastic difference in the overall investment that will be required to decorate your home this year. Go her for more info if you are ready to buy some Christmas lights for cheap.

The Best Time to Shop for Christmas Lights

One of the best times to shop for Christmas lights is immediately after Christmas and the New Years holidays themselves. Because the holidays are over, stores will often hold clearance sales to help with getting rid of stock that is no longer needed. You can also find great deals on Christmas lights if you choose to shop on the day after Thanksgiving, also known as “Black Friday”. Shopping on Black Friday may be hectic and stressful, but it is also a way to save more on lights than any other day of the year.

Finding Christmas lights around the actual time of Christmas may be pricier because they are in high demand and sought after by consumers, especially as the holiday nears. It is best to shop for Christmas lights in the off-season, whether you choose to do so immediately after Christmas itself or even in the springtime after the winter weather breaks. Conducting an adequate amount of research on various locations and shops will help you to save even more before you choose the lights you want for your house this year.

Where to Shop for Christmas Lights

Shopping for the Christmas lights you want to use in your home is possible by checking local superstores, drug stores and even Christmas-themed stores. You can also find savings for the Christmas lights you are interested in by shopping right from home, online. Browsing online for the Christmas lights you want to use in or outside of your home allows you to compare colors, light sizes and styles before you make a purchase.

Additionally, shopping for Christmas lights online will give you the opportunity to compare multiple retailers to help with finding the best prices possible before you place your order. You can compare and view photos of Christmas lights online whether you are looking for single or multicolored options to fit with any theme you desire for your house’s outdoor or indoor appearance, allowing you to fully customize the way your home looks.

Searching for Christmas lights in the off-season is the best way to save money while also having more options to choose from that are in stock and not in demand at the moment. Shopping smart can help you to save on the investment you make with the Christmas lights you have in mind so you have more to spend on loved ones for the holidays.

photo by Accretion Disk

10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained This Summer

fun with kidsWe all know kids love it when summer is here because it means they’re free from school and homework. They’re free to have fun and play all summer! Although parents also welcome the summer, it can also be a trying time for them because now their kids are constantly at home and sometimes it’s not always easy to keep them entertained. Kids can have short attention spans and it won’t be long before they run out of ideas themselves and start getting bored or, worse, resort to doing things that can get them in trouble. For parents, thinking up fun things for their kids to do can be a way to make sure their kids are doing something safe, fun and productive during summer. Here are ten ways to keep your kids entertained during the summer.

Get your kids into a fun hobby or sport.

Enrol your kids in educational or sports lessons during the summer.

Enrol them in swimming or tennis lessons or any sports class.

Get them to take dance, drama, or art lessons.

By enrolling them in these classes, you can help them bring out their abilities and find something they’re good at. Check out the sports club in your area or the local community center for summer classes and activities that your kids can join.

Have an art day at home.

You can have your own art day at home with your kids with a few items from the store and some coloring materials. Cover one wall with cheap wallpaper or white poster paper and give your kids free reign. Let them create their own mural or wall art.

Take your kids to the local library.

Teach your kids the joy of reading and let them discover the world of books by taking them to a tour of the local library. Even if they’re not big readers (just yet!), they will find the library an interesting place. Check if the library has story time or even film showing sessions so you’ll know when to take your kids.

Visit the zoo or the museum.

Taking the kids to see the animals is always a good idea. Giving them a little culture tour in a museum may also be something new for them. These educational visits can pique their interests and give them something to talk about among themselves or with friends.

Set up yard games.

You can set up some yard games that both kids and adults can enjoy. Play badminton or touch football.   Even better, create a mini obstacle course in your backyard. Divide the kids and adults into teams and give small prizes to the winners.

Have campfire sessions.

Kids always love campfire sessions, complete with campfire stories and roasted marshmallows or smores! If you can’t have an actual campfire, you can use a grill to roast hotdogs and marshmallows and just gather everyone in a circle for songs, games and stories.

Go hiking in the woods.

Take your kids on a mini adventure. Teach them how to appreciate nature and the environment with a hike in the woods.

You can include a little find-me game where kids look for certain treasures or items like an interesting-looking leaf, a nice rock or a flower.

