Easy Ways to Cut Essential Costs

Budgeting has common benefits and challenges. You can improve cash flow to slash debt faster, start investing or build an emergency fund. A better perspective on your personal finances also helps make more informed decisions.

However, cutting expenses beyond the obvious can be difficult. Aside from drinking fewer lattes or brown bagging your lunch, other expenses may seem inevitable.

Thankfully, there are painless ways to downsize without increasing liability or foregoing all leisure.

Here are a few ideas:

Review Your Home Insurance:

As the largest purchase most consumers will make, many homeowners choose low deductibles to protect their houses. This peace of mind comes with higher insurance premiums.

Even a slight increase in your home deductible provides instant monthly savings. This money helps finally put a dent in principal balances on debt or start saving for retirement. Elliott Broidy and other risk managers have brought attention to periodic portfolio reviews for practical coverage. The same concept has benefits to our everyday lives, as well.

Many home policies have excessive coverage. This includes insuring the land against fire or flood damage. Unless you use the property for farming or to generate other income, this is unnecessary for most homeowners.

Upping the deductible by just $500 protects a home against damage and leverages better cash flow to improve your balance sheet.

Buy Your Own Car Parts for Auto Repairs:

Car repair shops charge high markups on auto parts that can be purchased at most local supply stores.

The cost of brake repairs, suspension work and transmission repairs can all be reduced by supplying the parts. Simply ask if the shop installs customer supplied parts. Midas is a national chain with locations that may install your auto parts.
In most instances, the labor for car repairs is covered by the shop, while parts are under manufacturer warranty.

Refinance Your Car Loan:

With loan rates near record lows, you may be overpaying for car financing, especially for auto loans signed over a year ago. In addition to lower monthly payments, your first due date will be 60 days away. This provides additional relief to meet monthly expenses or set aside money for that month.

Raise Your Auto Insurance Deductible:

As your car ages, major repairs become less practical. The cost of fixing transmissions, engines and auto body damage could exceed an older car’s value. Many drivers do not adjust their car insurance policies to reflect depreciated value. Adjusting your auto deductible to practical levels will slash premiums and boost cash flow.

It is also a chance to check your policy for overlaps. For example, if you have AAA membership, rental car and towing services are often covered.

Switch Cell Phone Plans:

In a fast paced world, texting and data have become favored modes of communication. Unlimited text and web browsing with reduced talk are more than sufficient for most consumers.

No contract cell phone plans are now offered by nearly all carriers and provide maximum flexibility. A simpler plan also limits lengthy conversations to in person meetings, which can strengthen relationships.

While chit chatting has its own value, a basic plan could also spare you from many time consuming and idle conversations.

Summary:

Family budgets often have excess overhead that adds little value. Since personal finance is dynamic, comparing recurring costs to your current needs is a fast way to improve cash flow.

Have yourself a merry but cheap little Christmas

When the weather outside is frightful, the fire may well be delightful…but the state of your finances may well not be.

Yes, Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat but your wallet probably isn’t.

They say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but for many it is a period of great expense and frustration.

In this difficult economic climate a lot of people will want to tighten their purse strings, but how do you cut back without turning in to Scrooge?

Well, here we look at some handy tips which will ensure you can have a merry Christmas without breaking the bank.

Voucher schemes

Websites such as MoneySupermarket.com and MoneySavingExpert.com regularly run promotions with product providers which enable you to save a few quid thanks to printable vouchers and discount codes.

These savings can range from as little as five per cent to as much as 50 per cent and can come in handy when looking for gifts for friends and family.

Indeed, the person you are buying for will never know that you scrimped a few pounds because they will get a quality gift from a recognised retailer.

Shop around

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Well, you’d be amazed at the number of people who fail to look around the stores for the best prices and just buy items from a select number of outlets.

This is particularly the case with those people who leave their festive shopping until the last minute and thus have to do things in a rush.

When shopping around it also makes sense to check prices online as you may well find that items can be bought much cheaper. The only real downfall to online purchases is the time it takes for the goods to be delivered so make sure you leave plenty of time or you’ll be handing out gifts at some point in January.

Work out a budget and stick to it

If you do your Christmas shopping on a whim there’s a good chance you’ll over spend.

Because of this it is important to sit down and work out exactly the amount of money you can afford to splash out on each of the people you need to buy for and tell yourself that no matter what happens you will not be spending any more.

Dig out last year’s spare cards and wrapping paper
When Christmas is just around the corner there is the urge to go out and buy new rolls of paper and boxes of stylish cards, but first have a check around your house for any bits you may have purchased in previous years and never used.

Wrapping paper isn’t like clothing, it does not go out of fashion. So if you’ve got a few rolls going spare in the loft then make sure you put them to go use before buying more.

Sell old items

If you’ve got items laying around your house that you never use then there’s no better time than to sell them and get in some much needed wonga for the yuletide period.

Online auction sites such as eBay are great places to get rid of things which may seem like junk to you but are in fact desirable objects to other people.

This could include that collection of books you have never gotten around to reading or that exercise bike that currently does nothing more than serve as a place for you to hang your clothes on.

Save up your loyalty points

Most major supermarket chains offer loyalty discounts to regular customers so with a little forethought you can use these to pay for festive foods and even gifts.

Indeed, if you regularly buy your toiletries from Boots, you may well find that come December you have accrued enough points to pay for a small bottle of perfume or one of those gift sets of smellies which are always popular at this time of year.

This article was produced by debtfreedirect.co.uk who offer help with debt management, consolidation and bankruptcy. If you are having problems with debt then don’t hesitate to get touch or visit us online.

