Nov 112014

It’s Time to Review Your Monthly Expenses

By |November 11th, 2014|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|Comments Off on It’s Time to Review Your Monthly Expenses

I love automatic monthly payments. I never want to be late on a payment so I love when things are automatically pulled from my account. I haven’t had a late payment on anything in over five years, so it’s obviously working.

However, automatic payments can be dangerous. Sometimes you end up paying for something you don’t need, and you don’t realize it because it just keeps hitting your credit card or bank account every month.

In the last week I’ve canceled two recurring payments that are saving me a minimum of $65 a month, or $780 a year!

The Gym

How many people sign up for a gym with good intentions and then end up paying a monthly “fat tax” because you don’t use the gym and you don’t cancel the membership? Count me and my wife in that group.

We started with a membership and I was going 1-2 times per week. Then I got busy and stopped going but the monthly payments just kept on coming. It was only $22 per month for both of us, but we simply weren’t using it. I canceled this one last Saturday and am ready to just use our treadmill, bicycles, and P90X to stay in shape.

The Golf Course

This might scare people at first. No, I’m not a member of some fancy country club where I pay hundreds of dollars every month. This is simply a $40 plus tax (so about $43) membership that gives me free range balls and discounted greens fees.

This was actually a really good way to save money on a golf habit. A bucket of balls alone costs $11 and the membership saved me about $20 per round of golf I played. Hit 2 buckets and play 2 rounds in a month and I’ve saved a total of $62 dollars, which makes the $43 price tag worth it.

However, it’s November. That means it’s cold and the sun sets at 5:30. I can’t play after work because it’s dark and I can’t play on the weekends because it’s too dang cold. I canceled the membership last week and am looking forward to an extra $43+ in my account.

This is a really exciting cancellation because it also means I’m not playing golf anymore. That means no more greens fees, no more golf balls, gloves, lessons, or any of that nonsense. I’m actually probably saving at least $80 or $100 a month on this one.

Readers: Do you have any monthly expenses that you could get rid of?

Nov 112014

How Government Fiscal Policy Works

By |November 11th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on How Government Fiscal Policy Works


Governments all over the world use a number of tools in the form of macroeconomic policies to influence the direction of the economy. Over-all a macroeconomic policy aims to foster a stable policy environment that is able to support strong and sustainable economic growth. Economic growth results in the creation of wealth and the availability of jobs. This consequently leads to improved living standards for the population. There are three main macroeconomic policies that governments use towards this end. They are fiscal policy, monetary policy and the exchange rate policy.

Fiscal Policy

In the advent of the current environment of government deregulation, fiscal policy is the only macroeconomic tool that is completely controlled by governments. Fiscal policy involves the level of government spending, the types of taxes levied to its constituents and the form of government borrowings. Government action in these areas influences various economic conditions.

When the economy slows down for example, governments may increase fiscal spending to increase economic activities. This is often called the stimulus package. Government spending can stimulate additional job creation and therefore can lead to a more vibrant economic condition over-all.

The ultimate goal of a fiscal policy is to achieve balance in the aggregate demand. Ideally, a government must have a balanced budget. That means that the government’s capacity to earn revenue in the form of tax collection is equal to the expenditure spent on government services. However, there will be times when governments choose to spend more or lesser than its revenue in order to control fluctuations in the aggregate demand.

When an economy contracts for example, taxes tend to shrink as companies and individual taxpayers realize lesser incomes. The logical consequence would be for the government to also cut on spending. However, they can choose to increase spending in unemployment benefits and other social programs. This way, the increase in government spending provides a counter weight to the decrease in private spending. Thus, the level of aggregate demand is maintained. For private individuals, this may also mean that income is lost due to the contraction of the private sector are recovered through social payments and support made by the government.

A stable aggregate demand ensures that total performance of the economy expressed in terms of aggregate domestic production is able to catch up with the forecasted growth. Conceptually, the uptrend in the economy tends to correct the deterioration in the government budget bottom line as economic conditions improve and private individuals are able to recover with the help of government subsidies given.