Bring along little baskets with you for all your fun finds. Of course, make sure you do your research on hiking trails and safety procedures before going on an actual hike.

Let your kids be your kitchen helper.

Let your kids help you out in the kitchen. Give them small tasks like washing the ingredients or setting them in order on the kitchen counter. Let them decorate their own cookies or cupcakes. Find kid-friendly recipes and make yummy desserts together.

Have a picnic in your back or front yard.

Change things up by having your meals outside. Set up a picnic and enjoy the outdoors with your family.

Have a pool party or turn on the sprinklers.

If you don’t have a pool, you can purchase one of those cheap inflatable pools and set it up on your yard. You can also do away with the inflatable plastic pool and simply turn on the sprinklers. Nothing beats the heat like running through the sprinklers for a few minutes.

photo by epsos

Preparing Meals: How It Can Save You Big Bucks

No matter whether you are single, living with a partner or sharing a house with kids, food always is an important part of any household’s budget. Data from the American Enterprise Institute show that the share of household spending on food is close to 7% in the United States and generally above 10% in European countries. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, suggests that the actual figure in the USA is 13%. Whatever the percentage is, one thing is obvious: food is not a negligible part of one’ budget. Therefore, changing one’s eating habits should translate into money savings.

Fast Food Love

More than 25% of Americans eat fast food every single day and as a people, Americans spend more than $100 billion per year on fast food. In 2012, a survey demonstrated that 65% of Americans earning between $35,000 and $49,999 had eaten out at a fast food restaurant for lunch or for dinner at least once in the month prior to the survey. In the light of this, Americans necessarily get a fair share of their food from fast food restaurants; in fact, they spend 4.5% of their pay check on dining out (good restaurants included).

In other words, Americans (and people in the Western world in general) spend a lot of their weekly food budget at restaurants. If some studies show that eating out can be cheaper and eating at home for certain kinds of meals, it should not be forgotten that fast food has become increasingly expensive. Therefore, going to a fast food restaurant on a regular basis to get your lunch may not always be a great idea, both for your health and your wallet. Preparing meals at home can be quite cost-effective for most workers, if they select their foods carefully.

1. Buying relatively cheap foods

Of course, if you decide to start preparing your own lunches with smoked salmon and caviar, you may soon find out that even homemade food can be quite expensive. On the other hand, if you carefully plan the meals you are going to eat at work, it is highly possible that substantial money savings will be made. The first step towards changing your eating habits in order to cut down on restaurant expenses is to buy relatively cheap foods at the supermarket without compromising on the quality of the meals you will make.

In other words, you ought to look for foods that provide the necessary vitamins and nutrients to your body without spending too much money on them. For instance, beans and legumes provide excellent protein and are generally sold at a low cost. Mixed with vegetables, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for instance, they make a very good salad for cheap!

2. Making do with what’s on sale

Another way to cut down on food expenses is to go to the supermarket without having previously listed all of the things that you need. Of course, you may write down some of the essential stuff you need, but going to the grocery store with an open mind regarding what you are going to buy has one clear advantage: you can go for what’s on sale. If you see that the price of usually expensive foods such as chicken breasts are cut down by half, buy more than you normally would and freeze them!

Stocking up expensive foods when they are on sale will prevent you from uselessly spending big bucks in the long run. But going for the supermarket’s specials also has another advantage: you will come home with bags full of bargains, and you will prepare your meals in accordance with what you have! Of course, you may find out that some ingredients are missing in your fridge at some point during the week, but if you just have to buy those few missing ingredients at their regular price, you will save big. The idea is to try to make recipes with what you buy; not to buy the stuff you need to make a recipe. That way, you will be much more sensitive to weekly sales.

3. Preparing big quantities

Another easy way to save money while preparing your own meals is to make big quantities. If chicken breasts are on sale, you should try to stock them up (remember point #2!) but you should also try to double or even triple the recipe you want to make. That way, each serving will cost even less than it usually would, and you will be able to freeze many platefuls and eat them later in the month when you don’t feel like cooking.

You should also avoid looking down on eating the same thing two or three days in a row. In effect, you start wasting food when you try to eat different things every single day, because what the supermarket sells is usually too big for one meal only. Making a Greek salad and eating it at lunchtime on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is not the end of the world. In fact, it is the best way to avoid throwing food away. Knowing that food is costly and that our planet already faces difficulties in trying to feed everyone, sending food to the garbage dump should always be the very last option.