How to Calculate the Costs of Owning a Home

If you’re thinking about buying a home, trying to figure out your monthly expenses after you close escrow can be a challenge.  There are so many variables to consider, and it could be hard to put together a budget.  However, you need to make sure that you can fully afford the costs of owning a home before you get started.

Mandatory Home Budget Items

Here are the things that you know that you will pay that are pretty set in stone.  First, you will have to pay for your mortgage.  You can use a mortgage calculator, such as the ratesupermarket mortgage calculator, to calculate the cost of your mortgage payment every month based on current interest rates.  

Next, you will need to calculate the cost of taxes and insurance each month.  Typically you pay both of these in annual or semi-annual installments, so you should take that amount and divide it to be a monthly amount for your budget.

You can calculate your taxes by checking with the local county tax assessor and see what current rates are.  You can also shop around for home insurance and get different quotes to make sure that you get the best rates possible.

Finally, depending on where you live, you could have association dues for your home or condo.  These are flat monthly payments due to pay for maintenance of the common areas.  Just like any other bill, you can be assessed fines and other penalties for being late, so don’t forget about this one!

Variable Home Budget Items

Beyond those monthly mandatory housing expenses, you will have a variety of variable housing expenses.  The biggest expenses in this category are utilities.

You will typically have to pay for power, water, sewer, telephone, cable, internet, garbage collection, and more.  Sometimes you will be able to shop around for these services, but typically not, since it is based on the address of your property.  As such, you may be able to get a quote on the price of services so you can get an idea of how much you will pay each month.

After utilities, you will have to budget for maintenance.  If you have a yard, this includes yard service, but it should also include having a reserve set aside for repairs or other maintenance items needed.  Part of owning a home is upkeep, so make sure that you stay on top of it.

Planning a Wedding? How to Save Money on Wedding Invitations and Stationery

In today’s world, wedding costs are rising to astronomical heights. Fortunately, there are many ways to have a beautiful wedding and still bring the costs back down to earth. To do this, planning is essential, starting at the beginning. Some of the first things a bride-to-be chooses are her wedding invitations and wedding stationery. This is an area where big savings are possible.

Do not be swayed by those who say that your stationery should take 6% of your wedding budget. If the average wedding costs between $10,000 and $30,000, that translates into $600 to $1800 for invitations and stationery. That is a ridiculous amount.

To cut costs, the first rule is to keep it simple. You want your invitations to be special, but remember that this is just paper that most people will toss into the garbage. Few will view it as a keepsake.

If you are a do-it-yourself person, there are places online where you can download your choice of over 1000 free invitations. Many of these are customizable, allowing you to make your stationery unique. You can buy the cardstock at places like A.C. Moore or Hobby Lobby and print them yourself, for a fraction of the cost of purchasing them. For a few cents more, you can emboss or embellish them.

If making your own stationery is not for you, you can still find reasonably-priced products online, if you take the time to search. Whether you buy online or have them custom-printed locally, make sure that you order the full amount you need the first time. Some brides found that when they tried to go back to get 10 or 25 more, it cost as much or more than the original order.

Don’t forget about postage. If the cards are an unusual size, or weigh more than one ounce, additional postage will be required. It is also considered proper to put postage on the RSVP envelopes, which will take another chuck out of your finances.

With a little bit of time and effort, you can have beautiful wedding invitations and wedding stationery without breaking your budget.

Post by Katya

 

Frugal Vacation Tips for the Holidays

Planning for a holiday trip is often looked at as a costly endeavor, but it can be done on a budget. The key to saving money on your holiday trip is to follow a few frugal vacation tips to bring your travel costs down.

Leverage Your Available Resources

Aeroplan credit cards can help you reduce your travel costs, but you can only take advantage of this savings if you have one of these cards and use it regularly to earn points

One of the best ways to earn points on a rewards card like this is to use it for everything you can, save your paychecks during the month and then pay the card off when the bill arrives. This way, you do not waste money on interest and you get as many points as possible each month. Depending on how much you use your card and how frequent your trips are, you can fly yourself or even your whole family for free on your next holiday trip. You may also be able to get other rewards to use for your travels, like hotel accommodations.

Plan Your Trip Early

As the saying goes “the early bird catches the worm.” In this case, planning and booking early will allow you to take advantage of the best deals. As the date for your trip nears, costs for everything from hotel accommodations to airfare to rental car costs will go up. The only costs that cannot be reduced by planning early are costs for food and gas.

Use Comparison Websites

Comparison websites usually do not offer a discount on travel accommodations, but they are useful in other ways. The best advantage of these sites is that they allow you to compare hotel accommodations at a glance. Instantly, you can see what a particular hotel is rated, what customers thought after their stay and how much you will pay on your trip. This means that you can secure a comparable hotel for a lower price than its competitors, without spending a lot of time searching for the best price.

Take a Chance on Discount Websites

There are discount travel websites offering the best deals on everything from hotel accommodations to airfare to rental cars. These sites usually operate in one of two ways: either they let you bid on a specific grade of hotel and, if your offer is accepted, you are let in on the actual hotel name after you complete your purchase or they show you available rates, ratings and amenities, but not the actual hotel name until after you purchase. Either way, you are likely to get a great deal on a hotel.

Forget Travel Insurance

While $8 doesn’t sound like a lot, for a family of 5, it’s an increase of $40 for something you likely won’t need. I say skip the travel insurance, and if you are considering it, read the terms carefully because not everything is covered!

Guest Post by Vanessa