But fiscal policy does not only serve to correct short-term and cyclical economic fluctuations. Fiscal policy can also be framed to support long-term objectives. The current budget can provide for anticipated future demand. This includes expenditures for infrastructure to support further growth in the future, or expenditures on disaster management and clean energy to mitigate future impact of climate change to private businesses and individuals. This also includes government investment in education to ensure a competitive work force that will fuel the long-term growth and stability of the domestic economy.

Photo cred: indigoprime

Nov 52014

Raising Money After Divorce to Recoup Costs

By |November 5th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Raising Money After Divorce to Recoup Costs

No matter how it happens or who is involved, divorce is the epitome of complicated, and navigating the financial waters before, through, and after takes patience and preparation. Smoother transitions are often the result of meditation, instead of fighting in court, and the calculation and division of assets as early as possible is helpful in ensuring time and money aren’t spent in vain on avoidable obstacles.

After the 50/50 division of property is said and done and you are through dealing with your divorce attorney, many divorcees find themselves adjusting to a new lifestyle accompanied by lower income, without a plan for it.  In reassessing what is essential, it can often become necessary to strategize about how to bring in extra income to recoup the cost of newly single life.

Sell your Jewelry

Laws vary by state but if you are legally entitled to sell your diamonds, engagement rings or jewelry, it is a great way to generate money. Companies such as WP Diamonds offer a seamless process where an appraisal and competitive offer for buying back luxury accessories can be helpful. The catharsis of starting again and not being held down by sentimental pieces from the past can help you move on, funding the capacity for replacing jewelry and watches with something new—a gift for yourself that symbolizes new beginnings.

Ask for a Raise

Whether child support payments, a significantly reduced income or increased financial responsibility are the issues after a divorce, the situation is rarely easy on the wallet, unless both parties have a significant amount of money saved or earned on the work front. Particularly in cases of emotional abandonment, such as cheating, it can be helpful to focus energy on non-family related activities, such as excelling at work.

Maintain balance and build your career by delving into work and impressing your boss, ultimately setting up the perfect scenario to ask for a raise.  Why is it a good time?  You’ve proven you work best under stress, and your new unattached life will prove easier for showing your drive and flexibility to the workplace. So go ahead and be the best, then ask to reap the rewards of your labor.

Donate Wedding Mementos

After divorce the line that defines what should be a keepsake for your children can become very ambiguous. Women will often save their wedding dress, wedding shoes, and wedding rings to pass on to their daughters, secretly wishing one’s little girl chooses to wear at least one of those pieces for her own wedding day.

The reality is that painful memories associated with a divorce, might be something she associates your wedding mementos with in the future. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to donate these items for a tax deduction at a Goodwill, Salvation Army or local thrift shop.


Juggling full custody with one less hand to help? The responsibility can be staggering when the desire to spend quality time with children meets the reality of needing to stay financially afloat. For those considering a career shift, freelancing offers a variety of benefits, such as flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere.

Websites like Elance connect opportunities to qualified freelancers in industries such as: IT, video, marketing, translation, writing, product design and customer service.  Freelancing and working from a local coffee shop or library also provides an opportunity for meeting new people outside of the usual social circles, which can have a positive impact while healing.

Ultimately, the progression between previously married back to single life should aim to be done as easily as possible, and tackling expenses creatively is a mature outlook. Think-outside-the-box financial options can make the process a healthy transition for both divorcees and their children, who need support in getting through a difficult time.

Nov 52014

What is a Protected Trust Deed?

By |November 5th, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on What is a Protected Trust Deed?

(The following is a guest post relating to Scotland residents…)

A Protected trust deed is an agreement between you and your lenders that lets you pay off as much of your unsecured debt as you can afford over a four year period. At the end of the agreed period the remainder of the debt is completely written off.

A protected trust deed is available to anyone in Scotland with debts in excess of £5,000 or joint debts of more than £10,000.

Can a trust deed help me?