About the author:

Alexandre Duval is a freelance blogger who writes about lifestyle and other topics of interest. He works for Standard Life and he is also currently completing his master’s degree in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

Finally Buying A New Car

When the time comes to buy a new car, you may feel overwhelmed. There are a lot of cars on the market, and you may not know where to start. What must you keep in mind? You do not have to feel scared or worried as you buy a new vehicle for your household. The information below may help.

1. Discover the Model That You Wish To Buy

Before you drive to your local dealership, it is an excellent idea to determine what car may work for your household. Will you use this car to go to work? There are many websites on the Internet that may assist you in your search. You may look at online auction websites or dealership websites and discover what is currently available on the market. It is also necessary to know your limits; you should create a budget before you grow fond of an expensive car.

2. Research the History of the Car

What is the history of the car model that you wish to purchase? You should be aware of anything that may go wrong after you purchase the car. The car may have a history of poor brakes. If this is not the case, an owner of the car may complain about the seats or other interior features. Online forums may provide reviews and feedback, and you should keep this in mind. You do not have to fall victim to the hype provided by car manufacturers and dealerships.

3. Negotiate the Price

When you find a car that you wish to purchase and take to your home, negotiate the price. Some dealerships may not be sincere when they give you a price for the car. If you wish to avoid paying too much money, think about what you are comfortable with in the long run. Do not fall victim to the sticker price on the car; do not give in to pressure. Bring a friend along if you believe that you require support. He or she may also provide feedback and talk to the dealer before you sign anything.

4. Do Not Be Afraid To Look Elsewhere

If the dealership does not cater to your needs, you should not feel trapped. You should look elsewhere if you still want to find your dream car. A dealer may imply that you cannot find a car at a particular price if you choose to go to another dealership; this is not necessarily true. There may be another dealership in your community that carries a higher rate of customer satisfaction. Friends or family members may be able to recommend another place for you to inspect. Do not feel that you must adhere to certain plans; go with what makes you happy.

When you finally locate your dream car and drive it off the lot, remember that it is crucial to have a good car insurance company on your side. Look around to find  21st quotes  or talk to somebody that you trust. Basic premise: you can take care of your car if you know what to do.

First Steps in January to Sorting Out Your Debt

JanuaryJanuary is often a depressing month for many of us. We are still in the depths of winter, Christmas and Hogmanay have both been and gone and worst of all, we are left with the expectation of a series of hefty bills at the end of the month. From high energy bills to the credit cards you used to fund those special Christmas presents, it’s easy to be daunted by it all. The key is not to let it get to you, and to follow our tips on how sort out your finances in January!

1) Firstly, sit down at the start of the month and try to find out how much your bills are going to be. For your energy bills, try looking online- most suppliers have a system that allows you to check how much you owe. Even make a note of your meter reading and compare it to the value on your last bill, so you can estimate how much it will cost you come the end of January. This will help with the next stages. You should also look up extraneous bills, such as credit card bills, etc.

2) Next, have a look at how much money you are going to have coming in this month, from benefits, income support or your wages. This will make up your income.

3) Then, make a list of all the essentials you need to cover for living expenses in January (this is where looking up your bills comes in handy). Bear in mind that you should only include your essential bills such as energy and mortgage etc. Try to account for as much as you can though and also be sure to think long and hard about whether what you’re spending your money on is an â˜essential’ or a luxury. This will make up your expenditure.

4) Once you have both of the above, then you can sit down and compare your income to your expenditure.

5) Whatever you have left over is what we call disposable income. This is where you can see how much money you have to service any credit card bills or loans etc. that you’ve taken out. You should be able to estimate how much your minimum repayment bill will be by comparing the balance of your card/ new purchases with your terms and conditions.

If your disposable income doesn’t cover the cost of paying towards your various credit cards/ loans then you know that have to do something about it. You can sometimes speak to your lender and ask about extending your loan period or maybe having a payment break, but often this is difficult to get. If you are in serious trouble then you need to seek some expert advice. Your Debt Expert offer free and impartial debt advice on a range of topics. So if you follow our guide, and still find yourself panicking, try out the debt calculator from Yourdebtexpert or give us call and we’ll help you sort out your finances.

For more Debt news and advice follow Peter Dean on Twitter – @your_debtexpert

photo by aunto

Four Reasons a Gift Card Might Make the Right Christmas Present

christmasThere are some of us who are procrastinators when it comes to buying Christmas gifts. Some of it is due to tight schedules or absent-mindedness that often comes with the holiday season.

Others simply have trouble finding the appropriate gift for a friend or family member. After all, how do they know someone else isn’t getting the same gift?

Fortunately, a gift card is one of those presents you can get that’s easy to find and simple to pick up for anyone you know.

Gift cards have often received a bad reputation. I used to see them as one of those gifts you get for people as a polite way of saying “I really don’t know you well enough to find a real present.”

As I’ve gotten older, however, and have bought more presents for adults, I’ve come to see gift cards as a viable present. In some instances, it has advantages over other types of gifts.

1. It’s simple and easy

Unlike other presents, such as a new video game or electronic device, you don’t have to worry about it running out of stock. I’ve never run into trouble finding a gift card at the grocery store, and if you can’t find one there you can always go to the website for the specific card you’re looking for. Rather than have to drive out somewhere to find it in a crowded store or shopping mall, you can buy it from your desk at home.

You also don’t have to figure out the cost. It’s about as straightforward as you can get. If you’re looking for a $50 gift card, it’s going to cost $50 exactly.

2. There’s no hassle

Gift cards don’t require any fancy wrapping. A small bag, or an envelope which usually comes with the gift with the purchase, is all it takes. As a person who is nopt what you would call skilled in the art of gift wrapping, this allows us to bypass a somewhat tricky and annoying part of the process.

Also, you don’t have to be concerned about getting them the same gift as someone else. One year, three different people, myself being one of them, bought the same movie for a family member. Yes, it was a failure to communicate, but also could have been avoided we had just bought that person a gift card. And if you do happen to buy the same gift card as someone else, it only means the person gets to spend more money at the same place.

3. It allows you to get a gift for someone you don’t know well enough to buy a specific gift for

Gift cards make it possible for you to buy something for a relative you aren’t acquainted with sufficiently enough to get them a certain type of suit or dress, but you know where they love to shop enough to get them a gift card there. Rather than accidentally buy them the wrong thing, you’re able to fulfill the point of a gift – expressing your appreciation for someone – without having to take a shot in the dark, so to speak.

Additionally, this also helps when you know what they want, but don’t know all the exact details, such as the size of a television or the clothing, or even the version of a movie they are dying to watch on that TV.

Essentially, it’s a personalized way of handing someone else cash.

4. You still give the person freedom to choose how to use the gift

Gift cards work well with adults because, I’ve observed, their idiosyncrasies make them much harder to buy things for than children. Kids tend to be less attentive to finer details than adults, which makes it easier to figure out what they want and not have to know much else about it.

For example, my grandparents knew my brothers and I loved video games, so they bought us a Nintendo 64. They didn’t have to inquire whether we wanted that or a Sony Playstation. For an adult video gamer, however, you’d have to ask, and as we all know, there’s no better way to reveal what you’re going to get someone for Christmas than to ask them about it discreetly.

Gift cards have worked well with me personally when it comes to books. When I was a kid, my parents knew my literary tastes well enough to know what books to buy. But as I’ve gotten older, instead of buying the books specifically, I’ve receive gift cards to various bookstores where they know I can find those titles.

Adults also like the volition to get things for themselves. They can be extremely finicky, even when it comes to Christmas gifts.

Another problem you avoid using a gift card is you rarely have to worry about the person returning the gift because it doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or isn’t what they wanted. Unless you’re absolutely certain, there is always the risk that it will get returned. This happens most often with clothes. As a kid, the common motto I heard when getting clothes was “Oh, if they don’t fit you can always return it.”

I do have to state, however, that gift cards aren’t a silver bullet or one-size-fits-all for everyone. They don’t work well with those who want little tiny gifts that appeal directly to their personalities and demonstrate how well you know them. Others aren’t as sentimental and are perfectly fine with a gift card.

Naturally, a little bit of research is in order before you decide to get one for someone.

photo by paparutzi