You may qualify for a protected trust deed if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have a minimum of £5,000 of unsecured debt
  • You have sufficient funds to make some monthly payments towards what you owe
  • You are unable to repay the full amount of your debts in a reasonable time-scale

How does a protected trust deed work?

A trust deed is protected if at least 50% of your creditors accept the agreement. As long as you keep making the agreed regular monthly payments the trust deed is legally binding and your creditors can no longer act against you.

A protected trust deed replaces all of your unsecured debt payments with one monthly repayment which you can afford. You make the payment not to your creditors but to an insolvency practitioner who is appointed to manage the trust deed on your behalf. The insolvency practitioner is the one who deals with the creditors and you have no further contact with them.

As the majority of trust deeds operate for a four year term you will need to make a total of forty-eight monthly payments, after that time all remaining debt included in the trust deed will be totally written off. Any debts not included in the trust deed will still need to be paid.

Applying for a protected trust deed

You can apply for a trust deed through the services of an insolvency practitioner. Before deciding to go ahead with a protected trust deed it is important that you take professional financial advice and make sure that this is the right solution for your debt problems. There are many debt solutions available and the right choice for you will depend upon your individual circumstances.

Are there any downsides to a protected trust deed?

There are a few disadvantages to a protected trust deed and it is important that you seriously consider them before proceeding with this option.

  1. If you own property you will be required to release the majority of the equity in the property to help pay off your debts. If you are not able to release the equity the trust deed will be extended for a further year.
  2. A protected trust deed will have a serious effect on your credit rating. Your credit history is held on record for six years, and obtaining further credit while the trust deed remains visible may prove to be very difficult.
  3. If you are made redundant while a trust deed is ongoing then you may be required to use some of your redundancy to pay off part of your debts.

Photo courtesy of conner395

Nov 32014

Getting in the Money Saving Mindset

By |November 3rd, 2014|Blog, Life|Comments Off on Getting in the Money Saving Mindset

It’s funny how easy it is to spend too much money. Ever since my wife and I finished paying for our wedding, we have felt like we have all this extra money and we didn’t have to be so careful with our spending.

Then we decided to buy a new house and we had to get back to saving as much money as possible. We are in the process of taking the first steps to saving money, which for us always starts with spending less money eating out.

It’s funny how easy it is to get in a mindset to eat out, particularly at lunch. Here’s an example of what might go through my head at the grocery store:

My Grocery Store Mindset

In the fresh veggies isle: I don’t want to buy any of this stuff, it’ll go bad before I eat it all.

In the meats isle: I could buy some ground beef, but I’d probably just make spaghetti and all those carbs aren’t healthy.

In the frozen dinner isle: If I eat these every day my heart will explode. No way I can have these for lunch.

These are all very valid reasons not to buy certain things at the store. At least they appear to be. They certainly had me convinced for quite a while. This type of reasoning has resulted in me buying only enough food for the meal I’m planning to make the next day, and invariably leads to me spending $8-$15 on some kind of unhealthy fast food option.

Why would I turn up my nose at a $2.50 TV dinner or homemade spaghetti for being too unhealthy, but then spend $5.00 at McDonalds?

Why would I be worried about spending $4 on some fresh veggies that might go bad, when I would spend $12 on a “healthy” meal at a sit down restaurant.

It’s important to pull back the curtains on the excuses and find the real motivation behind my grocery store trips. Here it is:

I don’t want to buy food for lunch because if I don’t have food to bring for lunch then I can just go out to eat.

Once I recognize the true motivation for avoiding grocery store purchases, I can ignore that voice inside my head and start making the right choices for my wallet and my waistline.

My Money Saving Mindset

Now at the grocery store I have a very different mindset. It goes something like this:

Is this relatively inexpensive? Is it healthier than McDonalds? Will I eat it? If the answer to all 3 questions is “yes”, then buy it.

This mindset is much more simple.

Readers: What kind of crappy reasoning have you used to convince yourself a poor financial decision is actually a good one?

Nov 22014

6 Easy Ways to Save Money Daily

By |November 2nd, 2014|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on 6 Easy Ways to Save Money Daily

old store

We all try to save, but many times the ways we try to save aren’t always the most effective methods. Often this is because we’re stuck in an old rut, working from the habits our parents and poorly conducted financial educations gave us.

In truth, we don’t fail to save because we aren’t interested in saving, but rather because we just don’t have a modern enough perspective on things to really make a difference in our lives. However, these are just some of the reasons we can’t save money.

There are others reasons too, and chief among them is how we spend both our money and our time. Here are 6 great ways you can save money every day, just by managing your time and money better.

1) Cook at home, and do it often.

When both husband and wife work, there’s often little time to prepare food at home. Their joint incomes can make it seem like the added money justifies the stress of not cooking, but once you get into a rhythm of cooking at home, it really doesn’t take much time. For example, a few boneless chicken breasts in a covered pan on low heat, with some cut veggies on top, and a pot with a few potatoes boiling, or some corn simmering, takes about 10 minutes to prepare. It takes longer than that to drive to a restaurant. Add in the cost of time waiting for food in a restaurant, plus the premium price you’ll pay for any drinks, and you could have shopped for a week of home food.

2) Pack a lunch to work.

While we’re fans of taking meals to work, we also appreciate the headaches carrying home leaky Tupperware and other containers can create. Plus, they’re just plain inconvenient. What we recommend is spending a little money on some recyclable containers (they’re cheap), and a pack of cheap brown paper bags. You can then help better the environment by recycling what you use (most fast food lunch restaurants don’t recycle anything), and also save money on your lunch. A bag lunch will cost you about £3, versus the usual £6 or more you’ll pay elsewhere. Plus, you’ll save some office time while you’re at it, and actually enjoy your lunch instead of rushing through it. You can easily prepare these lunches at home. In the case of our chicken example above, it’s easy to cook an extra breast, and take a small can of corn and a wrapped piece of bread with you for a side. That makes a tasty and healthy lunch, and costs very little to prepare.

3) Make your own coffee.

This one is a great way to save money, and it’s one of those things most people don’t even consider. You can get a pack of inexpensive recyclable cups for your coffee, and when you finish, drop the empty cup in a recycling bin. This will save you money every day on your morning latte. You just won’t get to flirt with the barista, but then with the money you save, you will be able to invite him or her out on a date, so there’s that.

4) Make a grocery list, eat first, and then and shop fast.

When you shop with a grocery list, you’ll only grab items you need, rather than that pack of chips that looks so good. If you eat first, you won’t be hungry, and so won’t be imagining how delicious all of the things you didn’t plan on buying are too. This will keep you from buying piles of goods you don’t need. By shopping in a hurry, you will press yourself to be quick. A great way to do this is to plan your shopping before a favourite TV program is coming on. This way, even if you are a little late it isn’t going to ruin your day. In time, you’ll be able to get in and out of the store quickly, without wasting time or money on things you don’t need.

5) Get rid of any credit cards with annual fees.

When you first start off with credit, you might need to get some credit cards with annual fees. However, once your credit is a little more established, you’re wasting money on annual fees. Really, you’re already paying absurdly high interest rates on any long term cards you have, at least when compared to a traditional loan, so why add more money on it? The fees are just a slap in the face, and a way for High Street to squeeze a little extra money out of you. Don’t let them do that. You could be saving an extra £100 or more a year on just by eliminating unnecessary card fees.

6) Use the library, because you’re paying for it anyway.

Have you ever considered where all of your tax dollars go? Well, one place is the library. Technically you own quite a few of the books there. Instead of trying to build your own library, borrow your books from the one you’re already paying to maintain. You’ll thank yourself, and have more money to invest when it’s all said and done. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also have access to movies and eBooks, depending on the library you choose. This will let you plan more things at home, which will put you in a place where you can save more, rather than spend more.

There are many more ways you can save money, and these are just a few. By considering what you spend money on now, and reducing those expenditures, you can work towards increasing your savings. Money saved can then be invested, which is the road to future wealth. Save regularly, and invest often.

photo courtesy of Great Grandpa & Grandma T.